Ellen Lewis

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since Oct 11, 2021
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forest garden fungi trees foraging fiber arts medical herbs
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I'm a little old lady learning to garden on an urban tenth of an acre. I used to forage but I no longer live where it's practical, so I'm establishing plants I want to forage at home.
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Recent posts by Ellen Lewis

A couple of thoughts:

It's not your fault that the stuff available to buy has plastic in it.
So it's not up to you to keep it out of the waste stream.
We will either deal with it as a society or drown in it, our individual portion is a drop in the ocean.

I keep a (rather large) rag box. Once it's full the rest goes in the trash. More will accumulate faster than I will use them.  I'd rather use my limited mending time for garments I love rather than disassembling old stuff.

For pure plant and animal fiber garments that are no longer useable, I throw them in the municipal compost, not the trash.

I save old socks (not too many!) to slip over my ripening avocados to deter the squirrels. I suspect it would work for other medium-large fruit.

Another vote for sharing, AKA giving away stuff. Someone else needs it now, someone else will have one when you need it. What goes around comes around.

If I keep too much stuff I can't find it when I need it, so I buy another anyway, which defeats the purpose of keeing it in the first place. Occasionally I go looking for something and curse myself for giving it away. But quite a bit more frequently I am happy to find a recently cleared space to put something I currently am using.
2 weeks ago
Oaks are reputed to be difficult to relocate, as they have a serious tap root.
I have done it successfully, but they might grow more quickly from acorns. They can be slow to recover from being dug up.
3 weeks ago
Yes, there are always ways to give away plants. The point is that there are always plants to give away. Every propagation project results in too many trees to plant, because you're not sure it's going to work, so you start with several.
I have given away plants - mostly trees - on buy nothing, on craigslist, on the email list for my local rare fruit growers group, on various local facebook edible plants groups. (Buy nothing doesn't tend to work very well. They want baby clothes.)
Once, when I was moving, I put a listing on craigslist: Instant Garden, Must Take Everything, and got someone to take away a couple of dozen twenty gallon pots. They were happy, I was happy.
But the culling goes on.

Selling them on etsy is too much work. That fig that needs a home is two feet tall and in a heavy pot. I leave that to the commercial operations. I'd rather meet my neighbors.
3 weeks ago
Regarding the bay, I have seen bay trees in formal gardens in Europe pruned to the size of a large bush, and topiaried. You'll still get plenty of bay leaves.
I had no success with pepinos, though your climate is probably better for them. But they're not actually a melon, they're a nightshade. You may not like them (I don't), and then you can pull them out and try something else.
My most recent tree problem is several European plums I successfully grafted this spring and have nowhere to plant. Also two figs in pots that rooted several years ago and now I need to give away.
3 weeks ago
Jane, in your circumstances I would plant it where it would get sun in the spring while the soil is still moist and shade in the summer while it waits for more rain, if that's possible.
I doubt it will thrive "too well". But you could plant a sterile variety if that's a concern.
I think it's worth a try. For some medicines it's irreplaceable.
3 weeks ago
As far as comfrey being hard to eradicate, I have done it unintentionally several times.
Shade works. Deep mulch such as wood chips works. Lack of water often works.
Comfrey doesn't much like it here. It's dry here and somewhat cool and shady.
I've had it for years and it sort of struggles along, just enough that I can make salve every few years (that's plenty!) and occasionally share a root or try to propagate some to spread it around my yard.
I have put it adjacent to pre-existing fruit trees, within three feet, and it has not seemed to interfere.
Where it survives it works for weed suppression, but it barely spreads, so it doesn't do it for a large area.
I don't know what variety I have. I think it's a sterile one; I have not seen seeds that I recall. I have seen seeds on other comfreys at other times, so I think I would notice.
I probably got this batch from Horizon Herbs, though that doesn't say much because they have both officinalis and x uplandicum.
3 weeks ago
So I used a half pound in a pot of soup with a pound and a half of beans, some pork, some other greens. Quite tasty. So I have concluded they are usable as long as they're not the dominant flavor.
Also I dried some for tea, and it's pleasant.
4 weeks ago
Have you cooked fig leaves successfully? What's your secret?
I hung my hammock from my fig tree and lay down and there I was on the ground with half my fig tree almost on top of me. Oops.
So now I have an abundance of fig leaves to use.
But all the recipes I see are for fiddly nonsense like syrup and panna cotta. I just want to use them as greens.
I steamed them, and they are tender and interesting, but a little too bitter for me.
According to Eric Toensmeier's "Trees with Edible Leaves", the figs that are grown for their leaves are other species. And I think I see why.
But there must be a way.
I made a cheese sauce for them that almost made them good. Perhaps more sauce and less leaves is the answer. Or more leaves and less stem, though even the stem is tender in May.
Or blanching? But they might be too tender for that.
Maybe substitute for bitter melon in a nice sweet greasy pork dish or something. They're not as bitter as bitter melon, but I only eat tiny bits of bitter melon.
Got any ideas? They're so deep green, I'm sure they're nourishing.
1 month ago
Dear Paul,
Thank you for your hard work to take excellent care of yourself!
Regardless of your success at "eliminating" the cancer, (our bodies generate and resolve cancers all the time) clearly you are already living both longer and better than you were before you discovered Tommy. Congratulations!
The longer you live, the better for all of us.
I wish you great success in gathering your people. You've been working towards this a long time. May that dedication pay off.