But perhaps most importantly if you sign up for my Erin Growing Home Newsletter you will receive my latest and most dearest project, a carefully crafted Planting Calendar which is the culmination of 20 years of great attention paid to gardening like it’s my job! I worked very closely with an amazing artist and dear friend of Tree of Life Studio to create this beauty and we are both very pleased with our baby.
The Growing Home Garden Year is a beautiful map to guide you through the growing year, including when to start seeds indoors, outdoors, and in cold frames. It highlights what to plan for in your garden each month, and what to gather & glean from the wild in the harvest season. The work of the inner garden is not forgotten: what to tend in the garden of your soul throughout the seasonal cycles is woven in as well. May it guide you on your way to Growing Home.
Finally after months of tender loving care, my babies are ready to find happy gardens to thrive in! I started sowing in January in my little greenhouse, potted them up and slowly hardened them off in the garden. Now I have hundreds of Organic, Biodynamically growth, planted by the moon, sung to by the sun, baby plants to share with my people! ( That’s You!)
Here is a list of the babies who are ready to go!
Plant List Gallon-$5 Tomatoes Cherokee Purple Sun Gold Nicol’s Principe Borghese
It is spring time! The shade of green deepens by the day and my garden is the happiest it will be all year! Beofre i dive into planting this weekend I pause for thought and ask myself “What is happening in my garden? What will grow this year, what will perish? What will I tend and what will I compost?” Just like a family, the garden is always there, ever rooted, but never the same. Every season new things come in strong while others fade away. When I look around this morning, I see peonies popping up that I thought had surely died. I wonder why our lilacs only give a few blooms when they are almost 8 feet tall, and though this garden seems so crowded, I see all the empty spots where I can still sneak in some more flowers, give some more water and continue to create and cultivate!
Last year was a year of great inward and outward growth, yet I found myself desperately parched by the end of the season. I had endevored to farm a tired, hot piece of land that needed deep care and deep healing. It was my pandemic hail mary, I wanted to bring life when so much had been lost as a way to give and grow and generate good. It became a place where women & children gathered with me to sing and sow and feel safe for just a few hours a week. It was healing ground, giving and getting curative connection. It gave flowers and food, more than I had ever had land, time and capacity to grow in my life!! On the physical plan, it was a success, but deep down it had revealed something deeper that needed tending.
All this growth had ripened a hard truth, how deep that healing that is needed really is. No amount of attention & water could undo years of neglect on this land, on all land. We as a people have fallen out of synce with the earth, with generative relationships with the land, and with practices that are reciprocal. The healing of that land could not be done in one season, or by one person, or a even few people no matter how optimistic or good intentioned. Healing work is the work of many, maybe all of us, to reorient ourselves and reconnect with right relationship to our mother, the earth, ourselves and our future. To reclaim our work not only as stewards, guardians and devotees to the land, but rekindle practices that actually generate and nourish life as part of our daily way. I was happy with my harvest baskets full, but heavy with the burden that the hill ahead to health of our world is steep to climb.
This winter took me deep, down underground into the soil of my soul, reckoning and reorienting to my path ahead. It became clear, that my work has always been of a mother, a teacher and a community member. No amount of produce from my garden would feed the world, and not only could my body not keep up with those efforts, but my heart couldn’t either. It was time to go back, to re-enter the world, with seeds and soil clasped in my fists. I had to do what I have always done, to teach my people to grow.
As this spring emerged, and the seeds started to sprout, so did a new website,a short film, a plant sale and new opportunities to return to my original instructions, and to Grow Home. This season I will focus on growing more medicine and flowers and, of course, food on the tiny plot of land where we live. I will reinvest my energy here to really make it bloom to its greatest capacity instead of stretching out to farm dry land without enough resources and only 2 scheduled water releases this summer!! I have to really evaluate what is the best use of my resources and what is the best use of this valleys precious water. Though I will miss that spacious abundance, and those long, lovely rows of beautiful rows of cabbages and marigolds, that land does not belong and so we are not in that marriage of stewardship and commitment for the long haul. I have learned my sweat and seeds are in it for the long haul, for generations ahead of me, to heal what generations behind have not and still crossing my fingers that someday I will find a piece of land I can live on, plant on pray, on sing on, and steward for a good long while. Seeds are patient and so am I.
This season of my life I will also step more into helping others seeking to know their land, to learn how to bring what they steward to life while it brings them life. To help people Re-member their relationship to their Growing Home.
After 20 years of being a garden teacher and consultant I finally have an official place to share my offerings and myself as a garden guide. As with all things with me, it is a work in progress. But I finally feel like in this next season of my life, while the children play, I will be able to bring my work, offerings, and garden whisperings to the world a little more each day.
So my friends, “Seeds and Stones” has become “Growing Home”. That is what we’ve been doing all along, and I know now more than ever that this work of tending and supporting others to grow is my calling in life. Please continue to follow me on this growing journey and jump over to see the new site and signup for the Growing Home Newsletter. May you flourish wherever you grow home.
I have been sorting a lot over here lately; trying to evaluate, release and upgrade. During this process I have been shifting through this little blog of mine, a chronicle of the past ten years of my life as Seeds & Stones. I have come across some gems in these archives and this essay about sorting seeds is perfect for today, as, like every year in late winter, I am doing the same sacred act of sorting my seeds. This week we also did our seed blessing ceremony, because not only does every garden start with a seed, but first a prayer.
The Soulful Art of Sorting Seeds- By Erin O’Neill of Seeds & Stones
The seeds were saved in September. The edible parts had been harvested and the flowers left to dry on their stalks in the garden, forgotten completely since mid summer. When they dried up into seed heads by autumn, they were cut off at the stem and put into brown paper sacks and hung to dry in the shade and abandoned again. Between saucing and canning, homeschooling, cooking and cleaning and everything else that requires my attention in a day, the seed hung forgotten for a long, long time, gathering dust and fading from my mind.
Until today that is, a sunny quiet February day. I took all those sacks down dusted them off, and starting sorting my seeds. It would have been great job for a fall day in the garden, a lot less mess and any strays would have gone right into the ground, but alas…I have time and mental space to clean seed in February and from now on I am sticking to it.
As is often true when we follow our own natural rhythms & internal guidance, turns out February is the perfect time for sorting seed. We are all doing it right now, whether metaphorically or actually, we are taking stock, going through, preserving the viable releasing the no longer useful. As my face was soaking up the greenhouse sun, my hands rubbed and windowed, separating the seed from the chaff, it all felt so right, so deep, so old. I thought of all the human hands that have carefully, meticulously, consciously saved seed for well over 10,000 years. Without that attention & care we would not being eating any of the food we do today, as all of our crops are domesticated, stewarded, & cherished by our ancestors. Seeds were sown into the hems of shirts and carried across seas in migrations. Seeds were stashed and stored like gold, and in many cultures, seeds were never sold, only given. As the task of sorting, shifting and selecting the sacred seeds took over my hands, my mind wandered to the work the seed was doing on me. The practice, the focus, the attention, the patience. As I was working the seed, the seed was working on me. I am not the first one to have been worked on in this way. Every farmer, gardener, grower of any sort has each been through this mill, nature forming us into our true selves. The work and rhythm of forces beyond our comprehension, creating us, every human through every breath.
These mysteries may be lost on our conscious minds, but they are still hard at work on our souls. It may have begun with Psyche, the Greek word of course for soul. Psyche was a mortal woman who became a goddess in her quest for true love. In her attempt to prove her love to her husband, her mother-in-law Aphrodite (the beauty), gave her four seemingly impossible tasks, the first of which was to sort a huge pile of mixed up seeds by the next morning. To overcome her fear of the impossible and trust in her own capacity the ants come to help her sort. In wanting to share this symbolic soul story with you I found Whitney Johnson & her blog Dare to Dream who speaks so beautifully about the potent symbols of sorting seeds.
“Sifting through possibilities and establishing personal priorities in the face of conflicting feelings and competing loyalties requires a sorting of the seeds. Sometimes we need to sleep on the problem letting the industrious collective of ants – our subconscious – work things out. As we learn to trust our intuition, clarity will emerge.“
Psyche goes on to attain the golden fleece from the rams of the sun, a dangerous and wild breed….it is the reeds in the water that help her this time, guiding her to collect the golden strands that have caught in them, after the rams have fallen asleep. “Psyche’s ability to acquire the golden fleece without being crushed is a metaphor for a every woman’s task of gaining power without losing her innate sense of connectedness and compassion. “
She attains water from a treacherous stream aided by the eagle. “Psyche’s ability to fill the crystal flask is symbolic of her learning how to set a goal, avoid the pitfalls that will inevitably come, and to then achieve her goal.“
Her last task is to go the underworld and retrieve beauty ointment from Persephone, being told she will have to say no to people in need along the way.
“To set a goal and pursue it in the face of requests for help from others is especially difficult for women whose lives are focused on care giving. In completing the task of saying no, three times, Psyche exercises choice. Many women allow themselves to be imposed on and diverted as they set about their goals. They cannot accomplish what they set out to do, or to determine their life course until they learn to say no.“
Psyche succeeds in all her tasks, she marries her true love Cupid, and is made a goddess by Aphrodite, but the most exciting part of this tale to me is that she cultivates her intuition, her trust, her power…she is transformed by her heroic quest while holding steadfast to her feminine nature.
There are so many layers and lessons in this story but for me it reminds me that seed sorting, selecting and saving has been the work of women across cultures and time. This tiny repetitive work, much like knitting, weaving, beading, sewing.. has been the work of women; done with children in their laps, others to talk to, and often alone to process the busyness of our minds and ease into the pace of our hearts. These calming, repetitive practices ground us into our bodies and gets us out of our heads, as any woman knows, a much needed reprieve. Rapunzel did her spinning, Cinderella did her scrubbing, Psyche did her sorting… most princesses have to do it sooner or later, and so must we.
The decisions were made. The dust, sticks and pebbles were removed by the winnowing of my patient hands and given back to the garden from where they came. The most viable seed was placed neatly into jars, labeled, and tucked away for warmer days. The intentions were set, the course charted. I decided in February what I would plant in June. All I have to do now is take those jars down and follow through, placing every tender seed into the dark earth like a dew drop, revisiting Psyche’s journey into consciousness with each seed I sow.
Hello out there, can you hear me? It seems I have fallen silent again, or rather the outside world has fallen more silent to my over burdened ears…. sure has been noisy in here… 3 kids in 950 sq feet for 9 months on end has been… well a lot! I have been joking with friends, “Oh you think 9 months is a long time, we have been doing this for 9 years!!” So yes, I have reached a new level of exhaustion… but I must admit, I do it to myself! Like taking on farming as a hobby this year, like ‘yeah more work is fun!!’ But all sarcasm aside, if you know me at all you know not only is growing fun, it is what I MUST do!
This year I got a good healthy dose of it! If you follow me on Instagram, you can see all our farm bounty day by day, family farm days and so much beauty we got to share. We grew ourselves over 1,000lbs of food, flowers, seeds and soil and I donated much of it to mothers in need in our community. It was hard work, it was humbling work, it was really the work I was made for and made to share! But now that the snow lies on all those little cover crop seeds I can finally sneak back out into the studio at night, instead of passing out at sundown, and open up all my treasure boxes and see what my nimble fingers are called to create.
Normally around this time of year you would be getting a big Holiday sale announcement from me, but alas, there will be no Holiday shows this year. I have been working hard to get up to date with technology and get myself back on the interweb after many months away from the computer for the most part, but this requires focus, quiet and well time… all of which I have very little of right now… did I mention the tiny house, big family. Well, I will share that I have not been entirely incapable. I made a few videos on crafting and created a Seeds and Stones Studio Utube Channel for my Parent & Child Class buddies…. I listed my Plant Dyed Silk Play Scarves on my Etsy shop, and now my big task is photographing and listing each of my one-of-a kind jewelry pieces in time for Holiday sales. Wish me luck!
But what I am doing more of anything this month is slowing down, bringing magic to my little big family and praying for the quiet come in!
I hope you are all well and wish you all the best and truly hope we stay connected heart to heart until we meet face to face again!
I have three children who I have been guiding through life and learning since they got here. Homeschooling you could call it, or life schooling, or love schooling, we are all learning as we go and most of the time we don’t really call it anything but the way things are! I am not an expert and frankly will never be because that is just not how life is with ever growing, changing things! However, I have googled Waldorf Homeschooling more times in the past ten years than you could ever imagine and have learned a lot and brought a lot to my family & community along the way. My investigations have gone outward and inward, but more than anything the spirit of the work is meeting the child before you with open eyes and open heart, as we should hope to meet the whole world.
So, some of you know this about me and have asked for tips, guidance and curriculum… so I will attempt to share a few things I enjoy and mind you there are tons more out there I haven’t explored, but one parent can only take in so much.
But before I give you a dozen rabbit holes to get lost in tonight…
here is a little secret…
the fundamental principle of Waldorf education is that the curriculum comes through the teacher, a human being of knowledge, skill, beauty, kindness, a human being worthy of example…. so now, for better or worse, that is you. Being your authentic self, clear & true, is really what your child is most needing, after all, they did choose you as their first teacher! Homeschooling and most schooling is based on the relationship between the student and the teacher so keeping that as the highest priority can really help when you are scrambling for resources, look within, “Hey Google, who am I?”
My advice, don’t over think it, don’t over spend on resources that will give you one more thing to do, don’t worry about downloading information into your child’s brain… just do you and let your children enjoy you as their chosen guide. Trust if you stay open to using the world as your classroom your children will learn more than they ever could inside four walls. Being on the journey together to meet each other and the world before you could be the very medicine we all need and the secret message of these times.
You got this!
My book collection for Early Childhood Waldorf Homeschooling
Ok if you have gotten this far, your are still interested in the world wide web of Waldorf Homeschooling here are some great ( & some free) resources to support your journey. I have collected stacks of books over the years but the internet has sooo much out there start there.
Since it is Mother’s day, and all a mother really wants is help in her garden…I thought I would share the garden I recently put in for my mom. Mom needs an easy, low maintenance garden that is safe from animals, wind, children, birds and well everything the wild west will throw at her! She wants to grow herbs and salad greens which she eats daily, as well as some other vegetable that she loves. Because she lives in the windy, exposed high desert, we needed a container garden situation. Wooden beds work well, but splinter in the sun and the nice ones are pretty pricey so we chose galvanized stock tank beds. You can fit them in your car and have a garden growing in one day!! They are high enough you don’t have to to kneel down and you can just pull up a stool and work them if you can’t bend over. You can grow in any size galvanized steel- even buckets, but these tanks have a drainage hole so you don’t need to drill any holes!
These tanks cost a hundred bucks each, but they will out live me so I figure it is worth it! If her gardening experiment doesn’t work she can always turn them into bath tubs, storage bins or simply resell them! You can get stock tanks locally here and here for starters and pretty much any farm & fed or hardware store.
Mixed cut and come again lettuce
I made little hoops with 9 gauge galvanized wire like I use in my garden and in the fields but be for warned, you do need bolt cutters to cut the wire. With a piece of medium weight ( 1.5 oz) row cover over top, which they sell by the yard at Agua Fria and Plants of the Southwest. We used plastic clips to attach the row cover to the tank and clothes pins to hold the row cover to the wire hoops bought at Walmart.
These medium size clips are perfect for keeping the row cover attached to the tank
Broadcast sown Spinach
For filling the beds I filled them 1/4 up with old rocks and gravel we had laying around and them a piece of weed barrier. On top of that I made a soil mix with
( which can be bought locally at Agua Fria Nursery)
(I used a 5 gallon bucket to = 1 part)
I mix all that in a wheel burrow with a sprinkle of water.
How much is enough? I did 5 loads using this recipe so that is 5 – 5 gallon buckets of each material. I made a video for you but an unable to upload it so for now here is a whole post on homemade soil mixes if you wanna give it try.
Carrots are sown in circle in case we want to add irrigation. They are sown very thick so when you thin them you can add the baby greens to salad- yes they taste just like carrots!
I hope I made that simple enough to inspire you to give it a try. It really is super easy and highly productive. I think mom is pretty happy with her high desert harvest today!
Happy Earth Day- which is every day for me, but it always good to remember where you came from, your mother earth!
Today I got a handful of texts and calls asking me the exact same question…
Me….”Hello, growing home hotline”
Friends….”Help! I planted my seeds over a week ago and nothing seems to be happening, is something wrong?”
My first thought was, ‘a watched pot never boils’… are we in our gardens a little too much that are seeds are getting shy? I doubt it. Maybe something is in the stars…but after the new moon sap with rise again so things should start to sprout right out, but seeds need time, consistent moisture and appropriate temperatures to sprout.
Moisture– Don’t water by habit, water by feel. You don’t need to water every day but you do need to visit your seedlings everyday. Touch the soil, get up close. If the soil is moist to the touch (moist as a rung out sponge) you don’t need to water. Seeds are only in the first inch of soil so this is the area that needs to be moist. If when you touch the soil your fingers aren’t moistened, water. I water daily, but on a cloudy day if the soil isn’t drying out, I leave it. Outside I use row cover over my seeds, like a blanket. I sow the seeds, water and them put row cover over them, then water the row cover. I peek every day or so to check the moisture and water if need be. When I see sprouts, I remove the row cover and place mini hoops over the bed, then I put the row cover over the hoops so the seedlings don’t get squashed, but still are protected against wind, birds, cats, children, etc… I do fold the row cover back to water with a sprinkler until I have my irrigation up and running. ***Note- I always water with a watering can or sprinkler with a very fine spray. Seeds are fragile and can be blasted out of place by a hose or heavy flow from a can.*** Just like this little gardener!
Soil temperature matters more to a seed that air temperature for germination. If you are starting seeds these days indoors, your seeds should be plenty warm to sprout. Most vegetable need 70-80 degree temps to germinate, but keep in mind this is the soil temperature which is different than air temperature. Optimal germination temperatures vary according to the crop, but indoors is plenty warm for all vegetables. Outside, the soil may still be too cold to activate germination, but right now you should only be sowing cool season crops like peas, lettuce, arugula, kale, chard, broccoli, cilantro, etc…. which all like cool temps to germinate… I plant peas in the snow and it works every time! Many people are planting carrot now, which is fine, but it is still chilly out there and they do take a while! You can do a few things heat up the soil faster like row cover, plastic covers, or mulch, and indoors heating mats work really well for peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, especially in January!… but the soil will warm up soon enough, wait for it!
Time– Most vegetable seeds need at least 7-10 days to germinate. If it has been over 2 weeks, your seed may not be viable, but chances are if they are new they are just needing more moisture or warmth to go for it.
Seed Viability-If your seed is brand new it should have at least 90% germination rate because companies actually test for that. If you have had your seeds for a while, or if you are questioning the viability of your seed because it is old or been stored questionably (maybe got too hot or wet?) you can do a seed viability test. Basically take ten seeds, place them spaced an inch apart on a moist paper towel. Slide the towel into a zip lock bag, label it with the date and put it on your fridge… Keep a spray bottle handy because the towel needs to stay moist, but chances are if the zip lock is truly sealed the moisture level will be fine. Depending on the type of seeds you’re testing, they should begin to germinate anywhere from 2-14 days. (Seeds like peas and beans will sprout faster, while seeds like carrots or parsnips will take much longer).
Once the seeds being to sprout, give them a day or two, and then take note as to how many sprouted vs. how many did not sprout. This will give you a germination rate.
Out of 10 Tested Seeds
1 seed sprouts = 10% germination rate
5 seeds sprout = 50% germination rate
10 seeds sprout = 100% germination rate
Obviously, the higher the germination rate, the better. Anything over 50% is decent. Anything lower than 50% still might be usable, but you may need to sow more thickly.
Mulch-Mulching is wonderful and necessary to retain moisture, create soil biology and protect your plants, but if a seed bed is over mulched before the seedlings are 3 inches tall it can suppress plants from coming up through it. I usually apply wet straw mulch around my seedlings, after they are 3 inches tall. If you do mulch with straw over a seed bed, make sure it is light and lose so the seedlings can push up through it. Like I mentioned above- Outside I like to use row cover to retain moisture till I get good germination.
Soil Medium– Is there enough drainage in your soil mix? Some seeds get too much water and the soil isn’t draining properly. If you just scratch one up you may find they are actually rotting under the soil… it has happened to me!
Depth– Did you plant your seeds too deep? What about too shallow? Most things need soil contact to germinate ( expect many tiny flower seeds which actually need light to germinate). My rule of thumb is plant a seed twice as deep as it is wide… some say three times it’s size, but if you are buying seeds every pack will have very specific instructions to follow.
Pests– Did the mice, birds, cats come eat or dig up your seeds in the night? It’s happened to me!
Compaction– If your soil is too hard or compacted seeds may be struggling to germinate, and even if they do germinate they may not be able to wiggle those tiny roots down into the soil. Seeds need fluffy soil to take root.
Pre-soak– Many seeds like to be pre-soaked, especially really ones with really hard seed coats like Nasturtiums and Peas. Could help go things moving, give it a try.
Easter morning, the sun still rises over the mountains and the tulips still burst forth. Prayers of hope, health and new life are stronger today than any Easter I can remember. This morning my children get my attention, marveling in the miracle of colored eggs and a few new books. They are the hope for the world and today their joy brings me deep into my own, being grateful for just having them, and just to be with them is a gift many won’t be able to enjoy today. If you are blessed to be with someone you love today, here is a little story of humility, authenticity and sharing our unique gifts with the world you could share with those you love.
Once upon a time, Lady Spring awoke from her long Winter’s nap. Just like last year, and all the years that came before, Father Sun gently tapped her on the shoulder and shone his warm light down on her to wake her.
Lady Spring dressed in her finest gown of sky blue, with a silken ribbon in her hair, and she set out into the meadow to greet all of the animals and flowers. As she walked, she listened and looked for the for the sounds and sights of Spring—children playing in the sunshine, families sowing seeds in their gardens, people celebrating the return of the season … but she saw no one. The doors were all closed, windows shuttered, and the yards and fields lay empty. Where were all the people?
A robin lit on a nearby branch to share his song with Lady Spring. She listened kindly and then asked, “Where are all the dear people of the village? Do they not know that Spring has arrived?” The robin tweeted a reply, for he had flown here and there and had picked up this news in the village: “The Winter was so very long … and so very cold, and everyone has been tucked in tightly into their houses for so long—I don’t think they know that Spring has arrived!”
Lady Spring had an idea. She called out to all the animals of the forest, and they gathered in the meadow. She told them all that the good people of the village needed their help. Someone must share the news that Spring was here. Who would do it?
All of the animals began to shout “Send me, send me!” and Lady Spring announced: “We shall have a race. The animal that can run all the way around the world and return here first will be our messenger.” The animals agreed.
The wild stag went first. “I am the fleetest afoot. Surely I will win the race.” And off he went. But when he got to the rocky hills, he started leaping from rock to rock and ended up playing there for many hours and forgot all about the race.
Next was the salmon. “I can dart through the water and swim with the tides. Surely I shall win the race.” The salmon began swimming as fast as she could, but soon the sunbeams dancing on the stream caught her eye, and she thought the sparkles of light were little flies. For the rest of the day she leaped here and there trying to catch them.
Then the hawk called, “I am the swiftest of all the creatures who circle the earth. Surely I will win the race.” He shot like an arrow into the sky and soared above the meadow, until down in a field, he spotted a mouse. He swooped straight down to get it and forgot all about the race.
The little rabbit went quietly on his way. He never looked left or right, but gazed straight ahead and held steadfastly to his course. Just as the sun was setting, he returned to Lady Spring in the meadow, completing his circle of the earth.
Lady Spring gave thanks to the humble rabbit and asked him to visit the village that night, sharing news of the arrival of Spring. The little bunny asked, “How will they know it’s true?” Lady Spring thought for a moment and then took a small egg from her pouch. She gently gave it to the rabbit and said, “Show them this egg. Just as the golden yolk shines inside the hard shell of the egg, so the light of the sun shines again and warms the earth in Springtime, so that new life can begin.”
The little bunny set out on his way with joy, and every year he journeys from house to house, village to village, bringing beautiful eggs to all the families and sharing the news that Spring has returned.
Stars moon and sun, now my story is done.
*** Even though we can’t all be together on this beautiful morning, don’t forget to take in the miracles that surround you where you are and share that wonder with the children.***