Nestled in a beautiful, friendly beach community lies a 4-acre permaculture farm filled with life, love and family. Where birds sing their song at dawn and crickets gently chirp you to sleep. This field is home to a mixture of tall grasses, vegetable gardens, wild edibles, chestnut trees, herbs, blueberry shrubs, pear & apple trees, flowers, buckwheat, rye and more plants that I may have not come across yet. There is always something new to be discovered for any farmer, gardener.. life being.
Farmer Amber invites not only beneficial plants to her land but also insects, chickens, her two beautiful cats – Blue & Miss B., snakes, bats, birds, deer, bunnies, worms and wwoofers, which are all necessary to the well-being of the Earth and her delicate ecosystems. During my visit, I had the lovely experience of connecting with all these beautiful types of beings.
One project Amber, Kevin & I worked on was revamping an egg-shaped garden bed to be soft and nutritious for sweet red bell pepper seedlings and clover seed. We used mighty garden forks to lift the “very successful” quack grass roots, bindweed, goldenrod and few other plants that were not needed in this garden bed. Though, they are plentiful in most other parts of the field. We sifted through the soil with our garden forks, shovels and hands to get out as many lingering roots as possible. We left a hardy thyme that survived the winter.
We then mixed in some good ol’ cow manure (which cured for a year to make sure it was free of any pathogens & parasites) to feed the soil nitrogen, potassium & phosphorus. This will help the newly planted peppers have everything they need to grow strong and bear lots of tasty vegetables. The clover was used as a living mulch to shade out unwanted weeds and fix nitrogen to the soil. It also blooms beautiful flowers that bees love and they are edible/medicinal! Talk about multi-functional!
Ahhh, all that hard work that we did in the cold rain. This is such satisfying work I tell you. Also, a total body workout, benefit of absorbing negative ions from the earth and a time to breathe in the fresh air! I don’t know if life can get much better… but wait there’s food that will grow here?! Ha, I love this planet. It provides us with everything we need ❤
One of my favorite things to do is plant, especially with other gardeners. We had fun on “wwoofer wednesday” planting this bed with RI locals- Angela & Sean. I love how food and farming bring people together. Planting is one of the last steps of gardening, next to mulching. Though, there is never really an end to gardening. Rather just an end of a season. I love planting because it allows for a lot of creativity in companion placement, colors, sizes, shapes, natural objects and decorations. What also makes it exciting is that once the plants or seeds are in the earth, you get to watch them grow! You build a connection with them, as do all the animals & insects around you. It’s a beautiful process that can also be very meditative too. The greatest glory is harvesting your own food!
Yay for hugelkultur! It’s a german word for the raised garden bed I’m standing on. Many people refer to it as a “hugel” or “hugel bed.” Basically, it is using logs in your garden bed to build fungi in the soil. Fungi are welcomed to the soil because they provide moisture, fight disease and exchange nutrients with plants. Fungi share this symbiotic relationship; they connect other plants to each other via the mycelium in the soil. It’s like a stringed network of communication underground!
The center of the hugel pictured above, is protected from the wind and also has a microclimate. The heat produced by the decomposing logs make the bed much warmer. This gives your plants a head start on the growing season. There is also more surface area on mounds vs. flat ground. More area means more fruits, veggies, flowers & herbs. So here we go, learning how to build your own hugel bed!
1.) Start by collecting logs. 2-3 would be good to start in a small hugel.
2.) Dig a trench half the diameter of the log.
3.) Cover the log with the removed soil and add some compost if you have it!
4) “Charge” the hugel bed by adding a generous amount of water. Let it sit till most of the water is drained.
5.) Time to plant!
Here’s a nice visual & another method I found on a blog here:
This bed we made is also a hugel but we were pretty excited to dig, that we dug so deep the logs were completely underground. It’s okay though, the fungi will still be present and do their job. Here we planted seeds honoring the Native American Three Sisters garden- corn, beans & squash. In this garden bed, Amber decided to give melon a try in place of squash. They are in the same family, so I think it will be successful!
The Three Sisters method uses corn as a trellis for the beans to climb up. The beans fix nitrogen to their roots and builds fertility in the soil for the following year. Squash (or melon) vines allow for a natural shade around the corn to keep the ground moist and cool during hot summer days.
The Natives recognize that plants share a relationship with each other, the land and humans. They see corn as a crop that needs to grow in community with beneficial companions.
There is so much to learn about nature. If we, as humans, would learn how to work in harmony with her, all our lives would be much healthier. In turn, the earth would thrive as the living, breathing, glowing planet that she is!
Here is where we slept, in the lucky, little “Leprechaun.” It was nice to try out camper living. We found it to be really enjoyable. Every morning, we would wake up and see a little bunny munching on clovers for breakfast 🙂
We found a lucky pot of gold! Or lots of sunchokes aka jerusalem artichokes! We found them by surprise while digging in the egg-shaped bed. I made them into a vegan sunchoke-potato salad with fresh scallions from the garden. It made for a tasty meal that we shared with new friends we met at an event, Young Farmers Night.
Rhode Island, I really love you.
Here is a view of *some* of the blueberry shrubs. There has to be at least 80 bushes and a 100 more coming! Most are 5-6ft tall. Talk about abundance! If you’ve never tasted a freshly picked blueberry, I highly suggest you do so!
Farmer Amber has been told that it is “impossible” to have a field of organic blueberry shrubs. I can see why someone might make a statement like “impossible,” given how quickly pests can damage an entire crop. There is a lot of risk to lose everything for that season. Which for most farmers means a loss of income and food! Amber says her blueberries are “beyond organic” because all that is needed to care for them are weeding & mulching and plenty of helpful hands to harvest and eat them. Where, certified organic farms often use certain insecticides & fungicides.
The beauty of permaculture though is that you are building a vast network of communication and habitat for all living beings. This creates a balanced ecosystem. Isn’t that what we all need? Balance.
Here is a great picture to reference what permaculture looks like, thanks to www.permacultureprinciples.com
All living beings play an important role in the web of life.
We all need to strive to have balance among work, rest & play.
This is how we spent our time outside of work:
Lounging on beautiful Matunuck Beach.
Soft sand under our feet, collecting smooth stones.
A fun potluck out on Ninigret Pond.
We learned about oyster farming & shared some amazing food!
Jumping & flipping.
Walking trails & observing nature.
Yoga. Breathing. Flowing. Up dog.
Tranquil walk at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge.
A fun day at the Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charlestown.
Chillen’ in a bamboo forest.
We saw quail eggs…
Explored a lushly verdant nursery too!
We made new friends & shared laughs by the fire!
We even made it to a sangha where we listened to readings of Thich Nhat Hanh and connected with an amazing group of people. I am so grateful for our generous hosts at Fieldsong Farm. We ate amazing, healthy food every day and learned so much! Thank you for your kindness.
“The amount of happiness that you have
depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh