Saturday, March 5, 2016

New Mythologies and Musing from the Garden In Oregon

Any comparison to Thoreau's Walden need be colored by this fact. In 1844, on a camping trip, Thoreau accidentally set fire to 300 acres of the Concord woods. What a screw up! I have never done anything like that! 

The photos were grabbed off the Internet. I have asked for and received no permission to use them

Oregon Musing 

“Let us cultivate our garden.” 
― Voltaire 

We arrived at Woodpecker Flats on April Fools Day. Dave was fool enough to invite us to stay and we are fools enough to have taken him up on it. How we got to this place at that time is open to interpretation. The story cannot be told in a straight line. The myths that we choose to live by are the myths that we create for ourselves.

So, this is the story about how Alachua Habitat for Humanity in Florida made us homeless and how we came as refugees to Oregon and became pioneers ending homelessness and hunger through direct action. O.K. It's more complicated than that, but we can elaborate further later on. First, these musings from our Oregon garden.

Too much water or not enough? The same question for fertilizer and sunshine.

The real garden question is: How do the deer prefer their vegetables grown?

We are living at Woodpecker Flats located on nine acres in O'Brien, Josephine County, southern Oregon, near the junction of Loony Mountain Road and No Way, not real far north of the California borderline. It is largely wooded - predominantly pine, manzanita (which I am told is related to the blueberry) and more - with some clearings.

The manzanita fruit is edible and has a pleasant tartness, but it causes gastrointestinal upset if eaten in large quantities. It is not much like a blueberry.

The property owner is an esoteric artist. There are some random sculptures and the remains of some old projects including a tree-house that has fallen out of the tree and the Bus Stop to Nowhere.

I began my share of tera-forming with some trails and garden patches. The ground is hard, iron rich and very rocky. I have "harvested" piles of rocks and have incorporated them into garden walls, terraces and a sculpture entitled Big Ben Meets Salvador Dali in the Garden.

Inspiration for my sculpture.

We received some seed packs from a local food bank and some more from a friend in town. Liz had a tin with a variety of seeds marketed as a "Survivalist supply. So, veggie and flower seeds in hand, we are off and running...

My initial garden idea was to create a living art project. Nice, comfortable strolling paths with artistically placed edible plants and flowers along the way. The local deer seem to appreciate the effort. They like to eat the tops off of plants. Marigolds - yum! So now, we have wire fencing around and over everything with the hope that the deer, the bugs, the birds, the wild monkeys (just seeing if anyone is still paying attention) will leave something for us to harvest...and clearly not enough protection. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Fourteen tomato plants decapitated. Peas nearly annihilated. More wire.

I have been told that this region has one of the largest concentration of deer in North America. This may be true. I had an extended conversation with a fairly large deer one recent morning. I asked him if he didn't have enough other things to eat without messing with the garden. He scoffed.

Summer was hot and dry which I assume is about normal. One day, as we sat outside discussing deep thoughts and abstract philosophy we hear a clunk from inside the camper. On examination we find that a glass bottle of olive oil - extra virgin, organic - exploded from the heat. Glass particles and oil everywhere. Glad we were outside.

Josephine County has almost no local government. There is a volunteer Fire Department. The library is funded by donations - it receives no County money - and, the local branch is only open 13 hours a week. I heard recently of a (non-fatal) shooting with a Sheriff Department response time of two hours! Don't know if that is true but it seems plausible. I was told this by a woman who claimed to be a Volunteer Sheriff and Fire Fighter. (She had a handgun on her hip.) She also told me that a tiger had escaped from the local Wild Cat facility, mated with an indigenous cougar and now there are two cubs (tougars?) wandering around. Hmm...seems unlikely to me. What about you? Which reminds me of the story about the guy who walks into a bar with a giraffe...

This police car is parked at the blinking light.

I have yet to see a cougar or a bear although I am told that both are present. We have had close encounters with deer, hummingbirds, a jack rabbit, snakes, lizards and other sorts of flying, buzzing, hopping, squirming and crawling creatures. And oh yes, that rattle snake certainly got my attention and respect.

The night sky here is incredible! Stars, stars, and more stars. Star travel? Alien visitors? Why not? And it is quiet. Not much traffic in the daytime and even less at night. There are sounds of wild creatures. Also sometimes you hear a neighbor's rooster and there is a donkey nearby that likes to bray. And there is the occasional gunfire - pop, pop, pop - I guess because they can, There was a large amount of helicopter summer traffic. There is a forest fire out there...

July First something miraculous happened. In gardens all over Oregon tomato plants metamorphosed into cannabis plants. According to a new Oregon law, every household MUST grow four marijuana plants. I think that's the law. I know it is something like that. Anyway, glory be, we found four marijuana plants growing in our veggie plot. Thank God for marijuana.

I have begun dismantling an old trailer, saving parts, particularly windows. I have a pile of old tires and a collection of bottles and jars. We intend to build an Earthship greenhouse. It is possible to grow even tropical plants year-round if you get it right. I saw a video of pineapple growing in an Earthship in Canada! Commercial greenhouse? Starter plants? Exotic vegetables? Indeed, why not? Well...have you ever filled even ONE tire with dirt? It is very labor intensive. For labor we have one old man and for tools we have a wheelbarrow and a shovel. We had a few filled before the rains start.   

And then October came and as it went it began to rain. It hasn't stopped yet and Woodpecker Flats has become a river. Much of the garden and all of the paths have washed by our door and our camper has become Huck Finn's raft. We shall see where it floats to. The deer still find us charming and amusing and it is time to start the spring garden.

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