Friday, 29 February 2008
"Who am I and why this topic?
Greg W, an average, middle-class American homeowner striving to find a way to enjoy life without destroying nature.
The mountain of new 'green' products, with their claims of being environmentally friendly, has become overwhelming.
Are these claims true? I hope to sort fact from fiction and identify those products and services that live up to their claims.
Along the way we will discover success stories as well as failures, I hope to highlight those as well."
...........Greg, together we might just save the world yet!............
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
The history of the civilisation of human life is something that I have become very interested in since I started growing food many years ago. Seed sowing is really at the heart of human-ness and every time I place those tiny grains of life into the soil I have that indescribable feeling of connection with the very core of our existence. When, finally, little green shoots emerge it is like I have never seen it before and some wonderful depth of understanding wordlessly flows through every part of me. Another generation of a crop begins in this simplest of all activities, linking the seed-sower to thousands and thousands of generations of previous seed-sowers and taking a tiny step forward towards future seed-sowers stretching far into distant millenia.
Why then are we allowing our very base of civilisation to be threatened with destruction by allowing multi-national companies to claim ownership of this ancient life-force? How dare someone say they own a certain variety of grain - grains predate humans, as stated previously, by hundreds of thousands of years. Peasants the world over are being coerced to sign papers that mean, invariably, that they must not save their own seed anymore but must, instead, buy other seed (or the same seed!) from seed companies, and are locked in to using chemicals (funnily enough also produced by the same companies) to grow them, under the agreements they have signed. Millions of poor farmers are committing suicide because they are failing to be able to provide for their families as they cannot afford the seeds or the chemicals that they unwittingly have agreed to use.
In India recently the widows of such failed men have risen up and taken on the multi-nationals, refusing to continue with the agreements and going back to their old ways, with government support. Why, then, are we stupid enough in some states of Australia, to refuse to see the writing on the wall and to agree to GM crops to begin to be planted? If the poorest women of India can get their way, we should all be doing what we can to stop anyone changing our gene-pool of the seeds of life and to stop anyone from claiming to own something so ancient as life itself.
So far in South Australia we are fairly free of GM foods and our state government has decided to continue the moratorium on GM crops for at least another 2 years but, and this is a big but, animals in feed-lots, where modern-day farming methods mean a lot of sheep and cows go 'for finishing off ', are fed GM grains. Beware of the brazen attempt of feed-lotters to advertise "grain-fed" meat as something you should seek out and pay more for - it is dreadful stuff that should be avoided at all cost! Sheep and cows were never meant to eat grain at all, never mind GM soy and other GM grains. As I have said before on this blog, look for feral meat - the ultimate way to source meat and help our environment at the same time.
I implore every reader of this blog to refuse to support, at every opportunity, any company or government that allows gene manipulation of anything to do with the food-chain. Only in rejecting it at every turn can we be confident in the future of human civilisation.
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
Some of Kath's broccoli seeds have found their way into my pot of spring onions and are growing at an alarming rate. This tells us that we should be sowing broccoli now ourselves.
The romanesco broccoli is finally starting to form a head! Hang in there, Deb.
This tray of Pai Tsai has all germinated and is now ready for some sunshine. Asian vegetables have wonderful viability and usually push up through the soil in 4 days or so.Also lots of other seeds are germinating happily in my seed frame with its new, white shade-cloth lid.
This Australian native - Warrigal Spinach - is a mighty robust plant. I think I should cook it more often.
Tony's pimento capsicums are a gorgeous shape and there must be dozens on each plant.
Of course the beans around the terracotta pot are going well and have outgrown whatever was eating the leaves at first .
This funny little succulent has the most vibrant red flowers.
The sedum 'Autumn Joy' flowers are easily burnt brown by hot weather but the recent cool autumn-like days have really made them a masterpiece in the garden this year. And they hardly need any water to grow. As autumn progresses the flowers begin to turn various shades of russet.
Then of course there is my dainty little scaevola that flowers for months.
I may not have any tomatoes and I may wish for a lot of other things but when it comes down to it things aren't too bad.
I have put these photos and more, including close-ups of the sedums, on the photos link.
Monday, 25 February 2008
It was lovely to get an email from a friend I don't see nearly often enough but who reads this blog and sent me this link. Everyone should have a blog so their friends can know what they really think! Oh,oh, I hope my relatives don't suddenly get all interested in my blog - they think I am someone else completely because I can't be bothered rocking the boat - they would all fall out! Interesting how different groups you might mix with may think of you in entirely different ways. I can be very conservative and well-behaved if I have to but I can't keep that up for too long. I think that's why I am a bit reclusive - it is too hard not to say what I think. I may not have many friends left after I finish writing this next post....
Saturday, 23 February 2008
I need some stuff for home and garden and was hoping that your good selves might have some or show me the way to where I can get some. I will gladly pay, swap, barter, give teenage children etc
1. Lids for Fowlers/Agee Jars
Roughly 8 cm across. Have tried the Central Markets' stores, Gaganis Bros with no luck.
2. Solid plastic tubs
Any type, size, colour for my hydroponics in particular
3. Carrot seeds
I stupidly let my baby boy near my gardening stuff and he decided my carrot seeds I was going to plant would be better off down the drain! Will buy/swap/etc for any type but am looking for the shorter variety.
I'm working on my hydroponics systems this weekend and am waiting on a 200lt drum that will be my main nutrient supply before I can "automate" the system by gravity. I'll take some photos and post a few items over the next week.
Have fun and don't forget the Gardening Australia show next weekend.
So out we went to about the only flat bit of land we have and measured up the new, white, 50% shade cloth, obtained last week thanks to Scarecrow's advice on hardware shops to seek out. Roger had exactly the tool required to secure the rubber strip back into the groove around the perimeter of the frame. While we were at it we covered the second screen with some ultraviolet-resistant plastic I had and this photo shows Roger doing the plastic one.
Next we had to think about how to make it hinge nicely, bearing in mind it had only foam (from Deb) to connect to because I had used blocks of foam around the perimeter to make a north-facing slope to catch maximum winter sun and assist in draining the old sheet of glass I previously used as a lid in winter. Eventually we hit on the idea of using an old shower-curtain rail riveted loosely to the screen and a long loop of fencing wire pushed down through the foam to hold it all in place. As we happened to have 2 identical curtain rails, also from the previous house, we joined one to each screen so I could easily change from shade-cloth lid to plastic lid just by pulling out the long wire loops. Working with foam is great and is a hell of a lot easier than attaching the whole thing to a hard surface!
At left is Roger operating the shade-cloth lid and, at right, is how neat and tidy it looks when shut. When the plastic one is in place in cold weather there won't be too many draughts now. You can see the sloping foam blocks at the sides.
Some of my seeds are coming up really well but some, mostly those we got from Seedsavers in Byron Bay, are not looking promising. Unknown age of the seeds probably didn't help.Roger has tidied up his bench area and can now do all sorts of lovely jobs again!
If anyone has spare besser blocks I need a few more as I want to make my second seed-frame higher, for over-wintering plants in pots, such as lemongrass, curry leaf plant and other cold-tender herbs.
(Hooray, spell check is working again!)
Friday, 22 February 2008
1. The site is prepared - grass removed, lightly forked over to break up lumps, then raked clean of any debris.It is a nice sandy loam here, perfect for the crops I have in mind.
2.This will be a short-lived, leaf crop so only blood and bone is forked in.
3. After broadcasting the seeds quite densely over the area, compost is sifted evenly and thinly over the surface.This sieve belonged to my father and grandfather and is made to be endlessly able to be repaired.
4.The whole area is then watered thoroughly using a misting nozzle so as not to disturb the seeds.
5. Lengths of bamboo are placed across the seed-bed so that it can be covered to keep off any chooks and other birds and to keep up the humidity.The bamboo keeps the cover from squashing the seedlings as they germinate.
6. Hessian is laid over the bamboo lengths - but I didn't quite have enough so I had to finish the job with a bit of white cloth that I also find suitable.
Every 2 weeks or so I will sow another patch of different seeds in an adjoining space (I must fine those packets!). As the weather cools and this area becomes shady I will start sowing seeds of Asian vegetables as they cope wonderfully in the shade in winter. The idea is to cut the crops when they pass the true leaf stage and eat what I cut off. Then they should regrow another couple of times if I am lucky before bolting to seed. At this stage I could leave them to grow on and maybe get some mature plants from them or dig them out and resow. Evidently it is possible to keep a constant supply of greens, cut at this exceptionally nutritious stage of their growth, by sowing regularly. A little bit wasteful, I feel, but since I have the drawer-of-a-million-seeds it is better than not sowing them at all. Lots of things can be eaten at this stage for their leaves, instead of waiting for them to produce roots or other plants parts. eg radish, broccoli etc.
..."One of Pollan's maxims is to choose food at the edges of the supermarket if you must shop there at all. The center aisles are a swirling nucleus of ever-changing fake foods with unpronounceable ingredients. Pick up something from the outer walls instead: an honest red cabbage or a fat beet. Then break through those walls to the fields and gardens beyond."
This is just what I was saying to someone the other day - on the odd occasion I need to go to the supermarket (for toilet paper and dish mops) I am amazed that there hardly seems to be any food there any more. No, I am not just looking in the toiletries aisle, I mean, what is all that stuff wrapped in expensive-looking plastic ? Does anyone actually buy cans full of chemicals to put on their food to make perfectly good vegetables taste like something else? Or stuff mascarading as Asian food, in a cup you can just add water to and put in the microwave? There are buns and cakes that are so highly coloured I wouldn't feed them to my chooks and mothers collecting little pots of a semi-liquid that claims to be yoghurt with flavouring that is 'made from real fruit'. Why not just get some real fruit and some real yoghurt and mix them together? How hard is that? Why do they buy it all homogenised and thickened and coloured and sweetened?
Their kids are all chubby and their eyes are dull and their trolleys are full of rubbish that say 'low fat' , 'sugar-free', but don't say 'poisonous to your body', or 'not actually food' , or 'guarenteed to give you cancer or heart disease or diabetes or all 3 and more', which would be the truth. There may be some fruit or vegetables in the trolley too but they are not in season (and so not local), not a natural colour and usually packaged in shiny plastic, which is supposed to indicate freshness but tells me it is definitely anything but!
When I get home and step out of my car I hear - silence - and I see - real food, there in my garden next to the driveway and I go and pick a lettuce leaf or a couple of beans and sigh with relief that, as mad as I may be, advertising is not working on me. Almost everything I need to eat is in the aisle right in front of me and will stay there until the minute I need to pick it for dinner. It's not that hard. It's a lot easier than going shopping!
(6am is a bit early to be sitting here all fired up about this but that just goes to show how annoyed I am that this has happened. I get up thinking I will write something beautiful about plants and then look what happens. I could go on about the water restrictions now or other stupid things but...no.)
Thursday, 21 February 2008
Today I found some good sized terracotta pots (for the watering idea) at Big W for $2.98.
They are slightly smaller than the last ones I used but still perfectly fine. Of course you can and should use any old pots but if you don't have any, these are very cheap. When I told my mother about my idea she got very excited and is going to get right onto it tomorrow, with some pots she has in the shed. It is hard for her to keep small things going, especially seedlings, and I think this will help greatly. Just being able to fill it with water straight from the hose and leave it for a few days will be great. Once the plants (eg my lettuce) are established I find topping it up once a week is enough, even if it is completely dry for a couple of days. I didn't refill mine when it was hot, just to see what would happen, and everything was fine. The lettuce recovered quickly from chook attack (twice) and I am picking them daily again. The beans are now about 20cm high and have leaves the size of the palm of your hand (unless you are a giant!) - it is amazing.
We have 3 big shiso plants in our garden that came up from last years planting, I should have taken some yesterday to our gathering.
Anyway I must start using the leaves so I have repeated the following links so you can check out these great sites:
From the Foodhoe Files
The recipes at the Foodhoe Files site are by Eric Gower and his book Breakaway Japanese Kitchen.
Eric has a website called The Breakaway Cook.
I also found a great Japanese site called Yasuko-san's Home Cooking.
The author says: "My mother, Yasuko-san, was born and grew up in Takaoka, Toyama, Japan (her personal history). She prepares good old home cooked meals such as "Nimono" (simmered vegetables) etc, and enjoys entertaining friends at dinner."
You will find recipes such as Shiso Juice, shiso miso and sauteed eggplant and green pepper.
taking tea in the medina by Julie Le Clerc and photographs by John Bougen & Jule Le Clere.
You must check it out at your local bookstore or library.
The recipes are well set out (one per page), they are easy to prepare and do not contain too many ingredients.
They also have large photos of what the prepared dish will look like.
And heaps of the ingredients will be growing in your garden at the moment.
Ok, so I shall mention a few recipes to tempt you:
courgettes with mint, okra in tomato sauce, pickled tomatoes with spices and red wine vinegar, Kuku- a parsley omelette, red pepper and walnut paste, smoky eggplant puree with garlic and mint, zhoug-a hot coriander and chilli relish, kutap-flatbread with herbs or pumpkin, carrot or watermelon jam and maybe some chocolate dipped figs and dates on crystallized rose petals or some baklava with cardamom.
Well! its time for me to grab a handful of fresh mint from the garden, make some mint tea and then maybe make an Um Ali - a classic pudding with pistachio nuts, raisins, milk, honey, cinnamon and whipped cream.
Glenys has a few acres at Carey Gully, which I have written about previously where she grows vegetables and berries in a beautiful setting. She is also part of the Wednesday gardening group and is an all-round great person. Recently she went to a yoga and Ayurveidic (where is spell check when you need it?) weekend and has taken charge of her future health and fitness from that time on.
Bob and Maggie have a regular-sized back yard with an extraordinary number of different vegetables and herbs growing in every nook and cranny. Of course there has to be some room left for the 2 beautiful dogs to romp around. They also have taken charge of their food intake and health in recent years and both glow from within.
Brett never stops smiling and has wonderful and creative ideas about how to grow food 'on' a rented house block - his landlord won't let him plant anything 'in' the soil!! Later in autumn we are going there for a visit and I will write more then. Brett brought me some lemon verbena seeds that I hope to germinate in spring as I just love that plant.
Cathy is a relatively new member who only started gardening when she found herself without a job. Now she belongs to our group as well as the herb society and can't believe its taken her so long to find her place.Cathy made a powerful pesto dip that we all loved and I was lucky enough to bring the rest home.
Kath has a plot at Fern Ave and lives in a townhouse with, what looks to me from her photos, like a pretty little garden but with not much room to grow vegetables.However she has 1 enormous pumpkin vine overtaking everything - don't we all! Kath is always fun and does a lot for Fern Ave. Recently she has started up a Seeds to Share box for the gardeners there.
Cath ( if you forget someone's name around here just call them C/Kath(y)) describes her section of her garden as 'The Lunatic Fringe' because husband Rob's passion is for growing hundreds of kilograms of the most beautiful tomatoes you have ever seen and this takes priority. Cath is full of energy and fun and, what's more, brought me some of those tomatoes! Cath brought some Mexican tarragon which looks and smells robust and I look forward to trying to get it to root.
Then there is Lauren and Deb who is hidden by some things on the table. Lauren is originally from the USA and has found a perfect match with her enthusiasm to become Deb's weekly helper, as Lauren lives in an apartment and Deb has 10 acres of Nirvana to nurture. Deb has everything money can't buy and needs nothing money can buy. She shares so much with us and when I arrived home I found a couple of little packets of seed in my bag from Deb that she has heard that I might like to grow. Deb is also the maker of the best limoncello ever !
Last in the line, but definitely not least, is Chook, standing up in the photo, and baby Peter (in the pram). Chook is getting into this whole food growing thing faster than a speeding bullet and recently gave me the sweetest cucmber I have ever eaten. She has a pumpkin vine growing up a wire and right over the top of her driveway and a magnificent pumkin hangs down in the middle, something that husband Chris has to dodge daily on his bike! Her cute little puppy Marly(?) is a bit scared of the chooks - lets hope she stays that way.
Then there was (me) Kate, next to Glenys. Kate is a crazy woman who lives and breathes food gardening and blogging. She loves all these people dearly and can't believe it has taken a lifetime of solitary gardening to find them all, right here a few kilometres from home. Read anecdotes for an insight into Kate's life and thoughts.
I can't find all the posts about these people to link to but I will keep on searching later, when I finish for the day. I am going early to my mother's to tidy up her garden. She won't let me do it normally but I know she is going out this morning so I will sneak in while she's not there.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Then, over the next few weeks and months, she did it all! When her turn came around again for us to garden at her place, 5 weeks later, there was a fabulous crop of various green manure plants, which we gladly dug in. Next she began making her own compost, collecting the lawn clippings from the local man, even collecting coffee grounds from organic cafes in buckets. She and her husband spent Saturdays turning the compost, exactly to Tim's instructions and she made the best compost, which we then dug in some time later. And so on and so on.
It has made me feel exceptionally good to have been a small part of this ongoing project. The vegetables there could grace the fronts of seed packets with their lush, green growth and huge abundance of produce. Now the crops are all well established, she only waters once a week, as per the rules and there seemed to be no evidence of heat stress at all after the hot 4 days, despite the fact that she last watered on Saturday and now it is Wednesday. It sure is a lot milder, though, in the hills and she has things like a Japanese maple and hydrangeas that thrive.
It is a joy to garden with Kathy and I am very lucky to be able to spend every Wednesday morning with such truly special people. (I have uploaded all the pictures to 'photos' and put some captions)
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
There has been huge investment by Delta Electricity and the NSW Sugar Milling Co-op as well as the farmers to set up several dual purpose mills which will not only process the cane into sugar, as usual, but also stockpile the trash harvested by the farmers and when they start sending power to the grid in a few months time the two first generators mentioned will supply the electricity needs of Lismore, Casino, Ballina, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah, continuously, 24 hours a day. Other generators will join in later.
You can watch the clip on this link to the Landline article. OOps, I meant to click save, not publish last night when I wrote this because I have more to say about "green"power. But now I am off to the garden to sow seeds, glorious seeds in the cool!
I just found another Adelaide blog, via Scarecrow's called Lucky's Duck Farm
There is some great Tshirt potential coming up on New Internationalist.
Hope to see you there.
Friday February 29 - Sunday March 2 2008
Adelaide Showground, Wayville
Open Daily 9.30am - 4.30pm
Aged & Disability Pensioners and Seniors Card Holders: $11
Family: $29 Children 5-16yrs: $5
The ABC Carpark Caper is coming up too. The carpark at Collinswwod is filled with people selling things they have propogated. There is usually all sorts of interesting and unusual plants as well as vegetable seedlings, compost, manure and the ABC radio gardening talkback show. Get there early or it gets crowded. Take a trolley or barrow or a husband!
Saturday March 15th
8am - 12 noon
entry by gold coin donation to the charity of the day, usually the Flying Doctor or CFS or something
Hills and Plains seedsavers visit to Deb's
Sunday March 16th
Details in an email soon.
Monday, 18 February 2008
Why isn't the world cheering and gathering all their terracotta pots together and sealing up all the holes and filling them with water and burying them in the ground with me? Holy valotta, I haven't got a clue but at least the plants are cheering and clapping their little leaves.