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.
After taking a little hiatus from being "on hiatus"
I have had a chance to reflect upon this past year:
how far we've come as moonfarmers,
and how wide open our future can be.
Or perhaps I haven't really been "on hiatus" at all.
Years ago, I did an oil painting of a little wooden cottage,
set amongst a flowering garden, aptly named "storybook cottage"
for its allusions to an imaginary, out-of-a-storybook world.
I eventually used the painting as a proposal sketch
for "storybook cottage" a knitted inhabitable playhouse sculpture
I (& Mohamed) made for an exhibition title "There's No Place Like Home"
at the Paul Robeson Gallery of Rutgers Newark, New Jersey, in 2013.
Coming together in the final moments, the sculpture was visually satisfying:
and at the opening, a hit with the toddlers (& their parents) visiting the exhibition.
But under its intricate surface, this knitted world was only an illusion,
and an indication of my desire for a real storybook cottage to inhabit.
So here we are.
This ongoing project,
or series of projects,
has only just begun.
And yes, I intend to keep some sort of online account
of how we are progressing, with all our various activities
(something I wouldn't have thought of doing without
the encouragement of the RFAOH community).
But this year being on hiatus has given me time to reflect on what else I can be,
how much further, and farther, my life can take me than simply being an artist.
And funny, everything I thought I'd be doing once I was "off" hiatus
(like keeping up with other correspondences & re-entering the art-world)
I hadn't really thought of lately.
Instead, I've been sitting in the shade watching our garden grow,
watching flower petals unfold and bees buzzing from blossom to blossom.
And watching the stars shine, and finally seeing the owl I'd been hearing lately.
Mohamed had recently told a lady,
who had asked if I had been painting,
that "yes, marisa has been painting with water..."
meaning that I had scattered seeds throughout our yard
and as I spray water across the land,
vibrant colors and forms come to life.
But now that it's August, I have really been "on hiatus" from technology,
including emails and taking photos (& apologies to my parents for that);
and instead, focused more on Marmalade's story-time and creative play
(which reminded me of the years ago I spent teaching arts to children
& the years before when I was Marmalade's age, in my own imaginary world),
and reading (especially as a new book on companion planting just arrived from my Dad),
and materials-collecting for our home and gardening projects.
We dug out all the collected glass bottles, driftwood,
seashells, colored stones, and the tangles of gathered fishing ropes,
to prepare our materials for newly repaired outdoor furnishings,
Marmalade's playhouse, our front porch, and bathroom remodeling projects.
And found another nearby trail within Bamboo Parque littered with fallen bamboo,
perfect to complete the outdoor kitchen area and the pergola over our front porch,
which now has three upright posts with three crossbeams.
And, for some time now, I've wanted to make a collection of wind chimes,
and with all the collected random materials, I can finally begin creating them.
And I dug out my oil paints and stash of brushes,
and began repainting a nasturtium painted on a found metal sign in Austria,
as its trailer trip out west last summer left it dirty, scraped, and stained.
Perhaps an apt metaphor for our journey to arrive here;
but I'm ready to move on, move forward,
and so repainting it with our garden's new blossoms.
Once finished, it will become decoration for our fence,
as another friendly welcome to the moonfarm.
And Marmalade and I begun our largest collaborative project yet,
repainting the back wall of our house, which, hopefully,
will soon become the inner wall of Marmalade's own bedroom.
Painting this mural reminds me that I truly love painting on walls;
and that although I am not just a painter, I do love painting.
(& I've wondered how I can share that love here;
& painting our house seems the first logical step.
Yet Marmalade's school, most of Zambujeira do Mar,
& the Casa Viva teahouse in Odemira all seem possibilities
to spread my colors further & to reach a wider audience;
something I imagine would unfold over the next few years.
& speaking of Casa Viva, we'll be there more often,
since Mohamed will be leading a weekly capoeira class there.
So painting their walls seems a very real possibility, too.)
We are also trying to get the place cleaned up a bit,
to feel like we've finally moved in and claimed our home
(& get it ready for a huge visit by Mohamed's family).
And I've been really busy with the bounty from our garden:
jars and jars of blackberry jam, applesauce, and pasta sauce.
With a growing pile of adorable summer and winter squash,
and bush beans, tomatoes, arugula, kale and cauliflower,
and kohlrabis, tomatillos, cucumbers, onions and pears
(which sliced thinly together make a lovely salad!)
And, as our summer harvesting is in full swing;
we are also getting the garden ready for the fall planting season.
We're putting in another few planting beds for an exciting collection of fall favorites: radishes, peas, onions, garlic, broccoli, rainbow beets and carrots,
and including: fenugreek, red cabbage, celery, shallots, leeks and rutabaga,
that I've never grown before.
We arrived one full year ago,
as our first day in Portugal was Marmalade's third birthday.
This year we have so much to celebrate, so much growth, joy, and surprises.
Marmalade wished for a birthday picnic at the beach,
so we invited the Sebastians to come along,
for lunch and chocolate cupcakes by the sea;
not all that different than a scene from one of her storybooks.
While wandering our land harvesting all the ingredients for the garden salad,
I realized that our home really is out of a storybook:
over a river and through a bamboo forest...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
While our first residents were here in the early summer,
I really saw the potential the moonfarm has as a residency;
not just the location and tranquility and mild weather,
but the abundant found materials and room to experiment.
I've been on enough residencies
(& helped run Townhouse's while there)
to know that I would excel at running a residency,
and hope that the glassbottle construction for the ruin
gives the moonfarm the perfect place to welcome all creatives.
Yet being "off hiatus" hasn't given me any extra free time;
I still spend hours daily watering, cultivating, harvesting, and cooking.
And there's always dirty dishes and laundry piling up.
But the year "on hiatus" has kept me focused on our goals,
and helped me remember that although life is mostly out of our control,
we do have a little time and space to spread happiness
and make our world a little bit brighter.
Thank you for this incredible opportunity.
And please come back to the moonfarm.
On Aug 23 2017, Lee commented on From RFAOH Co-directors: Marissa, I would love to follow anything you place online! Please let me know hwen you get going![...]
On Jul 31 2017, mathieu commented on revival: part IV: thank you for the reports and for the gorgeous photographs, your adventure is very inspiring![...]
On Jul 31 2017, co-director (s) commented on revival: part IV: I'm all choked up... July 31 happened to be my birthday too; what a last day! Thank you to you all!![...]
On Jul 31 2017, co-director (m) commented on revival: part IV: Thank you so much for your generous contribution to this project Marisa - and everyone (we know it's[...]
On Jul 30 2017, co-director (s) commented on revival: part three: One thing we regret not to have done sooner is to make the comment section capable of posting images[...]
From RFAOH Co-directors
Marisa Dipaola’s full year on-hiatus residency ended as RFAOH’s third residency term ended on July, 31. We thank Marisa and her *moonfarmer team* for their participation, and her generous amount of reports on an incredible on-hiatus journey that started off living in a car, and now having a beautiful permaculture farm that flourishes more and more everyday. RFAOH sends them our utmost cheers, and would love to follow the further development of their ambitious, ongoing project. We will surely announce Marisa’s own blog about the moonfarm, and her *moonfarm* residency when she gets them up and running. Stay tuned and be ready to apply!
Click “Final Report” to read on her experience at RFAOH.
Yesterday we had the Sebastians over for playing and lunch:
with garden salad (using our red leaf lettuce, red amaranth leaves & lots of purslane),
homemade pizza, and homemade cheesecake with the garden plum sauce.
And a watermelon from one of the plants the Sebastians had given us.
They hadn’t been over in a few months and were curious as to our progress;
which continues to be slow yet steady. It’s really nice to have friends nearby.
They were most impressed by the plantings in the old compost bin,
the sweet corn is now surpassing the wooden structure,
everything is vibrant and lush, and the melon plants are gigantic.
Afterwards, it flipped over to Flower time.
And next to the tomatillo, the sesame and quinoa seeds have sprouted!
I got up early this morning to plant more calendula and sunflower seeds.
And transplant four more lupine seedlings into the flower garden,
and the tarragon into the garden, and a few of our houseplants.
And we dismantled the cold frame to clear a place for the rosemary
to enter the earth, with some purslane to keep it company.
The morning glories are spiraling around the bamboo fence,
bringing a once-neglected part of our yard to life.
It’s also amazing how our roses have revived:
three opened blooms and two more buds forming.
For this last installment of the revival entries,
I wanted to talk about the lesson I’ve learned:
don’t give up, on anything.
Seeds that didn’t at first sprout grew some of the best plants once given a second chance,
trees that at first seemed dead have branched out new shoots and leaves and fruits,
the artichokes and tomatillos and everything else have made such a comeback,
with a little food and water, and lots of tender loving care.
So maybe that’s the key…
A year ago, we were stuffed into a car and trailer,
heading southwest on a long and arduous journey,
to an unknown destination and an unknown future.
So much has happened,
all teaching me that there is no limit
to how much can grow,
how much can be learned,
and how much love we can share.
Marmalade continues to astound me,
with her abilities to adapt to our new situation,
and her comprehension of new languages and cultures,
and her unending creativity;
she has been home from kindergarten for a month now,
back to being our youngest artist-in-residence,
resuming her full-time status while her school is on summer holiday.
And her energy and output are unsurpassed!
She has resumed her self-portrait series on my iPad,
and begun a new new series of mixed media drawings,
and has been working intently on a collection of collaborations with the moonfarmers.
Our parents have shown continued support for our less-than-traditional lifestyle,
perhaps silently wondering why we chose to live as moonfarmers,
but outwardly offering suggestions and help to make this reality.
And we’ve been so happy to be on Hiatus,
sharing our adventures and being a part of this community.
I feel I could easily extend for another year, or two,
as my priorities are to work on transforming this place,
(creating the here and now & planting for the future)
instead of re-entering the rat-race of the contemporary art world.
But mostly, I enjoy life here, and the light here,
the way the sunset affects the colors of the blooms;
the incredible smells of the freshly watered garden,
and the raspberry-scented roses that are again in bloom.
And the noises of night, glowing under the moonlight.
I hope that our next year brings about the renovation of the ruin,
as a collaboration with the eco-architects,
since I want to retain the original taipa earthen walls
and embed colored glass bottles into the walls to enliven the space,
as a magical get-away for artists, scientists, and other creatives
who need to stop and smell the roses.
The changeover to Root time ushered in the onion harvest:
in the morning, I picked a few bunches of onion seeds
from the blossoms I left for the pollinators (the others I had infused in sesame oil);
and in the late afternoon, I pulled all the remaining onion bulbs that I had sown last fall,
so maybe four dozen onions, that are now curing on top of the Naturkeller.
I also harvested the remaining few garlics that had flowered
and formed tiny little bulblets (which I assume are seeds) at their tops.
I was told years ago, while at a farmers’ market in Vermont,
that if you planted these you get a garlicky tasting “grass”
that can be eaten much like the garlic scape that produced them.
So I’ve planted a few of these bulblets from the first garlic I harvested,
just to see what happens. (I’m assuming they’d eventually form a garlic clove.)
And I transplanted another orange sweet potato cutting that had sprouted;
and, because I was told to do so by Tío Bee-o, the friendly farmer in Rogil,
I snipped a runner off one of the batata doce (“sweet potato” but really a yam)
plants and replanted it in a nearby vacant spot in the garden.
This is a long, full four-days of Root time,
which gives us a nice opportunity to complete some ongoing on-the-ground projects.
Such as redoing the plumbing on the hillside to give us access to our new bio-fertilizer tank
(salvaged from the woods when Mohamed built the dam at the water source),
and laying out another old hose to be the irrigation hose for the blueberries,
so the arduous job of watering all the blueberries (& fruit trees on the hill)
is now simply switching over hoses from the junction on top of the hillside.
We set another post into the trellis for the maracujas,
because their tendrils have been spreading every which way,
and they needed more spaces to climb to envelop the chimney.
And we started working on the pergola for the front porch,
starting with the first two bamboo posts for the far end,
as we needed the support for the Violetta beans growing amidst the thyme
since they have far surpassed the small bamboo stake in their flower pot.
We’ve been setting stones to make a heart-shaped little patio in Horta Nova
next to the tadpole pond where it often floods and otherwise becomes a mud puddle.
In the shade, during the heat of the day,
we finally moved the dry composting toilet outside,
making a semi-private outhouse against the tree line.
(Mohamed always wanted an outdoor toilet,
so he’d have an incredible view while pooping.
I view our outhouse as an easier way to pee while out gardening,
an extra toilet for busy times, & super convenient for any campers or visitors.
& an alternative for when we finally undertake moving the septic system,
& finish renovating the bathroom, especially the bathroom floor.)
And we finally put an end to our hiatus from doing laundry.
But back into the garden, the lone potato plant is flowering!
I am hoping that it will form its fruit, so I can plant the seeds and see what grows from it,
as potatoes are like apples in that their seeds will express their genetic diversity
and so any resulting offspring will yield produce that won’t be anything like the parent plant.
(Ideally, the offspring would also be more suited for this climate and soil conditions,
as this is the plant’s way of ensuring its own healthy future generations.)
Everything else is flowering, too.
The calendula were grown from an assorted seed pack,
so each plant is reflecting its own rays of sunshine,
awe-inspiringly beautiful, even when drying out to form its seeds.
(I chose to grow these flowers for their medicinal properties,
as the petals can be infused to make a healing skin oil.)
The rest of the echinacea are getting ready to bloom.
And another lily is about to open, too.
Further uphill, the rose is back into full flower, with three blooms all opening now.
And the morning glories are blooming all around the house,
with my favorites being the mutant flowers grown from our own seeds.
Although not flowering, the artichokes have all been recovering
and growing stronger and vibrant amidst the ever-expanding mint garden.
And I’ve neglected to mention that the two apple trees and one pear tree downhill
are all enjoying the extra waterings, producing an incredible crop of large fruits,
so much so that a small branch snapped off of the pear tree,
so we harvested and sampled some of the not-quite-ripe pears.
And speaking of flowers, while I was watering some of the new sunflower seedlings,
one of our reptile neighbors came over for a drink!
Tomorrow evening it flips over to Flower time,
which often brings a welcomed change in the weather
(Flower time is during the Air elements, so the transition is usually windy).
In all the excitement of the new life water has brought to the garden,
I’ve neglected to mention all the new growth on the upper hillside.
The citrus trees are really enjoying their new watering system,
with several, including our lime, now sprouting out new leaves;
and the tangerines on the tangerine tree are growing bigger and shapelier.
And the hazelnut tree has new leaves and has pushed out its catkins!
The nine blueberries all have new growth: new leaves sprouted on all
and whole new branches have emerged on a few that were suffering before.
And back downhill, the three cranberries really enjoy their new home,
and are sprouting new leaves and buds.
(Flower buds, perhaps?)
The most recently planted golden raspberry plants have grown incredibly
and have now ripened their first tasty berries.
Behind the house, the maracuja is still flowering and forming fruits,
with at least a dozen maracujas growing large and healthy on the vines!
And in Horta Nova, the first five hokkaido squash are growing nicely.
And the strawberry popcorn has sprouted its silks!
And we have more watermelons forming on the last one that we planted
(which is good because we picked & ate our first two yummy watermelons:
the first small watermelon I picked because it had split from a nick in its rind).
In the garden, I harvested the organic cilantro seeds during Leaf time,
and pulled and replanted some more homegrown arugula seeds near the newest pond.
Funnily, the last cauliflower (from last fall’s planting) has finally begun to take off.
The tomatoes are all busy making blossoms and ripening tomatoes, that we pick daily;
the two orange pepper plants have little peppers where their flowers once were;
and the miniature Mexican cucumbers are in full cucumber-making mode,
with four mini cucs ready for harvest and tons of little ones on the way.
And the Calabacita squash has a little squash, behind an adorable flower bud;
and we picked the first blue ballet winter squash,
with another ripening, and another on the way.
As we flip over into Fruit time (& transplanting time),
the last thirteen corn got moved into their new home,
completing Horta Nova’s summer planting (along with a few Violetta beans to keep them company).
And the four green tomato seedlings, and an eggplant,
and a tomatillo, have all found new sites in the garden boxes.
And the prickly pear (from our teacher’s garden) now lives on the hillside.
Since this Fruit time is also the Leo moon seed time,
I have been harvesting a lot of sunflower seeds from our best edible sunflowers;
and tried planting some sesame seeds and more quinoa in the garden,
where the carrots and garlic were harvested in the last few weeks.
(The quinoa from the Spring planting suffered a bit from the heat
& being overcrowded & shaded by other overeager veggies,
so this time I think I’ve chosen a better spot.)
I’ve been researching and brainstorming different planting combinations,
not only for companion plantings (though that’s been my focus),
but also rotational- figuring out what should be planted in sequence:
like today’s planting of Violetta climbing beans at the bases of the old sunflowers,
so that the beans can climb up the stalks and nurture the soil for next Spring’s crops;
and more commonly, planting different plant families for several consecutive years;
and, borrowing an idea from Biodynamic farming,
rotating through the different plant types:
following Leaf crops with Root crops,
following Root crops with Fruit crops, and so on,
the premise being that the the Leaf plants were using the upward, leafy energy
and weren’t using the downward energy that the following Root crop will need.
So the arugula patch will become our fall’s carrot and beet patch,
and this morning, the previous carrot and beet patch
became our new tomatillo and quinoa spot.
I’ll be doing a lot more research, and planting trials,
over the next few years, decades, whenever.
Oh, before we flip out of Fruit time tonight,
I planted another dozen chickpeas in between the tomatoes,
planted a few Madeira banana seeds into a flowerpot,
and transplanted the nespera sapling and a small gooseberry plant
(a sucker that I accidentally uprooted while weeding the gooseberry this Spring).
And I made mini blackberry-apple pies,
with apples from our teacher’s trees and blackberries from the Sebastians’ yard.
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.