New Book Release: Practical Permaculture for the Home Landscapes, Your Community and the Whole Earth

Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein

Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein

Early in 2012, Jessi started collaborating and working on this book Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community and the Whole Earth (Feb 4th 2015) with co-author Dave Boehnlien, Education Director at the Bullock Permaculture Homestead and founder of Terra Phoenix Design as well as the incredibly talented illustrator Paul Kearsley of Homestead Habitats!   We can’t wait to share this with the world and have many speaking/teaching engagements planned this year all over the country.  Check out the Event Page for a schedule.

 

 

Gardening for the Bees

When our hives got opened the other week we sadly found no signs of life.bees  The jury is still out on whether or not this was the result of a normal winter die off or if there were other things at play.  Since 2006 it’s estimated  that more than three billion honey bees have died in the United States, and billions more world wide.  These deaths are somewhat mysterious and have been termed, colony collapse disorder.  While there is no definite known cause research points to the heavy use of pesticides and the loss of biodiversity as some of the major players.  Why does this matter?

  • Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination
  • About 1/3 of the foods we depend on  require pollination (apples, almonds, tomatoes, blueberries, coffee and many many more)
  • USDA says this die off is threatening 100 different commercial crops that depend on pollination
  • This threat to crops could result in a ten-fold increase in food prices

This is not a doomsday notice though.  There are plenty of things that you can do to help from planting a bee friendly garden, to having your own hives,  and of course, taking care of your yard in an organic, pesticide free manner.  Creating a garden that will attract and feed honeybees is a fun and simple thing to do, whether it’s in your backyard or in containers, here are a few things to consider:

  • Plan so you have things blooming all season
  • Plant native plants and flowers, at least mixed in
  • Avoid overly hybridized plants as they don’t provide much pollen to feed the bees
  • Have a clean water source available
  • Plant flowers around your fruit and nut trees to bring in bees and other pollinators

Adding to the biodiversity in your landscape and gardening in an sustainable manner will help the honeybees, as well as help your yard be bountiful and toxin free.  Of course, keeping some of these small fuzzy friends is a great contribution as well.  You can learn more, get products and take classes at some of our local shops: Keep it Simple Farm and The Bees Neez.

 

Spring is Coming!

Last week mother nature decided to begin her tease into the spring season.  It was 60 degrees and sunny through out the Puget Sound and everyone had huge smiles plastered across their faces.  Of course we then promptly received several feet of snow in the mountains and the temperature down here plummeted back down with the onset of clouds and rain.  That’s how spring seems to always begin – teasing us with little touches of light and life.  The garden is beginning to poke its head out and those little glimpses of color keep us feigning for more.  Hang on – she will be here soon!

crocus

The crocus are out!

fuki blooming

The Fuki in our greenhouse and around the pond are starting their funky blooms.

rhodies

The first rhodie flowers of the season!

rhubarb

Yummy – the rhubarb is working it’s way up too.

seedlings

We have a bunch of seeds going! Kale and some other greens as well as some artichokes and rhubarb are awaiting their larger pots.

 

 

Grateful for our Harvest

As we winterize our gardens and prepare our kitchens for the holidays, a lot of us have been investigating how we can locally source our feast’s ingredients.  Here at the farm we have been preserving and processing our fruits and vegetables for storage through the winter.  There is a massive bounty to say the least.  Whether you grow it yourself or do your best to buy local, it all makes a difference, and let’s face it, it’s much more fulfilling and inspiring to cook your own, or  locally bought food, rather than using a can that came from… somewhere?

turkey-collage1

We grow many things. Including turkeys. This is not the first time that NW Bloom has raised turkeys -learn more about raising your own, use the links on this site and visiting the Mother Earth News website.

Here on the farm, from the moment the seeds go into the soil and the baby ducks and turkeys show up, everything receives the best care that we can offer.  The turkey that will be on the table here and those in a few of our friends’ homes were raised from chicks that got to bond with the other farm animals, occasionally believed themselves to be ducks, and had pretty much free range of the farm.  When feeding times came they would follow like a gaggle of children behind their teacher at school, waddling as quickly as they could behind us to keep up.  They knew they were loved and they lived fantastic turkey lives.

Not only will these turkeys provide us with  nourishment, but they have been an educational tool for all those involved.  Someone new to the process was out here at the farm for each harvest.  They got be present and help, as well as learned how to pluck and clean a large bird.  On Thanksgiving, when everyone sits down to enjoy the feast, the bird that is the center piece will give everyone that much more to be thankful for and will taste so much better because the experience has been so much further reaching than buying one frozen from the grocery store.

 

The many uses of Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, Melissa officianalis, of the mint family, Lamiaceae, tends to be in the “love or loath” category for many gardeners.  Around here we love our weedy plants if they are edible and utilitarian, making themselves worthwhile around the farm and kitchen.  A few of the uses of lemon balm that we enjoy:

  • Edible – sun tea, hot tea, fish seasoning, pesto, salad dressings, jam, a different twist on a mojito, or anything that you’d enjoy lemon flavor with.
  • Medicinal – as an essential oil or tea to treat insomnia, anxiety, cold sores and indigestion
  • Attracts pollinators – Melissa means honey bee in Greek
  • Pest repellant – we use it dried for our chicken, duck and turkey bedding (it also makes them smell sweet)

Lemon balm is native to the Mediterranean as is apparent in its many flavorful uses.   It grows to about 24 inches and enjoys sun to part shade as well as moist well drained soil.  To keep it looking its best its best cut back mid-summer or when it begins to look drought and heat stressed.  A vigilant plant, it will pop its head right back up to supply you with another bountiful autumn harvest and greenery late into the season.  Lemon Balm spreads by seed, so if you’d like to maintain only the plant you have we recommend that you cut it back soon after flowering, otherwise, let it go and you’ll have plenty to share!

Lemon balm is an incredibly versatile herb, have fun and enjoy all that it has to offer!

File:Melissa officinalis2.JPGFile:Melissa officinalis - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-094.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_balm

Our New Edible Plant Nursery!

IMG_1111It has not always been easy to find a good selection of edible plants to buy in the Seattle area –  they have either only been available through catalog sales or during a small window of time throughout the year.  So… we are excited to announce that we now have an edible plant nursery with an emphasis on permaculture/useful plants!

The nursery will be Open BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

To get an idea of what will be in stock, see below.


Most of the plants we will carry are multifunctional having one or some of these attributes:

  • Edibles – mostly perennial plants that you only have to plant once and can enjoy the bounty year after year!  We will carry a variety of plants, from fruits, berries, nuts and roots.
  • Medicinals –  herbs used for healing purposes
  • Dynamic accumulators – These plants mine nutrients from the soil and store them in their leaves and roots which can be used to build your soils and increase your soil fertility!
  • Insectary Plants – These are great for attracting insects, whether it be forage plants for honey bees and other pollinators or by providing shelter for other beneficial insects that help keep pest populations in check.
  • Nitrogen fixers – these plants can help build your soil by adding nitrogen naturally
  • Rainwise -these plants are great for raingardens, bioswales or bioretention projects!
  • Other plants on hand will be plenty of natives, deer “resistant”,  for wildlife and chicken forage, shelter as well as beautiful chicken “resistant” plants.

To make an appointment and to get directions give us a call at 425-486-6902 or email info@nwbloom.com


 

Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour

Recently I went on a garden tour extravaganza and was totally inspired! Stay tuned for several blog posts on that event…  But one thing that I kept thinking is that I could never have my home on an actual tour- think of all the stress of making things just right so complete strangers can take pictures of it!  I mean, really..would you not judge me for leaving weeds that stand taller than you? or letting my greens bolt (hey its for the bees and seeds), would you step in chicken shit? Probably! So, when I saw that NW Edible Life was doing a Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour – I thought how brilliant! We can share pictures and be inspired by what everyone else is doing, without the stress of making everything perfect! So why not include my little homestead?
For some background and for specific details on my place check out the article written by Valerie Easton earlier this spring in the Seattle Times A sustainable Northwest garden of Eatin’ and Eden. Older photos are here & you can meet the animals here.  I’ve incorporated edibles (mostly perennial) into all of the landscaping but grow specific annual edibles in a rabbit-proof area.  We harvest rain water, use solar power for hot water, and just recently I started driving an electric car all in an effort to live more sustainably.  My dream would be that someday we live self sufficiently, but for now we are a lo0nng way off and have a lot of work ahead.
One advantage about our location is that we have a lot of space, but on the other hand it takes time to develop and manage.  In ten years we’ve barely cultivated half of the space that we want to.  One disadvantage is that we work in the green industry which means during the growing season our work week can be 60+hours and our garden can get a bit neglected.
Goals for the future: build a root cellar, a PV solar system, get dairy goats and have time to milk them,  then move to a farm in the San Juans and live completely off the grid.  Ha! I can dream right?
Now for some photos:

 

 

The Book- Gardening + Chickens

For anyone who doesn’t know, I am currently writing a book for Timber Press and I am thrilled to say it is almost done!  The finish line is right around the corner and it is coming together perfectly.  The book is tentatively titled “FREE RANGE GARDENS: A guide to creating a beautiful chicken-friendly space” and is a mix of garden design, permaculture, chicken keeping 101,  and lots of plant information.  I can’t wait to share more details in the coming months as the book goes to marketing and print!  Be sure to look for the book in Timber Press’ Fall 2011 catalog and follow my events page which I update regularly.   This Feb I will be speaking at the NW Flower and Garden show about designing urban homesteads and a special seminar on gardening with chickens called “What the Cluck?!”

Sneak peak - the photographer Kate taking photos at a special chicken garden

The process of writing has been so much different from my daily work as a business owner, landscape designer and farm girl-mama.  One of my favorite  things about it has been meeting a bunch of like minded chicken owners who have great gardens!  Normally when I go to someone elses garden I am consulting and answering questions, but the roles have reversed and I’ve loved it!  I’m the chicken garden reporter!   I have also been ecstatic to be working with a professional photographer.  Kate of Kate Baldwin Photography is fantastic to work with and when I look through her gorgeous photos I have a permanent grin and will often laugh out loud at some of the moments she captured.  I wish I could always work with her on every project!

How to build a hot bed out of recycled glass bottles

Earlier this year I designed a wine bottle bed for the 2010 Northwest Flower and Garden Show display we created in partnership with Seattle Tilth.  After the garden show I moved it into a spot in our garden and grew our very first RIPE pepper, before any of our tomatoes ripened!!!

Ripe pepper in a wine bottle bed

The idea is simple: the sunlight warms up the air inside the glass and expands.   The heated air is pushed through the bottle neck into the soil warming it, and the plant growing in the soil.

Because of the limited size of the garden show display we made it small and in a circle large enough for one plant.  This concept can be used for any size bed – just keep in mind the size or length of your bottles, which can be valuable growing space.

Follow these steps:

  • collect bottles (wine, beer or soda) that is the fun part!
  • place in an area for raised bed(s)
  • concrete the necks, one row at a time – leaving the necks open for air movement (we used half cobb in this mixture)
  • stack at least 3 bottles high
  • fill with good growing soil
  • plant inside of the raised bed a plant that thrives off of heat (peppers, tomatoes, melons, etc)

This is a great way to grow warmth loving crops that don’t normally thrive in a limited growing season.  Here in the Pacific Northwest I live in one of those cold microclimates that is nearly one month behind the warmer maritime microclimates of Seattle.  I plan to build many more of these, and much larger… so, I’d better get to emptying those bottles!