Monday, June 29, 2009

Pile it on

My dad's idea of family fun was having his kids make manure tea in the rain barrel. Whatever manure didn't make it into the barrel went into his homemade compost bin resulting in a crumbly brown goodness. Us kids found these gardening chores a form of punishment. Now, as an adult, they seem a lost art.

so good I could touch it
Photos ©2009 Tammy Maseychik  

Yes, I admit it...I finally enjoy gardening. But a small element of punishment lingers – compost! Eliot Coleman and Victory Garden books litter my home yet all sage advice falls away as my kitchen scraps mildew into a mucky anaerobic slug factory.  Clearly the composting gene skips a generation. 

Failure creates desperation. Fantasies of plastic tumbling bins creating easy quick compost float in my head and across my computer screen. Each time I look at them my resistance weakens. Composting problems forever solved with a quick click. It would be so easy – charge it to a card, wait for UPS delivery, dump in kitchen scraps and tumble away to that elusive crumbly brown goodness, right?

Wrong. First, my frugal Yankee values get in the way. (Translation: I'm a cheapskate who won't pay the $100+ corporate composting commands.) Second, there's no getting around the ironic aesthetic of a giant, expensive plastic thing in an organic, wanna-be permaculture setting. Third, no amount of tumbling makes up for lacking a good compost recipe. So what to do beyond my grumbling? 

Here's what: have Newforest Institute show me the way. Birchwood Motel hosted "Secrets of Soil", a Newforest workshop, in the motel gardens last week. Pallets were turned on sides, wired together and reinforced with rebar. Et voila! – Loverly bins that fit right into the landscape. Nothing like hands-on learning to clarify things. 

the lovely & charming Julia listens to Jenny's compost woe

Julia Yelton, co-director of Newforest and permaculture sage, showed us her compost recipe that gets things cooking: layer the bottom with twigs (my thorny spent wild roses from the burn pile) and then alternate layers of brown and green to create the hot environment natural microbes love. This will all break down to finally make me some of that elusive crumbly compost goodness from childhood.

workshop team installs permaculture potato patch in minutes!

So thank you, Newforest, for fulfilling my compost quest. Eric and I are thrilled to see the small hill of coffee grounds our sweet little motel produces daily feed the garden instead of the dump. Add to that our kitchen scraps and some layers of straw, leaves, jewel weed (also a great poison ivy remedy) or other wild medicinals, manure, some seaweed and you have the secret to our soil. 

What does any of this have to do with tourism in Maine? I'd argue that enjoying, preserving and protecting the diversity of the world starts in your own back yard. And should you need any more detail than that, then come on up to Maine and head over to the Newforest Institute!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Permaculture Principles

No-dig, weed-free gardening?!  Hmmm...Birchwood Motel has 2 cottage gardens, 5 vegetable and fruit beds, 3 raspberry hedgerows and various fruiting and flowering shrubs, hedges and trees. Sign us up for some of that!

this much I know, nitrogen-rich clover is a friend to man and bee!

The savvy are long hip to the benefits of permaculture. For the rest of us, catching up won't be so hard thanks to the NewForest Institute in Brooks. NewForest is an educational non-profit with a mission of connecting people to the land by creating mutually sustaining relationships using permaculture design principles. 

NewForest came on my radar last week when they launched PermaFeast! with a  screening of the Sepp Holzer (the granddaddy of Permaculture) film series "Farming with Nature". PermaFeast! is a six-week series of hands-on workshops demonstrating the principals of permaculture and natural farming. When they asked for host sites for the series we were happy to volunteer. 

Birchwood Motel will host the first workshop "Secrets of Soil" on Wednesday, June 24 at 4:30pm. We'll learn through hands-on practical application no dig, weed-free gardening, sheet mulching, compost building and compost tea brewing. The cost will be $20 for the workshop. If you're interested in the whole series, the cost is $100 for all six workshops. Advance registration is required; please call Newforest at 722-3625.

Here's the series schedule: 
June 24: The Secrets of Soil; July 1: Water in the Landscape Ponds, flowforms, swales, aquaculture; July 8: Stone Age Economics Wild food foraging, perennial vegetables, and native medicinals; July 15: Manna from Heaven Hand-built, wood-fired cob ovens; July 22: Feathered, Flying and Fat Friends Backyard chickens, ducks, bees and pigs; July 29: Playing on the Edge Natural playgrounds and wild spaces.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

June is busting out all over

lovely lupine

The Maine setting of the play Carousel inspired Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic song (titled above) and it remains the perfect description for these late Spring days. Afternoon provides a lovely light for viewing and strolling about the gardens here at Birchwood Motel in Camden, Maine. 

Can you smell the lilac? Guests adore the lightly scented breeze calling to them down the front porch. Please enjoy (indulge me further) a few images from the Birchwood Motel gardens:

a chorus of iris

capturing the first pristine rose bloom before 
the japanese beetles arrive to make their marks

awaiting emergence of herb seeds
herbs for peace? peace mussel? — inspired by 
my creative friend, Jen C. 

even pup takes time to smell the spring flowers
indian paint brush — a wildflower fave 

poppies! poppies will make them sleep...

thyme in bloom, happy bees, lovely stone paths
laid by innkeeper/husband/stone mason Eric!

Gardens are so lovely. Always changing, always something new to see.
Come see more at the Birchwood Motel in Camden, Maine. 
Our great low Spring rates still apply – midweek deals as low as $60/night.
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Or call us at 207-236-4204. Hope to see you soon!

Locals we dig

Craftingmamalibrarian is a must-follow blog. Interesting commentary, beautiful photographs, ideas, projects and recipes – mostly involving local foods, places, shops and people. But to me the real stars of the blog are her sweet family. Follow along and you'll see. Be sure to also look at her links for more ideas and local flavor.

As usual, I'm taking her advice and entering a contest posted on one of her favorite blogs:

My plan? If I actually win, I give the goodies to Iris in hopes she crafts me something clever with part of the proceeds. Maybe a sweet quilt pillow for the lobby at the Birchwood Motel?