Monday, March 21, 2016

Gardening: just painting in 3-D

I never understood why Americans hate gardening. They call it "yard work" and use it as a punishment.

There really isn't any activity that fills me with more joy. If I ever achieve in prayer the condition of peace that 2 hours in the garden gives me, I'll know I'm making some progress. I can't imagine any activity, beyond maybe childbirth, that is closer to God's purpose for human life on earth.

I spent the day yesterday out in the fields. There are hundreds of varieties of brassicas, only few of which are cultivated. I went out with a trowel and a plastic bag and brought home a bunch of

wild brassicas, including some mustard-garlic,

for the new veg patch you can see above.

That and calendula (above...the yellow things that look like dandelions but aren't...) and some wild fumitory. I just plopped them into the planter when I got home, and this morning they seem to be doing fine.

Big plans.This evening the nice guy from the Agridea is going to drop off three bags of potting soil to add to the compost I made this winter. I've also got some potatoes ready to go in and I think I'm going to try to germinate the pumpkin seeds I saved. I've got a little bit of rooting hormone, and will see if I can get the wild rose cuttings to start rooting.

Today I got packets of wildflower seeds that I'm just going to use scattered on the slope. You can see above that nearly the whole garden is at almost a 45 degree slope, and keeping the soil from washing away in the rain is a bit of a challenge.


Out for an epic stomp yesterday, with all the collecting gear. Here's the lizard I found. It was just sitting there and obligingly stayed perfectly still while I took pictures of it. He's about 9 inches long from nose to tail tip.

The valley. Spring is here. 

The Sordo, a stream tributary to the Nera, that forms in the Marcite. Full of fish and crayfish and wildlife.

Toward the end of the day, I was getting really tired and was about 2 miles outside town. As I was coming back thinking about nothing but food, I smelled porchetta. As I climbed back up to the highway, right there was a collection of vans selling porchetta sandwiches, new potatoes and wild asparagus.

Base camp. Tea in the flask and a pack full of collecting tools and field samples. 

Here's something interesting. The Marcite is a favourite hangout of the local cinghiale, wild boar, who make these little highways from the hills on the opposite side, down to the flats where they spend their nights rooting up the turf and finding interesting things to eat. They always follow the same path, and you can easily see where they come and go. If you see a path in the woods, it's probably the local boars. 

Wild boar hoof prints can easily be seen in the mud.

It's pretty easy to make out their trails. 

Across the field, across the road and over the next field to the places right next to the river, where the earth is soft. 

Closer to home. In the Marcite, the grubbiest sheep in Italy. 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

What I'm doing while I'm not blogging

I know.

For the first time in years and years this blog's daily readership has dropped below 300 a day. I understand.

It's just that, well, the innernet is such a bore! Real life is just so much better than spending days hunched over the computer.

I'm sorry. I know you guys have been very, very loyal over the years.

But just to show that I'm not just swanning about wasting time, here's my latest painting I finished this week.

It was a new cover for an old book. 
The book spine
That's Henry, leading some mice astray. 

The monks lent me a book for Lent last year. It was just a little cheap paperback edition of some desert father or other. As I was reading it, the cover fell off. So I made a new one. 

It was just a fun thing, a means of getting some practice in and doing a few experiments with materials and whatnot. Having a bit of fun, really. The red pen work on the smaller capitals is OK, but it's all tilted wonkily. Could do with a bit lighter colour on the strawbs. But apart from that, I'd say it was OK. 

I gave it to Fr. Benedict the other day after Mass. He seemed to like it.

And here's me raking my leaves. The sound of drums in the background is nothing to worry about. It's actually just drums. The Norcia drum corps practices every week across the valley and the sound carries really well.

I've got four large and very lively oak trees in my garden. They like to produce leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. The kitties had a ball all winter romping around in them, and they protect the wildflowers from frost, but if you leave them too long, they cut off the sunlight to the stuff underneath, and they also tend to encourage papatacci, a bug worse than mosquitoes, if it can be imagined.

It took about 20 tarp loads to get the whole garden clear. But I wouldn't trade it. I love outdoor work.