Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Eventful 2017

Quite a lot has happened in 2017.

We hosted our first Olive Festival in January, where we tasted pairings of our homegrown olives with cheeses and wines.

We have a new caretaker!  Cina and family moved in this spring, and she has helped tremendously to maintain and expand the edible landscape.  This year, we added 16 new trees (14 of which produce food) and many other edible plants.  We planted these moringas (on the right) in late May.  By October, they had grown over 10 ft!

We had new windows installed.  This was a big deal, because the old windows were, well, old.  And drafty.  We replaced all the windows with high performance dual-pane windows.

We held two olive harvesting and curing workshops.  The olive crop wasn't as large this year as in past years, but we had more new faces than ever, and really the whole point of these events is to share ideas.

Our food forest is gradually taking shape, starting in the east yard.

And finally, our first banana flower appeared this December.  This is a "Dwarf Namwah" - one of four varieties of bananas in our chunky monkey patch.

This year has been filled with learning by doing (I won't say learning the hard way, but I suppose that's the more common expression), and I hope to sit down soon to write more details about what went well, and what I'll do different next time.

And there will be a next time.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Photo Update

All the perennials are out of dormancy.  Here's a photo update.

The picture above is the north walkway.  In the foreground is one of the pecans we planted this spring.  Behind it are the "Kashmir blend" pomegranates, and behind them you can see one of the Afghan pines we planted last winter.

The picture on the left is the "Wonderful" pomegranate in the northwest yard - one of the first trees we planted at Sage Garden.  And the one on the right shows the Barbados cherry and Violette de Bordeaux fig we just planted in the northeast yard.
The picture on the left is of the pear we planted on the north side of the house last fall.  Along the wall of the house you can see the volunteer dichondra.

The picture on the right shows the mountain sage in the center of the labyrinth.  Behind it is one of two volunteer tomatoes that sprouted in the labyrinth, along with some of the neighborhood hollyhocks.  (These grow throughout the neighborhood.  The ones in the labyrinth were contributed by one of my neighbors.)

On the left, you can see the young canyon hackberry tree in the northeast yard, with grapes growing on it and a small chuparosa to its right.

On the right is the peach tree in the east yard, with one of the wolfberry bushes in the background.
Above are some blossoms on the plum we planted last fall, and you can see some of the tomatoes ripening on the volunteer tomato in the background. (Mother Nature really likes planting tomatoes around here!)
On the left is the dwarf mulberry we planted last fall near the east walkway to the mailboxes.  Beside it you can see the mountain sage we recently added.

And the picture on the right shows the apple on the other side of the walkway.  In the shade to its left, you may be able to see the white sage we added this spring.  And you can't miss the volunteer hollyhocks growing to its right.

In the picture on the left, you can see the figs in the south yard by the clothesline.

The picture on the right shows the pistachios we planted this spring.  These are also in the south - just on the other side of the sidewalk from the figs.

And I couldn't resist taking a picture of the Chunky Monkey patch (below).  In the foreground is another "Wonderful" pomegranate, and in the background are the bananas and peanuts.  The peanuts went dormant in the winter, but I left the plants in the ground, and they're growing new leaves this spring.  Mixed in with the peanuts, you can also see - you guessed it - yet another volunteer tomato plant.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring to Life

The rains and warmth of the past couple weeks have brought many plants out of dormancy.  The figs are starting to bud.

 Brittlebushes are in bloom, and the wolfberries at Sage Garden are bearing early fruit.

One of my favorite returning volunteers, London rocket are in full force this year.  If you like horseradish and you see these popping up, before you mow them, taste one of the leaves.  They're a great addition to a tuna sandwich.  You might even want to designate a small patch for use in the kitchen.  If it's in a visible place in your yard, I recommend putting a temporary border around it, so your neighbors don't mistake your intentional non-interference for neglect.

Speaking of volunteers, we have another volunteer tomato this year!  Why does this place grow so many tomatoes?  Last year we had a huge volunteer tomato plant in the chunky monkey patch that gave us hundreds of little snacking tomatoes.  In fact, it's still there among the bananas and peanuts.  This one just popped up next to the plum we planted last fall.

I see we have fairies this year.  In the background of the picture above, you can see the work of the neighborhood children.  They built a fairy path into the labyrinth.  In the foreground is a canyon hackberry tree, and the orange colored flowers are chuparosa.

Also in the labyrinth, we recently planted a passionfruit vine (on the left), where it can climb up the olive tree.

On the right is a sage called salvia newe ya'ar which we planted just this past winter.  This is one of my favorite species for Arizona.  It's aromatic and edible, and it thrives in our hot, dry climate.  If you look closely on the upper right (just below the aloe in the picture) you can see its first flower of the year.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

New Bike Rack

Today, we finished building a bike rack.  We picked an area under one of the carport roofs in order to protect the bikes from weather.  To maximize our use of a small footprint, we went vertical, installing six hooks for adult bikes.  Under the hooks, we built a frame that the bikes can be locked to.

We ran into a wrinkle when we dug the hole for the center post: there was a large concrete footing about three inches under the surface.  So we bolted the center post right to the footing.

Finally, we can store our bikes outside!  We took a ride along the canal to celebrate.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tranquility Tree

There's an olive tree at Sage Garden Ecovillas that I like to call Tranquility.  There are no structures or other plants within a 10 foot radius of this tree, so it seems sort of obvious to create a walking labyrinth around it, and that's what we're doing right now.  The first step was to design a path that would fit in the area.  Then we cleared away the rock and dug up any grass in the area.

Then we marked exactly where the borders would go.  The exterior border is low berm whose functions are to define the space and keep the medium that will cover the path from spreading into the yard.  The interior borders of the labyrinth will be marked by plants that fit the themes of tranquility and meditation.  We're digging trenches for the interior borders.  Part of the soil from those trenches is used to create the berm around the outside, and part of it is mixed with compost, sand, and peat moss to create a planting soil that goes back into the trenches.  We're laying down irrigation tubing under the outer berm, to supply water to the flexible drip tubing that will water the plants in the interior borders.  Here are some pictures at various stages of development.

The layout is based on the classical seven-circuit labyrinth, but simplified to fit comfortably in a small area.  The next steps are to finish digging and filling, install the drip tubing, mulch the border, spread the medium on the path (most likely sand), plant, and enjoy!