Vegetables: a Gardener's Delight

In good times or bad, a vegetable garden fits the bill. Growing your own means you know what is on the final product label; you know if there are chemical additives in your salad. Your own vegetable garden allows you to decide whether you will share the potato crop with the Colorado potato beetle or choose to pick each bug by hand or apply chemicals for control. You will get a first hand lesson at crop production yields. Vegetable gardens can be found in the country and in the center of cities; they know no economic boundaries. They can be as large as you can tend, or as small as fits your needs. A vegetable garden can be found in an apartment balcony over looking a city center, in a pot on a back yard deck, or in a suburban landscape. Vegetable gardens can be laid out in straight rows or combined with flowers for cuttings; vegetable gardens are both productive harvest centers and ornamental creations of beauty. Cherry tomatoes can be planted among the flowers of summer, the varying colors of the fruits picked to eat right off the vine while tending to the daylilies or summer phlox.

Vegetable gardens are inclusive providing opportunity for children to participate, to grow radishes from seed, to plant pumpkins to care for until Halloween. Vegetable gardens are a family activity whether a single pot with parsley and herbs on a patio or a large adventure in the side garden of a home. Vegetable gardens are about sharing the excess of summer and winter squash sure to come when the harvest exceeds the plan. There is little more joyful than planting a seed and tending to its need and knowing in return that it will provide for maximum return with only minimal care. Just add sunlight, water and attention.
Now is the time to finish your plan; in Maryland potato planting comes on St Patrick’s Day and I will get ahead of the beetles this year for sure!

"Planting Dates For Vegetable Crops in Maryland"

Find the Ecovillage where you are...

Good news from friend and colleague (once long-term editor of Communities Magazine and author of Creating A Life Together and Finding Community) Diana Christian (and previously fellow ecovillager at Earthaven) who writes (at her excellent new website, Ecovillage News):

I’m publishing Ecovillages as a free, bimonthly newsletter in order to encourage and inspire ecovillage projects with news about what ecovillages are doing worldwide. People seem to love photos and stories about how others are succeeding in good work. Ecovillages will bring you stories about successful projects in every issue, and practical, how-to information, too.

From six to eight articles will appear in each issue, in a variety of topics. Here are the kinds of articles and ongoing columns you'll find:

  1. The ecovillage movement
  2. News about individual ecovillages worldwide
  3. Practical ecovillage tools:
  4. “Ecovillagers Write” (letters to the editor)
  5. “Book & Video Reviews”

I’m especially keen on stimulating more interest in ecovillages in North America, ideally with news of what people are doing elsewhere. You’ll find stories about ecovillage projects in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Russia, South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Asia, China, and Japan. (We’re everywhere!)

Be Fruitful and Mulch Apply

A few simple directions
Michael Pilarski, Friends of the Trees Society (2/3/03 edition)
The most effective sheet mulches are roundish in outline and at least 10 feet or more in diameter to minimize edge which can be invaded by rhizomatous weeds.
1). First chop down existing vegetation as close to the ground as feasible. Leave the chopped material as the first layer.
2) Plant any trees or shrubs desired (if any) in the area to be sheet mulched.
3) Water thoroughly unless the ground is moist from rain or winter melt-off.
4) Spread layer of rich material such as manure, compost or mushroom compost, lawn clippings, fresh green leafy matter,
5) A good addition if available is to add trace mineral rock dusts such as rock phosphate, limestone, dolomite, greensand or humates depending on the soil.
6) Add handfuls of red wiggler worm inoculum (contains eggs as well as actual worms) at regular intervals. Not entirely necessary but they help break down the lower layers of the sheet mulch faster.
7) Cardboard layer. 2 to 3 layers thick, overlapped like shingles. Full coverage. Pull the cardboard within a few inches of any tree stems which have been planted.
8) Chip layer. Broken down is better then fresh material but both will do. Deciduous trees are
better than coniferous trees but both will do. Biomass from less polluted areas are preferable than from more polluted sources. Leaves, needles, twigs, and bark are better than the actual woody trunk chips. The finer the grind the better. Use whatever you can get, as long as it doesn’t have weed seeds in it.
9) Poke planting holes all the way through the sheet mulch with a heavy steel bar or a pick. Make a planting pocket in the hole and fill it with some good soil and then transplant herb plants or vegetable starts or flowers that you wish to plant. Water in thoroughly and remulch up to their stems.
10) Monitor the planting and pull the occasional weed which pokes its head up through planting holes, or around trees. After a few months the cardboard will decay to the point where weeds will gradually begin to emerge though the sheet mulch. It is easy to pull these shoots out if monitored frequently. The mulch can be renewed once or twice a year to maintain its effectiveness.

Non-violent communication for peak oil preparation

Getting Your Family on Board With Food Storage

Sharon Astyk January 27th, 2009

Ok, I’ve convinced you - you need a reserve of food, you want to learn to can and dehydrate, you want to start eating more local foods. But you haven’t done anything yet, because, well, the rest of your household isn’t on board. Before you go there, you need to convince them. So I offer up this handy guide of answers to common protests about food storage and preservation. I also offer up some suggestions on what not to say, just in case you need them, mostly because that part was fun for me to write ;-).

Protest #1: It will be too expensive!

Bad answer: “But honey, the world is going to come to an end soon, and male life expectancy is going to drop into the 50s, so you won’t need your retirement savings anyway. Let’s spend it on food so I have something to eat in my old age.”

Good answer: “I’m glad you are so concerned about our finances, and I share your concern. I think in the longer term this will save us money, allowing us to buy food at lower bulk prices and when it is at its cheapest, and thus will insulate us from rising prices. But let’s sit down and make a budget for what we think it is appropriate to spend on food storage.”

Protest #2: No one has time to can and preserve food anymore! Isn’t that a leftover form the bad old days?

Bad answer: “Of course you’ll have time to do it, sweetie - can’t you get up before the kids do to make pickles? You already get 5 hours of sleep a night, so what’s the problem? Here, read this woman’s blog and you’ll start feeling guilty that you don’t love the kids enough to make your own salsa.”

Good answer: “What I think will end up happening is that we’ll save time later from effort spent now - and we’ll know that our food supply is nutritious and safe - I don’t feel good giving the kids processed foods with all the recalls and contaminations. But let’s definitely start slowly - I’ll make some sauerkraut, and then if you think we should, we’ll look into plans for a dehydrator. But we’ll do it together.

Protest #3: Where are we going to put all that stuff? There’s no way it will fit!

Bad answer: “On those shelves where you keep all your old vinyl records, silly. As soon as I get that stuff out to the trash, we’ll be ready to build our pantry.”

Good answer: “I think there’s some unused space in that guest room, and if I clean out this closet, I know we could put shelves up and store some food. I guess I should think about cleaning out some of my junk, right?”

Protest #4: Storing food is for wacko-survivalist types - that’s not us.

Bad answer: “Oh, didn’t you read that stuff by Nostradamus that I gave you? Oh, and do you know how to use an uzi?”

Good answer: “No, storing food is what my grandmother did to get through the great depression. It is pretty normal, actually - so normal that FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend that every American store some food.”

Protest #5: Nobody in our house is going to eat Garbanzo beans. I’m certainly not going to - they make we want to puke!

Bad answer:”Oh, you’ll eat those beans, young lady, or you’ll spend the rest of your life in your room!”

Good answer: “Ok, you don’t like chickpeas. That’s ok - what would you suggest we get instead? Would you like to come with me to the bulk store and help me pick out some storage food? It needs to be about 1/3 protein sources to grains - what would you suggest?”

Protest #6: I don’t want to think about bad stuff that might happen, or be reminded of it!

Bad answer: “Ok, you don’t have to. But have you ever seen this great website, The Automatic Earth?”

Good Answer: “But remember, we’re not just storing food for bad times, we’re storing food so that we can save money, go shopping less, have more time for each other, and so we have to worry less about money.”

Protest #7: Things will never get bad enough that we need our stored food, so what’s the point?

Bad Answer: ”I expect things to get so bad that we seriously consider whether or not to eat the hamsters - probably by next Friday. After Pookie and Herman, the neighbors will be next.”

Good Answer: “Well, this is really about a whole way of eating - not just storing food for an emergency. So no matter what happens, we come out ahead - we have the food, and it will get eaten.

Protest #8: Ok, I’m willing to think about some food storage, but storing water? That’s for whack jobs.

Bad Answer: “Ok, well I’m storing water for me, and if anything bad happens, I’m just going to sit there watching you shrivel up.”

Good Answer: “Remember the floods in the midwest this summer? A lot of areas had contaminated water, and I don’t really want to go for days with no water to wash hands in or to cook with. All we’ve got to do is take these recycled soda bottles and fill them with water and a couple of drops of bleach, to know that we won’t be in that position.”

Protest #9: Home preserved food isn’t safe - I heard about someone who died from eating home canned food.

Bad Answer: “Oh, you are right. Let’s only eat industrially packaged food with lots of peanut butter in it.”

Good Answer: “It is true that unsafe canning practices occasionally result in home canned food hurting or killing someone. But think of all the trouble we’ve had with the industrial food system - the melamine in dog food, botulism in canned chili, salmonella and ecoli on tons of things. I agree we have to be very careful, especially when pressure canning, and I plan to be. But we can preserve our own in lots of ways that are completely safe, and overall, home preserved food is actually safer, not to mention more nutritious, than commercial canned food.

Protest #10: There are so many things about this that are hard - it takes time, energy, new tools, money. It may be a good idea, but why would you want to take it on?

Bad Answer: “Because Sharon (yes, that woman on the blog you call “the nutjob”) says I should - she fed me the zombie paste, and now I have no will of my own.”

Good Answer: “Because I think we deserve better food than we’re getting. I want it to taste better, I want the money we spend to help do things we’re proud of. I want to depend on ourselves more and on corporations less. I want us to be healthier, and I want us to work together on this as a family. I want us to feel like when we are eating, we’re doing something good - for us and the world.”