Living mushrooms for sale in the Ferry Terminal Building, San Francisco:
After two weeks of driving it was a relief to bring the car back and get onto the train to Seattle. Amtrak’s Coastal Starlight is considered one of the great scenic train journey’s in the world. Leaving in the evening, it was stunning to wake up and see the early morning light across the plains of southern Oregon.
Volcanoes seen from the train
No shortage of forests in these parts:
Portland had been on the list but in the end I couldn’t spare the time to stop over. This was all I got to see of the city as the train passed through:
A grey and blustery Seattle awaits:
A “P-Patch” community garden brightening up Seattle:
Oregon grape Mahonia Aquifolium in the sculpture park
and the Tango!
After a day looking round the very modern city of Seattle I took a trip into a more primitive lifestyle at Feral Farm, about an hour and a half east from Mount Vernon. Here Matt VanBoven and his friends combine perennial gardens with…roadkill deer. The roadkill- not only deer but that what the fare while I was there- is collected and processed by the residents of Feral farm, the skins tanned, the meat made into jerky or served up in delicious stews. There is a great commentary on Matt from a previous visitor here, with a great photo of Matt and the deer.
There was much discussion of the imminent collapse of the modern world and survival strategies that would be needed thereafter. Matt admitted one of the great drawbacks would be the likely decline of the availability of roadkill post-collapse, and mentioned something about getting a bow-and-arrow (though he didn’t mention how he would manage without the neighbors’ freezer).
Matt was a mine of information about local plants and ecology, and his garden full of fruit. This part of Washington seemed to be berry heaven and new discoveries for me included the Thimbleberry rubus parviflorus:
These are a exquisite- melt in your mouth!
Salmonberries rubus spectabilis are also good- another new one for me:
Matt counting the rings of a giant Douglas Fir
Beneath a giant Western Red Cedar:
In the Forest Garden at Feral Farm
Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca-something I haven’t yet managed to propagate myself
Pokeweed phytolacca americana- something I am growing successfully, often considered just a weed in the US.
Mat had built some really col mini-cabins, this one with cordwood masonry:
In the Northern Cascades:
As in Yosemite unprecedented late snow- we met folks who were skiing here:
From Feral Farm I traveled to Anacortes with my guide and local permaculture networker Kelda who had arranged for me to visit the famous Bullock Brothers on Orcas Island. We arrived just at the start of the three week Permaculture Design course.
Here Sam Bullock gives the students a tour of the farm:
The Bullock’s extensive permaculture nursery:
The Bullocks became famous some 30 years ago after an appearance on the Cool Temperate episode of Mollison’s Global Gardener series, where they demonstrate the results of grafting apple cultivars onto the wild apples growing in their area. Here is Sam Bullock showing something similar:
Although there was no end of fascinating things to see at the Bullocks’ the most impressive to me was their veggie gardens- one beautiful well-kept and productive garden after another serving the three Bullock families and interns.
Elecampane planted as companion mineral accumulator with apple trees:
Amazing chinampas: a “chinampa” is a mini peninsular or “tongue” extending into a lake or pond providing more edge for growing plants which may thereby need little or no irrigation. A Mexican word, chinampas are used there for growing crops. The Bullocks have constructed lakes and wetlands and dredged up mud to make islands and chinampas on which they have planted willows and fruit trees:
Lots of bamboos:
Giant perennial vegetable called “Fhuki” from Japan:
I was asked to give a presentation on forest gardens in Ireland, which I was pleased to do to the new permaculture students, but was rather embarrassed as one slide after another showed plants that, while fairly unknown outside permaculture circles at home, are commonly found in the forests in the Pacific North West, including Salal Gaultheria Shallon
japanese wineberries, siberian purslane, pokeweed phytolacca americana…
Doug Bullock giving a talk on permaculture history:
View from Orcas twards Vancouver Island:
After a short stay on Orcas I travel back to Seattle and catch another Washington State Ferry to Vashon Island. Puget Sound is eery and atmospheric in the fog:
On Vashon I stayed with friends and past Permaculture students Bob and Jen who live on a wonderful farm run by the local Montessori school.
Bob inspects the tomatillos:
Bob and Jen pick Basil:
Jen, Jamie and Whitney harvest garlic:
Scorzonera and salsify:
Bob takes me around the forests on the island
Our English Ivy is considered a real invasive exotic here- quite a pest in the woods!
There are quite a few smallholdings and farms within a few miles on this idyllic rural island- which has all the peace of west Cork but is just a short ferry ride away from the huge market of Seattle. This is a farm we visited nearby where they were growing wheat on a small scale:
A previous owner had planted hundreds of fruit and nut trees on Bob and Jen’s farm some thirty years ago, including Turkish Hazel:
I spent most of my time picking cherries
which were sold to Molly Moos’ Ice-cream Parlor in Seattle:
Taking the water taxi back to town:
Mount Rainier dominates the landscape from the train heading back to San Francisco:
Panoramic views of San Francisco from Bernal Heights:
The Madrone Tree Arbutus menziesii, native to the Pacific NW and related to our own Strawberry Tree Arbutus Unedo but with much larger fruits:
Leaving the west coast behind the final stop on the American Odyssey was Upstate New York where I visited Christina and Michael near Warwick. Seems there could always be a job for me there pulling pints of Guiness!
A short hike along part of the Appalachian Trail. This is actually in New Jersey:
Very different forest ecology compared to the west coast, mainly deciduous with maples and oaks.
Another permaculture plant eleagnis umbellata is common here.
American Balddernut Staphylea trifolia growing in the hedgerow. Inside the bladder-like sacs are small but tasty nuts:
A visit to Sister’s Hill Farm where owner Dave shows us his rotating root-crop washer:
Solar powered tomatoes!
Sister’s Hill is run with the help of interns and volunteers and runs as a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture- shareholders take a share of whatever is in season each week:
Wine tasting and tour of vineyard nearby:
Details of vine-pruning on a display board:
Last stop: Manhattan. The Empire State Building:
View from the top with the Statue of Liberty a speck in the top right-hand corner:
Haven in the urban jungle- Central Park: