Refreshing The Garden

Image by Robin Cushman

Boosting Summer Color

After the first ebullient rush of spring color melds into summer beauty, many gardens experience a few hiccups along the way. The best way to avoid color gaps is to make the rounds of local nurseries as soon as you notice a dull corner or bland border. This is almost a civic duty, as supporting local nurseries helps ensure that they’ll still be around when the pandemic eases off. Since staying home and staying safe means many of us are not doing our usual activities, it’s wise to funnel whatever cash we can into the things that give us the deepest pleasures in this stressful time. For gardeners, surely keeping our gardens fresh and full is nearly as important as keeping food on the table.

To refresh your memory, take pictures of any garden gaps, including nearby plants that will become supportive companions for your new acquisitions. When you get to the nursery, consult those images before getting carried away with whatever catches your eye. That’s not to say you shouldn’t bring home every plant that calls your name; of course you should if you can. But do make sure that at least some of what you gather will add zip to those blank spots. If a place is truly blank, as when an early riser also goes early to bed, placing a large pot or container over the slumbering plant will allow it to remain dry and dormant. Fill the container with something that doesn’t require a lot of watering (once established) to avoid drowning the sleeper with sloshing overflow.

Plan Ahead

These days, nursery visits may require a little more planning, as some places now ask customers to make appointments or offer curbside pickup only. Fortunately, our computers can be our best friends, allowing us to shop with our eyes at home, place an order, then swing by to pick up our new treasures. If you’re worried that you might miss something dazzling this way, call ahead and ask the staff what else is looking fabulous right now. If you let your fingers do a little more walking than you intended to, you may need to pick up a few more pots and containers as well as some good quality potting soil. Happily, that’s a small price to pay for the refreshment both you and your garden will feel when you get your new beauties snugged into place.

Refreshing The Weary

If you can’t splurge as much as you’d like to, you’ll get a similar reward by refreshing what’s already on hand. Long bloomers like catmints (Nepeta) can be trimmed back by half to promote new growth that will be blooming a just a few weeks. Look before you start cutting, as there may already be a strong flush of new growth at the base. Avoid cutting those hopeful new shoots and you’ll get a second bloom even sooner. Foliage plants like horehound (Marrubium) and lamb’s ears (Stachys sp) can get a hard trim now. They also may already be showing fresh growth at the base, so cut with care. Overblown mallows and flopsy annuals can also be snipped back now; to encourage fresh blossoms on established plants, water well, refresh the soil with a handful of compost, and feed them with a balanced 5-5-5 or even a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

I usually shear my santolinas now as well, cutting back their lazy sprawl in favor of tight and tidy new growth. Santolina, aka lavender cotton, isn’t related to either of those namesakes, Instead, it boasts several species with deep green, silver-grey, or lively lemon or lime foliage that adds enticing texture to beds and borders. The button flowers are small and cute; I usually let them bloom for a few weeks so the pollinators can drink their fill before shearing them off to refresh the foliage. Silvery S. chamaecyparissus is a perfect mixer for almost any color, from lemon to midnight purple. It looks demure with clean whites, soft blues, and gentle pinks or dramatic against broad red canna leaves and vivid orange horned poppies (the burnt-orange Glaucium flavum v. aurantiacum is my favorite). I’ve always got room for green S. neopolitana, which can be kept in a tidy mound or allowed to sprawl in relaxed, long-armed swirls. S. virens Lemon Fizz is a knockout in a sunny border, where its fine textured, netted foliage glows as brightly as any flower and stays brilliant all year round.

More Color, Please

Many gardeners wonder how they can get their own color baskets and annual containers to look as full and lush as the bold baskets seen in public places. They also often ask why the bountiful baskets they buy don’t stay splendid all summer. There are really two related issues here. Those gorgeous baskets and color bowls grew up under strictly controlled conditions. From infancy, their every need, whether for heat, for light, for water, or for food, was met promptly. The result is spectacular, because the combination of consistent moisture and frequent feeding results in abundant, sturdy growth.

Nursery workers tell the old joke about a customer who brings in a dried out hanging basket and asks for a refund. The clerk says, “Gee, it looks like somebody forgot to water this plant.” The customer looks surprised and replies, “Water? Nobody told me I had to water it!” Though it seems silly, the sad fact is that a lot of people forget that plants are alive and have the same needs as any living things. Plants can’t meow at an empty food bowl or bark to tell you the water dish is empty, so all they can do is wilt or turn crispy. Where summers are sunny and warm, people are usually more clued in to the water needs of their plants. In a cool, windy summer like the PNW is experiencing, it’s easy to assume that the fitful rain and heavy dew will give plants plenty of water. With well established, drought tolerant garden plants, that may be true. However, plants in baskets and containers can’t send roots out to find moisture reserves in the soil. All they have to live on is what we give them.

Wise Watering

In either situation, sunny or not, keep your baskets and color bowls looking fabulous by putting them on a feeding schedule and watering them consistently. How often you water depends on several things. Smaller containers dry out more quickly than large ones and may need daily watering, even if it a little rain does fall. For one thing, dense foliage can shed the rainwater before it reaches those thirsty roots. Wind also sucks moisture of of the soil, making moisture monitoring crucial. Hanging baskets are even more exposed to wind and heat than containers sitting in a saucer or plants in the ground. On very warm and/or windy days, you may need to water smaller baskets and containers more than once. The exposure factor is also important. Pots and baskets in windy, sunny, exposed positions will dry out much faster than those in shady or protected spots.

Although watering is the single most important need your plants have, annuals also need regular feeding to give unstintingly of their best. Where perennials can often survive a difficult year by digging deeper into the soil and blooming less or not at all, annuals have only one brief life to live. If checked in any important way, they may fail altogether. Once badly wilted, they rarely make it back to full beauty. Nursery raised plants are accustomed to receiving fertilizer on a regular basis, and most nurseries don’t feed plants that come in weekly from other growers, so you can figure that anything you bring home now is probably hungry.

Feeding Your Flock

What’s on the menu? When choosing plant food, remember that container and basket plantings need higher number fertilizers than plants in the ground. They also need faster acting food than plants that can tap into ground resources, since frequent watering flushes nutrients from light potting soils very quickly. Most chemical fertilizers only persist about two weeks at best. Thus, we should be feeding container plantings and color baskets with a high number fertilizer such as 20-20-20 every other week all season long. While most perennials will grow happily on a combination of compost mulches and an occasional dose of 5-5-5 fertilizer, containers and hanging baskets need higher number fertilizers like Peters 20-20-20 to keep those hungry, hardworking annuals well fed.

Rule 1? Never fertilize a dry plant. Fertilizer applied without watering can burn foliage or damage dry plant roots. Water containers, lawns, beds, borders, and vegetable gardens before applying any form of fertilizer. Before using a transplant fertilizer, soak new plants in a bucket until no more air bubbles appear. Let them drain, then plant with the indicated amount of transplant fertilizer. With time-release fertilizers, regular watering is more important than ever, as pelletized or time-release fertilizers can dump fast on hot days. Most are triggered to release by soil temperatures of 70 degrees: Soil temps are linked to night temps, so in cool summer regions like mine, time-release fertilizers often don’t kick in until quite late in the season and some years, they never do.

Watering The Weary

Once container plantings and baskets dry out, it can be hard to rewet them, especially if there is peat moss in the soil mix. To water from below, set containers in a deep saucer full of water or hydrate a bunch of them at once in a kiddo wading pool (always on sale by now). To rehydrate dried out hanging baskets, unhook them and place them carefully in a bucket full of water. This way, they will regain soil moisture from the bottom up. Moss baskets that are planted all the way around the sides and bottom present a challenge. It works best to hang dried out baskets from a ladder over a wading pool, so the lower plants don’t get squashed. Let the lower third of the plants be submerged for about an hour, watering from above three or four times about 15 minutes apart. Baskets that were looking very sad should be left in a shady, well ventilated place to recover their equilibrium before going back into full sun.

Posted in Annual Color, Care & Feeding, Drainage, Easy Care Perennials, Health & Wellbeing, Pruning, Soil, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calming Traditional Medicinals

Hot or iced, ginger tea soothes and refreshes

Growing Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Ginger

How are you doing? Thought so. Me too. By now, everyone I know is feeling traumatized, anxious, distressed and/or depressed. Around here, life began to change fast starting on March 5th, which I’ve come to think of as the Last Good Day (a position previously held by the Monday before Election Day 2016). One hundred and sixteen days of mounting uncertainty and fear have worn down the stoutest dispositions. Few of us are free of crankiness and most of us snap fast these days. Indeed, I find myself avoiding most active stimuli and seeking calming activities instead. As our national crisis continues to build, I’ve even given up my morning cup of black tea as it’s been making me irritable and jumpy. Instead, I’ve switched over to a bright yet calming blend of ginger, chamomile and lemon balm, with just enough honey to make it sing instead of sting.

Happily, both chamomile and lemon balm are very easy to please; indeed, once you’ve got some planted, you’ll never lack them again. They’re both huge pollinator pleasers as well, though it’s important to choose the right chamomile; Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a reliable perennial and an ardent bloomer. Given well drained soil and full sun, it will spread in low carpets of fine, feathery foliage. A shy bloomer, Roman chamomile is often used as a groundcover or a walkable lawn substitute (though it takes light use best). German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilia) is an aster cousin that produces airy clouds of little white daisies in late spring, each with a bright golden eye. A freely self-sowing annual, German chamomile is a classic kitchen herb that’s makes an excellent base for backyard tea blending. Ranging from 8-15 inches in height, German chamomile blooms in late spring and early summer. More mellow than vivid in flavor, it partners beautifully with everything from mint and rose petals to thyme and rosemary. Tea can be brewed from both foliage and flowers, though the foliage adds a peppery bite, while the blossoms offer a gentle, mildly aromatic sweetness. Harvest the flowerheads when they are almost fully open, then dry them in a single layer on a clean window screen or drying rack in a warm, dry place out of direct sun. When fully dry, store them in glass jars out of direct light or freeze in tightly sealed containers.

Lemon Balm & Ginger

Refreshing in scent and flavor, lemon balm is a hardy perennial with insignificant flowers and fragrant, tasty foliage. It’s very easy to grow and can exhibit takeover tendencies; in some of my gardens lemon balm has been almost as persistent a spreader as its mint cousins. That said, my gardens are never without it, as it has so many uses in the kitchen. In one garden, the long gravel driveway was lined with the golden form (Melissa officinalis “Gold Leaf’), which made a lovely edging and wasn’t harmed by occasional run-ins with delivery trucks. Give it a sunny spot in ordinary soil an it wil love you forever. Give it great soil and plenty of water and you may regret that impulse. Confine it to a large pot and you’ll need to refresh the soil every few years but will still get plenty of leaves for salads, sorbets and of course, herbal teas.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used for millennia to treat a whole boatload of complaints, and science backs up more than a few of the claims of benefit. I especially appreciate ginger’s ability to soothe indigestion, which stress and worry can trigger in no time. Homegrown ginger is especially delicious, though in cold winters areas it needs protection. Mine lives in a large (3 cubic foot) tub, wider than it is deep, and spends the winter indoors-first in my bathroom, now in our new sunroom. It’s important to use organic tubers, since most grocery store ginger is treated with growth retardants to keep it from sprouting. Like its canna kin, edible ginger needs full sun, shelter from chilly winds, and great drainage. We recently replaced a leaky section of our covered porch with clear panels, added some old windows, and now revel in a delightful little sun room. That’s where my ginger is now, as the wet spring and cool (so far) summer won’t make ginger thrive.

Harvest As Needed

I love the tang of ginger in many foods, from teas and broths to curries and stir fries, so one large tubful produces almost enough for a year’s worth of cookery. Now that I have a sunroom again, I’m starting a second ginger tub, since it takes a couple of years to harvest large roots from small starts. By the time the current tub needs refreshing and replanting, the second one should be producing. Ginger is fairly easy to please, as long as it doesn’t get too cold. It appreciates good potting soil fortified with mature compost, and needs good drainage as well as some protection from cold winds. Like many tropical plants, ginger likes full sun up North (I’m on an island off Seattle) and filtered sun in the hotter South. Mine succeeded in the ground only when planted on a deep berm of sandy loam topped with improved soil, but it grows very happily in the large tub, where the enriched soil is replaced after each annual harvest. Ginger roots grow fairly near the surface, spreading widely but not very deeply, so the width of the pot is more important than the depth. However, more soil holds heat longer when temperatures drop, so I fill the bottom of a deep pot with sand.

Rinse the ginger rhizomes well before planting, and soak them in cool water for an hour or so if they seem dried out. You don’t need a lot to get started; a few smallish pieces will size up nicely over time. Set the pieces 6-8 inches apart, with the buds facing up; they’ll sprout into grassy stems that look a bit like baby bamboo. Cover the rhizomes with an inch or two of moist soil and gently firm them in with your hands. The grassy shoots will appear quickly in a warm, sheltered location, just needing enough water to keep it in active growth. Indoors, don’t overwater or fertilize or you risk rotting the rhizomes (ask me how I know). When the leaves begin to turn brown, dump out everything, replenish the tub with fresh soil and compost, and choose a few of the outermost rhizomes with plump eye buds for the next crop.

Chamomile, Lemon Balm & Ginger Tea

1/4 cup sliced and chopped ginger root
5 cups water
1/4 cup lemon balm foliage
1/4 cup fresh or dried chamomile blossoms
Honey

Bring ginger and water to a boil, add herbs, cover pan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste. Drink hot; refrigerate extra for a refreshing cold drink. Excellent for chasing colds and elevating low spirits.

 

Posted in Care & Feeding, Easy Care Perennials, Hardy Herbs, Health & Wellbeing, Pollination Gardens, Recipes, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cramscaping For The Long Haul

When The Blue Wave Breaks, They Can Run But They Can’t Hide

Persisting Inside And Out

After almost one full year, my tiny garden is as full as it can hold. Annuals and perennials billow over the sides of my only raised bed, while large stock watering troughs hold edibles, herbs and flowers in an enticing jumble. The jumble is not random, however; it’s a working example of the technique known as Cramscaping. When you love more plants than you have reasonable room for, Cramscaping is your best friend. Properly carried out, Cramscaping involves interweaving plants of all kinds, carefully placing them to accommodate the changing needs of each as the seasons unfold. In my little garden, it involves blending edibles and ornamentals, ephemerals like peas and longer-lived clematis, gardenias, Kosmic Kale (our top favorite). On a larger scale, Cramscaping takes the Mixed Border model a step further, mingling trees and shrubs, perennials and bulbs, grasses and annuals, all intertwined with groundcovers large and small, and pots, pots, pots! Indeed, the technique can be scaled down to a single pot packed with culturally compatible plants. The goal (for me, anyway) is to rejoice in a steady succession of marvelous beauties all through the year.

Right now, the garden vibrates with bee buzz as dozens of pollinators feast on the well packed bounty. Many pollinators especially enjoy the blossoms of bolting cilantro and radishes as well as spinach and parsley. To promote succession, I allow the least successful plants of each crop to bolt and bloom, bringing in the pollinators and ensuring ongoing crops by modest self sowing. When long bloomers like calendulas, poppies, clarkia and sweet alyssum are spent, I pull the plants and shake them along the edges of the troughs and the raised bed, and into the verges of the gravel driveway. Already these edges foam with flowers and smaller grasses, softening the hard lines of wall and trough and expanding the scanty garden space.

Blue Wave On My Mind

On any sunny day, we can count over a dozen kinds of bees on the great spills of my favorite catmints, which range in size from Little Titch at 12-18” to Six Hills Giant at 3-4’. As their long stalks bloom out, I cut back the outer half, which refreshes in a few weeks. At that point, I trim back the inner half and it too responds with another wave of blue. It reminds me that so many of us are hoping for a Blue Wave in November, and I’m thinking that just as we have to refresh our plants to keep them going, we need to find ways to refresh our energy to keep working for positive change in our towns and states and country and the world. What helps us refresh when we grow weary and discouraged?

That question came up last week during a zoom meeting of my Senior Center’s Inclusion Study Group. Our usual gathering of oldies was refreshed by the arrival of half a dozen high school kids and several of their teachers. One of their questions resonated strongly for all of us: How do you keep up your hope and energy while working for positive change over many years? The kids said they feel like there have been wave after wave of occurrences that call for protests all through their whole lives. We agreed and said the same is true for our several generations. The world always needs mending and we are called to make and mend as best we can. For me, coping with the overwhelming barrage of badness has required several strategies, including periodic media fasts and peaceful retreats. I feel blessed that the garden has always been a sure refuge in times of trouble and grief, whether it offers the opportunity for ferocious chopping and furious weeding or slow, soothing tasks like gathering seeds and potting up seedlings.

Seeds For The Future

Gathering and sowing seeds is of course an act of hope and faith in the future. Having thoughtful, frank conversations with ardent young people feels the same way; passing along our experience, hope and strength is like sowing seeds of skillful activists who will carry on into the future. Eager to help us here and now, the young people suggested that those of us who can’t attend protests anymore could organize a car cavalcade, as graduating high school seniors have been doing locally. Instead of marching to support the Black Lives Matter movement, we could cover our cars with banners and drive slowly in a peaceful show of enduring activism. We may be slowing down, but we do know how to keep on keeping on.

Successful activism relies on succession, bringing in and encouraging young people to stand up and speak out about issues that they are passionate about. Working with young people makes me realize that times have seriously changed. For us oldies, the world our adult kids and grandkids experience is very different to what we experienced at their ages. Friends with young kids say the same thing; each generation grows up in a different world. How do we cross those generational divides to communicate? Talking with young people reminds me of seed sowing, scattering what we hope with take root and develop. Nature is generous, creating millions of seeds though only a relative handful will mature to produce seed in turn. As parents, as grandparents, as teachers and educators, perhaps just a few of the millions of messages we shower on our children will flourish and bear fruit, but those few can change the course of history.

Promoting Steady Growth

Successful Cramscaping depends on good soil, good drainage, and good air circulation, creating and maintaining conditions that promote steady growth. A Cramscaped garden is packed full, but carefully tended to make sure that all participants get what they need. As soon as the dark orange horned poppies (Glaucium flavum ssp. aurantiacum) ripen their slender seed pods, I’ll cut them back to allow more light and air so my moon carrots (Seseli gumiferum) can launch their tall stems tipped with puffy umbels unhindered. Over time, the mix will change as permanent plants claim the space they need and short timers fade away. Eventually, a working balance is achieved and the gardener can steer with a lighter hand. Working respectfully with younger people reminds me that nurturing rising generations also takes a lighter hand, and elders may do better to provide stories rather than advice.

The enormous surge of protests around the world is encouraging thoughtful conversations in families and communities, perhaps deeper and bolder than ever before. If we have means, we simply don’t experience the pandemic the way people with fewer resources do. How can we build our understanding of what Black people and other people of color are experiencing in terms of safety and ability to stay home and stay well, now and throughout their whole lives? Life experiences color our feelings as white or Black people or people of color, from small town to big city, from activist youth to perhaps complacent maturity. What shaped our ideas about police and policing? Some of us always viewed police as military (from civil rights/Vietnam war protests on) while others were taught that the police are our kind and good helpers; are our embedded beliefs accurate today? MLK said “A riot is the language of the unheard.” What do we think/feel about looting as part of protests? Peaceful protests are far more comfortable, but is there a truth missing? These are the things I’m pondering as I pull up bindweed (surely a living metaphor!) and fill yet another trough with fresh soil. Onward!

 

Posted in Garden Design, Health & Wellbeing, Plant Diversity, Plant Partnerships, Pollination Gardens, Social Justice, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Teaching Gardening | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Of Peas And Peace

Peaceful Protests Millions Strong

The last few weeks have been crowded with so much pain and so much tentative hope. Hundreds and thousands of people are turning out for peaceful protests in cities all over the world. Peaceful protests are appearing in small towns, even places known for rampant racism. People who consider themselves to be conservative are discovering an increasing willingness to admit that embedded racism is destroying our country. More open acknowledgement of structural racism is occurring in many other countries as well. In Seattle, a remarkable ongoing protest has turned into a peaceful takeover of three to four city blocks (12 total) centered around an evacuated police station. When FOX News attempted to portray this protest as dangerous and violent, the exposure of their faked images (they inserted the same threatening armed figures in a few too many photoshopped attempts) won wider approval for the protesters and lost FOX cred with some of its followers.

Initially called CHAZ for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, the burgeoning community is now titled CHOP, for Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, as the “autonomous” claim was sidetracking more important issues. Rather than a surging mass of dangerous radicals, the community offers open stores and coffee shops, free food and clothing, free libraries and kids’ toys. I especially appreciate that it’s centered on a garden; the six-foot circles intended for social distancing in Cal Anderson Park have been converted to beds of peas and tomatoes, lettuce and squash. (Gives “crop circles” a whole new twist.) This self-governed community is police-free but pollinator friendly, with herbs and flowers tucked in between the food crops. There’s still room for kids to play, and they do, along with Capitol Hill’s daily dog walkers.

Be A Good Neighbor

Visitors are welcome, and are asked not to treat the CHOP as a novelty or a sideshow. The organizers’ set of dos and don’ts are good guides for crafting a peaceful, less racist future.

DO
– bring money and give to black organizers
– Participate in anti-racism education
– Listen to black speakers
– Follow community rules
– Respect black bodies
– Take note of the space you’re occupying. This isn’t only about your physical space but your vocal space. Ask yourself: Are you taking up space a black person could be? Does your opinion need to be voiced if it’s silencing a black person’s voice? Is it even necessary to say? What does it contribute?
– Keep watch of the barricades and be on the look out for suspicious behavior, plain clothed police, informants etc
– When the need for bodies to hold the line occurs, go to the front
– Always be willing to protect the BIPOC community around you
– Recognize that this place was fought for by the black leaders and community organizers and that it is not yours to take over & co-opt

DONT
– Come here to get drunk
– Come here just to hang out with friends
– Spend all your time chilling in Cal Anderson like it’s any other day
– Silence the speech of any BIPOC
– Demand answers or explanation of the movement from black organizers
– Come here if you don’t value and respect black voices
– Come here if you’re trying to get brownie points for being a “good ally”
– Don’t call yourself an ally, period.
– Argue when you’re called out
Don’t take selfies & do your best not photograph faces

Word On The Street

A local advocate adds, “CHOP is a beautiful place to see and I hope everyone gets a chance to come see what this amazing black community we have here in Seattle has created and it holding for us to witness. But do be mindful of your presence here and understand Seattle’s deep history of racism and that by being in this space you’re witnessing history.

This isn’t a place to have “fun”. This is a battle and an active war zone. For the past two weeks almost every night people all around you have been maced, tear gassed, flash bombed, shot with rubber bullets, police are targeting people and hunting them down. This isn’t CHBP. This is history and you need to be aware of what you are witnessing so we all can get our demands taken seriously and met.”

Meanwhile

This resonates for me: I’m feeling as if we are at war, yet most of us are not living in the war zone. We can see it and hear it on the news and on social media, we can hear it and see it when/if we join local protests, but for many people the experience is not direct. Similarly, for most of us, our experience with the pandemic is not direct. For me, it feels surreal to be walking in my nearby waterfront park, listening to birds and watching otters at play, knowing that across the water Seattle is still experiencing the harsh realities of both covid19 (Washington’s patient numbers are rising again as restrictions ease) and the furious and duplicitous backlash against the peaceful protests from police and local government. I can live comfortably in my beautiful community of largely white, educated and well off people and not feel the effects of either dire experience.

That said, I live in an older mobile home park, one of very few pockets of affordable housing on this island of privilege. Most of my immediate neighbors, like me, are people of moderate means, living in modest homes. Many of us are elderly or aging past our active stages of life. Few of us are able to be big donors or to actively support causes we care deeply about. However, we can still be helpful by educating ourselves (there’s a ton of information available through libraries and any number of booklists these days). As allies, we can show up for protests and meetings, online or in real life (it could happen again, really). We can help just by talking with and listening to family, friends and neighbors about deeper issues than weather (though yes, even that can be tricky with climate change in the mix). I find it more useful to share my personal stories than opinions, as it often elicits other people’s personal stories and experiences, which often changes the temperature and quality of the conversation. It’s also useful to check your stories before sharing, as “virtue signaling” can come off as smug and complacent or better-than. Ask me how I know….

Be A Listener an An Amplifier

I’m still learning that listening is a skill that requires practice and patience. We live in a contentious culture and it’s very easy to slip from listening to arguing, especially when we don’t agree with what we’re hearing. Facilitating a Trans-Parent support group is helping me listen deeper, listen past anger and bluster to the underlying fear and pain. When I make space for people to fully express their concerns, it helps them hear themselves better as well. Most of the time, their own insights are far more powerful than my advice, which is generally about listening anyway.

Even deep introverts can be strong allies. My transgender daughter, who rarely leaves the house, is considered a Social Justice Cleric by her online gamer cohort, and on her multiple social media outlets, she has a reputation for being wise, kind, and helpful to people who are scared, confused and in pain. She’s also recognized as an “amplifier of signals”, someone who posts and re-posts important social justice messages. It’s not nothing, and every little bit of social change accretes into something bigger and more potent.

About Those Peas

In my own garden, like those beautiful, hopeful crop circles on Capitol Hill. peas are ripening daily. Sweet and crisp, their slight earthiness makes them a perfect partner for tart-sweet cherries in this crunchy raw salad. The flavors need a little time to meld, so let it stand 20-30 minutes while you fix the rest of your meal.

Raw Spring Pea & Cherry Salad

1 cup snap peas in the pod, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup chopped pitted Rainier or any cherries
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced mint
Dash of kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Combine all ingredients and let stand 10 minutes then adjust seasonings to taste. Let stand another 5-10 minutes and serve at room temperature. Serves 2-3.

Posted in Climate Change, Health & Wellbeing, Social Justice, Sustainable Living, Teaching Gardening, Vegan Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment