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Rebecca Norman

gardener & author
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since Aug 28, 2012
Rebecca likes ...
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
Rebecca has lived in Ladakh in the Himalayas since 1992. She's a bit of a crabby, grumpy character but is trying to Be Nice on Permies.
Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Recent posts by Rebecca Norman

William Bronson wrote: Rebecca ,I'm curious, how are foundations of those buildings made?
I'm thinking concrete over a rubble trench?

Sorry I didn't see this till now. Our foundations are dry-stone masonry with stones broken to shape. This photo is my house, and had an RCC plinth beam. After this photo, the rest of the house was old style rammed earth, ie a slightly wetter and more clayey mix, rammed by hand.
1 day ago
Oh my god, Tereza, i love it!

I've handed off the volunteer emails to somebody else now, but when she gets a good one she forwards it to me.

(For context, a student group visits our school every year for a week, from an expensive boarding school in South India associated with the Isha Foundation, which is often characterised as a "yoga cult," though the group who visits our school doesn't exhibit anything like that)
-------- Forwarded Message --------


Can I fly into Ladakh and volunteer now (at the earliest) for 6 weeks?? Let me know when NOISY NOSY Idiotic Tourists stop and start coming again?


There is something about Ice Skating on your page, that could be looked into!

I am a seasoned Mountain Trekker and would like to be treated like one, unlike no(i)sy  tourists!


2 days ago

Anita Martini wrote:I am a bit confused: I looked up the German names for marigold, and it seems to be used for both tagetes and calendula. I thought it means tagetes, but now I am doubting.
Is there a different name for calendula?
Both are popular as companion planting here. Calendula is easier as the tagetes is a favourite of the slugs.

Yes, it's confusing! Americans say "marigold" only for Tagetes, whereas British people say "marigold" for Calendula (or both? I'm not sure). There is a term "pot marigold" for calendula that is supposed to help differentiate them, but I've never met a person who says "pot marigold." In US "calendula" is a common name, not a weirdly scientific name. I don't know what British people call Tagetes since they call Calendula "marigold."

Supposedly, the idea that "marigolds" repel pests in a major way is a bit of a myth, and apparently Tagetes only repel soil nematodes while their roots are still in the soil, or something like that, and anyway, I don't know if all of us really have a problem with nematodes.

Both calendula and tagetes grow, bloom, and self-seed like crazy where I live.
6 days ago
I think in a small diverse garden crop rotation is not as important as it is in large production, where whole fields may be single crops. Or in large production where added nutrients are expensive and the value from their usage has to be maximised. A few crops have specific pests or diseases -- though maybe not in your location -- that really make crop rotation helpful. It might help to ask other local farmers and gardeners which pests and diseases are frequent problems there.

I often spend time in the winter making elaborate plans of layout and rotation and what-all, but then spring rolls around and suddenly I have material that has to be planted and only some areas are ready, and there you go, the whole plan goes out the window. Also, self-seeding tends to happen in the same spot and hasn't seemed to be a problem so far. But my garden is small, overcrowded, and very diverse, and whatever pests and diseases I have had problems with haven't seemed to be because of repeat locations.

Some crops can share space within the same season, either because their planting and harvest times allows succession (especially garlic), or because one can produce and finish before the other needs the whole space (eg lettuce, arugula, beets, etc around squash, melons and other heat-loving sprawlers).

I think a realistic plan would be to map out a real 4 year rotation only for the few crops it really matters for, and fit all the others in between anywhere whenever the time is right.

But yes, I've often wished for a garden mapping app where I could put in a map of my garden, and then mark what's planned, or actually growing, in each area, and then "run slideshow" to see it all evolve. Mmmm...
Updating my post above:

Rebecca Norman wrote:... this year I've got seeds of and going to try out orach, Malabar spinach, and New Zealand spinach. I already started a couple of good king henry plants last year and they are currently reseeding in the greenhouse. I haven't tasted it yet.

Ah well, those weren't very successful experiments:
Good King Henry: Turns out I didn't like it much, and am trying to get rid of it though it did shed seeds around.
Malabar Spinach: Very nice as a salad plant (I didn't try cooking it) but our summer wasn't hot enough for it to thrive, so one plant survived and got to 8 inches tall. I'll grow it again, but add protection and hot microclimate.
New Zealand Spinach: Thrived, sprawled, and has continued growing unperturbed when there were light frosts and then the greenhouse was put on over it. But it turns out I really disliked it. I tried it only cooked, because I saw online some people really disliked something in it fresh. But even cooked, it has some kind of unpleasant metallic taste, or something off, to me. I'm the one in the house who loves greens of many types, but now I know I don't care for sorrel, good king Henry, or NZ spinach. Phooey! My housemates like it so I guess I'll serve it to them and guests this winter when there aren't other greens around, and then phase it out.
Orach: Yeah, I'll plant it again. I found the leaves a bit sturdy in a good way, and a bit salty in a not great way, but nice in salad. I didn't try it cooked. I'll get seeds for the bright red or purple ones, because those ones in the mix I grew seemed most interesting in salad. Since I usually have a shortage of salad greens in July-August, that'll help.

So my greenhouse green leafies for the winter are back to my old friends: two kinds of kale, parsley, spinach, various lettuce, arugula (rocket), claytonia; and leaf radishes and a new red mustard that I haven't tried before. Maybe I'll still seed some others. It's nice how different things produce at different times over the course of the winter.
1 week ago
I've lived in houses in the high desert heated by attached south-facing greenhouses for about 25 years. Our greenhouses are detachable. They are just UV-resistant film, so we put them up in October and take them down in April or May when it gets too hot and/or windy. Otherwise, as somebody said above, all the plants would be killed by the heat, and it would make the house unliveable.

It's also important to have large areas of door and window in the east and west ends, so that in the shoulder season of spring and autumn, you can open the ends in the daytime and close them up in the night.

1 week ago
Wow, I'm a big fan of your book, The Bioshelter Market Garden! So happy to hear that you'll be here on I'm looking forward to seeing anything you write here.

I'm not a market gardener, but I've been living with bioshelters for the past 25-odd years here in Ladakh, inspired, like you, by New Alchemy, where I interned back in the early 1980s. When I came here to the high Himalayas, the school I worked in was heating their adobe houses with seasonally attached greenhouses on the south side, created by the director, a local engineer and inventor. I have always filled them with plants, both food plants and ornamentals, though animals and fish tanks have remained undone so far.

So it was great to read your book, which brought it all back into focus, how it all fits together.  
1 week ago
Wow, that sounds like a great idea, and I might try it!

What a friend of mine did, was pin up woolen blankets right against the window in winter, that hung right flat to the glass. When you pulled them away from the glass in the morning, for an instant the glass was clear, but then it fogged up and moisture dripped down to the sill before your eyes. So the wool curtains very close to the glass seemed to prevent the warmer moister air from reaching the glass.
1 week ago