Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Frilly bamboo edging and a 'no-dig' meadow planting day

Last week we created this, just before my little visa trip back to Melbourne. Its a bamboo edged, no-dig (sheet mulched) meadow garden, a start for us in creating Community Garden Lemon for CLCA.

First we split the bamboo, and cut to 20cm lengths, to pound into the soft soil.

I've never seen an edge like this, and hope it looks good a year from now. I needed something that would curve, they needed a way to use up the large bamboo that overran their other gardens. The curve is a walking path that will be filled in later with bamboo chips, or whatever lovely waste materials turn up when we need them.

Then we started making our 'no-dig' garden, also known as Lasagna, or sheet mulch garden, and crazily popular with Aussie Permaculture enthusiasts - a few hours, and your whole garden looks like someone else's came to visit.
We started with layers of newspaper directly on the existing grass, tucked nicely into the corners, so nothing will sprout back into the light, not this year, at least.

Over the newspaper went straw. In Australia I usually use the softer, more delicious alfalfa hay, but this is a rice district, not a cow district, and I'm thankful for whatever I get.

So over the rather hard rice straw we sprinkled rice husks - because they were there.

On top of the rice husks I was expecting to spread some good old manure. The ladies proudly presented a fancy little bag of pelleted manure from the shop. But they area resourceful bunch, and when they saw me looking puzzled, up they went to the mountains for some fuyoudo (leaf litter mulch). Its dark and beautiful, with threads of white fungi, and smells foresty and wonderful.

We realize we need more 'potting mix' to place around the new seedlings. Farmer Hota dashes out to one of his stomping grounds, and digs us up some treasure.

Under a big pile of branches he had left to decompose we found this rich crumbly mess,

sifted it like cappacino cocoa,
then used it to bless the garden - full of wonderful little creatures, it will really bring things to life.

Mrs Toda, one of the directors, is looking pretty lively

We decide part of the meadow will be japanese mountain herbs, the other side western.
The Japanese side got this red and green shiso again from Farmer Hota. Shiso's companions were nira (garlic chives) mitsuba, miyoga (like ginger), little ferns, and lots of pretty wildflowers I don't know much about, not yet.
The stepping stones for now are cardboard - we wanted to keep our big boots from compacting too much of the gardens fluffy new structure, so made a pretend path. It works just fine, and will some day just get tucked under everything to participate as more compost.

Joining its offcuts - here we soaked them to softness before hiding them under all our layers.

Just as we finished our planting, late for lunch, dirty and spent, the warm rains came down and did the final task - watering our garden, washing off ourselves.
Its a happy beginning, now we just wait and hope it succeeds.

Can you do this on a balcony? Why not! Ive never seen one, but somebody will one of these days. Just make the layers thick enough, make sure they are well watered and not sloshing over the edge, and don't forget to send me the photo

So now I tell you why its called a lasange garden - its of course about layers, but also getting the right balance of 'pasta' and 'meat sauce' - the carbon-rich straw, paper, rice hulls, and the nitrogen rich manure and whatever else you have.
And its going to be delicious.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fragrant Ruby-Red Shiso drink from Japanese summer 'Weeds'

Shiso juice drink, one of the blessings of Japanese summer

Shiso is one of summertime's blessings. It self-seeds in the spring, grows fearlessly through rainy season, unbothered my most pests, and ready to be turned into wonderful summer dishes. It comes in red or green. The flavor is a cinamon-minty, with a kind of face-cream fragrance you don't expect of food. When In Melbourne, I get it from Asian Grocers, called 'Asian Basil', or Perilla.

The last weekend of my spring-summer tokyo stay had me creating a Layer garden at community Garden Lemon in Odawara. Farmer Hoda was the star of the show, dashing off site every time I realized I needed something, and coming back with the goods.
His day of generosity wound up with me doing an evening harvest of the excess shiso at his home garden.

Here is how I turned it into food:

Took it home on the train with our other bundles of mountain vegetables and treasures. My elegant garden-creating friends and I were the first truly dirty people I have seen in a Japanese train these 16 years. What is going on here, I wonder?
The other passengers seemed generous about it, and offered to take our photos.


Easy. Washed the leaves, boiled them 5 minutes in a pot.
The water was murky brown, the red leaves turned to wilted green.
Then...I added the juice from Farmer Hoda's organic Lemons. OOOH! It went a vivid ruby-red.
Next some honey, soda water, and ....' bitter' was the most prominent flavor, not at all like how other people's mothers make it.

Then I doctored it with the honeyed 'drinking vinegar', my farewell present from my dear cameraman Mr. Iwamuro.

Amazingly delicious!

Be patient. Dont give up. Plant shiso seeds this spring - thats the lesson from my adventures in Shiso.

Shiso drink recipies from Obachan's Kitchen

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No Worries Concrete at Asabas Permaculture Garden

The secret to laying concrete seems to be this:
Don't worry.

Just like making a cake

Living here and running workshops with the incandescent Asaba-san, I started seeing that most of us worry INSTEAD of acting.

Asaba never worries. She just gets into action, doing whatever preparation is needed for whatever festivity she has freely chosen to dive into.

Today, it was cement.

Plus stringing up some Summer Vines, and a practical lesson on reppotting orchids. Happy Participants, happy plants, Happy Asaba, watching her garden transform itself. Just ask Cecilia over to Run workshops, teach her 'Don't Worry', and it all happens.
A few adjusments, compromizes and mistakes will be made along the way. Don't worry.
That's the deal with creativity, after all.

Tempting gourd and cucumber vines
onto the bridge with a tasty ball of string.

Guests came from around the corner, and around the country.

Mrs Morimoto and the gang collecting Fuyoudo soil from our mountain.

The wonderful Morimoto family drove the 7 hours from their old farmhouse in Gifu to attend, all on their tempura-oil powered vehicle.

The elegant Nishibayashi Family drove 5 hours from Nara.

Guys, that is such a complement!

Bento lunchbox lunch in our back, back garden at Shyomyoji Temple.

No Chairs, no wrappers, no bills, no worries. So long as you decide to enjoy cooking your bento box lunch the night before. Inspiring company and settings help.

We started the morning with a presentation introducing the wonders of Permaculture, and how it can make life riveting.
We saw David Holmgren's ingenious passive energy house,
the beautiful universe of Rainbow Valley Farm,
and the inspirational story of Famer Iwata, who really doesn't DO anything to his kiwi orchid now - he set it up to care for itself. And we can do that too, with our lives.

After lunch and garden creation time, we ended the day with a presentation on balcony garden design - tricks to get yourself into action, get rid of the uglies, and surround yourself with only things you love. Without designing love into it, balcony gardening is just too hard to be worth it, or to succeed.
Just like life, maybe.

Ready to build on the foundation we created in Workshop #4 last week - the Daku wall.

This wall solves a few problems
  • How to get rid of the unattractive yet useful cinderblocks
  • How to keep Daku the dachshund out of the edible garden
  • How to keep the raised beds raised.

Don't cry Daku. Weve planned a special little digging spot for you, where all the interesting composting and hidey-holes will be happening. You will love it.