Monthly Archives: May 2008

In Defense of Food

So I’ve just finished my fifth (!) book about food. Really now, five in a row! Someone please hand me a piece of fluffy fiction! First it was The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then Heat, then Tender at the Bone, then Animal Vegetable Miracle and now In Defense of Food. All of them were fantastic reads and I’d recommend every last one of them. And each one has altered the way I buy food, cook food, or even just think about food. It’s made our grocery shopping trips completely different than what they were two years ago. I mean we’ve always grown much of our own produce and gone to the farmers markets on a regular basis, but I’m guilty of buying the crud when I found a good bargain.

I don’t have to explain my thoughts on food to most of you because I know you, feel much the same as I do and have read many of the same books, so I’ll just share this quote from In Defense of Food that I thought was beautiful:

When you’re cooking with food as alive as this—these gorgeous and semi gorgeous fruits and leaves and flesh—you’re in no danger of mistaking it for a commodity, or a fuel, or a collection of chemical nutrients. No, in the eye of the cook or the gardener or the farmer who grew it, this food reveals itself for what it is: no mere thing but a web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on each other, and all of them ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight. I’m thinking of the relationship between the plants and the soil, between the grower and the plants and animals he or she tends, between the cook and the growers who supply the ingredients, between the cook and the people who will soon come to the table to enjoy the meal. It is a large community to nourish and be nourished by. The cook in the kitchen preparing a meal from plants and animals at the end of this shortest of food chains has a great many things to worry about, but “health” is simply not one of them, because it is given.

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Filed under books, what we've learned

I hope you don’t have scales

chinese lantern
I’m going to start with a pretty picture, because what I’m about to show you is ugly. Remember how I wrote up a nice little cheerful post about the good bugs in the garden? Well, what’s below is one that I hope you never see in your garden. And that is scale.
scale
I don’t normally get squeemish about a bug here or there, but when they are in mass, it completely gives me the heebee jeebeeies. I first noticed these little black round guys on my two Chinese lanterns last year, but never did much about them at the time. I read that you should scrap them off, but being that I had just given birth and also had a two year old to contend with, I wanted no part of scraping anything extra off of anything else. So those poor plants when untended to. This year, the scale killed the smallest chinese lantern and seriously did some major damage to the above varigated one. I loved that tall, seven foot beauty, but it and it’s nasty scale had to go. It was completely covered, so I ripped it out.
scale
Unfortunately I waited too long and the dreaded scale moved over to my oak leaf hydrangeas too. Those I did scrape off, the whole while wearing a look of complete disgust on my face, so hopefully it can be saved.
scale
The UC Davis site says: “Populations of some scales can increase dramatically within a few months, such as when honeydew-seeking ants or dusty conditions interfere with scale natural enemies.” As you can see from the photo above, those ants were all over it.

Has anyone else had to deal with scale? Did you remove it successfully?

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Filed under bad bugs, good bugs, the birds & the bees

weed salad


: : : the resulting salad from our weekend of weeding : : :

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Filed under in the kitchen, just picked

fast food the local way

new and old crisp
One frozen ziplock full of last years nectarine slices + Two stalks of this springs Rhubarb + One ziplock full of frozen crisp topping = A quick crisp of backyard fruit for dessert.

Crisp Topping Recipe: (Make extra to keep in the freezer next to frozen fruit for last minute sweettooth cravings)
1 c. flour
6 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
2/3 c. pecans
1 1/2 sticks of cold butter
Mix dry ingredients, cut the butter into it. Sprinkle over pie pan full of fruit and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

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Filed under 1, in the kitchen, recipes

free fertilizer vs. $16,000 fertilizer

amaranth
We a seemingly endless amount of weeding and thinning this weekend which gave us a nice amount of amaranth, pursulane, chinese mustard and micro-greens to have for salads. A small reward for all the time spent on our knees.
grass clippings
Scott also mowed our lawn and used the grass clipping in our newest experiment in the broccoli/cauliflower bed. We read a great article in Mother Earth News this weekend that explored the different types of organic fertilizer on the market. As you know, fertilizers must be labeled by their Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (N-P-K) levels. Being that nitrogen is a likely deficient in many soils, the author compared the fertilizers based on their per pound of nitrogen. She compares 17 different store bought organic fertilizers, the cheapest being SoyBean Meal (7-2-1) at $4/lb of nitrogen and the most expensive being TerraCycle Plant Food (.03-.002-.02) at a whopping $16,987/lb of nitrogen.

Or she says, you can just use ordinary grass clippings which contain anywhere from 2% – 5% of nitrogen. In most areas you can work in about half an inch into your soil, or put a 1-2 inch layer as a mulch on your garden bed and that will provide all the nutrients most crops need for a full season of growth! Not only will it provide nutrients, but the grass clippings as a mulch act as a good weed prevention and as a moisture retainer.

Usually we just put our grass clippings into the compost pile and let them compost. Doing that dilutes the nitrogen power down to about 1%, but the benefit of compost is that it departs its nutrients into the soil over a matter of years rather than in just one growing season.

Either way, obviously, is beneficial. And obviously much, much cheaper than buying organic fertilizer, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know, free vs. $16,987, you make the call.

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Filed under fertilizing, just picked, mulch, our weekends, what we've learned

buy nothing wrap up

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

I keep meaning to wrap up my Buy Nothing Challenge that Crunchy Chicken put on in April. I did great actually, as long we don’t talk about April 15th, I keep all of my unnecessary spending under $20 for the whole month. Just a few coffees out with a friend and a couple of organizing crates at the hardware store, oh and a few Ed Emberly books at the thrift store for 50 cents. So what happened April 15th? Well, I made a trip to Target, damn that store with all of its temptation. Actually everything I bought were things that we needed and I only make the trip there once every few months.

The interesting thing about this challenge to me was to view my own spending habits. I realized that this challenge wasn’t all that hard for me. I don’t buy very many unnecessary things, usually coffee, an occassional piece of clothing, a couple of treasures while browsing the thrift store, nothing outrageous or superfluous. We’ve always known that we don’t spend that much, but we do have expensive tastes. So we find that if we can’t have the best, than we’d rather go without until we can afford it.

My Challenge for May is Green Bean’s Be a Bookworm. I’m going to be wrapping up In Defense of Food and tackling maybe Affluenza or a gardening book. I’ll let you know!

Edit: So I just received our April credit card bill, it’s exactly half of what it was the month previous. Hmmm, so maybe I do shop more than I think! Needless to say The Buy Nothing Challenge was helpful to our pocketbook. Maybe I should make every month a Buy Nothing Month. Or at least a Buy Next to Nothing month.

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Filed under books, Buy Nothing Challenge

happy may day & the left side

Happy May Day! We sent our oldest to preschool this morning with a bouquet of backyard flowers to decorate the May Pole. The teachers were busy attaching streamers to the pole and it brought me back to fond memories of my own preschool May Days. After dancing around the may pole, we’d fill a basket with flowers and excitedly run across the street to leave on the neighbors front porch, ring the bell, then quickly dash away giggling. As Julie and I discussed the other day, its a lost holiday these days. Its too bad, what a nice uncommercial cheerful day to celebrate.
chive flowers
On the left side of the garden, to wrap up our tour, I thought we’d start at the back. In our back bed we keep an odd assortment of herbs, garlic and chard. These chive flowers are fairytale like this time of year. I keep expecting a Peter Cottontail to come along and nibble on these.
garlic
And the garlic? It looks like long graceful limbs of dancers in this light.
more garlic dancers
In front of them is our potato trench. We dig a deep trench (notice I use the royal we here, actually Scott digs a deep trench) about 18″ deep and plant the potatoes there, then as they grow and sprout we keep filling the hole over the plant to encourage new potatoes to grow until the ‘trench’ becomes ground level. These are yukon golds:
yukon gold potato
In front of the potatoes is a bed with currently two peppers and two eggplants with basil seeds just sprouting. Oh, and what else is that you see in the picture? Oh, yes, that would be even *more* wonder berries and amaranth!
pepper
Ahead of the ‘mediterranean bed’ is an entire bed devoted to strawberries which in hopefully another week will be bright red and ready to eat.
strawberry
And at the very front of the left side is a bed of onions and leeks:
onions
Notice how much bigger these are than the garlic in back? Planted on the same day too. The magic of raised beds, I tell you!

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Filed under growing challenge, state of the garden