Monday, March 26, 2012


This picture pretty much sums up my life in my house. A fridge serving as a notepad, in front of a window surrounded by cheap eighties paneling. That's a Glenmorangie bottle on the far left, empty, and an empty Madeira bottle. They have a cork cap easily removed, so I like to use them as water bottles. (I did enjoy the original contents.) That rubber hose you see on the right is connected to an MSR water filter, which I use when the city water starts leaving a chalky taste in my mouth, as it does some times. Two coffee bags, Stars and Stripes, a cast iron pan, a bottle of canned peppers which never properly set that I haven't composted, and some of last year's seed in glass jars. That's unknown carrot on the left, then radish, then rattlesnake snap beans, and then another bean on the far right, I think Kentucky Wonder, or something like that. I hope they didn't cross pollinate. Rattlesnake snap are my fave. They bloomed twice last year for six weeks of beans, in two three week segments. Joyful Divine Delicious Bliss does not necessarily describe the interior of my fridge.

Seeds are such an amazing thing. These plants are rattlesnake snap, of which only one was breaking the soil when I saw it in the morning. The seeds hung on the vine in their pods outside all winter. It was a warm winter, but there were several very cold days. How a seed doesn't freeze, is something like a miracle.

The blogger over at The Long Ascent reminded me about Jeff Jeavons in a recent post, and the Jeavons inspired bio-intensive soil prep I did last spring. I thought I might try a little test. This is a somewhat pointy broomstick, measuring the depth in inches, me leaning my weight on it, in the middle of the path. One inch.

This is where the brussel sprouts will be. I forked this area up with a couple of inches of compost. Twenty inches. I am obsessed with brussel sprouts, but when I see them in the store, all I can think is, a leafy, many layered pesticide, herbicide, fungicide, ammonium nitrate sandwich.

This is a bed that I did not fork, but simply poured compost on. 17 inches.

Asparagus! On March 24! I counted twenty seven stalks yesterday.


A little baby rattlesnake master, a curious wildflower like a succulent but not really. I have two older ones in the yard, each about ten years old, once removed from an old residence. This one is emerging in an excellent spot. Though this was a melon mound last year, it's right on the corner of the bed. If a plant pops up on it's own, I assume it likes that spot, and I let it be if it's not otherwise awkward in relation to the rest of the garden. I'm excited about this little one. She gets to stay.

This is an example of something that doesn't work. These are four evening primrose in an arcing line. The evening primrose loves my yard, but there are probably twenty-five or thirty in the second year of their biennial existence. They can be up to six feet tall, and there might be room for five or six, total. These four would be like a primrose wall. Two if not three will have to serve the compost. Maybe all.

A plethora of wild onions, popping up underneath last years growth of mature little bluestem, next to my young Kentucky coffee tree.

I can't remember what this is. It looks like an onion, or a leek, but it's not, I don't think. I wondered about it last spring too, and then I realized what it was, and I have since forgotten. It and the other like it in the garden will stay for now, at least until I figure out what it is, again.

Blue Flag Iris, my favorite flower.

A very happy western sand cherry. It's neighbor on the left is not so happy. I'll propagate some of the cuttings from this one, and replace the other if I'm still here in the fall. Two like this one would provide just about all the fresh cherries I could eat.

My black cap vines.

Red elderberries. Thriving on the north side of the house.

Smoke on the prairie, next to the fire hydrant.


By contrast. my poor, anemic veggie starts. Most of which, especially the tomatoes, I subsequently burned, this morning, putting them inside a little greenhouse with a space heater set on low, and walking away from them for two hours. I should have learned last year with the failure of my potato harvest, not to treat my veggies like wild plants. I planted these a week earlier than last year, and now I'm restarting a week later than I did last year, though it feels like I'm six weeks late already.

I was sitting on my back step a few nights ago, watching Venus and Saturn, one atop the other as on a pole, thinking about the matrix as described by the blogger at Epiphany Now, and peak fatigue. It was about a month ago now I stood on my back step and called out to Venus, asking to find in myself the ability to write female characters. I followed that up with about forty thousand words, the first draft of the first ten chapters of a novel in about eight days. It was around that time that Saturn made it's appearance so close to Venus in the evening sky, and both apparently about as close to the Earth as they get. In astrology, if Venus represents the feminine mysteries, Saturn represents masculine focus and drive.

The blogger at Eighth Acre Farm bought me lunch the other day, at the Seward co-op. I've been eating frugally, mostly eggs, carrots, apples, potatoes and bread and peanut butter, and not much, training my body I guess, this being historically the hungry time, when the vegetable cache is low and mostly rubbery. But it was the Seward co-op, and I feasted, the total of the buffet hot plate coming to $12.22. I had just told him earlier I was thinking about releasing my first two books for free on-line, and the novel in installments for a subscription, on Beltane, May 1st. The number 222 stands out for me, a wake up call of sorts; if you assign a chronological number to the letters of the alphabet, a=1 ~ z=26, and add up all the numbers of my name, the total is 222. We spent most of the day together, remodeling his family's four-plex rental, talking peak, and plants and building. He can't quite understand how I can plant my garden and tend to it the way I do, only to potentially let it go.

I've owned this house six years. I moved in May 01, 2006. I spent two years here, I spent two years away, I've been back two years. When I moved into this house, I was at the low nadir of my life. The house and garden looks like it will be for sale May 01. I've been wondering how to justify my walking away from the house four years ago, my inability to pay for the mortgage since, and the possibility that my father could lose a lot more money on the sale. What have I been up to all that time? All I have is the writing. I found out just this week that the Halloween store I've managed the last two years sold to a buyer in Yankton, South Dakota. I helped load it onto trucks Saturday. The Thursday before that I found out my position as Creative Director of HD Masks, such as it was, has been effectively eliminated, and all the copy I wrote for the website has been undone.

I tend to cut on this neighborhood I live in as square, but Saturday evening I had the opportunity to listen to one of my neighbors sing with fourteen others, accompanied by a small orchestra, Bach's The Passion of St John. Living the life of solitude I do, I forget sometimes what an extraordinary creature the human being is, what great gifts we have. And what an incredibly beautiful and seemingly protected life I have lived. It seems time to emerge more fully, to justify my existence, to myself at least. I no longer have any fear around what will happen to me. Doing that soil test in those pictures, I thought: I did that. I'm living the post-peak life, I realize. Precariously, just beginning to emerge, but I'm just fine.

Even happy.


Luciddreams said...

What you have done is amazing! You should know that.

I'm just starting, six years behind you it would seem...or would it? What with subjectivity and what not.

Your service is much needed just now...on this planet. I have faith that you will end up where you are supposed to end up, but you must continue to follow your bliss...I have faith in that as well.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Six years yes, as the garden goes. But if you put 25-30 hours a week in your garden, it will only turn out to be two-three years behind.

Thanks for the reassurance.

Jeff Z said...

I often reflect on our weekend remodeling conversations around peak oil, gardening, building, people and that sort of thing. It helps me keep going as I sit in the silent cubicle farm that is my workplace.

If the house does indeed sell, I hope it sells to someone who will appreciate all that you've done to the garden. It's a rare person who will do that much, especially while contemplating leaving.

Lucid is right by the way. The planet and your fellow humans need you right now. The way of the fox is wise. Don't give up just yet. There's more beauty and goodness around the corner- the shit just needs to spin off the fan blades a bit.

John D. Wheeler said...

Loved the pictures! Thanks for the plug :-)

My favorite was the soil penetration test. You measurably confirmed what I've casually observed: that the soil where I've piled compost is considerably looser than the surrounding soil. I was amazed that the difference between the area where the compost was forked in vs. laid on top was only 3 inches.

I'm not a huge fan of Brussels sprouts right now, but I suspect I will be post-collapse. It is one of few green vegetables you can actually harvest during winter. (That is opposed to something like spinach, which will survive over the winter, but the leaves are not very appetizing until the new growth comes on in the spring.)

When I first saw that mystery leek looking plant, daffodil popped into my head, but on closer inspection I seriously doubt it. My guess is that is something in the lily order.

Kudos on the novel. I'm glad Bach was able to lift your spirits.

William Hunter Duncan said...

Jeff Z,

I've been wandering the yard all evening, after cleaning up the driveway, expanding the red raspberry bed, distributing the wood chips in said driveway, removing 30 Frontenac grape starts, potting 18 and planting twelve, publishing this post (in the am), planning the exact spots for all eight ordered fruit trees, setting the fifteen propagate western sand cherry starts as per recommended, writing the requisite (min) thousand words, and getting a buzz on - imagining what to do with this house if I had the resources.

All is well. Beauty and goodness is all around.

Pete Doughty said...

"Venus and Saturn, one atop the other as on a pole" -- actually that's Venus (brighter because nearer) and Jupiter. Mars also visible in the eastern sky as the sky darkens.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Thanks for the correction. I was told it was Saturn, but I didn't do my research. You are right, it is Jupiter. Which, I take in astrology, to represent benevolent, nurturing masculine energy.