Monthly Archives: August 2008

Have a good long weekend

Another hot one
Just a quick post to share with you this hot, hot sun that was rising over our valley oak this morning. Today’s a record breaking day in terms of heat. And we’re packing to escape to the beach. Have a great long weekend friends. I’ll see you next week and we’ll talk all about late summer gardening.
Sea Ranch

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Inspiring Garden Links

More Lens Flares in my Garden
There are so many great blogs out there and so much good information to read about. Here’s a small list of what’s inspired me of late. What’s inspiring you? Feel free to add your comments about your favorite blog posts and I’ll add them and your name to the list!

How to Start a Worm Farm by Down to Earth, a great Australian blog
Money Lessons Learned by Square Foot Gardening , by Frugal Dad. Who knew that Square Food Gardening could teach you so much about investing? Sinfonian, are you a good investor after doing SFG?
Looks like Canning is Making a Comeback Judging by the popularity of my canning lid labels, it looks like canning really is become popular again!
How to Make Rain Barrels We’ve been curious about doing this ourselves. Has anyone tried it?
Never Pay for Onions Again A unique way to start onions

Update: If you’d like to read about how I’m such a horrible mother, check out my guest blog post on One Green Generation.

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The Usefulness of Cilantro

Cilantro Flowers
Cilantro is a mainstay of our cooler season garden. We love having it in meals and it also provides a pretty green spot in our garden. But besides eating the leaves, did you know about all the other parts you can eat? And did you know that it’s thought to be an aphrodisiac? And helps with digestion? And is the oldest herb mentioned in literature? Who knew?

We typically grow cilantro from seed in late winter and fall and it always grows healthy and large. We put it in full sun and provide it with moist soil and it grows to about a foot tall. During the times when we’re really on top of it, we’ll plant a handful of seeds every few weeks so we have a constant supply of it. But once we have had our fill and the season starts to change, it sends up these beautiful white flowers.
Coriander
After the flowers come, they develop little round seed pods that when dried are commonly called coriander in America. In other countries both the leaves as well as the seedpods can be called coriander, so make sure to read your recipes carefully to find out what part of the plant they mean. Dried coriander seeds are commonly used in Indian curries. We’ve tied ours upside down until they fully dry. We’re looking forward to some delicious curries this winter.

While I knew about eating the leaves and seeds, I just found out that you can also eat the roots. I read about that in Ruth Reichl’s book, Comfort Me With Apples(which is a fantastic read). On her trip to Thailand, she discovers them making stir fries with cilantro root. We haven’t tried this yet, has anyone else? At first glance, they don’t look especially appetizing, but we should give it a try one of these days.
Cilantro Roots
The taste of cilantro is pretty distinct. Do you like it? Or do you hate cilantro? You might not if you are of European heritage. It’s been said that those of European descent don’t care for it, and thinking of it, cilantro or coriander has never been a big hit in Europe. My mom can’t stand the stuff, but me, oh I really enjoy it. What do you think of it?

Update: If you are having troubles with your cilantro bolting, you may want to try this Slow Bolt Cilantro variety.

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Summer Harvest Beef Stew

IMG_3536.JPG
Beef stew isn’t really the first thing you think of having for dinner in summer. But when everything is in season, why not? I’ve been making this version of beef stew for about 10 years now and it is my absolute favorite. Maybe it’s because it’s completely devoid of peas and carrots (oh, I do hate cooked peas and carrots so) or maybe it’s the surprising plot twist at the end of the recipe, but I have yet to meet a better beef stew recipe.
IMG_3535.JPG
Without further ado, my favorite beef stew recipe:

Summer Harvest Beef Stew
1.5lbs. stew meat
3 bell peppers, diced
1 onion, chopped
thyme, bay leaf & red pepper flakes
2 c. chopped tomatoes + 1 T. tomato paste (or 2c. tomato sauce)
2 cloves peeled garlic
1 c. really good red wine
1 c. chicken stock

Coat beef in flour and brown in a large hot pan. Take beef out and put aside. Add a bit of olive oil to pan and then add garlic, herbs, peppers, pepper flakes and onion. Saute until tender. Add meat back in the pan along with wine. Reduce wine by half. Add stock, tomatoes and tomato paste (or tomato sauce). Simmer for an hour covered and 30 minutes uncovered.

Surprise Ending
Heat 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar in small saucepan. When sugar is dissolved add into stew. Then add 1 t. unsweetened cocoa powder to stew. Stir well. Serve over roasted, quartered potatoes, egg noodles or rice.

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How to Grow More Vegetables…Part Three

As promised, today I’ll explain about how this Grow Biointensive way of planting as explained in How to Grow More Vegetables can improve your garden. As I mentioned this style of gardening has been rediscovered and studied for over thirty years by Ecology Action, up in Northern California. But it’s originally the ancient 4,000 year old Chinese Biointensive way of farming which is patterned after nature’s own intensive biological plantings.

Scott and I figure, if its worked for the Chinese for all those years, it might just in fact make our garden a better place. And while we don’t follow the method exactly, we add a little bit more of the method’s theologies every year. And it has improved our garden greatly. The man who initially brought this method to attention in the States, Alan Chadwick, wisely said, “Just grow one small area, do it well. Then, once you have got it right, grow more!” So, let’s learn this method already, okay?

Here are the components:
Deep Soil Preparation. This is the most important part. Loose soil structure enables the roots to grow deep down in the soil and a steady stream of nutrients can flow into the stem and leaves. Double digging your soil is admittedly back breaking, but it can be done is small steps and the benefits last for years and are certainly worth the effort.

Composting. “In nature, living things die, and their death allows life to be reborn.” (See, Compost really is proof that there is life after death!) Composting is an important way to return carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosophorus, potash, and trace minerals back to the earth. These elements are all necessary to maintain the biological cycles of life that naturally exist. So ahead make that compost pile, it’s easy!

Close Plant Spacing. Nature doesn’t grow it’s plants in long, spaced out rows, why should we? We waste a lot of space growing things so far apart.

Companion Planting.
This is a fascinating subject to explore. It’s one of our favorite garden explorations. Basically, you want to grow things together that will enhance each other, such as beans and cucumbers.

Plant Carbon-Efficient Crops. Planting your garden in about 60% of the growing area with seed and grain crops will produce large amounts of carbonaceous materials for compost and provide significant amounts of dietary calories. Have you ever thought about growing crops for not only your consumption, but also to return back to the soil? That’s a new one, isn’t it? But a great one.

Plant Calorie-Efficient Crops. Remember, this methodology is taught to show people how to grow their entire diet in one 4,000 square foot plot (a vegan diet of course). So thinking of planting the most calorie rich vegetables is important. You want to plant about 30% of your garden to potatoes, burdock, garlic, and parsnips which produce a large amount of calories for your diet.

Open-Pollinated Seeds. Use these to preserve genetic diversity.

A Whole, Interrelated Farming System.
This Grow Biointensive food-raising method is a whole system and it’s components, when used all together create high yields that nourish not only yourself but the earth.

Cool system, isn’t it? What I’ve written about is only a taste of what you find in the actual book, How to Grow More Vegetables. Its full of incredible information on starting from seed planting with lunar cycles, charts like you wouldn’t believe, and diagrams of how to lay out your garden. Step by step illustrations on how to start small and eventually grow a plot into a 4,000 sq. foot self sufficient garden of Eden, or Garden of Eatin’ as it were.

I can’t tell you how much you need to read How to Grow More Vegetables. Add it to your Amazon wish list or check it out at your local library. You’ll love it too!

Read Part One & Part Two.

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Grow More Vegetables… Part Two

Melons
I hope I didn’t scare you yesterday with that doom and gloom about the future of agriculture. I’m sure if I tried I could round up links to a ton more stories of fear, but I like to keep things positive here, so let’s hurry up and talk about how we can improve things, okay?

The challenges of world hunger, soil depletion, and diminishing resources is overwhelming. And many people tend to look for big solutions, such as mass distribution, miracle high-yield crops, mass producing fertilizer. But all of these solutions, really are harmful and create long-term dependency. How to Grow More Vegetables, the Grow Biointensive way of farming, teaches the world to become self sufficient. To nurture the soil, and to view the ecosystem as a whole, so we can continue to farm generation after generation.

The benefits for this Grow Biointensive way of growing are a:

    67% to 88% reduction in water consumption per unit of production
    50+% reduction in the amount of purchased fertilizer required per unit of production
    99% reduction in the amount of energy used per unit of production
    100+% increase in soil fertility
    200% to 400% increase in caloric production per unit of area
    100+% increase in income per unit of area.

Fantastic, right? Why hasn’t the world already adopted these practices? Well, they have. This type of farming was done in China as far back as 4000 years ago. The Europeans and Latin Americans adopted it long, long ago. But since the invention of mechanized and chemical agriculture, much of these practices have been destroyed. Ecology Action is working to reteach these methods world wide.

But how does this apply to your garden? What is this book going to do to make your garden better? Well, stick around for tomorrow’s post on what How to Grow More Vegetables will benefit you directly.

As for now, I’ll leave you with this quote:

Up to 6 billion microbial life-forms can live in one 5-gram amount of cured compost, about the size of a quarter. Life makes more life, and we have the opportunity to work together with this powerful force to expand our own vitality and that of this planet.

Read Part One & Part Three.

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How to Grow More Vegetables… Part One

…than you ever thought possible on less land that you can imagine.
Butterfly
Did you know that at some point during the years 2014 to 2021, there probably is not going to be enough land to provide the nutrition needed for most of the world’s population using todays current agricultural standards? Scary, isn’t it? Currently, we need about 7,000 to 36,000 square feet of farmable land to keep up with the worlds eating habits. And most people only have access to 9,000 square feet. You do the math.

And most of that land is used for growing only food, which doesn’t produce enough soil-nurturing humus needed to ensure the development of healthy soil. So the land gets stripped of it’s nutrients and becomes un-usable. Again, to keep a garden alive and thriving means to take care of the most basic of elements, the soil. (Here’s a list of 7 Things To Improve Your Soil today)

Regardless of how much soil we have in the world to grow on, we also need to consider the water to irrigate the crops. Many countries, as early as 1992, had only enough water to irrigate 4,000 square feet per person. Far from enough water to keep up with today’s farming practices.

It’s not all doom and gloom, there is a way to change these practices, and that’s what I’m going to talk about this week. This method described in How to Grow More Vegetables shows you how to grow all the food needed for one’s own nutrition, as well as nutrition for the soil on as little as 4,000 square feet.

We are going to start a little mini-series on A Sonoma Garden this week about the book How to Grow More Vegetables written by John Jeavons, the director of Ecology Action. This book features the Grow Biointensive method of mini-farming which has been adopted by UNICEF, Save the Children and the Peace Corps. This book is indispensible for anyone who is interested in food and farming activism and growing. The first part of the book is devoted to explaining the current status of the farming situation in the world as well as a look into the future. The majority of the book, however, explains this Grow Biointensive Method in great detail so you can easily adopt it into your gardening routine.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the benefits of Grow Biointensive.

Go to Part Two.

If you like this post and would like to have the rest of the series e-mailed to you click here.

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