Pardon my absence. First I was on a bit of a Family History bender (oh, how I do love me a good genealogy binge). I had a nice bit of success finding some long-lost cousins of direct-line ancestors--very satisfying.
Eunny Jang was just appointed Editor of Interweave Knits, the best knitting magazine in print! (You know how I feel about Knitty, which exists only in the ether.) Eunny is a genius--ahh, her cabling; ohhh, her steeking! If you love me and/or if you love knitting, go check out at minimum Eunny's Anemoi Mittens; her Bayerische Socks; and most fabulousest of all, her Norwegian Jacket. That jacket--be still, my heart. I hope she publishes that pattern so that I can make it myself one day. Truly, Eunny tempts me towards idolatry.
A: Invent Cranberry-Apple Mincemeat Pie, of course. Don't forget the Pie Crust Scrap Cookies; you know how the kids love those. The filling tasted great; we'll see what the ladies at the Relief Society's Pot Luck and Pow-Wow think.
Q: What do you do when autodidacticism fails you?
A: Swallow your pride and hire a consultant.
Let me explain the second Q&A.
Watching her, I learned that if you wanted to do something, you gathered the necessary information, then plunged in and just did it. Grandma's process has worked well for me over the course of my life. I've sewn, I've sown; I've made cheese and rendered lard. But recently, I hit a brick wall.
A couple of years ago, I read a great book about permaculture and got very excited about employing its principles on our little third of an acre. Sometimes called 'forest gardening,' permaculture is an agricultural system that seeks to work with nature, not against it, in the production of food crops. The permaculturist mimics nature's systems as closely as possible, hoping for maximum output (food) with minimum input (work). It's a method that attempts to recreate Eden here in the Lone and Dreary World. Here's a quote from Toby Hemenway:
Permaculture is notoriously hard to define in a sound-bite. Here's one way to describe it: If you think of natural building, sustainable agriculture, solar energy, graywater recycling, consensus process, and the like as tools, then permaculture is the toolbox that helps organize those tools and suggests how and when to use them.
I've made various plans for our land since we moved here almost six years ago, amending them as I have worked in the yard and as I have read more books on garden philosophy and design. Hemenway's book pulled all of my dreams into one overarching concept, so I got to work trying to make a new plan incorporating new ideas such as the use of plant guilds, a mandala design to increase the edge factor, and the unique characteristics of our little microclimate.
I got stuck. It was too big; I couldn't get my mind around it all. Figuring I just needed more data, I bought a couple of very technical permaculture textbooks and studied them. I got stuck again; I just could not pull everything together. Then we renovated the house last year, and I had to abandon any thoughts of work on the yard.
Last fall, while reading a magazine that focuses on green building, I came across an ad for the services of Ethan Zickler, a permaculture landscape designer who lives not too far from us. Perfect, I thought. In a flash, I humbly recognized that I needed to bring in reinforcements if I wanted the permaculture thing to happen.
The other day I met with him so that he could show me what he had come up with for our yard. I about fell over when I saw it. Ethan is both experienced and gifted. One one large, well-drawn map, I saw all the concepts I'd tried to conquer seamlessly integrated into a Master Plan.