Winter garden yields food for the soul

February 5th, 2014 § Comments Off on Winter garden yields food for the soul § permalink


photo courtesy Jonathan Keelty

Sparrows are bickering outside my window and I feel sure it is about the winter’s weather and which bird is getting the best perch for the night. Towhees hunt below the suet feeder for snips of scraps dropped by the oh-so-sloppy jaybirds.  Two towhees work the area, leaving not a trace of that warmth-serving suet.  I look up to see an overwintering song sparrow jumping along the top of the fence line…  hip, hip, hop.  He, too, is looking around for a meal.

The towhees move off through the silver lace vine’s tangled arms, undressed for the season.  Sparrows pay them no mind.  The vine is a bird fortress, so thick I cannot see the street through it, only 20 feet away. A charcoal and grey junco, in his winter tuxedo, warms himself in the sunshine, nestled in the safe embrace of silver lace. Feeding and caring for the wild birds somehow helps to bring my own life into focus.  In the daily push for sustenance, it is intelligence that gets our feathered friends through the winter long.  All the neighborhood birds will visit today for a meal.

The birds will have special accommodations for this winter including a new feeding station for bread crusts, apple cores and other scraps that the bigger jay and magpies will love.

Mid-winter I don’t worry about common mammalian invaders, like skunks or coons.  I believe they are sleeping on a winter’s day. Squirrels can eat what they want, too.  I don’t dislike squirrels; I just try not to feed them outside of winter weather conditions.  As long as they leave the seed trays alone, they are welcome.

Chickens love getting out on a warm winter day, if the ground is free of snow.  Normally I let them out for a few hours midday.  They search the duff and mulch for tidbits of various origins.  I don’t think they care much what it is – if it looks like food – it’s food!  If it moves, all the better!  They scratch around the forest garden stirring up the floor and fertilizing the trees.

One event I want to welcome – the ermine’s winter visit.  I keep watch for the local weasel, the snow-white ermine.  I figure any day now, one will return to the AnnaMaranna Gardens to hunt mice.  With chickens and rabbits, we have wild mouse luxury accommodations for surviving the winter.  But they won’t survive an ermine’s visit.  I check out the windows looking for the white blur of electrified fur.  A lone ranger in the wild, even bears avoid them.  They are so quick one can come and go before anyone notices.  But I keep looking.  I love how nature helps me keep a balance of the wild animals, from little birds to little mice; it is a food chain and an ecosystem here.  The weasel plays a most important role!

Outside in the forest garden, it is quite still and peaceful. The chickens are humming to themselves over their finds.  Dressed in their down coats they don’t need supplemental heat unless temperatures drop into the low teens.

I embrace this day, this place and this time in my life’s path.  I turn to the door, the welcoming woodstove and Blue Planet Earthscapes. Peace.  Becky the gardener.

Watching winter

December 21st, 2013 § Comments Off on Watching winter § permalink

Winter Solstice is the time of year when gardeners turn from the autumnal down cycle of shorter and shorter days to the now-going-up cycle of longer days culminating in spring.  It gives us a time of celebration in the midst of our silent gardens and for observation of our lives and life’s meanings.

December temperatures have dipped below zero!  All my weather records from the past are worthless as Mother Nature takes on a new path.  Our weather is climate change up close and personal, just outside our windows.  As we move through time, we are witnessing changes outside the norms.  So, as a gardener, the serious business of staying alive is all about growing plants.  From seeds to trees, we need to stay atop the waves of change to keep our plants alive.

Not only that, but we need to know what plants to stop growing because it will be useless to continue and a waste of resources.  Gardeners need to keep studying the plants so we can add to our palettes those that will survive and will back up basic survival of life.  It is urgent study!

I cannot keep myself indoors too much and nothing is more beautiful than fresh snow on our Colorado backdrop.  Willows on Fountain Creek are already showing off their golden buds, partnered with red twigs and tri-leaf sumacs budding in red tones. It is amazing to me that the plants keep going and growing all year round.  Buds also hold that elusive bit of promise in the winter storms that spring will come yet again.  In every day there is beauty no matter the serious business.  Stay aware of that!

As I walk through this winter wonderland, frosty puffs of breath freeze onto my neck scarf forming pesky ice blobs as.  My toes are crammed into woolen socks with heavy boots; woolen pants have leg warmers up over my knees, heavy gloves, and a good hat… I have the whole winter apparel works, under a woolen poncho.  Still a bit cold, but I’m happy.  I am always happy when it snows!  Maybe you too? Enjoy your winter season coming.


Becky the Gardener

Once upon a maple leaf

November 19th, 2013 § Comments Off on Once upon a maple leaf § permalink


Sitting on a sunny step, a curled maple leaf lay at my feet. With ribs of red and weakening green spread across it like the veins on a hand, it still seemed very much alive and vibrant. It felt very familiar and made me think back on the many autumns of my life.

How I love the autumn… All through my lifetime I have felt that deepening understanding of life in the fall… Playing childhood games on the front lawn as a child, we made highways in the leaves for our bikes and tricycles.

As a young woman I walked through the Eastern forests in October exploding with the bouquet of harvest colors.

For the last forty years of my life, I have embraced this season of crispy gold of aspens against the conifer forests. Breathtakingly beautiful. This season of the leaf is so like the autumn seasons of the past, as well as ever fresh in the present.

Ahhhh! The Garden of the Gods is always a favorite natural area for me to go for a check in with nature… most leaves have fallen and revealed the hidden nooks and hideaways. Afternoon sunrays slant through the naked trees. The sun is moving through its seasonal cycle towards the lowest loop, ever lower, ever lower until the Winter Solstice. Fallen leaves skirt the trees below the canopies and cuddle against the crowns of the plants and grass. This is nature’s way of mulching the living perennials through the cold season. This is nature’s way of feeding fresh biota and organic matter into the soil. This is how nature creates ecosystem in the soil… and above the soil.

At AnnaMaranna Gardens, we dumped some big bags of deciduous leaves atop the soil. An immediate response from nature was the local Towhees’ “party of the leaves” that commenced. There were at least 7 of those bright little birds kicking and scratching about for their party favors! What a riot!

Fallen leaves will extend their insect season into December or maybe longer. Autumn calls to the farmers and the gardeners to prepare for the winter while readying for the spring to come once again. We will spread leaves and mulches, water when we can and allow the soil to work with the biota to make the cake crumb soil we all love.