Category Archives: Shashwat

Urban Farm & Garden Update: Late Spring 2011

Potato barrels

Our potatoes are taking off like crazy. We have two experimental barrels this year. Prasad & Sky chose to grow some in their own little garden plots, and those are doing great, too. We’ll get to experience ground versus barrel potatoes, and decide what to repeat for next year. When the plants are towering above the barrels like this, it’s time to add more soil, burying almost half the existing plants. We’ll wait for blossoms to appear, and do a partial harvest of baby potatoes.

Green Beans & Snap Peas

Remember when we first planted these? You can see them here in an older post. The green beans and snap peas have entwined, creating large, happy vines. The peas are already flowering.

Snow Peas

Our snow peas were started much later than the snap peas, which is why they’re so small. We started them directly in the ground with seed from a generous neighbor friend, Kristen. We thought we wouldn’t be able to find snow peas this year, and were thrilled when she contacted me. Thanks so much, Kristen! They took off pretty fast, but we noticed something started nibbling on them. They must be pretty tasty leaves, because nothing else in the garden was being nibbled. Daniel put a little rabbit wire fence around them, and they’ve been doing much better ever since. These are my favorite peas for salads, so we’re hoping they continue to do well.


The tomatoes have gone insane! If you look back at our Early Spring post you can see how much they’ve grown. We’ve had a lot of rain, followed by sun and heat so they’re very happy so far. We’ve had no problems with staking, but when they’re taller we plan to add wood poles for extra support. Our tomatillo plants don’t have any cages, just poles, and they’re doing great, so far. They’ve got blooms, and so do all our peppers!


We thought this little guy was history a few weeks ago. It was tiny when we planted it on a small hill, and it got trampled a few times before the fence was up. I think it was down to two small, very sad look leaves. Now it’s thriving and blooming. I am a zucchini fanatic, so cannot wait!

Our front yard was tilled, and we planted a large strawberry patch, watermelon, and Russian Giant sunflowers. All three are taking off like crazy. Despite living in the Sunflower State, we’ve never been able to grow Sunflowers from seed. Our front yard plants are taking off, and we’ll have to post pics soon!

Summer heat is coming. We’ve had several humid days in the 90’s. The challenge in our climate comes during the intense heat & drought periods of Summer. We’re hoping the loamy soil helps significantly, and that we don’t have to irrigate excessively. It’s something we have to pay close attention to, or we could lose all our yummy crops. If all goes well, I’m pretty sure we’ll have enough food to feed several families!

Complete List of what we’re growing this year:

Potatoes (barrel & ground), 14 Tomatoes, 9 multi-colored Cherry tomatoes, 2 types of peas (snow & snap), Green Beans, 2 Blueberry bushes, 50 Strawberry plants, 1 Zucchini, 2 Cucumber, 1 Bush Cucumber, 4 Jalapeno peppers, 6 mixed pepper plants (red, yellow & green), Garlic, Onion, 9 Eggplant, 8 Tomatillos, Kale, Broccoli, Sunflower, Watermelon, 2 Peach trees, 1 self-pollinating Apple tree, Cilantro

Plus, don’t forget we have a duck & 3 hens laying eggs every day. By August we’ll have 6 more starting to lay. It’s a wonderful feeling when your food comes from right outside your back door.

Posted by: Jill


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Filed under Blueberries, Chickens, Do-It-Yourself, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Fruit Trees, In Season, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Seasons, Shashwat, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Weather

Our Old Passive Solar Greenhouse


South side of the greenhouse

the North side, and East door

I’m guessing this structure stands well over 120 feet from our house. It’s quite a little journey to do daily watering, thinning and pruning, but it always feels like a quiet getaway. When we’re inside, the stillness is amazing. Note: That rain barrel is temporarily standing on two old tree stumps, but we’re hoping to find a much better, less silly looking alternative. We also plan to install a gutter to that side which will empty into the rain barrel. For now it’s still filling up during rains. Being so far from the main house, it is imperative that we have a water source for the greenhouse.

The South tinted panels will probably need replacing due to yellowing and aging, but so far they’ve been allowing enough light for our seedlings to thrive. We’re guessing it was built a very long time ago, considering it has a very old fuse style breaker box installed. Possibly built in the 50’s or 60’s. It’s approximately 25-30 feet long, and 12 feet wide. It’s extremely well built, and designed as a passive solar structure. This means it utilizes the sun and earth naturally for heating and cooling. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside when it didn’t feel like a comfortable temperature. It’s built 1/2 underground with a breathable cinder block foundation, and the ceiling is very high to allow heat to rise in the Summer. Whoever built this structure must have been seriously into gardening because a great deal of thought was put into it. It’s all wired for electricity (if we ever opt for it) and it even has a sink and plumbing ready.


looking inside

The greenhouse needs a lot of TLC, but only aesthetically speaking. Structurally it’s fine, and it has a newer roof.  There are unfinished parts around the inside of the front door that need insulation covered with paneling, a rotted ventilation door on the West side needs replacing, siding replaced in a few areas, and I keep thinking those white cinder blocks could use some colorful paint. We may have the kids go to town by painting designs on it soon! The upper walls will remain white to reflect as much light as possible. Of course we’ll put in solar wind chimes, statues, and some decorative flowering plants in the two back corners which help to oxygenate the space year-round.

We think that whoever designed the structure was very tall, or had some type of step stool inside. At 5’5″ and 5’8″ Daniel and I reach the close rows just fine, but the rows against the walls are difficult to get to (we have to jump up and stretch). Because of that we’re planning to build a raised wood plank floor on top of the gravel flooring, and that should do the trick. You can’t tell by the photo, but there is A LOT of growing room in there. We haven’t even taken up half the space, and we have spinach, carrots, broccoli and lettuce growing… all doing beautifully. Daniel will be adding chard this week.

Oh, and do you see the cinder block with the holes? It has at least 4 of those blocks, probably for aeration and drainage. I bent down to look inside once, and noticed the soil goes down about three to four feet, and then it turns into about two feet of gravel for excellent drainage. Again, a very well thought out design!


spinach babies!

I took this picture a few days ago, and they’ve already tripled in size. We can’t wait to eat our very first greenhouse spinach salad! The best things about having a greenhouse are: We don’t worry about pests or animals eating our crops, we can grow food year-round, and last but not at all least we have a reason to get away from  the main house every day and experience some major stillness and quiet. It’s really an excellent place to sit and meditate, so we’ll probably be adding a small stool in the future.

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Weekend Barnyard Pics

Mortimer & Phoebe, now 5 months old

Mortimer has been losing his darker brown feathers and will become a soft, lighter cocoa color. We love his green neck and head… Sky calls it velvet green, and it’s becoming more green everyday. It sparkles in the sun.

Our ducklings outside with Broom Hilda & Ermengard. Growing!

the 4 baby chicks spent two afternoons outdoors, too. Clockwise from left: Maria, India, Dot and Mirabel Muppet

Ermengard (6 weeks old) was sunbathing and doing dirt baths. We were surprised to see 3 week old little India doing the same

Jasmine, our smallest but most spunky adult hen


Marigold watching me clean out her coop

Yes, I know, I post far more pictures of our flock than our kids. It’s funny how they take hold of your world like that! The kids are having a great time with them, though.

We had an excellent weekend of warm and sunny weather. I planted one peach tree, and Daniel planted the other one.. they’re both on the South side of the chicken run so they have more shade.

POTATOES: We drilled holes in our large, oak whiskey barrel planters (they were actually rum barrels) for drainage. Then we filled them with rocks on the bottom for drainage, then half organic topsoil and half peat moss. You’re only supposed to fill them about halfway because when the plants stand about 5-6 inches tall you’re supposed to throw on another 3-5 inches of soil to bury the plants, leaving only a small bit of leaves at the top. When the plants flower we can dig in and grab a few small, new potatoes. Then when it’s time to harvest (the plants age and yellow), we can tip the barrels onto their sides to dump out our large supply of mature taters.. no digging required, and no concerns about moles or other pests. We have seen evidence of moles! We’ve never even tried growing our own potatoes, so we’re super excited. As for seed potatoes, I looked into them at the local garden center, but decided to go with our store bought organic russets because we know they’re organic. The seed potatoes at most garden centers are not. I have ours wrapped in newspaper, stored in a dark drawer for sprouting. They’ll be ready to cut up and plant by early May.

LAUNDRY LINE: I haven’t been able to hang laundry for a couple of weeks now due to expanding the chicken fence, and I’ve missed it. Yesterday I finally got the poles re-assembled, and all I have to do is reattach the three lines today. We have been buried in laundry all Winter, and for some strange reason laundry is more difficult without the laundry line. Somehow, hanging on a line breaks down the steps in a more manageable way… at least for me. Especially when it comes time to fold- I just walk outside, unpin and fold everything into the basket. I come inside and have no piles lying around to fold. It’s all done, and I just put it away. Plus, it smells incredible! I especially love having line-dried sheets and pillow cases.

SEEDLINGS TRANSPLANTED: The seedlings tray of tomatillo, eggplant, tomato and cherry tomatoes was transplanted into the greenhouse yesterday. We were hoping they’d make it in the trays until being planted outdoors, but they just got too big and needed to move before the last frost date. Daniel did that, considering the greenhouse has become primarily his territory. Today I’m starting some organic tri-colored pepper seeds for Liam (a huge favorite of his), and some pumpkin seeds for Sky. He kept begging for pumpkins this year, so we’re going to attempt a large bed of them.

PLANNING: I’m not a planner, so I don’t garden from drawings of elaborate plans. I’ve tried planning out my gardens in the past and always end up scrapping them. I wait for the earth, or the tree, or the plants to tell me where they want to go. I guess it’s a form of intuitive farming, or Shashwat. I was sitting down, taking in everything yesterday, and received a strong impression of the garden to come. I love it when that happens because I can stop thinking and trying to plan it in my head, logically. I can just see it, feel it, sense it and know exactly what needs to be done. It’s going to be wild, woodsy, elaborate yet very casual and native. I could see a crudely built border of tree branch fencing along a curved edge that enclosed a lush mass of green- wildflowers, some edible and some not, along with endless veggie beds and tall grasses and ornamental trees. I saw my rusty old vintage Schwinn leaning against part of the twig fence with a flowered basket in front. Why get rid of it when it could be used as a garden decoration? I saw all kinds of song birds, butterflies, and I even saw the little house we’re planning to build for Sorin… I saw/sensed the exact location, shape and size. Because it’s so clear in my mind now, it will be easier to manifest. The drawback of seeing it so clearly is that no one else can, and I have to wait so long to convey and express what I’m seeing. It’s a little oasis of peace, and now all I have to do is close my eyes to see it. Of course, it’s not something that will appear overnight, or in one or two growing seasons… the end product is not what matters, anyway. It’s the process of getting there that is most enjoyable and fulfilling.


Filed under Chickens, Collaborative Love, Ducks, River Living, Shashwat, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading

Duck Cuddling

Sky was loving on little Jethro this afternoon. He's the most calm duckling, and falls asleep easily in our hands

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The Duck House Mystery

After talking to my mother yesterday, I realized I may have sparked peoples imaginations a bit too much by not elaborating more about why we won’t be using the new duck house for ducks, but have “other plans”. My mom was excited, and wanted to know if we were planning on keeping pot-bellied pigs, of all creatures! The answer is a resounding NO. I don’t know where she got that idea because I’ve never expressed interest (although Sorin has on occasion). Truly, with the care and effort we put into the animals we have now, if they don’t have some utilitarian purpose we don’t see a reason for keeping them. I think pigs are adorable, but what do they do? They don’t lay eggs, we don’t consume meat, and at most they would give us fertilizer which we already have an abundance of. If our aim is greater self-reliance, a pot-bellied pig won’t help.

There is no great story or big “reveal” to give you regarding the duck house. We purchased it last week (it’s a used dog house that seemed perfect for them), and I planned to install a door with a small chicken-wire window so the creatures have some light and oxygen when it’s closed. I’m still doing that, but will also be installing one small nesting box toward the back, and a roosting pole. Why? Because we’ll soon have nine chickens and I’m guessing we’ll need the extra space. Especially during Winters when they’re all cooped up. I was planning to extend the North side of the large coop about one foot out with a hangover nesting box, giving them about 4 square feet of extra floor space. I was not looking forward to the added construction, and now I won’t have to do it.

Why not a duck house? Let’s just say we don’t enjoy giving poor Mortimer and Phoebe heart attacks every evening at bed time. The chickens all line up and go inside at sunset, and they do it willingly on their own. They sit at the top, looking out the front door waiting for me to close it. Chickens like to sleep up, off the ground, and feel safest that way in the dark. With ducks it’s another story. We chased them around every night to put them away in the coop and by the time we got hold of them they’re screeching and trembling with hearts racing. Ducks dislike human handling far more than chickens. I don’t blame them, considering they’re major prey animals that my dog finds very appealing (he’s dying to get his mouth on one, and couldn’t care less about the chickens). He tells me they smell juicy with all their dark meat! At night the ducks prefer to huddle together in a tucked away corner on the ground. They’re ground lovers as well as water lovers… very earth bound birds. I spoke with another duck & chicken keeper who said that he keeps his ducks outside all night, while his chickens go inside. He said his ducks do great during the Winters that way, too, and that they’re quite hardy.

So, no house for the ducks. We’ve allowed them to sleep outdoors the past 3-4 nights and they’re so at peace and happy. They don’t want anything to do with something so rigid as a human built structure. We’ve tuned in to what they want, and are honoring that. They have the most warm down, and the rain does nothing to their waxed feathers. We’ll just have to secure the run very well to keep them as safe as possible in the evenings. This means no house for pot-bellied pigs either, just more space for a growing flock of hens. Mystery revealed!

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Shashwat: Yogic Farming

We had no idea there was a word for what we’re trying to do on our little farmstead, much less that it was an ancient Indian practice: Shashwat. Pronounced Sha-Swat, it’s a Hindi word that literally means perpetual & permanent, but is also used in India to coin yogic farming. As yogis ourselves, Daniel and I were tickled by this new article in The Times of India. To me it’s common sense- if you place love and positive intentions into your actions, the fruits of those actions will be far greater, far sweeter. Something the Western mindset has completely forgotten, considering we consume meat & milk from suffering, unloved animals laden with chemicals and hormones, and eat produce that’s also contaminated with greed, chemicals and genetic modification. As a culture we accept this because we are unaware of the connection between thought/intention and physical matter. Negative food consumption has to adversely affect us, not only physically, but on a quantum metaphysical level, too. It affects body, mind, and soul. Everyone agrees that food prepared with love just tastes better. When I cook, I primarily use my intuition to know what ingredients and how much to use, and it’s all done from a place of love. That warmth goes directly into the molecules of the food, and changes them to more harmonious physical structures. We know this from Masuro Emoto’s studies on water molecules, and  how thought vibrations alter them. The same goes for how we treat animals or grow produce. Do we love, honor and revere the plants and animals for serving an sustaining us? If we do, we are working in harmony with all of life, the way of ancient yogis, Native Americans, and many other compassionate and wise cultures of the past. This creates harmony in our bodies, families, lives, communities, and in our world.

For now we sit indoors in the sun room, but when the weather warms up Daniel and I intend to step outside every morning to face the rising sun with a prayer; our bare feet firmly planted on the soil that will nourish us for years to come. We will sit among the growing vegetables and peaceful flock of hens and ducks, and thank them each day for all that they bring us. Just for a moment we will meditate, sitting on the grassy earth. We will silently go within our hearts to thank the source of everything within and around us. We will invite that loving source to flow through our hearts and hands, into every task we perform. It’s a very simple practice that only requires about ten minutes of our time each day. If you want to give more time, great, but that’s all it requires. This is Shashwat, yogic farming, compassionate gardening, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it. It’s love, acknowledgment, and gratitude, which are the most important fertilizers for anything that we choose to cultivate in our lives, not just for farming. Approach anything from this mindset, and watch the riches flow.

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