I Have Found the Elusive Raspberry Shortcake!

I have been on a quest to locally procure BrazelBerries’s brand new plant out this year, the elusive Raspberry Shortcake.  And yesterday while at Portland Nursery with my sister and the kids helping them shop – THERE THEY WERE!  They had a about 20 in total, they had just come in that day and the checkout person assured me that we were indeed was quite lucky, these would no doubt be gone in by the end of the day.  My sister and relieved them of 3.

rasberry shortcake in pot

My quest (OK, a strong word) has involved multiple trips to the PN (they are only being by a limited number of resellers both locally and online) only to find that they are out.   “When do they arrive?” I naively asked, and they said, “We don’t know.”  “Can you call me they do”, I asked, and they said “No”.  After the 4th trip to PN and getting the same answers I gave up.  I had not planned to go to PN yesterday (I was supposed to working and my wonderful boss gave me the day off so I could play around with my Sister and Nieces in their yard.)  I didn’t even want to go to PN, I wanted to go the nursery down the street.  I had been making so many fruitless (pun intended) trips there I was a little bitter.  And then yesterday – THERE THEY WERE!  (What is that saying about finding something when you quit looking????)

Why are they so special?  I love raspberries but don’t have the room or desire to have long, prickly, out of control canes popping up all over my yard.  These plants claim the following:

  • Dwarfed so they stay small and compact (3′) but still produce normal size fruit
  • Perfectly suited for containers and small yards/gardens
  • No staking since they grow as more of a bush

Clearly I’m a little excited.  All 3 are planted, 1 at my Sister’s house in a container, and 2 here in my newly tilled bed out front (stay tuned for a future post on that project).

This post also seems like the prefect excuse to thow in some more niece pictures…

Garden in Training

Riddle: How Do You Fit 12 Types of Fruit Trees on 1 Average City Lot?

Answer: You plant grafted, dwarf, espalier (es-pal-YAY) trees!  Well, at least that’s my answer.  So far so good, between last fall and this spring I’ve planted 12 different types of fruit trees in locations of my yard that were either neglected or just hard to plant.   Last fall I planted 3 trees in the backyard, and in the past few weeks I’ve planted 3 trees across my front yard to make a “living fence” (consider this post a teaser – I will go into detail on these projects in a future post). I purchased my trees already grafted and espaliered from my local nursery, each was $50, a bargain considering all the expertise and labor that went into developing these special trees.

Grafted and Dwarf:  Grafting is basically attaching one or more plants together – in this case fruit trees.  The scion is the upper portion of the grafted plant that will produce the plant’s shoots, leaves, stems, flowers.  The stock (or rootsock) is the lower portion of the grafted plant that produces the roots. (see image below for this is just one type of grafting) When you graft more mature trees this can create a “dwarfing” effect on the final tree.  Some advantages:

  • Faster time to first fruit since the grafted trees started out older.  This can reduce the first fruiting time from 9 years to 2 or 3.
  • Built-in cross-pollination since grafted tree can pollinate itself instead of requiring a minimum two separate trees. Cross-pollination is essential to fruiting.
  • Same size fruit as a “normal” tree but from a much smaller tree.
  • Allow for more variety of trees to be grown in the same amount of space as a single tree

Stem Cutting Grafting

Espalier:  The word espalier is French but it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder against”.  It used to refer to the trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it came to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.  It’s been around forever.  In Europe in the middle ages it was used to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space. Today you can see it most commonly in vineyards.  Some advantages:

  • More energy of tree goes into fruit production instead of trunk and branch growth
  • Space saving since it can be grown on a 2-dimensional plane, also allowing for planting in spaces that might otherwise go unused (i.e. hot sunny walls)
  • Visual interest.  There is almost no limit to the types of designs you can create.
  • Alternative to traditions fencing that also supports wildlife.  My new mason bees are going to be thrilled!

Trellis Espalier

My Current Orchard: So far I’ve planted 8 types of pears (5 grafted trees), and 4 types of apples (1 grated tree).  Stay tuned for future posts where I will go into details on my trees, the process of the planting them, and how the trees I planted last fall are progressing!

Bryce Stree Orchard

Gratitude Moment: A Child’s First Seed

Just when I thought gardening could not bring me more pleasure…insert child!  Ok, maybe not ANY child, but it’s certainly true of gardening with my niece.  I had a little taste of this last year when my neighbor’s little girl “helped me” with the bamboo extraction project….which elevated the experience from pure drudgery to something more as she laughed with joy as she repeatedly climbed and slipped down a pile of dirt.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to introduce my niece to gardening.  I’m not sure how much she really understood but you could see the wonder and excitement in her eyes as we gathered our tools, seed packets, and pots and started playing the dirt.

SFS1The first project was to fill her pot with dirt. After she chose her seeds she soon realized she needed a bigger pot, which was even more exiting because she got to select another pot and move more dirt!


Then she used her brownie pan as her square foot garden guide.  Given the size of the seeds she was actually placing 1 or 2 seeds per slot was impossible…which really wasn’t the point…it was fun just trying ( a perfect lesson of enjoying the process over results).


With the seeds placed and the pot watered she chose the perfect spot and placed her label.  Then we put away our tools and started our clean-up (of course while singing the “clean-up” song).


I can’t tell you how good it felt to introduce my niece to gardening and to show her how to plant her first seeds.  The gift for me was seeing life revealed through her new eyes.  Everything became magical…from picking the tools from the wonderous array of options hanging in the potting bench area, picking the seeds from the pile of colorful options in the seed box, to the amazement of just moving gravel with Aunt Cathy’s rake.

It can’t be said enough how much we can learn from children.  I am so lucky to be exposed to these lessons through my nieces.  When life becomes overwhelming, when work becomes stressful, when I start to “worry” about the future instead of “experiencing” the present moment – all I need to do is visit my nieces –  and pay attention.  If I do this with the open heart and mind of a child, I always come away with a different perspective and a renewed love of life.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

– Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

Tar2Trees Turns 1 Today!

Just a quick note to acknowledge that today marks the end of my first year, and more importantly, the beginning of my second year, writing this blog.  I thought I would celebrate by sharing with you some yummy red velvet cake pops (imagination required).

tar2trees turns 1!

I stared this blog with the intent of exploring a rather obtuse sounding concept called biophilia (see 1st Entry!).  I began to sense a need for a change when I wrote Wrapping Up 2012, and formalized the new direction last month by writing My Conscious Living Wake-Up Plan.

Over the last month I’ve updated my blog by editing and consolidating my blog categories and tags to more accurately reflect the content I intend to write about, I’ve updated the site’s “tag line” from “My Journey into Biophilic Design” to “My Journey into Conscious Living”, and I’ve updated the About Me page.  All of these seemingly mundane tasks have helped me because they are “actions”, however small, towards expanding my thoughts.

The change in direction feels right.  Zooming out from the details and specifics of biophilia and biophilic design has freed (and fired!) me up to write about a broader set of subjects.  I feel more more creative and I have a nice queue of projects, and associated blog entries, in the pipeline!

Thank you for reading and supporting my blog, the connection this blog provides with people like you, has been truly inspiring.  I look forward to the next year together!

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Today is the beginning of Spring! Marked by the fact that the (light hours)/(dark hours) = 1, and moving forward it will conitunue to stay positive ratio until Sept 22 when it will be 1 again and start decreasing.

GEEK ALERT: For those geeks out there…the word equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night) and Vernal is derived vernālis, which means spring….and if you really want to “get your geek on” checkout the images below:

Illumination of Earth by the Sun at the March (Vernal) Equinox:


Diagram of the Earth’s Seasons as seen from the North. Far right: December solstice:

North Seasons

What is Moon Planting?

I had no idea that the concept of planting by moon phases even existed until I stumbled upon The Old Farmers Almanac website (not to be confused with the Farmers Almanac…which I think is VERY confusing) when I was looking for the average last frost date and “what to plant now” guide for my area.

The concept of Moon Planting has been around FOREVER (dawn of time) but the actual science behind it is a bit unclear (completely unproven).  But – I love learning about something new and I like the structure that Moon Planting suggests (which may be the real reason some people think it works)

I was having a hard time summarizing the Moon Planting suggestions I was finding so I cobbled together (with bits and pieces from various sites) a visual guide.

Moon Planting - tar2trees.com

Moon Planting Theories

These are the main theories I could find (during my exhaustive 15min search via google) on why Moon Planting may work:

    1. Gravitational pull affects how water is moved around in the plant and the soil (tidal theory).  In theory then a waning moon would allow the water to be pulled deeper into the soil (good for root veggies) than during a waxing moon when the gravitational pull from the moon.
    2. The amount of moonlight affects certain plants growth cycle

These theories are somewhat “debunked” in the skeptics guide to Moon Planting.  One debunking explanation that I find particularly interesting is that by not planting everything as soon as the weather turns nice you decrease the chances of being hit by an unexpected late frost since in some cases you have to wait until the next moon cycle.  Plus, spreading out your planting lowers the risk of other environmental and pest related incidents.

I just may give this a shot this year…why not?  I need a planting calendar anyway!  Here is the link I’m using for my area for tracking the current moon phase.

What do you know about Moon Planting?  Have you ever tried it?

Burning the Past

A few days ago as I was cleaning out some old boxes in the basement (major spring cleaning) I ran across a pile of journals.  As I read the pages it became clear to me that until very recently (the last year or so) when I wrote in my journal the content was focused on angst, problems, and other negatively charged topics, while my more recent journal entries are more gratitude and solution based. This past year I’ve been learning more about how “energy” flows in our lives and the different types of energy we create and consume (Anabolism and Catabolism) and as I read I couldn’t help feeling that holding onto these journals wasn’t a very good use of the pent-up catabolic energy stored in the pages.

  • Catabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that breaks down molecules into smaller units.  These reactions release energy.
  • Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy.  Anabolism is powered by Catabolism

I sat there for quite a while looking at these journals, wondering what I wanted to do them, asking myself why I have been holding on to them for so long and what purpose they served in my life today.  After contemplating this for quite some time I realized that there was no reason I could think of to keep them….but they could service a new purpose for me now, while at the same time releasing them and the energy they contained.

I have gotten into the habit of ending my day (when it’s not raining) by building a small fire in my backyard fire pit.  I find that sitting by the fire at the end of the day is very relaxing – even meditative.  I’ve been using the wood I salvaged from the deck demo project last spring that is not of high enough quality to build something new with as fuel.  It was during one of these evening “burns” that it dawned on me to burn my journals – use those old words as fuel just like I was using the old deck wood.

Journal Burning

As I burned the old journals I found that if I dumped a big bunch of pages on the fire at one time the fire would lose heat, and energy (not enough oxygen to feed the fire), but when I put the pages on one at a time, I could feel a burst of heat and energy along with a satisfying blaze, clearly this was not a process I could rush.   As I burned each new page I was feeling mentally lighter and the physical heat from the fire felt wonderful on that chilly spring night. The next day I turned the ashes into one of my garden beds where it will help build life again….thus completing the circle of energy.

Catabolic to AnabolicThis process is an example of some of the actions I’m taking to grow my awareness tree.  By burning these journals, and ceremoniously letting go of the past,  I feel I’ve taken an important step towards my mental wellbeing.