Organic leaves Woodstock to become The New Chic

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Knowing that I’m preaching to the choir, just a little plea: if you’d like to control a little bit what you’re putting into the Body Bank consider plopping a few plants, or seeds, or sprouts, or fruit trees, into your local universe. You can be compelled by flavor, or convenience, or health, or bragging rights, or ethics. Even if you live in an apartment you can grow lettuce, wheat grass and do some sprouting.

Preaching to the Choir
Preaching to the Choir 

On the manure caked heels of the Listeria deaths from tainted cantelope comes a recall of over 100,000 pounds of ground beef . Organic produce isn’t immune – look at the e coli outbreak from bean sprouts. As for the cantelope, well it is probably right next door to the huge cattle farm – or – the farmers are getting the tainted manure from one of these lovely Tyson, or Tyson-like, industrial food plants.It’s nice to KNOW exactly what happened to the food you’re putting into your mouth.
Most of these diseases come from manure – bad manure, not good manure; diseased. Cows are practically swimming in their own feces for their entire sad lives: so are chickens and all other mass produced meat providers. They have nowhere to turn.
If you’ve had the opportunity of witnessing in a movie or online the factory existence of animals – and watching them cry as they get brutally slaughtered by the thousands – you probably have thought – maybe vegetarian chili tonight. Maybe a PB&J. We cannot ignore what we have witnessed. Seen. Known. Science says – a more plant based diet, much less meat. Be chic – go organic and go veg – it’s morally the right thing to do AND you’ll be in with the In Crowd.  End of sermon.

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If

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If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Plant a Fall Garden – or forage the wild weeds

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Due to the attack of the slugs, my mid-September planting of lettuces, spinach, mache (corn salad), kale and peas are gone.  A few days ago, after removing the wood chips from around the beds, I replanted everything.  I am seeing signs of life, yet, I’m unsure if we’ll have a long enough pre-frost season to get all the plants settled in before I set up the semi-greenhouse – which is simply thick clear plastic covering an arched frame.

Kales and lettuce are fairly forgiving of heavy handed planting so I am hoping for the best.

If you didn’t grow a garden look for plantains or lambs quarters.  Here’s a picture of Lamb’s Quarters – I incorrectly used to call it Shepherd’s purse because of the shape of the leaves – but it is plentiful, not incredibly invasive – sort of friendly invasive – easy to weed out – or to eat.  Weeds are somewhat frost tolerant – and so they offer you an opportunity to get free green leafy nutrition.  Happy Hunting!

Lots of records being broken so yes the climate’s changed – doesn’t matter who’s to blame

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With an increase in the North Atlantic Ocean’s temperature, the intensity, and frequency of hurricanes are hammering the East Coast.  The uptick in all three began in the 1990’s, and if unchecked will continue to rise.  As a friend and fellow gardener said, “Who cares who’s to blame?  The climate’s changed.  Now what do we do about it?”

If you have garden for over a decade in the same locale, you know things have changed.  You also know that they’re always changing.  However, climate change due to global warming is a statistical trend not an anomaly. It is the change in the number of storms, the extremity of storms, the amount of rainfall, the record number of inches falling. Record temperatures. 

I’d say we’ve done the same thing, year after year, for over a century. In order to survive, we’ll need to make some modifications. There are tasks you can do now, and tasks you can plan for, as you consider feeding yourself and the planet.

I’m looking to Russian seeds via Seeds of Exchange because they can handle the wet and cold that typifies our current climate.  I continue to grow the old standards, however, they are doing less well.  If you are in a higher drought area – and you know that your droughts have increased – you need to look to Mediterranean and further south to certain parts of Africa for your seed and plant resources.

Don’t blame everything on climate change though.  If you’re wondering why your vegetable garden has stopped growing:  look up.  All your ‘little trees’ have grown.  They’re fighting for the same sun as all the other plants are on your plot.  You need to trim, trim, trim.  Also, if you’ve been planting tomatoes in the same spot for ten years don’t come crying to me.  Move some dirt around from bed to bed.  Toss in some free compost thanks to Starbucks.  Grow an overwinter rye.  Remember the problems the farmers had in the 30’s?  They did a lot of bad things, one being planting the same crop over and over again.  It pulls specific nutrients out of the soil.

As for reducing the global warming, look in the mirror.  The US comprises about 4% of the earth’s population, but emits about 25% of the total global greenhouse gases.  We are energy hogs, but don’t realize it because we can’t see in our European’s or African’s or Indian’s kitchen window.  We laugh at their little cars.  We can’t imagine (I honestly can’t imagine) life without air conditioning.  Without running to the store to pick up….  Letting the kids ride their bikes instead of driving them…  We have caused our own demise, weather-wise.

All the political rhetoric or legistlation streaming out of Washington will not fix this.  We need to change ourselves.  I need to change my self.  In the meantime, admit that the weather has changed, and accomodate those changes in your garden in order to feed yourself and your family.

Corrective lens

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The truth needs aging, settling, to become accurate.  When you’re in the passageway of a situation your perception is different than when you exit and look back.  Take that little Long Island hurricane.

I live among centuries old, 50 plus foot trees that could easily have dropped on my roof or car or dogs or self.  I was thankful but not THAT thankful.  While I had done all the preparation possible for the storm, over a week of no electricity decimated an entire freezer chest full of the  year’s gardening; sauces, jellies, pickles, zucchini, peas… sigh.  The power authority’s lack of information and extended outage added tacks to the floor of frustration.

However.  It’s over.  Most Americans live a Cinderella existence; the happy ever after part.  Two cars, or three.  Central heat and air.  Food.  Roads.  We don’t need to fear getting shot or raped by drug lords, religious extremists or roving marauders hunting our neighborhood.  We don’t have to send our uneducated children out to pick for food and things to sell at the local dump.  Windows.  Shades.  Toilets that flush.  Clean water.

People are randomly born into these situations:  they cannot “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”: there are no boots.

So. While the electric decides to stay on for a few moments I am optimistic and thankful.  Unlike many other gardening brothers and sisters, I will not starve because my winter store has failed.  As we approach Thanksgiving, let’s approach thanksgiving.

What I learned on my summer vacation –

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This year I grew the largest food garden in 26 years.   Along with plagues of insects, birds, weeds, rain, heat, and wild vegetarian predators  we enjoyed a portion of the produce fruiting amongst the ruins.  There was quite a lot of ‘putting up’ – where I am so nervous about sterilization I ended up freezing the jars in lieu of killing everyone I love, including myself.

I learned that one doesn’t need so many herbs and so many cucumbers, and that the more tomatoes the better.  I learned that Concord Grapes are the OxyContin of the Bird World – they’ll ignore dogs, people, bird netting and guns to ravish the clusters.  I learned that if I don’t cut down every single tree branch on my, and my neighbor’s property I will never have a large, productive vegetable garden on the North Shore.  Ever.

I’ve learned that we’re down to only two of us at home and my spouse only eats tomatoes – and only certain ones, on certain days, in a certain mood.  So that serving, say, roasted organic beets and their greens with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, or organic leek and potato soup or red cherry peppers straight from the garden to my spouse is like casting pearls before swine – not that he’s swine – but if the hoof fits….   This has led to many gifts to friends and neighbors and our Meals and Wheels clients – and a new garden plan for Summer 2012.

I learned that I could go on a, out of state vacation and leave the garden – and it would partially die and partially be eaten – but I didn’t Lose The Farm.  This was a great relief.

I’ve learned my DNA spells S-W-E-E-T.  I plan on expanding all the berry plantings – raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, wineberry and currants, all semi-shade friendly.  Swapping out the Concord Grapes and getting some seedless table variety.  Finding one spot to grow some dwarf cherry and peach trees.

I’ve learned bird netting is a good – and necessary – accoutrement to actually eating what you grow.  I’ve learned that my ‘good’ dog is actually quite the opposite – and while accusing my ‘bad’ dog and squirrels of eating all the tomatoes – I overlooked the good dog who does nothing wrong.  The truth hurts.  Evidently tomatoes are loved by anything living, be it bird, bug, bad or good dog or spouse.

I HAVEN’T learned that I’m 56. I’m 12 and that’s simply not changing. I haven’t learned to ignore people (translation – family members) who imply gardening is not work  – not technically having a job.  I haven’t learned that having a messy house is okay – it’s okay – it’s okay.  Did Madam Curie run home to change the sheets?  Does Hillary Clinton worry if there’s dust… anywhere?  In other words I still worry at my age about what people think – and that’s just silly.   It’s possible that I write, and garden, and read, and create music, and sew, and cook – to AVOID housework – very very very possible.  It’s kind of a self righteous, rationalization for dust and clutter.
I hope you learned something during your summer vacation – feel free to share.

When the going gets tough… guilt-free choices

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There’s an old Doonesbury cartoon with a young woman mourning the fact that she forgot to bring the dryer lint out for the birds.  It’s so easy to feel guilty; but more effective to simply make some decisions here and there.  These will become habits, and habits will help save the world.

This site is yours – not mine.  It’s to help you feel less guilty and more motivated to try something or buy something or NOT buy something for the sake of helping out this currently dying planet.

Since we’ve started raising animals – oh, about 20,000 years ago – things have been going downhill.  Sure, we’re living longer but that means we’re taking up more room than we should, eating more than what’s available, creating waste that the ecosystem simply can’t handle.

So what’s the solution?  We can go back to the Good Old Days – I’m saying Caveman Neanderthal – or we can recognize where we are, and fix it from here.