Independence Days

I’m following along with Sharon Astyk’s “Independence Days” project, which starts today: It’s a “10-week exercise [that] builds community, accountability and solidarity as we work to make our lives better now and for the future[,] … a way of keeping track of the work we’re doing to get ourselves through the current hard times, and prepare for hard times to come.” It’s a framework for recognising what we’re already doing and perhaps motivate or inspire us to do more things to build resilience, community, hope, a better world.

Each Friday, Sharon posts what she’s done in each of the categories below (here’s her first post). I’ll try to do the same. Even though today is Saturday. Many of the items are (or could be) related to gardening, so it seems to fit here. (Equally, none of them has to do with gardening. They’re all multifaceted.)

  • Plant something: plant, start something

How timely. I planted about 45 trees, perennials, annuals, and veggies over the last week or so, including two fall-blooming native witch hazel trees and a native dwarf Atlantic white cedar. A serviceberry, another native tree, is coming next week from a local native grower.

small witch hazel planted in back border – 11 June

Other plants put in the ground last week include these native plants: Solomon’s Seal, bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), several more cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis), three white turtleheads (Chelone glabra), 2 little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and 2 big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) grasses, an Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), some wood sedge (Carex blanda), some mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum; which I started liking after seeing it growing in Longwood Garden’s meadow), another woodland phlox (P. divaricata) to go with last year’s two, three bee balms (Monarda fistulosa), another Turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum) – surprisingly a native to this area despite its tropical appearance; and these non-natives: another Rodgersia (‘Chocolate Wings’) to go with the many I have already, another Kirengeshoma palmata (yellow waxbells) to go with another that’s been in the garden a while, some sea hollies (Eryngium planum ‘Blue Glitter’ from a plant sale, and a couple of Eryngium x zabelii ‘Neptune’s Gold’ from a nursery) to replace some that died — I think they didn’t have the “baking sun” conditions they apparently need. Plus annuals including zinnia, sunflower, parsley, basil, summer squash, cucumber, nasturtium, a bee balm a friend gave me, Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ (firecracker plant), thyme, and cherry tomatoes.

some of the plants that went in the ground this week

Besides the serviceberry still to come, I have some flower seeds to plant (cosmos, calendula, and others) and perhaps some beans. It’s been a busy spring so far!

  • Harvest something: harvest, forage or glean

This evening I finished the last of our garlic that was harvested last summer, and the new garlic scapes are almost ready for harvest — they’ll be sautéed with other things and/or made into pesto. I believe chipmunks have already foraged some strawberries, though most are still green. I harvested the first of the kale today to give to a friend. Arugula is almost ready for picking; spinach is not. Peas have flowers and I saw a pod this morning! Cherry tomatoes (honeydrop and peace vine) have formed but they’re still green. I haven’t foraged or gleaned anything. Blueberries are coming but will we get them before the birds do? It’s never happened yet.

mess o’ kale – 18 June
pea pod – 18 June
blueberries coming along – 18 June
  • Preserve something: food or local community resources

Hmm. Definitely no food preservation going on yet, though pesto soon. Perhaps by buying local produce (strawberries, asparagus, arugula, lettuce, potatoes, basil, parsley, spinach, etc.) and annuals at the nearby farmstand I am helping to preserve it. I sure hope so!

farmstand goodies – 15 June
  • Waste Not: reduce waste, reuse, salvage, repair, give away to an actual person

Aargh, I am pretty wasteful. My husband learned to sew during the early days of his retirement a few years ago and repairs our clothes to the nth degree — he recently patched my sleep T-shirt (twice, so far) and my workout T shirt. I feel we both reduce waste by using the library for 90% of our book needs instead of buying books that will probably be read only once. I have recently switched from a daily shower to an every-other-day shower schedule, which definitely reduces hot water usage (and saves me about an hour a week in my own maintenance).

Parts of the garden have been overrun by sensitive fern, a lovely plant that spreads like wildfire; I pulled a bunch out, with roots, and my husband replanted them on the north side of the house in a sheet-mulched bed that makes mowing that area easier. Same with lemon balm, also very spready. They’ve both taken hold nicely. Some anemone sylvestris that runs rampant was replanted under a spruce where nothing else grows (except, we discovered once the vines were cleared out, a red elderberry shrub), and volunteer elecampane (inula, or horseheal) has been replanted elsewhere in the yard. We have the good rain barrel set up and I’ve been using it consistently for the last month or so. We compost, and generally more in summer than winter; I used some of the compost in the gardens in the last couple of weeks.

some of the transplanted ferns and lemon balm – 18 June
  • Want Not: food and emergency supplies, increase economic security, reorganize to use/waste less

I’m still keeping rotating stockpiles of certain nonperishable foods, medicines/vitamins, and toiletries in the house. Reorganised my subscribe-and-save lists on Amazon Prime yesterday to better reflect what we need/want and how often. Also, although we are in “want” of a pickup truck to take brush to the dump, our neighbours have one and offered the other day (and several times previously) to take our brush to the dump when they were hauling theirs, which we really appreciate.

  • Eating The Food: shop the pantry, new recipes, creative use of leftovers, help feed others

I’ve felt very uncreative and unmotivated lately in the cooking sphere. Tonight, though, I’m making a recipe I’ve had for decades (called ‘butterflies and beans’) but instead of using homemade basil pesto from the freezer (which is handy and good and what I usually do; and would be an example of “shop the pantry”), I’m following the recipe as written to make the pesto it prescribes, with fresh herbs and veg, including our chives, the farmstand’s basil, parsley, and spinach, the last of our garlic from 2021, and a few other ingredients. I’m subbing some farmstand asparagus for green beans because I don’t have enough of the beans. I toyed with the idea of using our own parsley, too, but there’s not quite enough of it grown yet (and the basil is just getting going, though with a high of 56F today it’s sloooow going.) I’ve made a very similar dish with peas and summer squash and more spinach, and looking at this photo, I think pine nuts would be a great addition. There are leftovers for tomorrow.

butterflies & beans (and asparagus), and then we added either cooked real chicken (spouse) or soy chicken (me) – 18 June
  • Caregiving/Mutual Aid: contribute to community support systems, volunteer, mutual aid, advocate

In two of my main community groups, permaculture and salon, this month, including this week, we’ve been actively helping and supporting each other as we deal with medical crises and other health issues (e.g., helping a caregiver navigate her mother’s diagnosis, surgery, communication with doctors and case managers, and timeline & needs for returning home; looking at a friend’s rash on her ankles — helps that some in the group are nurses or doctors), planting design quandaries, garden problems, weed control, making decisions about long-distance travel, and so on. (I have photos of the skin rash and of one of our members in hospital but will refrain from posting 🙂 )

  • Skill up:  particularly if they help us get along, grow, make our new reality better

I’m becoming almost professionally skilled at identifying Oriental bittersweet vine from 20 paces and also at pulling it out. In the permaculture group, we are re-exploring the 12 permaculture principles (Holmgren’s), including discussing on Thursday and Friday how to make good (enough) decisions when analysis paralysis strikes. With the help of Cornell’s Merlin app, I am slowly starting to recognise more bird calls and songs, and with the help of PlantNet and Facebook plant ID forums, I am continuing to learn to identify more plants. I attend a lot of virtual webinars on native plants, pollinators, gardening in general, health issues, meditation, oceans, climate change, wild animals, wild places, writer interviews, travelogues, etc.; this week was “Diversify Your Lawn” with the Wild Seed Project through the Association to Preserve Cape Cod.

15 June
Zoom webinar ‘Diversify Your Lawn’ – 16 June
  • Tend & Maintain: cleaning stuff, replacing supplies, car or bike maintenance, stuff to prevent failure/breaking/hassle down the line

This is really my husband’s purview, because he has the deep skills to maintain the vehicles and other machines, electronics, technology, and he does carpentry and plumbing, and he sews. (I tried sewing for a few years in my 20s and just couldn’t.) He replaced the shredded belts on the riding mower this week. He fixed the weather station so it again measures rain this week. He’s ordered a part to fix something on my car. I’m the one who does most of the cleaning, most of the laundry, and who by and large cleans the cat’s litter box, pays the bills, waters the plants, does the weeding, makes dinner, keeps up with birthdays, keeps the records, goes grocery shopping, buys most of the household supplies, keeps an eye on what we need and when we’ll need it, etc., week in and week out. It’s a system. On Thursday we both spent a couple of hours together pulling Oriental bittersweet out of the yard, which is definitely “tending and maintaining,” aimed at reducing further problems later (like strangled trees), though we’ll have to keep at it constantly. I’ve recently replaced the stash of tick spray (DEET), which has been going fast, and bought new sunscreen for this season. I got a tetanus booster this week (last one was 2010), which I guess counts as maintenance.

waiting room for tetanus shot – 15 June
so much bittersweet (and glossy buckthorn, and a little euonymus and Virginia creeper) – 16 June
  • Winter is coming: making our relationships, family life, home, community, immediate surroundings, jobs better for a long and hard upcoming year or few years

My two weekly local groups (mentioned above) and a monthly poetry group contribute to making community better and relationships stronger and to fostering resiliency. This week, I attended both the permaculture group and the salon group via Zoom (permaculture is via Zoom usually now except for special parties and get-togethers — it allows us to easily include members in Florida, Vermont, and Maine; salon meets in person at our houses — but I either broke or seriously damaged my toe on Thursday afternoon, so the group met in hybrid fashion with me and another member in Oregon joining the live group via Zoom), and I attended the poetry meeting on the town green on Tuesday in person, which was lovely. I also caught up with a neighbour for a couple of hours on a local café’s patio earlier this week. I talked with my sister by phone about her upcoming birthday. I exchanged some long emails with a close friend in Maine this week after a few months of only brief interactions on social media. We had cocktails and caught up with another couple (neighbours) on Monday evening. That all felt good and sustaining. Intermittent social media and text interchanges also add up to stronger connections with IRL friends and family as well as people I know only on social media, some for more than a decade.

waiting for neighbour (I was early) at café – 15 June

Featured image (top): yesterday I sat on the patio for a while, reading and enjoying the mild (almost cool) weather and sun; I think that counts as “waste not.”

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