Saturday, September 22, 2018

Another Tooley's Trees visit

Shasta was yearning for another visit to the country so off to the countryside we went this Friday passed. Tooley's Trees is a perfect venue for such an excursion into country living at its best. Wild smells and dogs to connect with make a visit here the best time for Shasta. Chatting with Gordon Tooley is always a wonderful experience for the human members of Shasta's pack.

Of course, we could not return to 6790' MuRefuge without purchasing more shrubs to add to our developing food garden/orchard in our backyard.  I was so excited to see the healthy looking thornless blackberry plants there as I sorely missed eating fresh blackberries this season! We tailgated with a lovely picnic brought from home. It just so happened we parked right nearby these vibrant feeling plants, so I just had to add to our previous online order of two elderberry shrubs. The two elderberry shrubs found their way into the back of our Prius as well as two of the thornless blackberry plants, both described below

We finished up our picnic lunch with eating several kinds of apples, including Orange Cox Pippin which we had in our MuRefuge orchard, picked directly from Tooley's Trees "holistic orchard" which is based on the practices of Michael PhillipsDelish! On our very first visit to Tooley's Trees, Gordon showed me the book, The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips which I bought. I am so looking forward to attending the annual Winter workshop by Michael at Tooley's Trees to further my knowledge of soil regeneration! 

Look at our brokenness.

We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred Way.

Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, and honor
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.

                 OJIWAY PRAYER

While I was living at MuRefuge in rural residential West Sonoma County the foundation for my experience with and practice of soil regeneration began with 
employing at MuRefuge Permaculture sheet mulching gleaned from Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison, one of the two "founders" of Permaculture, with Reny Mia Slay. Also, a local man, Robert Kourik, touted mulching in his book Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally. Some years later I met the Kaisers who own Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol. Paul is a self identified "geek" so he has a vast data base in his head about the research around "feeding the soil," and he furthered my growing knowledge and experience with soil regeneration. Attending the very first Soil Not Oil conference four years ago  connected me with what is occurring globally in the soil regeneration movement. So now I am very excited to delve even deeper into this realm with Michael Phillips this Winter.


Sambucus canadensis 'Nova'
Zones 3-9. Open-pollinated seedling of Adams. Large, sweet fruit. Good for wine, pie and jelly. Hardy, productive, 6-8 ft. bush. Pollinate with York. Ripens evenly and slightly earlier than York, during August. Originated in Nova Scotia. Introduced in 1959.


Sambucus canadensis 'York'
Zones 4-8. Juicy, sweet, purplish black fruit. Largest berries of any cultivated elderberry. Larger than Adams or Nova. Excellent source of vitamin C. Good for pie, jam, jelly, juice and wine. Hardy, vigorous, highly productive, 6-8 ft. bush. Lovely fall foliage. Large, creamy white flowers in early summer. Pollinate with Nova. Should be planted 7-8 ft. apart. Can bear fruit in second year. Last to ripen. Hardy to about -30 degrees F. Developed at the New York State AES, 1964.

Blackberry Prime Ark® Freedom bakingfresh eatingprocessing

Zones 6-9. Released from Dr. John Clark and University of Arkansas primocane breeding program. For floricane fruiting, it ripens fairly early and has very large fruits, with excellent flavor. Freedom is a great choice for local commercial distribution and home gardens. It is not recommended for the shipping market. Prime Ark® Freedom requires "tipping" to achieve the highest yields and performance. Fall-bearing or primocane blackberries respond favorably to tipping. As the primocanes reach 12-15” in height, break or cut ¾-1” off the tip of each cane to force branching. Tip again when branches reach 30”. This process stimulates earlier fruit development, keeps plant height in check, and increases yield.

We finished up our fabulous outing with a hardy belly

Monday, September 17, 2018

Fall Equinox

White Tufted Evening Primrose ( Oenothera caespitosa)
"As the wheel turns 
and we stand upon the brink of the Fall Equinox, 
this is an excellent time to focus on all of our labors. 
Take some time this weekend to think 
about what you have worked for this summer, 
what you have begun, put energy into, prepared the ground for, 
tended, and brought to harvest."
Paperflower (Psilostrophe tagetina)
Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon barbatus)
which the hummingbirds love!
Paperflower (Psilostrophe tagetina)
Chamisa/Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
I am grateful for all the spectacular flowers in bloom here at 6790' MuRefuge rewarding my Summerlong efforts in transformation from "Zingy to Soft."
As we focus on gratitude for the abundance of the harvest season, may we

Friday, September 14, 2018

Revisiting Tooley's Trees

Additions (descriptions below copied from Tooley's Tree's site) 
for our small backyard orchard from 

Reliance Peach

bakingfresh eatingprocessing
Medium sized fruit has dull red blush over yellow background. Bright yellow, medium soft, juicy, sweet flesh. Freestone even in the coldest, driest season; small pit. Good for canning, freezing and fresh market. Vigorous, fast growing tree; self-fruitful and bears when young. Showy blossoms. Very bud hardy. Best choice for severely cold winters and springs. Requires 950 to 1000 hours of chilling. Hardy throughout zones 5-8; withstands temperatures of -25 degrees F. From the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. 1964.

Green Gage Plum
fresh eatingprocessing
European Plum. Famous “Reine Claude” named after the wife of Francis I of France. Imported into England in the 18th Century by Sir Thomas Gage whence its English name. An American favorite since the time of Jefferson. Small to medium, oval, yellowish green fruit. Juicy, smooth textured, amber flesh. Rich, confectionery flavor. Considered the ideal dessert plum in Europe. Also good cooked, canned, or preserved. Typically a rather small, low branched, round headed tree with attractive blossoms and deep green foliage. Productive, self-fertile. Ripens late Summer. Susceptible to brown rot. Requires 500-800 hours of chilling. Hardy to central Iowa.

Grape-Saint Theresa 

fresh eatingprocessing
Zone 4-9. Vigorous woody vine produces clusters of purple grapes which are mostly seedless. St. Theresa is an early season table grape with excellent flavor that will tolerate alkaline soils and can be used for juice or jellies. Well suited to arbors. Bred by Elmer Swenson of Wisconsin.


fresh eatingprocessingstoring

Vitis vinifera cross. Ontario x Thompson Seedless. Large, long, loose clusters. Medium size, oval, seedless golden yellow fruit. Crisp but tender skin. Sweet, delicious, juicy flesh. Fine quality table variety. Pure, sweet juice of delicate flavor. Makes excellent raisins. Self-fruitful. Moderate disease resistance. Keeps until Christmas if picked at full maturity and then refrigerated. Hardiest white seedless. 100 chill hours. Hardy to -15 degrees F. Zones 4-9. Introduced in 1952.

Last Saturday to celebrate adopting Shasta, our 4 legged, six years ago. How time flies! She has Worked really hard at adjusting to urban living AND she missed the country. The drive to Truchas is beautiful especially in Fall. Shasta loved all the wild smells as we walked about the property. She enjoyed Dot, Tooley’s Trees resident dog, who shared her water bowls with Shasta.

Our neighbor, Cis, says "clouds here look like you can reach up and touch them."
"Clouds", the single word Dwight would answer if asked what he loved about living in Santa Fe.
 Here in the high desert and mountains are clouds nothing short of stunning almost every day.
The three grape vines will be planted once the arbor and trellis have been installed. The fruit trees have been planted and thoroughly mulched with Coates wood chips and Reunity Resources compost then generously water from our "rain" barrels. This recent planting brings the total of fruit trees to six (6): 2 apple, 2 apricot, 1 peach and 1 plum. 

Front and center apple tree, immediately behind peach tree
then apricot tree, apple tree and plum tree.
Across the rock covered path another apricot tree.

To keep our balance in our "crazy" world, may we all

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Susan Wittig Albert wrote a recent blog post on sunflowers about the same time sunflowers here in Santa Fe began "popping" as Shasta's Auntie T would say.

Along side the asphalt roads where Shasta and I walk.

Insects love these bright, cheery flowers.
On cloudy days these flowers greet us,
and on days with spectacular clouds as we begin our morning walk
around  Frenchy's Field to the Santa Fe River bed they greet us.

I can hardly wait for the dry seeds to appear so these native wildflowers can thrive at 6790' MuRefuge.

May these common yellow flower cause us all to 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

From Zingy to Soft

Volunteer Cutleaf Nightshade (Solanum triflolium) in
6790' MuRefuge's backyard making large patches of
soft cushion for Shasta to nap upon.
When we moved to live on San Felipe Circle, Shasta found the backyard "zingy". 
Her word describing this place she was transplanted. She was unhappy and wanted to go back to MuRefuge, the place she called "home."

This picture shows only three fruit trees have been planted in the
backyard: apricot to the right of the double gate,
an apricot on the left next to the wall and
an apple, not in the picture but
further along the wall away from the double gate.
Can you feel the zingyness?
She did not like the burrs of the clover nor the tumbleweed; and as the Winter progressed the plethora of foxtails. With the increased altitude, 6790' above sea level, she did not have enough oxygen to be her regular peppy self. We set about to remove the invasive plants. Two truckloads, each 10 cubic yards, of compost along with all of the cardboard from our moving boxes covered the areas of the worst infestation, after some diligent weeding to keep seeds from entering the soil seed bank.

With the monsoon rains the unmatched areas are now adorned with volunteer Cutleaf Nightshade, a native and member of the Potato Family, Pigweed a member of the Amaranth Family and to which I am highly allergic so all of it has been removed, and Desert Mallow.

Desert Mallow (Sphaeroalcea ambigua)
Patches of Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), the New Mexico State grass, have been planted. This warm season, low growing bunchgrass is native to the High Plains. Several Todd planters filled with potting soil were scattered with seeds. Once the grasses were established they were transplanted into mulched areas where Shasta naps. These young grasses have begun to send up gloriously, lovely seed stalks visible in the picture below.

Although there are still smooth medium sized river rocks in the backyard, most of the rocks now make up walkways. With the increase in vegetation Shasta seems to have not only adjusted to the backyard, no longer considering it "zingy," but loves her new home. Three black rod-iron gates allows her to view all the passerbys. Her barking has become more selective and the tone often identifies the passerby.

The side and front yards moving towards "soft" with all of the Santa Fe gravel have been diligently removed by hand with a shovel, no machinery! A lovely man came several times a week for about six (6) weeks with his pickup. He moved 11.5 tons, yes tons!, to his 1000' dirt driveway. I am happy to have the gravel gone and he is happy to no longer have a long muddy driveway to negotiate during monsoon season.

As sections of the front and back are sheet mulched, softness is the prevalent energy. The Santa Fe gravel was definitely "zingy." This area known as Casa Alegre was farmed by the Spaniards evidenced by the acequias which provided water to irrigate the crops. While water was provided to the crops, it seems soil regeneration was not practiced. The soil, both sand and adobe, is sorely in need of nutrients which sheet mulching will provide. Cardboard, tattered natural fiber clothing, wood chips delivered by Coates Tree Service are the ingredients for this process.

From the get go Permaculture was practiced at MuRefuge with sheet mulching top and center. This practice was the backbone of rehabilitating the raped ground. Soil regeneration is practiced at Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol since its inception and the annual Soil Not Oil International Conference in Point Richmond, California has become increasingly popular and features speakers on the topic. This year I so wish I could attend since Starhawk (author of the Fifth Sacred Thing in which she touts soil regeneration before it had its now popular name) is one of the speakers.  I feel ever so blessed to have had personal experience with all of the above while living in California. Techniques learned during this time are now used here at 6790' MuRefuge, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Urban living has provided many inquiries about what is happening, the purpose, how to replicate, where to get wood chips. The questions seem endless while the work progresses; moving the energy away from zingy towards soft.

As at the original MuRefuge, native perennials, shrubs and trees have been planted at 6790' MuRefuge in the front and side yards for native habitat restoration. When the previous owners "flipped" this house and property, the landscaping was done by a "professional landscaper' who put in irrigation that was necessary for the what was planted amidst the black landscape "cloth" (really plastic fabric) and 11.5 tons of Santa Fe gravel. All of the plants with the exception of the well established Pinon Pine in the front have been dug up and moved to four different homes. Oh yes, also the Oregon Grape aka Creeping Mahonia (Berberis repens) along the North walkway remains and is flourishing. Below is a picture taken in April when the flowers were spectacular and invited bees.

Now that the berries are ripe and drying, a plethora of birds can be found joyfully foraging for them. The happy sounds made mostly by finches are a joy to hear!

6790' MuRefuge is located in the Pinon-Juniper Woodland/Sage Scrub habitats.
In light of that reality plants that thrive in both habitats have been planted in the side and front yards. Two Pinon Pines, two One Seed Junipers and four Gambel Oaks have been planted as the backbone of mostly West facing yards, the hottest locations on the property. There is prickly space designed primarily to attract the Sage Thrasher, my new favorite bird, to eventually nest.

A plant list will be available during the Winter when out of doors Work will be limited thus allowing time for this project.

"Soft" . . . note the apricot tree next to the wall between
the green bench and the bird feeders that was in the zingy picture.

Now mulch and plants soften the dinginess
Shasta was so uncomfortable with.
As the Work at 6790' MuRefuge progresses and Shasta feels more comfortable in her new home, may I and each of you as well,

Sunday, August 12, 2018


"I have come to terms with the future.
From this day onward I will walk
easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill
no living things. Live in harmony with
all creatures. I will restore the earth
where I am. Use no more of its resources
than I need. And listen, listen to what
it is telling me."
                         M.J. Slim Hooey

In coming to terms with the future, my new favorite flowering plant here in the Land of Enchantment is the Tufted Evening Primrose which is pollinated during the darkness of night by Hawk moths. Below are pictures of each of the three plants calling 6790' MuRefuge home and residing along the sidewalk along the front of the house. These three plants I bought from the Plants of the Southwest in 2" pots . . . and now look at their size in less than two months.

This is the Tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caepitosa)
that bloomed first and was featured in an earlier post.
Tufted evening primrose with
many spent flowers.

The entire Southwest has been under a "severe drought" up until July. Then the monsoon weather pattern arrived in New Mexico. It is amazing to me how the rain (and hail + often high winds) occurs in some specific areas of New Mexico, even within the city of Santa Fe, and completely misses others. For example, Albuquerque, less than an hour's drive from Santa Fe, has received enough rain this monsoon season to have reached "normal" while other spots in the Land of Enchantment remain under a severe drought.

Map on sign post along the Santa Fe River.
We use to walk along the "river bank,"
but with the not one, but two huge monsoonal rainstorms
the path has been washed out in a number of places
 and the river bed has widen although it is now dry.
Trees were uprooted, huge boulders moved
downstream and several steep banks have
been washed into the river bed.
Santa Fe received two huge deluges less than two weeks apart in July, each altering the Santa Fe River bed more drastically. Individuals who have lived here all of their lives, several in their 90's, have never seen rains like these. One storm dropped 3.25" in less than 40 minutes. As you can imaging the storm drains, street, acequias (designed many years ago to deliver water to agricultural areas and now used by the city for "run off"), and arroyos were rushing and overflowing. Huge waves were created by the massive amounts of water rushing through in many cases way too narrow of a passage in some places, often filled with debris. Some of our neighbors across the street watched some of their property drop off into the rushing water; others experienced the waterline 18" in their rooms backing on the arroyo. Whew! We were spared since our house and property is on higher ground. The Stamm home we initially planned on buying just down the "circle" was one that had water inside of the house from the rushing water of the arroyo.

After these storms two "rain tanks" have been installed on our property that have the capacity of collecting over 1000 gallons of rain water from the flat roof via two canales. Better late than never! San Isidro Permaculture got to this project as soon as possible given their busy schedule. Many here in the area are going the way of water harvesting and water catchment.
Poly-Mart 500-Gallon Brown Rain Tank 
on cinder blocks for gravity watering, located 
in the front of the house between the windows
for the guest bedroom and library.
In front of the tank is a swale
which collects rain water from the
front portale via a canale.
Bushman 530-Gallon Slimline Rain Tank
on cinder blocks for gravity watering.
Installation was tricky since the cement
against the house and the cement
sidewalk slant away from the house.
All the rocks across from the tank
have now been removed and
four Heritage red raspberries and
four Prairie Clover, for nitrogen fixing,
have been planted. These plants are
loving the rain water from the tank!
Rain harvesting makes so much sense especially since during the most recent monsoon rain we have watched hundreds and hundreds gallons of water rush down the street stalling cars in their tracks. And City of Santa Fe Water gives a variety of rebates for water conservation. I am very much enjoying using rain water on all the newly planted perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees! These BEings prefer rain water to filtered city water it is very clear! 
Rainbow during lunch on 6790' MuRefuge's back portale.
No rain falling to the ground but the clouds and
the rainbow were spectacular!

Whether we get rain or just thunder and lightening, we