Growing vegetables, herbs, etc. in a small urban space

Sensing the Subtle Energies (an Earthquake)

I woke up around 4 o’clock this morning, inexplicably agitated and unable to fall back asleep right away. Sully, too, was restless. I went into the yoga room and did a series of restorative forward bends and twists, which provided some ease, but I was still a little restless and unable to go back to sleep.

It was too far out of my usual experience for living in DC and too little impact at my house (compared to what it was reported to have felt like in some of the suburban areas) to have identified the earthquake for what it was.

When I called the weather, which advised of the earthquake, I knew that its immanence was what had caused me to wake in anticipatory anxiety.


Green advertising (and viveka)

One of the important principles of yoga practice is viveka — discrimination.  The longer and more steadily one practices, the greater ease with which one will find path that leads towards recognition and remembrance of our own light and the light in others.  In modern culture, I think one of the critical aspects of practicing viveka is having a healthy doubt and willingness to question claims that consuming certain things will make us happier, or better, or will make the world better.  Paying too much attention will probably just create a tangle of intellectual confusion that will not lead to a greater openness of spirit.  Learning to listen well to your body and mind and what and how you feel and hear on and off the mat will help you start to know better your body and mind and how they interrelate with all around you, is likely to shift your choices and actions.

It is now fashionable to be “green.”  Discerning what that means, though, is where we need to practice discrimination.  For example, claims of “natural” foods, “organic” foods, and “green” products are now ubiquitous by companies that are part of the existing Wall Street profit-driven industrial and marketing complex because they think they are money-makers and expect most consumers not to question the claims.  We are also seeing more and more articles and stories debunking these claims and calls for regulation so that consumers will understand what is bunk.  If we stop and pause, we can probably figure out some of this without reading about the pros and cons.  Do you know who is selling it to you?  Does it come in packaging with a lot of small print?  Is the packaging recyclable?  Are shareholder profits critical to the entity selling you the food or garden supplies or other consumer good?

Taking the example of the success of the big companies, small entities are using “green” in their names and advertising without discrimination.  Around town I see fairly regularly, landscaping companies with cozy-sounding “green” names.  When I watch them working, though, they are using Round-up or other chemical weedkillers, throwing into the trash compostable yard waste, and planting non-native shrubs.  They may be making a garden the color green, but they certainly aren’t doing “green” gardening.

Here’s some great information on having a “climate-friendly” garden from the Union of Concerned Scientists.  The tips are more helpful for a yard large enough to have a lawn, and do not fully apply for my small patio (though I have a tree in front, don’t leave bare soil, and do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers.  I haven’t yet tried planting winter crops in my containers, but I’ve rearranged the patio so that I have a place for a raised bed (to sit on the brick where the table and chairs once were).  This winter, I’m hoping to add the bed and a cold frame to lengthen the growing season.


Neighborhood Fruit

This spring I decided to for the second time growing a fig in a container.  It has about five figs, all of which I intend to eat before the squirrels can get them (I’ve beaten them and the birds to the three blue berries that have ripened so far; I have high hopes for the figs).  I don’t think my fig in its container is suitable for sharing as “Neighborhood Fruit.”  Do you have a fruit tree that has too much fruit for you?  Let people know.


An Armload of Radishes

This morning I went to my community garden plot around the corner before I got ready to head into Georgetown to volunteer at The Lantern Bookshop.

I ws delghted to find enough snowpeas for a good-sized stir-fry and several zucchini almost ready to be picked (I only get zucchini at the very beginning of the season before the squash borers invade, but if I start early enough, I can get a few pounts of squash and a couple of meals worth of blossoms before I surrender and plant something else).

The tomatoes were flourishing (no sign of blight. If you have your own plants, keep an eye close for blight; it’s aleady been seen in Maryland. Cherry tomatoes are more resistant, so I’ve concentrated on those).

I should have the first cucumbers big enough to pick next week, and I have plenty of lettuce.

The radishes, though, had exploded. “Should I have a radish-themed dinner party?” I thought. “What am I going to do with all of them?” I am not especially fond of radishes. I plant them because they mature very early, they thrive on benign neglect, I have friends who like them, and they give the same crunch I’d prefer from a cucumber weeks earlier.

I’ve also discovered I like them cooked. Just as you can prepare turnips and their greens together, it also works well with radishes.

As I was walking home with a bunch of radishes that I could hardly get my hands around, I bumped into a neighbor. I don’t know her well, just recognize her face. “Do you want some radishes?” I asked, hoping I did not sound like I was begging. She hesitated, but then seemed to realize that she would be doing me a great service by accepting them. “You can cook the greens,” I said as I handed her a nice-sized bunch, “and also the radishes themselves if they are too strong.”
“I’ve never done that,” she said.

Here’s the recipe I gave her on the street (with a little more detail here):

Wash radishes and their greens well. Cut radishes into thick coins (this works best with oblong radishes sich as French Breakfast). Cut off the white part of stem nearest radish. Then cut the bunch horizontally so that you have half inch wide shreds. Mince some garlic, onion, and ginger. Stir-fry aromatics in peanut, safflower, or canola oil until translucent. Add the radish coins and stir until well-coated with oil. Add greens, stirring continuously until all the greens are wilted. Add some rice wine vinegegar and cook until absorbed and the grrens are just tender. Take off heat and sprinkle with soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Liquid and toasted sesame oil to taste.

“What a nice morning,” my neighbor said, “fresh radishes from the garden and a recipe.


The Virtues of Romaine Lettuce (and embracing our place in the web of being)

This year, along with a mesclun mix, arugula, mache, and the tender green and red leaf lettuces, I planted several heads of romaine.  It is not my favorite lettuce for salad; I have become spoiled by having baby arugula, spinach, and assorted greens and lettuces.  As a replacement for bread, though, it is far and away the best lettuce.  It’s flavor is green enough, but unobtrusive.  It’s shape and sturdiness make it easy to use as an alternative for tortillas, pancakes (think mushu tofu), or pita or other flat bread.  Tonight, I picked several leaves of romaine, which I rolled around sprouts, avocado, and sweet and spicy tofu (saute onions until golden; crumble and saute firm, silken tofu; stir in until just hot and thickened, a bar-b-que-like sauce of tomato paste, molasses, apple cider vinegar, garlic, Bragg’s amino liquid or soy sauce, chili sauce–proportioned to taste).

Which lettuce works when depends on all the other elements of the meal.  One is not better than the other in the abstract, though you might have a taste for one more than another.  One type might be better for a particular meal.  So too, we each have our place in the web, and will be better aligned when we offer certain aspects of ourselves at particular places and times.  Part of the discrimination (viveka) we learn in yoga to serve us in this life is developing an understanding of how best we can serve and where and when.


Azalea Walk at the National Arboretum (and Sadhana)

As it is every year, the Azalea Walk at the National Arboretum fills me with joy and wonder.  “Was it really this splendid last year?” one of my companions asked.  “I go every year,” she said, “but I forget how gorgeous it is!” She comes back each year to remember the beauty and the awe.  So, too, it can be with our practice.  We stop going to class or practicing our meditation or asana for a while because we get too busy.  Then we come back, and we ask ourselves how we could have forgotten the joy and beauty a steady practice brings us, and we are inspired to commit again.


The Front Garden

I don’t talk much about my front garden because it is not as exciting for me as the back garden with its edibles and herbs.  I give a sincere effort to make the front garden beautiful and welcoming since it is my interface with the neighborhood and all who walk past my house.  The front is very shady and two maple trees block the rain and drink most of the water that gets past the leaves, so it has taken some effort to find plants that thrive.  Much of what is in my garden comes from other gardening friends.  Plants that come from friends near-by are likely to do well moved down the street.  As my garden has matured, it has needed divisions, thus giving me an opportunity to share, in turn, with younger friends and neighbors.  It thus nourishes in important ways, though it offers nothing to eat.


What a Difference a Month Makes

Here’s an aerial view of the back garden on the equinox after I spent several hours cleaning, deadheading, repotting, mulching, etc.  As you can see, the moss is ecstatic from having had the weight of the snow on it for several weeks.  Coming up in quantities almost enough to pick are lettuce, spinach, cilantro, parsley, chives, onions, lemon balm (always have too much of that — if you’re local let me know if you want some).  The first rosebud emerged sometime between Friday and Sunday.  It is hard to believe that just a month ago, I was blogging about indoor gardening — how to find delight even when snowed under (scroll to the bottom of the linked post to compare pictures of the same view).

As you can see from comparing the two photos, things were still growing under the snow or getting ready to do so.  That is what practice is like for me.  Sometimes I feel completely snowed under by an injury or rush jobs at work or personal circumstances beyond my control.  I keep practicing, but I don’t have the time or energy for long practices or full weekend workshops, when it is easy to get to a place of delight.  Other times, things are less pressured, and I feel brimming over with health.  Then practice feels wildly effulgent.  For my garden to offer its full potential (as is true with my practice), I need to spend lots of time and effort in it for the next several weeks.  I know that if I do so, I will be blessed with fullness.