Uppity Woman: Ruth Stout

Spring brings gardening. After a very long winter of too much snow, temperatures driven by the polar vortex, and ice that seeps into my bones, being out in the garden under the sun is glorious. Digging through the soil is meditative, uplifting, and grounding. I imagine the weeds of my garden as cartoon villains, the rose as an abuse loving damsel, the Stella d’oros as good citizens. My garden is an ongoing science experiment. I don’t expect much from it anymore. I am learning to do what I like in it, with it. If it gives me some strawberries, basil and a few tomatoes– that is a grand thing.

I read a fair amount. Study. I need to keep learning– so I have many subjects I delve into. Sustainable gardening is one of these.

I was introduced to a video of Ruth Stout a couple years ago at a permaculture design certification class offered at the Midwest Permaculture Institute

Ruth Stout gardened in a traditional manner for the first fifteen years of her gardening career. She was frustrated with having to wait to have her garden ploughed. In 1944, she decided to not plough and just plant her seeds. The “no-work” method of gardening was born. Ms. Stout lived to an old age and died in 1980. From 1955 through the 1970s Stout wrote several books on gardening and spoke throughout the US. Her method of gardening involves mulching with hay and not rototilling to simultaneously build the fertility of the soil, hold in moisture, and maintain fertility. The attached video is in English and translated into another language through subtitles. Ms. Stout was a free thinking, strong woman who was gardening and providing vegetables for herself and another through her old age. Uppity woman: Ruth Stout– she is an inspiration.

Ruth Stout’s Garden

Spring! Happy Easter!


Tomorrow is Easter. I am a vegetarian. I have been for a long time. And still I horrified myself with thoughts of hasenpfeffer. On the eve of Easter. The day when the white rabbit, not to be confused with Alice’s white rabbit, comes hippity-hoppity hopping down the road to leave enough candy at my house to make a child sick. I still cannot eat chocolate covered cherries. One time I was sick when I was a small child because I ate so many on Easter morning before going off to sit on a hard pew in a stuffy church beside my grandma who kept me quiet with butterscotch lifesavers. I still associate butterscotch with monthly budget sermons– I was raised a Lutheran. Well, not quite, grandpa was an atheist. So the egg-laying bunny is still a feature of my clan’s mythology. One of our lovely fictions. But while I am usually a pacifist, this week I have been contemplating violence. Against rabbits. Or a rabbit.

Given just the above paragraph, is it any wonder why I drove Pastor Carlson bananas through the four, yes four, years of confirmation classes.

And speaking of religion, I garden. I didn’t garden when I lived in Colorado. I was in the Roaring Fork Valley which had an official growing season of about 60 days. I just wasn’t too certain how to re-orient my gardening and take that on. But I garden. Gardening is cool. Lot of work. But cool. It is like this ongoing science experiment. Bwahaha, what will happen if I grow zucchini next to the melons? Frankensquash!

Science experiment as in: So if I put the tomato plants in the garden space at the north end of the house, what will happen? Answer? They grow scraggly and barely flower. Or, what if I put the basil plants in large pots with almost pure compost? Answer? They become lovely, pesto-happy basil bushes! Planting by the phases of the moon? I am still out on that one, but I will say it makes planting seeds much more enigmatic. Especially if done in the nude. To Mozart. Not that I have ever done this.

The last few springs I have planted 1 pear tree and 2 apple trees. Actually three years ago I planted 2 pear trees and 2 apple trees. And the deer or the rabbits keep eating the bark off my 3 baby fruit trees. Every year. The one pear tree they don’t seem to eat. Hmmm.

I have been experimenting to find a way to keep the rabbits and deer from eating the fruit trees. So far turning the dog out to chase the deer works. Kinda. Good thing I have a great dog that comes back and I don’t have to drive to another county to retrieve him. Don’t ever try this with Irish setters or wayward children. When I asked other people how to keep my fruit trees from being eaten most of the responses involved urine. Good thing I grew up with male cousins. Although tin foil is looking like an attractive option. Just do not assume if you drive up to my house that I cover everything in tin foil.

Of course, Thursday morning I went to leave the house for school and I almost stepped on a rabbit as it dashed out from under my porch. Almost every spring I find nests of baby bunnies in my front garden, in my north garden, in my south garden, and in the back garden. That’s a lot of bunnies. And the papa and mama bunnies, with their accomplices– the deer, are eating my fruit trees. And in the spring they eat my strawberries. So, the thought of hasenpfeffer went through my head. And the Easter bunny. And kind of left me stunned with where my thoughts might troll. I think I will let the bunnies alone and eat a chocolate bunny.

Happy Easter!