Sunday, June 14, 2009

First, another book review: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. This is the best book on gardening theory I have ever come across. But this is also a book that cannot be read just once. This is a book to read over and over – there is way too much to absorb in only one or two readings!! I've already learned a huge amount about soil life and what it means for the garden and gardener, about the complex interactions of all life within the garden, and how working with nature makes the gardener’s job much, much easier. There are chapters on ‘Catching, conserving and using water,’ ‘Bringing in the bees, birds, and other helpful animals,’ ‘Creating communities for the garden,’ and ‘Growing a food forest.’ There is also a very helpful appendix of useful plants. Highly, highly recommended. I just wish I had known he was about to come out with a new and improved version!

Second, I’m taking a different tack this week. Instead of listing what I’ve accomplished (which, unfortunately, is too little to mention), I’m going to list what I hope to accomplish this coming week. Or so.

1.Plant something – I have a new herb collection: French sorrel, French tarragon, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, pineapple sage, and mint-chocolate peppermint. I hope to get them tucked into some flower boxes sometime this week – I’m waiting on the proper moon cycle. I’m not sure I’ll garden by the moon again next year. I feel like I’m gardening with one hand tied behind my back.

I probably won’t use straw bales again next year, either. My tomatoes and peppers need daily watering and frequent applications of compost tea. They are growing, but they’re not as vigorous as I think they should be. Of course, the straw bales may not be at fault. Maybe my plants are not getting enough sun . . .

I’m still having problems with my stevia. Seed germination is poor and the tiny seedlings, when I am lucky enough to get one, don’t want to grow.

2. Harvest something – we’ll see what ripens. I have tons of summer crookneck squash on the vine but none big enough yet to harvest. I have okra and Swiss chard ready to pick, but alas, I planted too little. What does one do with one okra pod or a couple of leaves of chard? Next year, I’ll plant more!

3. Preserve something – I think I’ll start drying some of my herbs. I bought a(nother!) book entitled Making and Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson so now I have no excuses! I also want to learn more about pickling. Sounds like another book purchase is in order . . .

4. Reduce waste – I’m hoping to get a clothesline put up and start drying outside in our plentiful sunshine instead of wasting energy with fluff and dry.

5. Preparation and Storage - I’m continuing to read every chance I get. Another recent purchase is Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses by Ricki Carroll. According to this book, the best temperature for cheese-making is 72 degrees. We keep our house at 80 during the summer months, so I’ll have to wait until cooler temperatures for my foray into cheese-making territory. Ah well, that gives me time to read and prepare. Of note, one of the featured cheese-makers is just down the road. I wonder if they offer lessons?

In the meantime, I’m dusting off my copy of Sunset’s Pasta Cookbook. Time to try making my pasta from scratch!!

Oh, I did buy a magnesium firestarter in the camping section of Walmart. It only cost me $6.94, and I now have the ability to make fire without matches. Could be useful! There are other firestarters out there and I may start a collection -- it seems different styles have different advantages and at this price, having more than one can't hurt.

6. Build Community Food Systems – For now, this blog is my attempt at building community food systems. In time, I hope to start sharing more – actual food and knowledge grounded in experience.

7. Eat the Food – My growing stack of cookbooks is aimed at becoming better at using what I grow. For now, I want to make better use of my many herbs.

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