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Tribute to an allotment and a father’s love. Please read and share. From my friend and wonderful writer, Dallas.

Crazy Train To Tinky Town

My Dad’s allotment has been part of our family folklore for as long as I can remember, inherited from my Grandad who had also lovingly tended the plot for his entire lifetime. My Dad would become so immersed in his labour of love that he’d frequently forget the time so as a youngster I used to cycle at breakneck speed down the lane at the back of our house to drop off a packed lunch for my Dad or remind him that it was time for tea. I’d done the journey so many times that I knew every single bump in the road and even now the scent of wild garlic transports me back to those hedgerows covered in Bluebells and Queen Anne’s Lace. Apart from the time I misjudged a pot-hole, tumbled across the handlebars and ended up in casualty; I still have a slight scar across my eyebrow…

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Accelerated forestry, brilliant! blog.ted.com: Shubhendu Sharma reforesting the world, one patch at a time. http://wp.me/p10512-nnz

Milkwood Permaculture is my hands-down-in-the-dirt favorite blog. Not just because of the regularity of posts, gorgeous photos, enthusiastic writing, but because they are LIVING it. Way down under! “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Looking for a new experience? Owning a small vineyard with a custom home to live in? Please share. There is the perfect person/family out there looking for an opportunity like this, and if you help them connect with Hilary, there is a $1000 finder’s fee! – Kaye

The Creston Nugget

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Dear Friends and Family,

This is a bittersweet letter to write, but life is all about change, and after my childhood as an “Army Brat” I have learned not to be afraid of change.

After a lot of thought and consideration, Simon and I have decided to pursue purchasing a larger property here in the Central Coast area.  Last week we made an offer on a property that we have had our eye on for over a year.  We found out yesterday that our offer was accepted, which is very exciting news.

The bittersweet part is that we will need to sell our Ohana Vineyard property in order to purchase the larger parcel.  Simon and I purchased Ohana as ten acres of bare ground in 1999 with the help of my Mom and Dad, Karen and Bob Shirey (the down payment was our wedding gift from my parents).  We planted…

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There’s one thing about being laid up with a sprained ankle over the holidays (which have dragged into the first week of the new year): out come the knitting needles. I’ve been mad about knitting since I taught myself to knit and crochet when I was young. I recall distinctly when I put down my knitting needles. It was in 1985 and I had just finished this sweater.

Hand Knit Sweater by Kaye Kittrell

1985 Angora Hand Knit Sweater with Vintage Buttons ©Kaye Kittrell

I could count on one hand the number of times I have worn this sweater. I sewed a pair of taupe wool gabardine culottes (which are WAY too small now), and bought some cool low-heeled taupe shoes on Park Avenue. I used to love to shoe shop in the shoe stores on Park and Lexington in the ’80’s. The buttons are vintage from my one and only favorite button store, Tender Buttons on 62nd (seen in “Julia & Julia” as a hat shop, can you spot it?), just off Lexington Avenue, up from Bloomingdales (which I didn’t like at all). Sometime I’ll do a post on my button collection.

I put down my needles in frustration over the hours I was spending knitting. (This sweater took a lot of time, PLAID?? What was I thinking?) I could sew a whole outfit in much less time than knitting a sweater, and much easier to correct mistakes. I made all my clothes in New York, because I wanted to wear designer fashions and I couldn’t afford to buy them. At the time, there were very few types of yarns and needles available (I was using straight needles back then, I only use circular now), so it wasn’t a great loss.

When one son entered the local Waldorf kindergarten in 2000 (a Rudolf Steiner school – Steiner originated biodynamic farming and very different educational concepts), I was advised by his teacher to start knitting again, that it would be good for him to see me working with handcrafts, since that is a big part of their early childhood curriculum. That’s all it took. I had not knitted in 15 years, and I started with a simple scarf. While I was MIA from the knitting world, it had gone through a revolution, and there is no sign of it slowing down. I found a yarn store I liked, and I was off to the races. I documented each item – scarf, hat, purse, animal, shawl, and of course sweaters, in this book – which I kept until I stopped shooting film in my point and shoot camera in 2006. I just counted 62 items. A sculpture I made in college stood in as a mannequin.

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My hand knits are collected in this album from 2000 to 2006 ©Kaye Kittrell

These two were my only animals and I am particularly fond of them. I knitted these from left-over bits of wool, and stuffed with sheep’s wool, so they smelled very organic for years!

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Anteater & Elephant Wool Hand Knits ©Kaye Kittrell

I made so many scarves, I burned out, and settled on sweaters. Since I have always sewn, finishing a sweater (sewing all the knitted pieces together at the end) has always been a source of pride. I was particularly proud of the construction of this sweater I made a few years ago. I think I’ve worn it twice.

Red sweater by Kaye Kittrell

Red Hand Knit Summer Sweater ©Kaye Kittrell

I fell in love with Rowan yarns and patterns and joined Rowan and started receiving their pattern books and bought their yarns almost exclusively. I changed knitting stores when my older son went to 7th grade at Brentwood School in 2003. Jennifer Knits is just across from the campus in Brentwood, and I always hit her annual sales (starting today!), and racked up enough yarn to keep me knitting two sweaters a year for the next ten years. Which brings me to the seriously flawed orange sweater.

Seriously-flawed kand knit angora sweater ©Kaye Kittrell

Seriously-flawed Hand Knit Angora Sweater ©Kaye Kittrell

I’ve knitted three red-orange sweaters for summer, but this is my first winter sweater. I had bought the yarn on sale, which is always a risk, because you are buying an amount of yarn on sale, with no pattern to go with it. Jennifer offers a service to design you a pattern for yarn you buy at the store, but I often get a hankering to knit at night when the store is closed. I started this sweater a year ago, and had not touched it since I started my garden and Late Bloomer. Needing to elevate my ankle made me think to pull out the needles. I usually try to knit something that uses all the yarn. In this case, I kept changing the idea of the sweater till I had just a small ball left. Trouble was, the sleeves were too narrow at the top. I felt very clever knitting two long diamond pieces to add under the armpits. It took three nights to open up the seams, and knit and reknit these pieces till I had used all but about three feet of yarn, enough to close up the seems. The third night, I managed to get it all sewed up and seams finished off inside with all the yarn ends sewn in. Once angora yarn ends are sewn in, you will never get them out without cutting them off. Anyway, I felt this rush of a sense of achievement, folded up the sweater and went to bed. I had been working on finishing this sweater for three straight nights, so I’d had a lot of time to consider how I was doing it. But, almost the moment I laid down to bed, and relaxed my body, it hit me like a bolt that I had sewn in the diamonds the wrong way! That they had NOT eased the tightness of the sleeve seam after all! I was awake for two hours debating whether to try and correct it. But, I had no yarn, and chances were that I would cut a loop somewhere that was part of a piece and not the seam yarn and I would have a hole I could not repair. Being the perfectionist that I am (in all things except keeping my office neat), I couldn’t sleep knowing I would probably never wear it unless I tried to rip it open. I decided to think about it for a couple of days, and I knitted up a sweater from some chunky 3 ply alpaca wool that I’d had for years. I used every last bit of yarn and ran out without doing the collar! I wasted hours online trying to find the yarn, so it’s either finish it off without a collar, or rip the whole thing out and start over. The moral of this story is, unless you are an expert knitter (and I am not), don’t start a sweater without a pattern and all the yarn you will need.

Now, they say, in knitting, if someone standing five feet away from you cannot see a mistake, you leave it alone. But, I will know about the red-orange sweater. And likely, it will not be worn much more than the rest of the 26 I have knitted. And that’s way more than you probably wanted to know about my knitting! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye

Christmas Eve Salad from my garden.

Spinach, arugula, baby kale, baby finger carrots, Stupice tomato, Japanese pepper, cilantro, Meyer lemon, drizzled with raw olive oil with cracked pepper. Merry Christmas, everyone, all over the world!
Red and Green Christmas Salad

Christmas Eve Salad, Homegrown

Last night, I was putting away the leftover soup about 10:15 PM, and there was a soft knock at the door. Very strange. I froze. Then another knock. No one knocks on our door after ten o’clock. I ran upstairs and got my husband, and we approached the door. It was a neighbor from the street over and his young daughter, who were out for a late walk and noticed that we’d been egged. A dozen eggs had been hurled at my husband’s car in the driveway, and some in my garden. I grabbed a flashlight, pan of soapy water and a scrub brush, and Dan worked the hose and picked up egg shells, as I scrubbed the car. Egg dries fast and I knew it would be much tougher to get off today. We cleaned up as best we could and went inside scratching our heads, wondering why we were targeted.

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Egg on Driveway

This morning, I went out to inspect and found lots of egg matter on the driveway, and more eggshells, and egg goop in a few spots of the garden. This egg felled a branch off of my Golden Sun pepper plant, so this pepper will not fully ripen on the vine.

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Broken Pepper Branch with Smashed Egg

Last weekend, my college senior’s cup of wine was apparently drugged and he blacked out and wound up in the E.R. for four hours (three, waiting to be seen, I was told). He was recovering from foot surgery, so it was assumed he might have combined a pain killer with the wine, but he hadn’t taken any since the day after surgery. The E.R. doctor on call did NOT order any blood work! We did not find out till the next day. The doctor has not returned my call inquiring as to why no tests were ordered. He was released. With questions. Why was he targeted? Was he targeted, or was it random? It’s an uneasy feeling.

Thursday night, the skies ripped open and the rains started falling on Cap Haitien, Haiti, and didn’t stop before there was two feet of water everywhere. Cap Haitien had been spared when the earthquake hit Haiti, but, now they have serious trouble. Two years ago, my nephew and his wife, Hunter and Jillian Kittrell, took on the challenge of bringing order to a crumbling institution, a children’s orphanage, the Cap Haitien Children’s Home. Things were looking pretty good before Thursday night. Now, all the order is washed away.

Flood at Cap Haitien Children's Home

An Orphan Looks out over the Play Yard at Cap Haitien Children’s Home, Haiti

Hunter and Jillian are responsible for the lives and well-being of over 50 children, some in diapers. The grounds are flooded, as you will see in the photos on their Facebook page and Jillian’s blog, Life at the Cap Haitien Children’s Home, which I encourage you to check out.

CHCH Flood waters

Girl Stands in Flood Waters at Cap Haitien Children’s Home, Haiti

Jillian is an amazing young woman who’s love for the orphans of Haiti is only surpassed for her love and devotion to God. And, if anyone can keep it together with the challenges facing them now is my nephew, Hunter. They are in the process (it takes years) of adopting a young Haitian girl they fell in love with when they first arrived.

Cap Haitien Children's Home

Hunter, Jillian and Dalencia Kittrell at Cap Haiten Children’s Home

Please, if you are so moved, make a donation by PayPal, or send them much needed items from their Amazon wish list (ship-to address is embedded, so all you have to do is order). Today, Jillian reports that they want to help the old folks home across the street where cholera has broken out. Mosquitos are a huge issue. Please do whatever you can. 100% of your donation will be used to help the orphans and the elderly, and clean up their facilities.

So, back to the question of “Why?” Hunter said one of the boys asked him, when the pouring rain would not cease and the water was rising, where was God, and Hunter said, in his characteristic good humor, “You are not swimming yet. When you are swimming, you ask that question.” Why does someone get their property egged, why does a college student get drugged, why does more devastation hit the poorest country on Earth? All we can do is pick up a brush and some soapy water, and clean up, as best we can, and keep moving forward. And give generously. And it’s a tough time to ask for help for orphans in Haiti, when most of knows someone who’s reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. Please help them if you can, and share their links.

Thanks for reading! – Kaye

Today is Blog Action Day. The Power of We is the theme. When I think about the Power of We, and how it relates to this most pivotal year for me – creating an urban edible garden in my front yard, creating community in my neighborhood, meeting gardeners and farmers, creating an online community with my blog, entertaining people with my web series Late Bloomer – my mind immediately goes to two people in particular that have changed my life for the better this year, Mark Dubrow and Andy Sehic. They connected me to the Power of We.

Three Friends

Kaye Kittrell, Mark Dubrow and Andy Sehic in Front of my House, April 4, 2012

I remember well one chilly morning in February, when I was returning from my neighbor, Dorie’s, house around 7:30 AM (I was getting ideas for ground cover for shady areas of my yard), and Mark and Andy were standing in front of my house looking at my garden. I only had a couple of small citrus trees, herbs, nasturtium and cauliflower growing at that point. We chatted and I knew immediately these were people I wanted to get to know.

Mark and Andy have devoted themselves to a life of serving others and the planet, and they had returned from their home in Arcata, CA, to be caregivers for his ailing mother who lives three blocks away. They were out for a stroll and passed by my early attempt at converting my front yard to an edible garden. Having a large edible garden in Arcata, they had some suggestions for me, and we vowed to keep in touch. They went back up north for a few weeks and I didn’t see them again till April 4, the day of the photo above. That day, they pointed out to me that, with so little space to grow vegetables, I couldn’t afford to have a row of low-climbing camelias right along the sidewalk, as that was my best sun. I vowed to move them and I did.

But, my connection with Mark and Andy goes much deeper than my garden. They introduced me to peace activist and student of permaculture Brian Willson, who lost his legs protesting the U.S. shipment of arms to El Salvador which is accounted in his new book, Blood on the Tracks; director Tom Shadyac, and his mind-awakening documentary I Amwho, after huge Hollywood success has devoted himself to a life of serving others; and Safe Place for Youth (S.P.Y.), a charity focused on improving the lives of homeless teenagers and at-risk youth in the Los Angeles area where we are visiting tomorrow. And they continually shower me with encouragement.

I have been passionately outspoken against mountaintop coal removal in the Appalachians, where my consciousness to nature was first awakened, thanks to my dear friend Guy Zimmerman (I managed to get back to the Smoky’s last October where we camped in Cade’s Cove); I am deeply concerned about fracking, the rampant, seemingly-out-of-control rush to dig natural gas wells all over our country, which is contaminating our ground water while using it up at the same time; and especially involved in the issue of food security, and Monsanto (Cargill, ConAgra) attempting to control every aspect of our food supply system.

But, when you are a lone voice sending emails to Congress and occasionally making calls, you really aren’t accomplishing much, as Mark reminded me. But, the Power of We is how you can accomplish great things. In 2001, a small group of us protested, and won, the right right to have raw dairy on the shelves of stores in Los Angeles County. That was a small victory against a continuing wall of government pressure to shut down family farms, and not just because of raw dairy. Now, the march is on to shut down any small family farmer who is raising something that competes with Big Ag and the chemical companies.

I have known for a long time that fluoride was bad, but, was not aware just how toxic it is, and how deceitful institutions, companies and the government have been in forcing the fluoridation of our public drinking water, until Mark recently made me aware of it. When these issues all seem so overwhelming, we have to remember that there have been times in our history when the collective voices rose up and changed things. We were told cigarettes, lead in gas and paint, and asbestos were good for us. And public awareness caused change, and now that must happen with fluoride. Please share this video, The Fluoride Deceptionwith everyone. The people can make a difference, if enough of us wake up to the facts.

I am in awe and humbled by the online community I have connected to this year, and it all started with growing food in my front yard. Most people choose backyard gardening (easier to fence off to keep critters out), but, growing food in my front yard started a conversation that I would never have had in my back yard. I would have never met Mark and Andy, for example. Growing food in your front yard makes a statement to your neighbors that knowing where your food comes from is important, and should be part of the conversation when you are raising children. For, the benefit is not just that you bring a few zucchini and tomatoes and herbs in to your table instead of buying them at the market (it’s important to support farmer’s markets), it’s an amazing education to watch vegetables grow, witness friends and foes in the garden and who eats who, and what you can control with beneficial insects (and what is out of your control) and their life cycles, and if you can inspire a few neighbor children, maybe you can make a difference in their lives.

I have connected to a group of bloggers so diverse: a thoughtful young woman raising her young daughter in cloth diapers (I did that two decades ago); an American midwife specializing in water births working in China; a homesteader in Pennsylvania who is 80% self-sustained; a do-it-all mom, farmer, artist living on a farm in rural New York; a mom and farmer raising grapes and pastured pigs and chickens in Central California; a very funny writer from the U.K., daughter of a gardener, ex-pat living in Turkey who makes me laugh on a daily basis; a young woman with her first garden plot in Ireland; a wonderful chef and recipe creator that lives a few blocks away; and a mom to two special needs adopted sons living in my home state of Tennessee, in love with the natural world, who made me aware of Blog Action Day; and there are many more, interesting, caring, thriving people in the world that I have connected with, all as a result of making that one decision this year, to grow food in my front yard. They all inspire me to a better self, and I am deeply thankful for the connection. Especially Mark and Andy. Thanks for reading. – Kaye

This is my soil. Hard, almost hard as a rock, compacted clay. If I was a potter, or a brick maker, I would have a lifetime supply with which to work. It took a pick axe to separate this clod from the Earth.

Chunk of Clay Soil

Chunk of My Clay Soil

Last fall, my son Walker helped me to remove the top eight inches of the 6.5’x20′ strip of parkway, break up the clods and put them through a 1/2″ screen and dump it back in.

Putting Dirt Clods through a Screen

Screening Dirt Clods

I removed a ton of rocks. This took a few days, and was backbreaking, exhausting work, but, rewarding, as I believed I only had to do this job once and I would have manageable soil with which to plant a garden. A complete novice, I had no idea the earth is constantly pushing the rocks and clay up to the surface. I know now. Several folks have told me and I have seen it with my own eyes. There wasn’t a single rock bigger than a pebble six inches down when we got done with it. I could easily shove my hand in it. But, within a month or two, it was rock hard again. No matter that I have added several cubic yards of good planting mix and amendments, every time I want to plant something in the parkway, I have to get out the pick axe.

Old Pick Axe

Old Pick Axe

This old tool came with the house. Neighbor C.L. told me it’s so narrow on the wide end because it’s been used so much. I’ve certainly put it to work since starting my garden. I swear that anvil must weigh 10 pounds, and it’s all I can do to dig a basin-size hole in the clay to plant some milkweed or yarrow. You can see the groove where the pick separated the unwillingly clay.

Clay Groove Caused by Pick

Groove Caused by Pick in Clay Clod

Today, I dropped by Loree’s house (episode 16 of Late Bloomer) to pick up three Goose Plant milkweed plants. I didn’t have any, and they have these big, spike-y, translucent seed pods that are really cool, and like any good Monarch mother, I want to give my caterpillars as much variety as I can. Right now, I have four caterpillars and twelve milkweed plants!

Goose Plant Milkweed Seed Pods

Goose Plant Milkweed Seed Pods

I love the way it says on the instructions that, regardless of water and sun requirements, every plant wants “well-drained soil.” Ha! I dig until I’m exhausted, which usually means 14-18″ wide by 10″ deep for a 6″ potted plant, fill the basin with good soil and amendments, and hope there’s enough total cubic inches for the roots to be happy, and have to remember not to overwater it. That basin, filled with water, would take hours to soak in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. (Well, yes, I am.) My connection to my dirt is what got me started on the garden path and Late Bloomer, so, I’m grateful. But, if I had it to do over again, I would install raised beds over the whole parkway and front yard. I removed this many rocks and hard clay from two medium-sized shovelfuls of dirt today…

Clay Clods of Dirt and Rocks

Clay Clods of Dirt and Rocks

…to plant this 6″ pot of common yarrow. Actually, I don’t know how they can call anything this lovely “common.”

Achillea Millefolium "Pomegranate"

Achillea Millefolium “Pomegranate”

William Bryant Logan, who wrote the poetic, prophetic, historical, highly recommended account of soil, “Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth,” knows a thing or two about clay. In fact, he devoted a whole chapter to it. I have no doubt this one clod is teeming with organic life.

Detail of Clay

Detail of Clay

It’s just that plants, especially vegetables, need good drainage for the roots. For now, I’m committed to displacing, disrupting and removing some clay here and there to create more space for my vegetables and flowers for beneficial insects. I hope the clay will forgive me for the interruption. It will be here long after I’m gone. Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye

The Clutter Chronicles

Documenting my collections for posterity

Jillian Kittrell

Confessions from a Mom in Haiti

Hunter Kittrell Photography

Sharing Haiti Through Photos

The Barefoot Farmer

Kaye Kittrell's Garden Web Series and Blog

Auntie Dogma's Garden Spot

kick your shoes off and come on in ...

ArtsandAg

Exploring the back roads of Hickman County Tennessee

Re-Grow Roots

Learning to live harmoniously in Missouri.

GALLIVANCE

Travel Tales With A Twist

TED Blog

The TED Blog shares interesting news about TED, TED Talks video, the TED Prize and more.

Homeless Mountain

An economically challenged voice from the hills

The Palladian Traveler

Meandering along the cobblestone and travertine to somewhere...

The Bio Infos

All about living beings

Garden Walk Garden Talk

The Greater Garden of Nature

brissiemaz

Brissiemaz at home and away

The Inner Gardener

Inner City Gardening for the Soul

Tuesdays with Laurie

"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." —Laurie Buchanan

enlightenedlotuswellness.wordpress.com/

Awareness. Education. Motivation.

ONvegetables

Information for commercial vegetable production in Ontario