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Guan Yin Mian

After learning about Guan Yin (Kwan Yin, Kannon), the bodhisattva of compassion while we were living in Beijing, and became familiar with the beautiful tree peonies at the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace, I knew that I had to have this gorgeous tree peony named for the bodhisattva.

A bodhisattva is one who is so compassionate she refuses nirvana in order to help those who are still suffering. Guan Yin is often depicted with her magic tools, a pill that will cure what ails you, a brush to brush away distractions, and always, a bottle with the dew of compassion that she sprinkles around liberally. She often appears to people in visions, laughing as asking why we struggle so. I became very fond of her during our Chinese sojourn.

Tree peonies are not really trees, but they do not die down to the ground in winter. they will become larger and larger. I recently saw a local tree peony with about 100 blossoms. Mine has 15 blossoms this year. In spite of the fragile appearance of their blossoms, they are very hardy plants, and don’t mind zone 4 winters. They bloom in early June, before herbaceous peonies. The only drawback is that spring rain storms can destroy the blossoms very quickly. During their brief bloom season they are a marvel.

The veggies are in!

The vegetable garden is in. It doesn’t look like much but it includes lettuce (from starts that should be ready to harvest next week) beets, chard, cilantro, sugar snaps and sweet peas, radishes, lettuce mix and zucchini , as well as broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomato and cucumber seedlings.

In the garden extension on the other side of the raspberry patch I have winter squash, crookneck squash, yellow and green filet beans and a potato barrel. It is even less picturesque that the garden above. This is the first summer of my ‘retirement’ and I have at least accomplished being on time with vegetable planting. This is a most satisfied feeling. Especially since that mean an early start to harvesting.

We have survived several nights of cold, but not freezing, temperatures. Now it is hot and I am hoping for a good rain, not just the predicted showers. I’ve been watering, but it is not easy. On to the ornamental gardens! Such as they are.

Garden Extension

With my new camera in hand I finally went out to document the building of a new garden extension. The vegetable garden had been moved because of an apparent change in the water table and became too wet. It also had to become smaller because of a bad hip.

Now that the hip is new and well healed, it is time to add to the small garden. Last year we added raspberries (just to the right) and now more vegetables. Using the new technique of ‘lasagna gardening, I spread manure and bedding fresh out of the chicken house right on top of the sod, at least four inches worth. I moved about 15 wheelbarrow loads, but who’s counting This manure was given a good watering.

The manure was then covered with large sheets of cardboard, with lots of overlap between new pieces. The Transfer Station was happy to offload the cardboard. The cardboard was then well watered.

This year I have a ‘yard man’, 18 year old Justin who took on the job of moving another 15 loads of loam and compost to cover the wet cardboard.

No more watering was necessary. As soon as this was spread, the rains started. The rain was welcome and we’ve had 3 inches so far – and still counting. Saga of the lasagna bed will continue.

Earth Day 2008

I celebrated Earth Day by finally starting to plant the vegetable garden. No photos yet, but a new camera to replace the one that died is in the works. Peas! Lettuce! Broccoli! I don’t start seeds indoors anymore and I’m happy to support my local garden center so in additon to sugar snap pea, lettuce and radish seeds, I also planted 6 Red Sails and 6 Packman seedlings to encourage the garden – and give me an earlier harvest.

Of course, as the snow melted, I was able to do a little work. In addition to cultivating the old vegetable garden which is now in pretty good shape, we are experimenting with Eric
Toensmeier’s system of sheet mulching to start a new garden space without tilling. I moved about 12 wheelbarrow loads of uncomposted chicken manure and spread it on the new space, right on top of the sod. Then we watered it deeply, the manure and the soil. Then we covered the manure with large sheets of cardboard we got from our recycling center, Making sure there was good overlap between pieces.

After watering the cardboard so that it was soaked we covered the whole thing with plastic. The plastic isn’t part of Eric’s technique, but I didn’t have soil or sufficient compost (until today) to cover the whole area of cardboard which can dry out very fast. It is keeping everything moist, and it has been so hot the last couple of days that I think the plastic is helping that manure cook and rot faster than it might.

I’ll be planting large vegetables like squash in this new experimental bed, mulching between plants in my usual way with newspapers as well as cardboard covered with straw and grass clippings. I’ll keep you posted.