Friday Garden Lust

April 16, 2010 Comments Off on Friday Garden Lust

This  Friday has been  dubbed garden lust day, so named because I wanted to share some lustful garden items.

I badly want a vertical garden somewhere in my house or outside. I haven’t figured out  the logistics t for actually doing it, but it is in the future. These awesome pictures are from  Flora Grubbs They even sell DYI trays for a vertical garden, but the are $100 and I am hoping I can do my own, all. by. myself.

vertical-succulent-garden-at-flora-grubb-gardens

vertical-succulent-garden-at-ames-cottage

I particularly love spring because it is a  time when everyone thinks they are a gardener, including artist  which creates cool garden inspired products. Just today I found   some really interesing garden themed  things in Etsy shops, not too mention today’s Etsy’s front page has a  cherry blossom theme AND a gardening theme, garden is so fashion. Click on the picture to go to the artist’s shop on Etsy.

If only my wrist were small enough to fit in such a thing, I would be super stylin’.

Jade Cuff Bracelet Asian Style  Cherry Blossoms

Who doesn’t need a bell jar  really, and it’s multi-purpose as  you can use these for little seedlings or cookies, and both of those things are quite delightful.

Tall Hand  Blown Glass Bell Jar

And lastly, I found these spoons,  I love anything that involves metal and rudimentary typewriter font. The seller also offered a purpose for them, marking your herbs. I’m sure your herbs would be the belle of the ball with these announcing their presence.

Vintage Silver Spoon Garden Markers- Set of Three- HAND STAMPED with herb names

Happy Friday!

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Sorry Monsanto et al. You Can’t Play in My Sandbox

April 14, 2010 Comments Off on Sorry Monsanto et al. You Can’t Play in My Sandbox

I’ve been  stuck inside lately because pollen and I are having a rocky relationship, and I feel like crap. The only thing I can  muster garden wise are dreams of delicious summer vegetables like tomatoes an cucumbers.  The summer didn’t creep up on me like spring did, and summer vegetables will tolerate the roof a little bit better,  so I have time to let my conscience dictate my summer plantings down to the seed. How could I be having a moral dilemma over a seed? Well seeds are the beginning of life and the power of our food systems. Seeds are from simple but they are the linchpin of our industrial food system, as seeds and thus plants have been genetically designed by humans, often in the form of hybrids. Now on the surface these genetically modified foods seem pretty great, because they make plants resistant to all kinds of things and  can grow in areas that  it might not do well in normally. The end product is generally bigger food and more of it, meaning more to feed all the people that are eating the food from pretty much everywhere. People can really go back and forth about organic farming vs regular industrial farming and the role of genetically modified foo just read the comments of this Boston Globe Article and you will get my point. Anyway like all things local food you have to draw your line, and what I really care about is that genetically modified seeds  reduce biodiversity and put  everyone at risk. For example if 98% of our corn in the same and corn is in so much of the food eaten by Americans, and corn gets a disease we will be up a serious creek  with a fractured paddle. It also doesn’t allow  evolution to do its thing by weeding out the weak and creating naturally resistant plants, and that just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Just like it doesn’t make any sense that farmer can’t save their seeds , because often genetically modified seeds are owned  by the company that makes them and even if the farmer wanted to save seeds many  hybrids won’t have the same yield the second year anyway, because like a mule they are workhorses that can’t reproduce.

SO in my own little act of defiance(waves flag) I am getting my plan on for summer and  unlike spring I am  going  to start my summer vegetables from seed. Because I have a worrisome personality that  is delightfully paired with a guilty conscience so I am making sure that my seeds are open pollinated and have no genetic engineering  juju going on . It’s important to me that I  plant diverse species to support the biosphere.I am getting mine from a company called Southern Exposure Seed  Exchange and they even encourage seed saving! I am fortunate to have them only 40 minutes away from I live, and a vendor at the market sells them on Saturday. However  they sell their products online and have a super awesome catalog (also available online) that has great stories and descriptions of the seeds. There are also tons of resources online for finding places that sell  heirloom/heritage and non GMO seeds and techniques of savings seeds. Even if you don’t won’t go out of your way,  local food is becoming the hot new thing and many large retailers carry heirloom varieties, just be sure not to be confused  by organic seeds in that they may or may not be genetically modified,the guarantee of organic means that they were grown in an organic way.

Buying heirlooms for me  is my own little way of telling Monsanto and other giant seed companies (are there any others?) to F*** off, even if  do still  wear cotton, which apparently Monsanto owns all the seeds to as well, who knew?

Cost Comparison: Hamburger

April 9, 2010 Comments Off on Cost Comparison: Hamburger

Since I can’t get my act together and finish my post on my moral conscience and seeds, I figured it would  be a good time for another ever so chic and awesome cost comparison. I think meat is the biggest investment in eating sustainably, as it is markedly more expensive than  regular  meat that comes from a factory.  In addition to the price it is insanely hard to figure out what exactly is what it says it is, what is marketed to you,  and what is actually going to work for you. I went through some of the basic on meat that I have figured out  here, but I still have a lot of information to cycle through yet. Sooo today we are going to look at hamburger, because hamburger is pretty general , and I have yet to learn different cuts of meat and really can’t figure out which one is more valued  by  people, chime in if you have any insight.

Hamburger

Harris Teeter(Chain) Ground Beef 16oz:  $4.79, Price Per Serving(PPS) $1.20

Ground Sirloin Beef from Reids(Local Grocer) 1 Pound : $3.69, PPS $.92

Ground Beef – General from Reids 1 Pound: $ 2.29, PPS $.57

Ground Beef from Wolf Creek Farm, no antibiotics and  grass fed 1 pound:  $5.38, PPS $1.34

Ground Beef from Polyface Farm grass fed on a biodiverse farm 1 pound: $ 6.99, PPS $1.74

Price Winner: Reids regular ( factory) ground beef at  57 cents per  serving.

Food for Thought:

I wasn’t really surprised at the price difference between meats, the operating  cost for wolf creek and Polyface are much higher than a feedlot  if not just for the land their cows graze on, and are no doubt ultimately happier on. I was surprised about how close in price the Harris Teeter and Wolf Creek was, for 14 cents more a serving you could be eating meat that is  probably better for you, no its true grad fed beef can be lower in fat and have higher levels of CLA and omega fatty acids.

Another major issue that makes me eat sustainable meat is that I want the animal that I am eating to have been treated well throughout its  lifespan from birth to slaughterhouse. This is something that is really important to me, but not important enough to stop eating meat. Like all thing you have to decide if healthier food and ethical food outweigh the increased cost for your family, and if you have the resources to do it. A good suggestion if you want to start somewhere but  don’t have the money is simply by reducing  the amount of meat you first and then see what you can afford. You’ll notice that I included a per serving break down, which for meat is around 4 oz, and that’s what you should be eating at meals. We are very socialized to eat more and I noticed how small the 4 oz portion looked to me when I  started eating it, which I had to do, because I couldn’t afford to buy sustainable  meat and eat like a carnivore.  Now after diligently cutting my meat portion down, I don’t notice as much and I try to eat slower to savor things,  I can’t stress enough how better but less quality is the way to go.

Happy Hunting… I mean shopping!

School Lunch Isn’t a Revolution Its a Caveat

April 7, 2010 Comments Off on School Lunch Isn’t a Revolution Its a Caveat

School lunch has been getting a lot of press lately, what with blogs getting on the news, national television networks making a show, and practically  millions of foodies and localvores twittering about it. Making school lunches more nutritional and fresh is great, kids will no doubt be healthier from eating at least one healthy meal a day and is an ok start to the problem, but  the problem with school lunch is school lunch is not THE problem.  THE problem is complicated and  a combination of two big problems, one involving the industrial food complex and the second involving the state of education in our country. They pretty much intersect somewhere in the middle so let me explain.

Over the last 50 or 60 years  our food system has changed, going from one that relies of small farmers  to a system where our food comes from a factory.  This didn’t happen by itself, the aftermath of  WWII helped, clever marketing helped, lots of money helped,increase in production and lowering cost helped, and a rapidly burgeoning  culture of  immediacy and convenience helped.   So  our food now primarily comes from  a handful of corporations. Most Americans are eating  cheap and factory produced  food, that is why schools  are serving this  food and kids are  eating it. So “fix” the industrial food complex and you effectively fix school lunch. The change needs to happen first  because schools  don’t operate to harm children ,at least in most cases,  the limiting factor of healthy food in school is availability of  resources. These aren’t necessarily monetary resources, even if school got more money for healthier food, that food would still come from a factory, schools and everyone else have very little access to an infrastructure that would support  fresh healthy  and local food on a large scale.  Some areas are lucky enough to have coop or distribution hub that serves restaurants and organization, but most are not. Many would ask why food needed to be local or sustainable  to be in schools, the simple answer is  they don’t, but in a perfect  world, more money kept within a community means more taxes and more money for schools, not to mention more jobs and ethical treatment for animals and people.  So in recap fix factory farming , fix schools to  provide better food, fix unhealthy eating for kids,and it will all support the community and schools are all about community right?

This brings me  to the second big problem. So say  in fantasy land all schools in America start serving “healthy” food not even sustainable but healthy food. This would ahelp a lot, but I really think that the reason that kids are eating the way they are is because  schools no longer create children or adults that  actively engage critical thinking, question asking, and problem solving. The reason that the  our current food system is what it is today is because too many people forgot to ask the simple questions of Where does my food come from? and What is in my food?And plenty of those people already ate  healthy, but this didn’t really roll over to a healthy practice in life. Giving kids healthy food but no curriculum to create a knowledge base about nutrition in food, probably won’t change a whole lot, especially when almost all public school children go home. I myself was a vegetarian for 4 years as a young child, but I still went on to eat all kinds of stuff and eat primarily unhealthy. When I look back on the reason why I chose not to stay a vegetarian, it is mostly because of bacon and steak, but the second reason is that I had no real understanding oh what food is and what is meant in relation to myself. My parents didn’t talk to me about it even though we had a garden I was involved in and my school definitely NEVER talked about it. Although I am pretty lucky that I had the base I did because it allowed me to get to the point I am at now, trying to eat sustainably. So  changing the food in school might make an immediate change , but may not have the momentum to change the overall life of  the student.Most public school children don’t even know a potato or carrot grows in the ground, will this knowledge change if a child is eating  a fresh carrot or mashed potatoes instead of french fries, maybe but not definitely.  However take that student , who is eating healthy food, and actively engage them  with curriculum and conversation about food and how it works for their body, where it comes from, who it comes from, and they will be able to make  informed decisions. Now to be fair none of this will be achieved until curriculum in schools in general is changed pulling away from test driven information and moved more toward the ability to acquire knowledge and ask questions, so that is THE problem that has to change first in order for kids to eat better. Recap:  Make general curriculum more engaging, make food and nutritional curriculum  more engaging, change food in schools, make healthy children who will turn into adults.

So just fixing school lunch is really like giving the beast haircut when you really need to chop off its head, but hey at least it will look prettier and that is improvement after all, and sometimes improvement is better than nothing.

National Botanical Garden:Part Two

April 4, 2010 Comments Off on National Botanical Garden:Part Two

More asparagus because I loved it so much

Outdoor succulent garden.

Most things are still absent leaves in the outdoor garden, but things are making a comeback.

More orchids because they are pretty , and people like pretty things.

I really wish I lived in a place where this hung from the trees, it makes everything seem old , hot , and southern… kind of like Bon Temps.

The ever elusive dinosaur.

I wasn’t overall impressed with the outdoor gardens, but maybe that would change if I visited in summer.

So many begonias!.

This a really tiny succulent garden, you can see that the tags were bigger than all the plants.

And some 4 leaf clovers for good luck!

Adventures in the National Botanical Garden

April 3, 2010 Comments Off on Adventures in the National Botanical Garden

OK so maybe  not adventures, but I did survive the Metro and the thousands, I mean THOUSANDS of people that went to see the Cherry blossoms in DC. I have lived 2.5 hours away from DC my entire life so of course I decide to visit it on one of the busiest possible weekends. Here’s part one of what I saw.

This is asparagus, I was pretty excited it even has little spears, also my current computer background.

Know Thy Plant: Sedum Reflexum

April 2, 2010 Comments Off on Know Thy Plant: Sedum Reflexum

I didn’t do a lot of container gardening last year, I limited myself to just a few decorative pots in the yard, nothing as extensive as a  garden that is limited to pots. However I did learn a pretty useful thing last year and thats that the success of container gardens is entirely dependent on the gardener to do everything for them, this is because plants are selfish! In order to  limit stress and a sense of defeat you really have to know a little about you plants. Potted plants can be flexible in the sense that  you can have different types of plants growing in the same place, but don’t make the mistake for putting them in the same pot. Plants have 3 basic needs , light , water, and fertilizer, if you give them the right amount of these things you will be the king or queen of the garden, give them too much and you get to be the plant executioner. Last year I was excited to do my pots and planted things together with much regard for their needs, I learned the hard way and I was pretty upset when I killed at least one of everything in every pot because of my watering, not to mention how much money I wasted killing plants. So that’s why I introduce this series, that I will call “Know Thy Plant.” in an effort to learn and share what a plant actually needs to succeed. So know thy plants people and be a matchmaker, put plants together that need the same things or one of them will die(they don’t get the luxury of divorce.)

First up is : Sedum Reflexum (SR)

I decided to start adding more succulent into my rooftop garden, because while many don’t flower consistently or bear fruit, they add a lot of green and color. They are also super drought resistant and can handle heat and as you know my roof will be a second circle of hell in summer so if everything else dies then I will at least have these guys and they are pretty spiffy.

I’m just going to make these post simple as you can google SR and find anything you ever wanted to know, but you probably don’t need to know all those things and you will find  some pretty interesting results from a search on succulents, plus why spend more time  in interweb lala land than needed(seriously it took me like 5 google pages.) So here are its selling points:

-It is ground cover  but can most definitely be kept in pots,sometimes for the betterment of other plants, because it can take over.

-It likes sun, but is known to tolerate part shade. They can actually burn if it gets too hot hot. I’m not worrying too much about that because my garden will get a reprieve in the morning

-Plant in well drained soil, it can be moist but shouldn’t be wet. Water more in summer , less in fall and infrequently in winter.If you think you have killed it because you forgot to water it, try watering it still as there is a good chance it will come back up. You can also fertilize the soil, but make sure you use a succulent fertilizer or something that is nitrogen poor.

-It is deer resistant.

-It can winter over outside.

-You can propagate by taking a stem with  or without roots and  plant it in soil with top sticking out, just be sure to make sure t stay well watered for the first couple of weeks. This is actually how most succulents propagate.

Here it is being a good big brother plant by shading the broccoli which can’t tolerate the hot afternoon sun.

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