Succulents

So I am not immune to the succulent craze, and I have of course purchased too many succulents and tried to propagate all of them with varying success. It would probably go a lot faster if I didn’t live in a northern climate which boasts about 6 months of winter weather, despite the myth of 3 month long seasons. It’s 4.20. and there is still snow on the ground. Playing with plants is pretty much the only thing that gets me through winter, especially in years when I can’t afford to fly south.

The lovely circular way that many of these species grow seems so exotic in comparison to the impudently wild flora the grows here. They are so neat and tidy somehow, unlike everything else in my house.

I remember the first time I saw succulents; they were growing in a ditch in Southern California, like weeds. They were so plump and fake looking and awesome.

Propagating these suckers is pretty easy but takes a while, so I like to consistently add new leaves to sit and make me a new baby plant. They are nice to have around to make little gifts or plant tiny terrariums or just to watch something grow.

Moss

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Every time I take my dog into the forest I bring bags to collect bits of moss and bark that I find on the forest floor. There are so many different types; it’s become a bit of an obsession. I have always loved moss and lichen, it reminds me of storybooks and enchanted forests.

I mostly use it for fairy houses, but I’m sure in the future I’ll find some other silly use for all this forest litter. I feel like rather than hanging paintings in my house, I’d prefer to have a giant blown up photo of forest mosses.

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I’ve had some pretty impressive wipe-outs, falling in snowy ravines or sinking down into deeper-than-it-seems snow, but it’s always worth it to grab that little bit of Staghorn lichen hanging off a dead hemlock branch.

For projects you can always pick up moss at the dollar store or other craft stores, but if you happen to have a forest in your immediate vicinity its waaaaay more fun to go foraging for it, and it is so much prettier too!

Worms

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So this year I am trying again with worm composting. After the accidental genocide of thousands of red wigglers last fall when the temperature dropped suddenly, I am attempting a new uh.. colony? of worms. This time I decided to splurge on a commercial worm compost bin; I chose this one from Amazon¬†because it was reasonably priced compared to some other ones. I’m super happy with it so far, and it came with a ton of extra stuff to get you started off right. There was coconut coir, pumice and minerals to create a healthy bedding for the worms, as well as a thermometer, a small rake, a refrigerator magnet with tips on what to and what not to feed the worms, and a little pamphlet with all the information you need to get started.

The dude I bought the worms from provided me with lots of shredded paper and a little bag of sand for grit. (worms need fiber too!) heh. I found the worm provider in the local classifieds, and he was the same guy I purchased from last year but I got my boyfriend to buy them because I was embarrassed at having killed the first batch. To be honest I’m actually wondering if any could have survived, they were in a huge plastic storage bin that I drilled holes in… pretty basic but it worked just fine. Maybe some of the eggs survived? I’ll keep you posted.

I’m going to buy a shredder too, (not the rat) because tearing up paper grocery bags by hand is getting tedious. It also makes my dog go insane. I’m trying to do a better job this time of balancing the brown to green ratio in the bin; worms like lots of bedding (shredded damp paper, coconut coir etc) I’m going to get this one because it is the cheapest and I’m not really doing heavy duty shredding.

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Update:

So spring is finally here and my frozen massacre of a worm compost from last year is mostly thawed out. Not a live worm to be found, which I feel pretty bad about, but I guess not surprised. Sigh. There were thousands in there in the fall; at one point I tossed in a bunch of grass clippings and a few days later when I checked on them I could actually hear the teeming worms devouring the grass. It was amazing and weird. BUT they are all dead now. I do have some hope for the cocoons though. There are a ton of little round worm cocoons that may have survived the freezing winter temperatures. I read a blog post which I found very helpful and encouraging that suggested that the cocoons are quite resilient. If even a few of these hatch I will have the old dead worm compost up and running in month or so. Woot!

One of the bins – the real bin with drilled holes – was full of lovely partially composted black earth that smelled fresh and healthy. The other bin was just a random one that I threw half of the compost and worms into while I was sorting it last fall. It had had some rainwater leak in and smelled like pungent steaming shit, to be perfectly frank. Rather than dump out the poopy liquid, I added a bunch of torn up cardboard egg containers, dead leaves and shredded paper to soak up the liquid and dry out the compost. So even if after a month I don’t see any new babies hatching, I can still add worms from my new batch to finish off the compost.

I guess the point of all this is, besides reusing kitchen scraps, reducing waste and raising weird pets is that I spent an entire summer a few years ago wasting my time and money trying to grow a huge variety of flowers and vegetables without preparing the soil at all. So I finally figured out the hard way that focussing on your soil is absolutely essential to successful gardening. DIRT! Yes. So I’m growing my own awesome dirt in hopes of eventually having a bumper crop of something someday. Probably tomatoes. My goal last year was to grow enough tomatoes to make sauce that would last all winter. Sadly the deer ate every single plant. Big fail, but you know: there’s still wine.

Dirty as you wanna be.

IMG_6180This is Dirt.

He welcomes you to this blog, in which I celebrate all the fun ways I like to get my hands dirty. Dirt (Kylo when he isn’t being naughty)¬† occasionally likes to roll in fresh animal feces. This is a particularly proud moment for him. Luckily we had an old towel in the car to wrap him in for the drive home. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to “Go soil yourself”.