Sunday, May 31, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Two weeks of travel -- visiting our kids, our kids-in-law and our brandy-new grandkid. One week of trying valiantly to get caught up with the pile of bills, jungle of weeds, and various and sundry things-that-need-to-be-done! A huge thanks to my brother-in-law who kept the house, the garden, the cat and the Mother happy while we traipsed around the country. It's good to be home!

The garden is thriving!! The potatoes are threatening to smother everything in their path and the 'bush' cucumber is vining all over the place, but all is well and very happy. It does look like the straw bale plants need more watering now that the weather is getting hotter, and could probably do with regular doses of compost tea. I'll get right on that . . . Also noticing a big difference in the two eggplant plants. One got a mix of amendments (blood meal, bone meal, epsom salts and kelp meal) while the other got inoculated with mycelium. The amendment plant is winning by much more than a nose. (Actually, it's winning by three or four eggplants). I'm going to try feeding number two the same mix as number one and see if it can catch up.

My potatoes (darker green)have overwhelmed the pepper plants (lighter green)!! Peppers and tomatoes are looking a little anemic anyway. They seem to be hungry . . . nothing a regular diet of compost tea won't cure (I hope!)

And as for the weekly roundup:
1. Plant something – I planted some cannas in the front bed. Not edible, but pretty!
2. Harvest something – We harvested a handful of grape tomatoes. several peppers of different varieties, and a few radishes -- those that didn't get too woody in our absence. The woody ones have been left to go to seed.
3. Preserve something – Umm, not yet.
4. Reduce waste – Added more bottles to my 'drunkard's path.'
5. Preparation and Storage - Made more yogurt. Bought the following books (on sale at Mother Earth News):
The Contrary Farmer by Gene Logsdon
The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening by Gene Logsdon
Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets
From the Cook's Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden
Read Depletion and Abundance by Sharon Astyk (Highly recommended. Review to come one of these days!)
6. Build Community Food Systems – I bragged about how well my garden is doing, does that count?
7. Eat the Food - It all went in salads or yummy chicken fajitas.

That's it for this week. Next week should be a bit more productive!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Challenge Week One

1. Plant something – replanted chard and okra to compensate for a less than stellar germination rate. I also planted three flower boxes with a mixture of leaf lettuces and rocket (arugula).

2. Harvest something – harvested a couple of bell peppers from a bush that overwintered on my back porch and some radishes.

3. Preserve something - Not this week. Florida has such a long growing season that fresh food is available year round – if not from the garden, at least from the wild. Preserving is not a biggie on my list – but it would be nice to learn a few tricks in case I ever need them.

4. Reduce waste – Composting with and without worms. Worms look happy so far as I can tell. Recycling what I can. Reusing wine bottles to make a border for the beds along my walk -- better known in quilting circles as drunkard’s path! Making my own yogurt in reuseable glass jars.

5. Preparation and Storage -- Baked bread using the method described in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and made yogurt. Finished reading Toolbox for Sustainable City Living by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew. While the book does not go into enough detail to be a true ‘how-to’ book, it does introduce a whole panoply of possibilities for what can be done in an urban (suburban, or even rural) setting. Topics covered are: food, water, waste, energy, and bioremediation. Ordered Depletion and Abundance by Sharon Astyk. Started an emergency pantry and began stocking with beans, rice, dried fruit and canned goods. Here on my sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico, our most likely emergency would be a hurricane – in which case the pantry might be gone with the wind. Hence, I’m building an emergency supply but in very limited amounts.

6. Build Community Food Systems – Gave a loaf of homemade bread to a neighbor and took another neighbor on a tour of my garden.

7. Eat the Food – The radishes and peppers went into a salad; bread and yogurt don’t last long in our house.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Looking Good in the 'Hood

This past week, I carefully dug up my potatoes (which had already sent up shoots), dumped out the barrel, and replanted with better drainage (crushed cans in the bottom, sand and ironite mixed with the soil and manure). And they survived!! They even look happy! I was afraid they would rebel at the second planting but I figured it was either that or let them drown. Looks like I definitely made the right choice.

I also planted my flower boxes with a mixture of leaf lettuces and rocket (arugula), replanted some okra and chard that failed to make an appearance, and inoculated much of my garden with mycorrhizal fungi. (After watching the video Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World,
I was so intrigued that I ordered the book Mycelium Running and the supplement MycoGrow™ For Vegetables. I purposely left some plants uninoculated as a control group. Stay tuned.)

So far, everything is looking goood. The peppers are peppering, the tomatoes, eggplant and squash are blooming, and everything is coming up roses, er, vegetables. Let’s hope the good results continue once we get into the hot hot season. . . .

Up for the Challenge?

Sharon Astyk has issued her Independence Days Challenge and I’m a sucker for a challenge. I’ve decided to post my updates here on my blog – gets me blogging on a more regular basis (ahem) – and allows me some expansion room. The idea is to keep track of our successes, however small, and to quit beating ourselves up for not doing everything at once. Just what I need! So the challenge is to do the following and report back once a week:

1. Plant something - I doubt this one needs a lot of explanation. Obviously, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are doing a lot of this right now, but it should be a reminder that gardening isn’t “put in the garden on memorial day and that’s it” - most of us can grow over a longer season than we do, and even if you live in an apartment, you can sprout seeds. So keep on planting!

2. Harvest something - some people are full swing here, but even if you just picked the first dandelion from your yard, it counts if you ate it or saved it. Don’t forget to include food you forage - whether from wild marginal areas, or even just from the neighbor’s trees that he never harvests (ask, obviously).

3. Preserve something - this starts around now for me, as asparagus, nettles and rhubarb are up. Canning looks like a big scary project if you have to can a truckload of green beans on a hot day in July. Dehydrating seems overwhelming if you have to pick the pits out of 4 bushels of plums in a single afternoon when you’d rather be doing something else. And yes, sometimes everything comes ripe at once, some big jobs can’t be avoided, and you just put on the loud rock and roll and go at it. But a little at a time is possible, you can be canning corn relish while you are washing up from dinner, or stick the strawberries in the sun to dry on your way out the door.

4. Reduce waste - This category covers both the old “Reduce Waste” and “Manage Reserves” group. Once you’ve got food, whether purchased or home preserved, you have to keep an eye on it. In this category goes making sure you use what you buy or grow, cutting down on garbage production by minimizing packaging and purchasing, composting, reducing community waste by composting or feeding scraps to your animals, and taking care of your food storage - everything from keeping records and writing dates on jars to checking the apples and making sauce when they start getting soft. BTW, reduce waste also refers to money and energy - stretching out your trips to the store and not “spending” gas on your food, cutting your grocery budget and reducing cooking energy.

5. Preparation and Storage - This is the category where you report the stuff you’ve done to get ready that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food. That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path. Did you get a good deal at goodwill? Scavenge some cinder blocks for your raised bed building project? Find a grain mill on Craigslist? Buy some more rice and put it away? Inventory the medicine cabinet? Pick up a new book that will be helpful? Tell us!

6. Build Community Food Systems - Great, we’re all doing this stuff at home. But what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important. Did you talk about your victory garden at your kid’s school? Offer to share space with a neighbor in your sunny yard? Bring a casserole over to the family that lost their job or moved in? Donate to your food pantry? Teach the neighbor kids to make yogurt? Offer to teach a canning class? Show someone else where the nettles are growing wild? Talk about your food storage or gardening plans? Share a plant division or seeds?

7. Eat the Food - Sometimes I think people have more trouble actually eating their garden produce or CSA shares than they do growing or buying them. Ultimately, eaters have more power over our agricultural future than they know - farmers can’t necessarily lead the way - they have to sell what eaters want. So cooking and eating are the way we will change the food system. This is where you tell us about the new recipes you tried, or the old ones you adapted to new ingredients, about how you are actually eating what you store and store what you eat, or getting your kids to try the kale.

So that’s the challenge. We’ll see if I’m up to it!!