Marisa Dipaola was born barefoot on December 12th, 1977, and grew up in the cedar swamps and coastal Atlantic of southern New Jersey. She graduated with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 where she majored in painting and began experimenting with site-specific sculptural installations. Upon graduation, Marisa received a travel grant to study la Mezquita, in Cordoba, Spain, which began a collection of travels to eighteen countries, studying the sacred architecture and natural wonders, producing site-specific artworks in Japan and Iceland as well as entire series of artwork while on residence in Spain, India, Italy, Egypt, Austria, and Bahrain.
She has exhibited her works internationally at museums, galleries, universities, cultural institutions, community gathering places, outdoors within natural sculptural parks and urban revitalization projects.
In the course of being a nomadic artist, Marisa Dipaola has wandered throughout the landscape in diverse surroundings, constantly inspired by the natural world that embraces us all. After residing in the southern Austrian Alps for three years, she and her family are ready for a road trip to move to southern Portugal, in order to buy and renovate an old farm as a sustainable, permaculture project: moonfarmers. Raising her three-year old daughter while this major project is on the go, she is unable to foresee any free-time to take part in the artworld, at least for a year or so. Instead, she will dedicate her time and artistic effort to turning an abandoned property into a sustainable small farm and retreat, and quite possibly a future artist residency.
Her time will be spent with rebuilding a sustainable habitation, sourcing and planting fruit and nut trees, native edibles, sacred seeds, establishing berry patches, grape vines, mushroom patches, a chicken coop, a small fish pond, a huge vegetable patch. She will use sculptural elements to create terraced farming areas, enhance microclimates and enable year-round cultivation courtesy of cold frames fashioned from old windows as well as illuminating indoor growing areas, a few wind-chimes, alternative-energy-generating works, and the interior redesign & redecoration of their living space. On a more scientific front, she hopes to incorporate the skills she learns during this time to create various sculptural projects that encourage growth, combining illuminated works with fungal works and garden projects to create sustainable, living artworks. Any additional free time she finds will be spent mending clothes from the pile she’s had gathering for years and to complete more butterfly carpets -- and there is that quilt she has wanted to make for her bedroom.
She hopes that the time working and reflecting while on-hiatus from the artworld, but proceeding with her moonfarmers project will guide the future, whichever way it grows.
On Jul 18 2017, marisa commented on moonfarmers' first residents: So if you can save a few pits from some nice plums, dry them out & bring them over,
I'm totally [...]
On Jul 16 2017, co-director (s) commented on moonfarmers' first residents: The ones for umeboshi are rather different kind of plum (not sweet at all and we can never eat them [...]
revival: part one
Before we ran out of Root time, I harvested a dozen onions,
which I’m now curing in the dried grass atop the Naturkeller.
And made another batch of roasted beet chips.
And finished washing and slicing all the rainbow carrots
and parsnips and red onions for the fermented salt pickles.
I began making these ten years ago, based on a recipe in “Nourishing Traditions,”
a book given to me by printmaker-turned-organic-farmer Barney Casey,
who also gave me a ton of organic root veggies to experiment with.
I owe her dearly and hope someday she’ll come visit.
(Though I actually began eating fermented pickles a few years prior,
stopping for ful sandwiches with torshé (literally translating to “soured”)
for breakfast each morning while working at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo.
I credit the probiotics in the pickles for keeping me healthy while living there.)
Otherwise, we’ve just been watering everything,
constantly, allowing the canal water system to run,
while spraying out the water, everywhere;
often from three or four different hoses at once,
to saturate the land, fill all the ponds we’ve dug,
and deeply water all the things we’ve planted.
And the pink-eyed peas I’d recently planted have been emerging,
as have the sunflowers I put into the flower garden last week.
And everything has been responding wonderfully to the water,
especially the wildflowers that are beginning to rebloom,
and all the flowers we’ve planted this Spring.
(& even the nasturtiums on Nutella’s grave)
And the strawberry popcorn has begun to show signs of flowering.
And thankfully, many plantings that were hit hard by the heat waves have recovered.
We spent awhile this week putting together the outdoor shower area,
which is now just a few driftwood floorboards short of being complete,
(& maybe a shower rack & a few hooks), but it’s now ready to use.
And we found a nice wide, slightly broken, plastic bucket by a dumpster,
which Mohamed dug and nestled into the ground to be our newest pond,
over by the circular planting of tomatillos and sunflowers (which are reblooming!)
While I’m walking through the yard checking on all the plants,
I often come across flowers (& fruits) that in my previous life,
I would sit outside and paint, still-life style,
fascinated with their glorious colors, intricate forms,
and the way the sunlight dances through the petals.
And aside from my commitment to not be making artwork this past year,
I don’t really have the time right now to dedicate hours and days to sitting and painting.
So I’ve been taking photos of what I would’ve painted.
I’m in near constant motion, as there are hoses to move and other things to water,
seeds to sow, and produce to pick (& wash & pickle or use in our meals),
and places that need weeding, and grasses that need trimming,
and whole new areas that need to be cleared for planting,
since we have an eggplant and two tomato seedlings ready for the garden,
and thirteen sweet corn seedlings that will go into the end of Horta Nova next week.
And we also have a few big construction projects to work on, too.
Marmalade wants a kitchen play area, like one she saw in a toy catalog.
Since her birthday is only a few weeks away, we agreed to work on it,
and have made it our mission to extend her playhouse to incorporate a kitchen.
Luckily, we recently found a few small wooden tables and panels that will work,
but everything needs refinishing and painting on some fun details.
Another upcoming construction project is an outhouse,
which will probably be a shelter for our dry composting toilet.
After moving in, we realized that we will have to redo our septic tank,
as it was just a lidded, sawed-off plastic barrel dug into the hillside,
and the pipe leading into it is rubbing up against a cork oak sapling,
(which is only going to get bigger!) pushing the pipe out of alignment.
So we need to clear out a whole lot of blackberries to dig a new place
for the septic tank and then move (or replace) the tank and redirect the piping to it.
Fortunately, composting toilets are fairly common here;
and so yesterday we toured our teacher’s house (& composting toilet)
to get ideas for both our outhouse and septic system projects.
And pick apples, as her ancient apple trees are already ripening,
and now have two sacks of apples to eat and transform into sauce.
Also, a friend of hers had recently backed their car into her prickly pear cactus,
knocking off a giant limb with several huge pads and unripe fruits,
so we brought that home as well to plant into our cactus garden
during next week’s Fruit transplanting time.
We also want to put in more planting areas,
extending the garden boxes with semi-circular garden rings
to re-integrate those hard, geometric, unnatural spaces back into our world.
And work on our house: inside and out.
Inside, we need to finish the living room floor
and the bathroom still needs to be completed,
(a slow and gradual process as we collect all the materials we need).
We have sourced the skylights we want for the bathroom roof,
and now need to contract a carpenter to frame a roof with a pitch
(so water will no longer pool on the roof) and add the two skylights.
And we want to add a bedroom for Marmalade,
as a small, sunny space off our room in the back of the house.
And we are now planning to add more exterior cork façade
over some of our worn and water-damaged exterior walls,
(especially the final bathroom wall, & 2 small kitchen walls)
because it really is an incredible material and made for this climate.
And finish painting the rest of the outside of the house,
which won’t seem quite so daunting once Marmalade is back in school.
I’ve sorta daydreamed about still-life painting some of the morning glories
onto our exterior bedroom walls, around our windows where they’ve been blooming.
Some of the companion planting trials have really worked well,
especially the loofah, nasturtium, and and tomatillo all growing together,
encircled by dill that had sprouted up from the compost pile.
(I had read that nasturtiums were companion plantings for squashes;
the tomatillo seed was from an unsprouted sowing in a small flowerpot,
the contents of which I had scattered around the loofah when transplanting.)
And the ring of tomatillos around dwarf sunflowers, with amaranth and popcorn,
have finally soaked in ample water and seaweed fertilizer, and are growing vividly lush.
And Horta Nova continues to impress; with waist-high corn and finger-long bean pods.
And then, in the containers on the patio:
the accidental bush beans, tomatoes, and dill combo
has encouraged the largest of each of these plants in the whole garden;
while the violet bush beans and wild thyme both seem contently growing vibrantly.
And the morning glories are happily climbing up the sunflowers in their planter.
And the arugula re-seeded into the garden boxes
has provided needed shade (& a tasty green for our sandwiches)
for the base of the tomatoes, sunflowers, and chickpeas.
And the calendula around the tomatoes are finally in full bloom!
Each of these companions seem happy sharing their spaces, and nutrients.
During the Flower time, I tucked some tarragon seeds into the garden,
a planting amidst the tomatoes and another next to the broccoli,
wondering if either will benefit from their new neighbors.
I often wonder which plants will be beneficial friends,
(& it’s been hard to find comprehensive lists of companion plantings)
but feel that since something will be growing there anyway,
as we have abundant “weeds” we might as well try to grow things that we like.
In that vain, during Leaf time, I hulled and scattered the seeds from a local green
to encourage more edibles in the empty spaces in the last garden box.
And it’s amazing just how dramatically our land has revived with regular waterings;
a few more seasons of tender loving treatment and I’m sure it’ll be really special.
And to help them along, we finally assembled an irrigation hose system for the citrus:
ten old lengths of hose joined together along from the blood orange down to the lemon,
and then punctured twice around each tree’s base to allow a stream of water to bubble out.
And after months of gathering replaced hoses and finding connectors,
all of a sudden it works! Well! Really well!
During the long Leaf time, I started more seeds indoors:
for red cabbages, savoy cabbages, radicchio and escarole.
If all goes well, they’ll be transplantable next month
into the spaces made vacant in the last garden box
where I’ve harvested potatoes, beets and carrots.
And the kale and kohlrabi in the garden have really taken off!
Once we flipped into Fruit time,
I also started seeds for more cucumbers into pots,
having recently read that they’re fine to plant in mid-July
in regions with an extended growing season.
And I scattered more calabacita and pattypan squash seeds into the ground, too.
And speaking of seeds,
seed hulling, sorting, and saving has been a long, yet rewarding process.
I’m all finished with the radish seeds on the past Root days;
and done with the arugula seeds, which I now have a whole jar of,
and have been now working on the kale seeds on Leaf days;
and in the midst of hulling a million mustard seeds on Fruit days.
Fortunately, the sunflower seeds just need to be pried out of their dried heads,
collecting enough of each kind for next Spring’s planting
(during Flower time for the ornamentals & Fruit time for the edible seed varieties);
and gathering some extra to snack on while we’re hanging out,
while leaving the rest for all the birds, as nature’s easiest bird feeder!
(Actually, they are nature’s largest bee feeders, too.
I’ve been humbled by how these plants provide so much for so many.
Like with our plum trees, before feeding us, & the birds & ants & wasps & flies,
their blossoms fed the bees for two long weeks before most wildflowers were waking up.)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve really become excited about growing seeds,
and the saving of seeds, and, of course, having them all be organic seeds;
which farmers have done since time unmemorable,
(& has recently become an issue of contention:
as corporate jerks are trying to steal indigenous seeds & then patent them,
so that those original seed-handlers are now unable to grow their own seeds:
such as heirloom tomatoes in Mexico & just about any seeds in India.
It’s not like I’m engaging in war with Monsanto,
or the seed companies available here in Portugal
that sell all their seeds coated in a toxic fungicide;
but I do prefer to do things the natural way,
& want to share seeds with others to encourage natural gardening.)
And increase biodiversity, and spread the variations of life.
My favorite morning glory plant this summer grew from our own seeds,
originally grown years ago in Marmalade’s bedroom in Austria,
and now sown in cork planters outside our bedroom windows.
For some magical reason, this plant produces flared morning glories,
that have split petals rather resemble other flowers and butterfly wings.
Before we departed Fruit time, I wanted to mention that
we have the first half dozen hokkaido squash in Horta Nova,
and probably that many maracujas on the vine by the chimney.
And the echinacea have fully opened,
though it’s hard to get a clear photo with all the butterfly traffic on them.
And the waterlily has begun blooming again!
And then today it flipped into Root time, which means harvest time:
bunches of beets, red and yellow onions, and rainbow carrots and parsnips
(although half were eaten by my little garden helper before I could document…
& thank goodness she enjoys eating veggies straight from the garden!)
I’ve already made two jars of fermented beet pickles,
(& two jars of unripe-pear chutney from a limb that snapped off the “wild” pear tree)
and will ferment the rest of the root veggies tomorrow.
It’s really wonderful having such bounty growing from our land.
So the dam has been a blessing, a godsend,
and simply an incredible addition to our canal water system;
that has brought water, the miracle of life, to our hillside.
And with the occasional heatwave, everything had been so thirsty
(& I have to keep reminding myself that these plants like it this hot & sunny)
that the ponds, ground and plants have really soaked it in.
And the new plantings in the old compost bin have enjoyed the sprinkling,
growing larger and lusher every day, especially the sweet corn.
And the seaweed fertilizer has revived Horta Nova,
and the Käferbohnen are in full blossom,
and beginning to form beans
(& with an additional splash of fermented urine
(from the dry composting toilet) onto the popcorn
almost everything is finally thriving,
after months of water rationing.
Our cork was harvested this Monday morning,
in the traditional way of creating seams with a hatchet
and then pulling off huge sheets, or rounds, at a time.
It is nice to become a part of the traditional life here,
and to witness the shedding of the cork bark
(the only tree in the world where the bark
can be harvested in the round without dying)
and imagine that the cork from some of our oldest trees
had graced wine bottles generations ago.
The corkers made us this fruit bowl and ladle,
which we’ve been filling with our homegrown sunflower seeds.
During the long Root time,
I harvested lots more of the red-skinned potatoes,
and bunches of beets, which I roasted and added to potato salad.
And rainbow carrots, which we all sit and eat while I’m harvesting.
And almost all of our heads of garlic, (except the few heads with flower blossoms);
some of which I peeled and started infusing in olive oil with some garden herbs;
the rest I will peel and ferment in a whey and sea water brine, with some dill.
Lacto-fermentation seems ideal for most of my produce storage challenges:
shelf-stable, nutrient-boosting, and requiring no energy to produce;
it seems a perfect solution for storing our stuff sustainably.
By the way, the homemade plum sauce is a hit:
great on pancakes, arugula-cheese sandwiches, mixed with ketchup for a tangy sauce…
Oh, and speaking of resurrection, the second generation arugula is great:
a bit more peppery, with greener, thicker, more spinach-like leaves,
that are resistant to the drought and scorching summer sun.
Also during Root time, the organic ginger Nadine brought us sprouted!
We had planted the pieces with buds during the final day of their residency,
and less than two weeks later, the first sprouts are pushing through.
The Fruit time plants are enjoying this weather:
the tomatoes are growing and ripening,
the watermelons are all expanding,
and the maracuja seems to finally be setting a fruit.
And as we arrive at Flower time,
the rose has a new bud forming,
the calendula have started blooming,
the echinacea continue to bloom,
as are all the sunflowers scattered across the yard,
and right in front of our front door.
Tomorrow after I’m done watering everything,
I will begin collecting sunflower seeds
from my favorite ornamental sunflowers,
to dry and save for Spring planting next year.
And afterwards, while it’s still Flower time,
I will sneak the last from old packets of sunflower seeds
into empty spaces in the flower garden,
to ensure a sunny glow into autumn.
It has taken us a few days to recover from all our visitors,
(and get back into what we can only consider “normal life”),
and are still catching up with all the household chores,
but who really wants to hear about dishes and laundry?
How about feeding the fishes?
They’re really getting big!
And relocating the tadpoles?
Well, some from two egg batches ago, are really almost frogs;
but when they get into the watering can, they go to the pond.
And outside we have made some headway:
Mohamed kinda got the gravity pump to work,
but after an initial gush of water, the flow tapers off.
So we’ve decided that we really need a low-power d.c. pump,
powered by its own solar panel and loader,
in order to be able to fully access the water in our well.
And as recommended by Felipe after touring our canal source,
(& Mohamed has wanted to tear out the whole system),
Mohamed has been re-engineering the canal water system,
reworking it to take advantage of the natural flow of the water:
removing some of the unnatural plastic basins and hoses,
(that were trying to force the water through a narrow & unnatural course)
and instead building a dam a little downstream from the source,
to form a pond to collect and settle the water,
reducing sediment in the remaining pipes.
So since Mohamed built the dam,
we have had incredible water pressure!
So we have been using our sprinkler and sprayers,
rotating around to fully saturate our yard.
And fill Marmalade’s swimming pool.
And with Jorge’s help, we’ve agreed on a cork cutter
to harvest the cork from the big trees by our house.
(The cork man said our others trees were too inaccessible,
& so, if we make trails, we could harvest them another summer).
We’ve even already been paid when they last stopped by,
and the work was scheduled for Friday, an ideal Stem day.
But this is Portugal, and things happen in their own time.
I’m really curious to see the process.
We had another mini-heat wave,
and are thankfully back into really pleasant weather.
(& the butterflies have indeed been enjoying it!)
And I finally got a video of a butterfly drinking nectar from the sunflower:
Which is good because there is so much still to do,
especially trimming the grasses and wildflower seeds,
which will now get watered frequently and hopefully start sprouting.
And harvesting: lots of broccoli and onions,
which Marmalade and I made into a broccoli fermented sauerkraut,
(inspired by Nadine’s urging to get back into fermenting
& my mom bringing over several more mason jars to fill).
And I’ve been harvesting bunches of the rainbow mix carrots,
which go into pretty much everything.
And lots of lemon cucumbers. Yum!
And, before it flipped out of Northern transplanting time,
we transplanted to create another three sisters garden
into the old compost bin to befriend the loofah squash:
thirteen honey and cream sweet corn seedlings,
intermixed with nine soaked pink-eyed peas,
and six melon seedlings transplanted on the side near the wild mint
(having recently read that melons & mint are companion plants).
Our original three sisters planting in Horta Nova is doing well;
vibrant, even. The resident frogs seem to keep the bugs at bay,
and everyone seems to be growing nice and lush…
Which might have something to do with the seaweed fertilizer,
since I’d been applying it fairly heavy-handed throughout the heatwave.
I’ve already used the first 5 liter Fruit time fermented seaweed fertilizer,
and am halfway through the first Flower time fermented fertilizer.
I still have more of each Fruit and Flower, and some Leaf time fermenting.
(Aside from the main fertilizing nutrients & trace elements,
the seaweed is loaded with microbes & other living organisms,
which must have some beneficial purpose, other than just being free fertilizer.)
Even the echinacea (purple coneflowers) are loving the seaweed,
and have already begun to open up their flower buds.
As hoped for, we had friends come to stay and help eats plums,
each eating at least their two dozen quota of plums per day.
And since they are both sustainable farming researchers,
their assistance far surpassed plums:
they’ve devised a low-tech gravity pump to access water from our well,
designed a low-cost, low-tech solar hot water system on our bedroom roof,
and brainstormed a dam system for the inlet of our canal water system.
Nadine also planned and set-up an innovative composting dry toilet,
in which the waste is easily composted and returned to the soil,
ideally used for planting fruit trees on top of our hillside.
Felipe also offered suggestions to improve our composting process
(flipping more often, moister & with smaller pieces)
and while investigating our current compost piles,
discovered that several of the composted date pits,
from Mohamed’s grandfather’s trees, had sprouted,
so we transplanted those into containers.
While they’ve been brainstorming and testing out their ideas,
I’ve been in the kitchen, making two kinds of plum sauce and plum chutney,
and working a lot in the garden, mostly sowing seeds: catnip for Tuna,
more bi-color sweet corn, more pink-eyed peas and purple bush beans in the garden,
and scattering the crushed pods of our arugula hybrid as a “mulch” under the tomatoes.
And harvesting: all the remaining plums, lots of carrots, bush beans, tomatoes;
and lots of onions and handfuls of orange basil, lamb’s quarters, purslane, and sorrel,
which sautéed together made a tasty, citrusy topping for pasta.
I’ve also been harvesting more of the lemon cucumbers,
which are very mild and sweet, and slightly fruity,
lacking the compounds that make cucumbers difficult to digest,
and their fun, lemon-size makes them easy to add to salads.
During the recent Fruit/Seed transplanting times,
we got the nine remaining Käferbohnen into Horta Nova,
and transplanted one Napolitana fig into the hillside,
and two others into large flowerpots by the porch.
All the sweet corn and melon seeds from last Fruit time have sprouted,
and are receiving the TLC treatment until their spaces are ready in the old compost bin.
On the other side of the old bin, the loofah squash are doing great,
and have a few small looflets on their vines.
And finally an eggplant seed sprouted!
I think our nights might have been too cool until recently for germination.
Fortunately, we have a really long growing season.
Now that the plums have all been picked and either sauced or eaten,
our digestive systems are returning to normal again,
so we’re planning which other fruits we want in abundance:
figs, obviously, since we just got three more trees,
and a few more peaches and maybe a nectarine,
and apricots, since we just saved twelve organic pits,
and maracuja, since we scooped and saved dozens of their seeds,
though I’ll need to research how to sprout them.
Our seedling lemon and nespera (loquats) trees are nestled in the cold frame,
coming along nicely and slowly with several leaves of healthy growth.
During the end of July, there is a recommended time to plant fruit seeds,
so all these saved pots and seeds will await sowing until then.
Today is Marmalade’s last day of school until Fall,
and our first residents’ last day of their first residency;
so, as usual, we have a busy day planned ahead,
also, as usual, ending with an afternoon trip to the beach.
Last night swung from Fruit into Root time, so dinner was quite rooted:
Einkorn (an ancient wheat) rice with garden carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic and dill.
Since it is still a Root day today,
I just planted the remaining sweet potato sprouts into the garden.
And will be harvesting more onion flowers to make more infused sesame oil.
And plan to make more beet chips for a midday snack.
With moonfarmers we always hoped to host an artist residency
using the term “artist” broad enough to include
all sorts of designers, scientists, and other creatives
that want to further the mission of a sustainable future.
And eventually build some treehouses.
Right now residents are hosted in a spacious tent,
with most meal provided fresh from the garden.
Anybody else interested in joining the moonfarm,
please just let us know.
An unfavorable day yesterday gave me a chance to step back;
and reflect on the Springtime we’ve just had,
and the visitors that have come and gone,
and, among other things, I realized that I never completed my thoughts in the previous post.
Most noticeably, that in the garden, I am constantly being humbled,
by the successes of randomness that happen at the fringes of my garden.
It is humbling.
Humbling is a good thing,
especially when we learn from it.
And I hope to learn a lot from these expressions of growth:
the tomatillos that I carefully tended aren’t thriving as well as the one that grew
from a seed that found its way to the Earth through a tear in the seed packet,
and now stunningly growing at the edge of Horta Nova.
Indeed it must’ve been sown at its favorable Fruit time,
since I would only have the packet outside then.
And indeed it fortunately fell onto cultivated soil,
between a sunflower and a hokkaido squash plant.
And I left the seedling to grow because it looked friendly.
Undeterred, I will plant more tomatillos tomorrow during the Fruit trine,
to see if I can encourage more to reach their full potential.
Also humbling (& delicious!) is the experimental flowerpot
that was filled with the soil from unsprouted seed cups.
Although growing in an overcrowded space with limited soil,
these bush beans have grown larger, lusher, and more bountiful than their garden rivals.
The tomato is twice as large as any of its relatives in the garden,
and the dill is just incredible.
Funny, I’ve tried numerous times to grow dill,
but the seeds’ requirements have proved daunting.
Luckily, some of our compost was chock-full of dill seeds,
that seem to sprout and thrive wherever they are planted:
with the lettuce, in the artichoke patch, in with a blueberry,
next to the loofahs, and even in flowerpots of morning glories.
Sure, seed sprouting is a miracle of chance,
and every seed will not survive, no matter where its sown, and when;
and I have no idea how many accidental seedings didn’t sprout.
But for those that do, the plants are incredible.
Awe-inspiring, even; for I am in awe.
And I am inspired:
to save the seeds from these mammoth dill plants,
hoping that they will thrive here like their parents.
Unexpectedly, I’ve really gotten into seed-saving,
allowing many of the best garden plants to go to seed.
Sure, to observe their process and harvest the seeds for future crops,
but mostly to honor their purpose in their life…
why they sprouted in the first place.
Speaking of sprouting,
my arugula-kale cross-breeding experiment is showing great promise:
several green rosettes have sprouted in the garden,
not quite arugula, not quite kale,
but an edible tender green when cooked,
growing underneath and around the tomatoes
and thriving in the heat of the summer season
when the arugula and kale don’t do so well.
I have been hulling tons of these seeds,
half a jar from the arugula parents
and half a jar from the kale plants;
enough for continuous cultivation forever.
The morning glories grown from our seeds are incredibly vibrant,
more so than others planted from purchased or gathered seeds,
and more colorful, lush and plentiful than their parent plants
from a windowsill patch from Marmalade’s room in Austria.
Reorientation is about adapting
to whatever gets thrown at you.
The rouge tomatillo and volunteer dill reminded me of this lesson.
That life is about surviving, and adapting, in order to thrive.
New visitors are always disorienting,
partly because the trip here is disorienting for them,
(since we live off-the-map as much as off-the-grid)
and partly because I’ve always been a creature of habit,
and my habits shift to accommodate others’ schedules.
Yet our visitors provide a chance to step back,
and to explore new places in Portugal.
(& eat cheesecake! Let’s not forget the cheesecake!)
Through this I find my way from disoriented to reoriented;
as seeing our situation through these fresh eyes
brings a renewed sense of the endless possibilities.
And nothing brings me renewal like a swim in the ocean;
as floating adrift clears my head and refreshes my soul.
And the waves are incredible…
as in this video of the inside of a wave
from Praia Vale dos Homnes last weekend.
Like much of the Northern hemisphere,
we’ve recently had an atypical heat wave,
which forced most of our garden plants
to reorient as well, if they are to survive.
And most things did.
Horta Nova is coming along great.
All the plants are alive and doing well:
the sunflowers are all abloom,
and so are the first of the beans.
The strawberry popcorn are knee-high,
and the hokkaido squashes are all lush.
And in the rest of the yard, things are blooming incredibly:
especially the squashes and sunflowers,
and the morning glories from my own seeds;
and others are growing exponentially:
especially all the watermelons;
while others are ripening swiftly:
such as the first of the lemon cucumbers,
and the insane number of plums from our two trees,
and the yellow bush beans, and the first few tomatoes.
So I made a small bean, parsnip, and tomato salad,
adding lots of the orange basil to the garden salad.
And falling into Root time, I also made a potato salad,
with some garden potatoes, green onion, and dill.
Harvesting out some of the Spring crops has made room in the garden,
so there is room for new life, with new plant neighbors,
and a reorienting of their relationships.
I’ve already planted some violet bush beans in with the wild thyme,
and a few dozen pink-eyed cowpeas in between the seeding spinach.
And I’ve started twenty-two honey and cream bicolor sweet corn seeds,
and some heirloom eggplants and cantaloupes in yogurt cups,
hoping to transplant them soon after their sprouting
to take advantage of the space and the weather.
(Thanks to my mom for bringing a new selection of warm-season seeds!)
Before we depart Root time,
I picked more parsnips and carrots for soups.
And hulled the French breakfast radish seeds,
as they’ve dried and are ready for storage.
And now I’m brainstorming what to make with all the plums,
besides plum sauce, plum chutney, and Pflaumenküchen.
Unfortunately they aren’t freestone;
so pitting them all will be challenging,
and I can only eat two dozen a day out of hand.
During Fruit time we harvested five big bowls of them,
and the trees are still loaded with fruit.
So, anyone interested in coming over to eat plums?
The silk worm butterflies emerged from their cocoons;
and apparently set to work laying their little yellow eggs.
We really like their cool, wispy antennas,
which resemble their mulberry leaves .
There are a ton of butterflies flittering around our yard,
which makes my morning watering routine very colorful.
I’ve also enjoyed watching our tadpoles grow large,
as our population of frogs steadily increases.
Most of the tadpoles are in the white plastic tub,
(fitting, since it was once Marmalade’s bathtub);
occasionally they get sucked into the watering can during refilling,
and those have been relocated to the pond.
I wonder if they consider it some kind of alien abduction.
We have dozens of junior frogs that hang all around the pond,
probably some of the tadpoles we moved over in the late winter.
We have more frogs’ eggs on both the pond and the plastic tub,
so this cycle will be continuing for awhile.
Speaking of the circle of life,
we’ve had a bunch of cool-looking beetles doing their thing.
Odd that each species has its chosen plant to mate on,
and throughout the yard, they tend to stick to that one plant.
Here’s some cool mask-like beetles on the mustard,
and these orange and black ones near the pond,
up on a wildflower stalk that overhangs the water lily,
which has begun blooming again. Woo-hoo!
Here’s Tuna hanging out next to the pond, too.
He follows me around in the mornings when I’m doing my watering rounds.
In other news, we got the the blueberry bush planted with its friends
(in the hole that was used for our bbq last week)
and the three cranberries transplanted near the pond.
Also, on a whim, we bought a dark olive tree,
so that joins the other olives up on the hillside.
Our pomegranate tree is blooming again,
while a few more buds await their turn.
Otherwise, all the other trees have finished blossoming,
and some have fruits ripening in the sunshine.
And the gooseberry and golden raspberries
give us a few ripened berries each morning.
Now that I’ve sampled a few of their amber fruits,
I must say that I’m a huge fan of the golden razzies,
and plan to plant more next Spring to fill in the area.
I’m always excited during Flower times;
there is always the glow of growth to inspire us to keep gardening.
In particular, the roses have been splendid.
And the sunflowers…
So full of bees,
We love watching the progression of buds to blossoms to seeds.
And the miniature blossoms
(& miniature cucumbers)
on the Mexican cucumbers.
The first of the garlic and onion bulbs are blooming;
some we’ve eaten unopened as scapes,
some I’ve immersed to flavor sesame oil,
and others I’m allowing to blossom,
to feed the pollinators while I watch their progression,
as I’m very curious to grow out their seeds.
Since it’s now Fruit time,
I picked a bunch of the tart cherries that are ripening
(& getting devoured by birds) on two trees downhill.
I’ve never baked with tart cherries,
so I might explore recipes for ratios and inspiration,
and plan to make a sweetened fruit glaze for a cheesecake
(because I’ve been craving cheesecake for over a month now).
And during this Fruit time, I’ve been weeding Horta Nova, which is growing nicely.
Meanwhile, Marmalade has taken over the artistic efforts of our house,
redecorating our sofa, and walls, and carpet with her unique vision.
often there’s a cool breeze with high clouds floating by.
It’s great for working in the garden.
During the super-favorable Root time
(due to a Root trine during the Root time)
I harvested the French breakfast radish seeds,
and dug up the first third of our potato patch.
That evening I made roasted potato and sweet potato wedges,
to have with a kohlrabi-carrot-apple salad
that I made earlier in the day
and ate by the spoonful
every time I walked by.
I started to root little eyes from the tops of two sweet potatoes,
hoping they sprout leaves and then can join the garden
over where the potatoes were just unearthed.
They are a prolific local crop here,
so here’s hoping they grow roots.
We’ve also been working on the outdoor kitchen area,
adding wooden steps/benches and more stones at the edges.
Day by day this place is getting a little bit nicer.
And a little greener.
I got four more berry bushes from Aldi:
three cranberries and a blueberry.
The cranberries will go down by the pond
next to the elderberry bush.
And the blueberry will join its friends on the hillside,
once we get a stubborn oak root out of its hole,
and Mohamed thought there’s no better way than with a barbecue.
It has been the weekend,
so I have been trying to relax a bit,
by blowing some bubbles
and actually sitting down,
which Tuna encourages by napping on my lap every time I do.
(Though admittedly, his naps don’t last long,
because it has been a super-favorable Root time,
& the carrots, beets & onions all needed weeding.)
As the first Monday of the new month,
we went to the mercado in São Teotónio.
I was hoping to find a guava tree,
since they had them last month
(& after doing some research
found that they grow well here),
but to no avail.
So we got a yellow kiwi vine,
to befriend our three green kiwis.
Since kiwis are not entirely cold-hardy,
I will simply repot it on the next Fruit time,
so that we can bring it and its friends inside on cold winter nights.
Next Spring, when they are all a bit larger and more durable,
we will plant them on the hillside outside the front door
(once we install some bamboo beams over the porch,
so that each may climb up its own support,
& provide shade & life at our entryway).
After school, we all went to the beach,
because it’s a fun way for Marmalade to unwind after school.
And for dinner tonight,
I made a grape and rosemary focaccia,
with the first trimmings of our garden rosemary,
(but not our ruin’s grapes, which won’t be ready for months)
to go with a garlic scape and potato barley soup,
with garden garlic scapes, potatoes, broccoli florets,
and lamb’s quarters, a wild edible I’m propagating in the garden.
So it seems fitting to hit the beach on these days:
collecting seawater for cooking pasta and soups,
collecting seaweed for homemade fertilizer tea,
gathering washed-up fishing ropes for woven carpets,
grabbing driftwood for the playhouse and outdoor shower,
and for swimming, of course.
Lots of swimming.
We love swimming.
And communing with the nautical nature,
including the various mollusks and crustaceans,
and checking in on the storks nesting cliffside.
Their little storklets are really visible when you’re out swimming,
yet less so from the shore where I felt safe using our camera.
Every time we are at the ocean
I think “we should do this more often” and yet, we do.
Since it’s gotten warm, we go about every other day.
Thank goodness. For these mini-vacations.
Because this Fruit time has been a doozy.
We got everything that was ready transplanted
into the Three Sisters Garden in Horta Nova:
29 strawberry popcorn seedlings,
26 hokkaido squash seedlings,
and nine Käferbohnen beans.
(Because of the scale of this project,
and the fact that it is now Ramadan,
we did most of this work under the moonlight,
pulling two very long nights in a row to get it in.
It reminded us of past sculptural projects,
up til stupid-o’clock in the morning
frantically trying to meet a deadline.)
Yet this was more relaxed, more serene,
more of a quiet spiritual time,
as each planting is a prayer, isn’t it?
Asking whoever to please watch over these seedlings.
The Three Sisters planting has always been a sacred planting,
as the Sisters: corn, squash and beans are held as sacred plants,
goddesses, if you will, that provide sustenance and life itself.
I also transplanted the nine chickpeas into the garden,
because I really love chickpeas, as the legume, yes, but also the plant.
The leaves are unique, the pods very sculptural, the peas so cool.
And I put the two watermelon seedlings in the agave hole near the pond,
and the three golden popcorn seedlings in with the tomatillos.
And although I thought I’d run out of time,
I also got the last two Mexican cucumbers
and four orange bell peppers into the garden.
And planted a few more bush beans,
as the first have begun flowering,
(& successive plantings ensure a longer harvest,
without being inundated with ripe produce all at once).
We also transplanted the three new golden raspberries
to fill in between the two we got at the mercado in April.
We ate the first golden raspberry in the morning while transplanting:
as promised, it is a sweeter, less tart, but very flavorful berry.
We’ve also been sampling the gooseberries,
as a few seem ripe each morning.
Delicious. Great flavor.
And their Portuguese name “Uva Crispa” makes sense
because “uva” are grapes and they really do seem like crisp grapes,
though they grow on a low, thorny bush,
that sends out low branches to reroot.
I accidentally unearthed one runner while weeding this Spring,
and potted it up, thinking to grow it and then gift to friends.
Now that I’ve tasted them,
I am eager to propagate more runners,
and establish a whole gooseberry patch.
But in the meantime,
I think we need a few days off from planting.
And as we have four days of Root time,
we will be taking that break from hole digging.
And harvesting the radish seeds.
And rooting sweet potato sprouts.
Yet Aldi has berry bushes on sale tomorrow morning,
so we might be bringing home more than groceries,
and have a few more holes to dig next week.