Posts Tagged ‘growing things’

Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree …

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Shopping for apples in a supermarket you are likely to find just a handful of names. Red or Golden Delicious – a misleading name if there ever was one because as hard as I try I can find nothing the least bit delicious about them – then there is Jonathan, Granny Smith, McIntosh, and just a few more. As far as I am concerned not a one among them to get excited about.

Out of the thousands of varieties of apples why do we only find a handful in the stores? Because in order for apples to be of use to the professional grower they must have certain characteristics;  being tough enough to transport is probably number one on the list, resistance to certain diseases is another, closely followed by how long the fruit will keep nice and crisp looking, and then of course the trees have to produce reliably year after year.

If you were to look at the apple trees in our garden right now, their branches so heavy with fruit they in places touch the ground, you might be tempted to conclude that these varieties would be in the list of must haves.  Their skins so beautiful they appear as if someone had taken a paint brush to them, a taste that must be experienced, sweet and juicy and tart at the same time. Most of the trees have been around so long that generations of wood-peckers have been raised in the holes in their branches. They look like the old warriors they are, gnarled and bent, yet still they produce an abundance of delicious fruit. Every other year that is. This year we don’t know what to do with the harvest, next year we might, if we are really, really lucky, get a dozen apples from five big trees.

In another week or so we will start picking, but since everything in our garden is allowed to grow naturally without pesticides or chemical feritlizers, there is a bit of windfall. And this is where the title of this post comes into play – do not venture under the apple tree on a breezy day, unless you are equipped with a footbal helmet that is ;)


Thursday, December 11th, 2008

“We, the people, respectfully request that an organic farm be planted on the grounds of The White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.”

Thus starts the petition to president-elect Barack Obama. What a simple yet innovative idea!

Can you imagine corn and lettuce and tomatoes growing on the White House grounds? Well, some people with vision have not only thought about it, they have grafted a petition to do away with some of the manicured lawns and replace them with vegetables. The benefits? Fresh vegetables for the table of not only the occupants of the White House and their guests, but also for public school programs and food pantries in Washington, DC. The cost of this plan should be lower than the care and maintenance of the current lawn. The plan is for volunteers on bicycles or on foot to deliver the food. To get all the information about this project visit their site, and maybe sign the petition.

Apparently it is also possible to grow vegetable on top of an old school bus. Not the easiest way to do that I think, but it is certainly an attention getter ;)

You may also want to check out the article “Foodies Petition Obama” on La Vida Locavore‘s site.

Turkey day the eco way

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

for this year’s celebratory dinner this news comes just a tad too late, but it is something to remember before your next turkey is brought to the table. I think we have all been conditioned (not to use the word brainwashed) to think that turkeys come frozen, with breasts that are puffed up like balloons, lots of white meat that doesn’t really have all that much flavor when you come down to it. But there is some good news: some farmers are raising heritage birds again, turkeys that are not bred for their huge sizes but for flavorful meat, turkeys that are not cooped up in places too small for them but have the run of the land. And they are beautiful birds, resembling those we remember from picture books about the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, the Bourbon Reds. They are colorful animals with reddish brown feathers and white tipped wings that I first read about in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Vegetable Miracle“. Maybe you can find a farm in your area that specializes in old breeds. If you do, let us know. My grandmother used to tell us kids that turkeys have 12 different kinds of meat. Over the years that fact seems to have gotten lost. Ah, maybe those were the good old days after all ;)

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thankgsgiving!

Wild lettuce

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

this afternoon, as I was preparing to lay the ground work for another section of path around the rose beds I discovered lettuce! A few years ago I put some seed down, we had some delectable salads that first year, and ever since then the harvest has been a pretty steady one even though the exact location of the plants has been somewhat unpredictable. Apparently the birds scatter the seeds, and so I have wild lettuce appear in the middle of a path, between the roses, and – I know this is hard to believe – sometimes even in the vegetable garden ;)

So tonight’s dinner will center around a nice salad, the herbs are still producing nicely and will be mixed in, possibly one of the last hurrays of the season. There is some frosty weather in the forecast ;(

You might know this type of lettuce as corn salad or lamb’s lettuce. No matter what you call it, it is a real taste treat, far better than the stuff one can buy in the market.

Fruit too ugly to eat?

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

It appears that the European Commission is doing away with certain rules that deal with fruit and vegetables having to do with a standard of perfection. And to think that I wasn’t even aware of the fact that we are paying bureaucrats to ensure we are not confronted with  – ah – what – ugly fruit on the supermarket shelves? Give me a break! An excellent guideline might be – if it is really too ugly, let’s say revoltingly ugly, it might not sell. But do we really need someone to protect us from seeing that imperfect peach or whatever?

Actually the restrictions are only lifted for 26 items (among them apricots, artichokes, asparagus), but remain in effect for another 10 types of produce which make up about 75% of items sold in the EU (apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes). So the good news is that as of July 1 2009 a cucumber does not have to show a certain curvature to be allowed to grace the market basket. That is good news I suppose, but my question is still – what about the taste? Is that not an important aspect of what we eat? Anybody care about that?

You can read more about how the EU slices up ‘ugly fruit’ rules.

And here is some imperfection that grew in my garden last summer. Weird to look at but still quite tasty as I remember ;)

Gene manipulation? No thanks? You think!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

isn’t anything safe anymore? Bad enough that GM food quietly finds its way onto our supermarket shelves. Now we can also worry about seed contamination. If you want to read how our current government is looking out for us, and if you think that growing your own takes care of your worries, think again. You might want to take a look at this article. Scary in so many ways.

the things we give away – just a thought

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

This morning I was awakened by the garbage truck that came thundering down the street, making quite a racket and spewing smelly exhaust. The truck comes by the house every 2 weeks to take away the leaves, the grass clippings, the basic ‘stuff’ that collects in the kitchen. Half awake it dawned on me that many of us give away for free the very things that every gardener can and should use to improve the quality of the soil, the things that should go on a mulch pile and not in a plastic can to be carted off.

I am not a convert to organic gardening. As far back as I can remember never was chemical fertilizer used in our garden. While there were no grass clippings when I was growing up – every inch of the garden was used to grow food – there were plenty of leaves from the fruit trees in the fall, the neighboring farm had cows and we could have all the manure, hay and straw that we wanted for free; we had an organic garden and weren’t even aware of it. So when I started to grow things it seemed only natural to me to continue in a similar way. Now, as I refer to the many books that I am starting to collect on the matter, I read a chapter and nod my head, thinking yes, of course, I knew that ;)

So as I lay listening to the truck picking up the good stuff that gets taken away I wondered whether I could make a trade with my neighbors, they can have all the zucchini, cukes and tomatoes in the summer months for a year-round supply of their organic refuse. Hm! Just a tought.

Italian food, lasagna and much more

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Italian food – ideal for a cold fall evening. Just breathe in that lovely tomato-garlicky aroma! This summer I discovered a recipe that is  a very light version of eggplant parmigiana that is made by layering vegetables, eggplant, peppers, carrots, mushrooms etc., and without the cheese. Come to think of it, it is time to give it another try. Don’t let the preparation discourage you, the dish freezes quite well. So make a big batch and enjoy, and don’t worry about the calories!

So much for food. Recently I came upon a post that talks about “Lasagna Gardening“. Sounds different enough to get my attention! A promise to cut back on weeds and give the old vegetable patch an energy boost in one easy step? It sounded so good that I grabbed all the newspapers I could find and went out on this foggy, drizzly morning to get started. Huge potential there!

Taking care of our garden helpers

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Fall has undeniably arrived with the first frost of the season that gave the leaves stupendous colors, caused many flowers to wilt, a season that makes us huddle around a warm fire. This is also a time to remember the many little creatures that were such a big help during the growing season; the spiders, ladybugs, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, etc.

For many of them winter can mean certain death, but with just a little care we can make the difference between these helpers seeing another season or not. What can we do? With very little time and at almost no cost we can provide winter shelters.

Bugs, bees, ladybugs and such can find shelter from the worst cold in flower pots that are stuffed with wooden sticks, straw, sawdust, even small stones can be used. You can simply turn the flower pots on their side and leave them in a protected spot in the garden, or you can hang them from branches with rope wrapped around a wooden stick that you insert into the drainage hole of the pot.

This year I also used a branch from an old apple tree that broke off because it had one too many holes made by woodpeckers. Same procedure, stuff any cavity with straw, wood shavings, stones, or such, and leave it on the ground.

Hedgehogs are some of my favorite helpers in the summer. Did you know that they feast on slugs? They also like to eat cat food, so if you want to make sure they get a good start into the winter you might want to consider that and leave a bowl out for them once in a while. Of course you might also find some very well fed cats in your neighborhood ;)

Providing a winter home for your hedgehogs might involve not much more than not being a neatnik in the garden. Making sure there are plenty of leaves left after the fall cleanup, and not removing every branch is a great way to encourage these prickly friends to stay around for a while. I have seen plans for wooden hedgehog houses but personally I refuse to go that far. Stack some dead wood in such a way that there is room inside to build a snug little home, leave piles of leaves in the area, and a hedgehog family might find it attractive enough to spend the cold months in your garden.

Scarecrows – not so scary protectors of the harvest

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

When I was growing up, scarecrows used to make their appearance in just about every garden when the first leaves of lettuce poked up or as soon as the first berries turned color. They could be quite elaborate in appearance, dressed like real people with hats and fluttering scarves, so that walking past on a foggy day or when the light was getting dim they would scare the daylights out of us kids. Over the years however, these creatures have become a rare sight. At best we see crudely crossed sticks, maybe covered with a t-shirt and some tin cans dangling from strings to make some noise. So when we drove past a vineyard recently I was excited to see the effort some people had put into creating these dangly people-like creatures whose main function is to keep flocks of birds away from the harvest.
To think that all I did was to hang a few CDs from strings to protect my tomatoes! It did the job, just wasn’t very creative. Oh well <sigh>. Maybe next year.