Friday, November 27, 2009

(Shame-ful) Promotion

I titled this post "Shameless Promotion" and then thought about it... That title wasn't really true. You see, I am not a salesperson. It kind of makes me nauseous to think about trying to sale something to someone. This "aversion to sales" started long ago with Girl Scout cookies. And people actually like those cookies and often want to buy them. But I always felt like I was asking my parents' friends and neighbors to buy something they might not want. "How rude of me!"

Now, here I am peddling my (homemade, unique, customizable) kids clothes on! And on my blog! (See the sidebar at right.) How shameful!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Candied Grapefruit/Lemon Peels

I'm anticipating my first harvest of lemons from my little Meyer lemon tree. There are probably about 25 lemons and I could pick them anytime now. Making use of the juice is no problem, but what about the peels? Candy them! The picture above was my test on an organic grapefruit. Delicious! The flavor is reminiscent of "orange slice" candy. Did you ever have any of it...maybe as a kid? It was jellybean-like on the inside and coated in sugar on the outside. (Probably full of high fructose corn syrup.) Here's a recipe from Whole Foods...just citrus peels, sugar and water!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eat your soil bacteria?!

"...recent studies indicate that treatment with a specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, may be able to alleviate depression." Check out this report.

I don't know how much Prozac costs, but dirt is definitely cheaper! Of course, we need to take the results of these studies with a grain of salt. And mice are not humans. But still! I mean, we all know that gardening is good for the soul. But who ever thought that inhaling soil bacteria would be the source of that "goodness". Very interesting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BPA is in our canning lids - very sad

Organic Gardening magazine kindly sent me a free issue last week. Secretly, I pretended that it was a reward for all my fan-tab-u-lous blogging, but let's be real. I'd been enjoying the articles and lovely photos for the past couple of days. Then...WHAM! I get hit with this info:

"Canning jar lids from the brands Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernandin are coated with bisphenol-A (BPA) - an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics and the epoxy resins that line many food containers. BPA is an estrogenic chemical - meaning it can mimic the hormone estrogen - and a wide body of research links it to an increased risk for reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes."

Right after I read this passage, my husband walked into the room and he could see that I was upset. I told him why. Then he asked, "What are you going to do?"
Hmm...I thought about the answer to that question. I had several options:
1) Throw out all of my jars of carefully preserved vegetables and fruits. (This seems a bit harsh, especially when I face the fact that all of the food that I have eaten from jars for my whole life has potentially been contaminated with BPA.)
2) Buy new German jars that have glass lids and rubber sealing parts. (Likely expensive. And what will I do with all those old jars?)
3) Write a letter to Ball, Kerr, and anybody else who's address I can find.
4) Pretend I didn't read that page and try to forget. (Ignorance is bliss, I tell ya!)

In the end, I think I've decided to go ahead and use up the goodies I've preserved and look into the German jars for the future. Surely a non-food use for the old jars will pop up. The German Weck glass jars are pretty, but pricey - $15 for six 1/4L jars. In the meantime, I'm going to write a letter to the American lid manufacturers and beg them not to use BPA.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Raised Beds!

It's my privilege to announce the debut of 3 new raised beds!
We used two 2x6s for the sides (rough redwood) and 1/2" wire mesh (galvanized) in the bottom to keep the gophers out. The dump supplied us with 2 truckloads of compost for only $85. (Lots of shoveling and wheelbarrowing ensued). Have I told ya'll how much I love our dump? I don't think so...well, I need to. Anyway, once we got the compost in the beds I planted out some kohlrabi and pac choy seedlings. They may not have time to grow very much before it gets cold, but I thought I'd give it a shot. Cabbage white butterflies are everywhere in the backyard, so I covered the seedlings with black netting. Maybe I won't have to pick off so many caterpillars this time. Can you squish caterpillars with your bare fingers? I can deal with the little ones that way, but the big boys are another story....they require stomping for me.

I found 3 trellises at OSH that fit perfectly in the back of the beds. Being a member of the "do-it-yourself" camp, I had a plan to make the trellises myself. But I found out it was going to cost almost as much to build them myself (and be a royal pain involving ripping several boards), so I bought the pre-made ones. Gotta pick your battles, you know? Peas are just starting to pop up under the trellises - Tall Telephone and Sugar Snap. I also planted snow peas for the first time, but they don't get a tall trellis, since they are shorties. It would normally be time to plant garlic and shallots, but since my garlic got rust this year, I'm afraid it's a bad idea to replant it. (Thanks, Michelle for your advice.) I bought some shallots at the farmer's market and I'm thinking about planting them. Note that this is a "no-no" in all the books, since there is a possibility of disease spread when you aren't using "certified" sets. I did it anyway last year and they grew really well...until the gopher ate them. Maybe I'll plant some more favas, too. Come on rain!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Disappointing ground cherries

I was so excited to be growing ground cherries this year. How special and exotic! Well, maybe they should stay "exotic", cause I can definitely live without them. At least that's how I feel about the Aunt Molly's ground cherry seeds I bought from Reimer Seeds. The fruit they produced were very small, less than dime-sized and the flavor was just too weird for me. It was sweet mixed with tomatillo flavor, but not in a good way. Maybe I should have bought the Yellow Husk variety or the Cape Gooseberry. Or maybe I should have bought my seeds from somewhere else besides Reimer. (They don't have the best reputation...) Did anybody else have good luck with ground cherry this year?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Botany of Desire - ONLINE!

So, I heard that Michael Pollan's book was being made into a movie/documentary for PBS. "Awesome", I thought, since the book was excellent. But I didn't let you fair readers know about it because:
1) Every other garden blogger already did (I felt pelted with this info!) and
2) I don't have a TV anymore and was a bit bummed that I was going to have to miss out

But, guess what?! The lovely people of PBS have made the documentary available for online streaming. Can I get a big "wooo-hoo!" from the TV-free folks? Needless to say, it's good. Really good. Even non-gardeners will enjoy the film. Check it out here!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Spotty germination and carrot seed sandwiches

"Many catalogues, notably Burpee's, offer these ridiculous devices designed for the gardener too stupid to sow seed by himself - and of course charge extra for them; and to put it plainly, they are a swindle. Anyone who can't scrape a shallow trench with a hoe, then walk down it scattering seed from a packet, had better abandon gardening forthwith. Seed tapes are clumsy affairs that have to be unwound and maneuvered into position, then covered with soil exactly as naked seed is. But they don't germinate any better than seed does - rather worse, the difference being that when sees is sown by hand, the inevitable blank spots can be filled with seeds kept in reserve in the packet. When four out of ten seeds embedded in a tape fail to come up, there is nothing to do about it."

-Eleanor Perenyi Green Thoughts - A Writer in the Garden (1981) p. 207

You know, I've never used seed tape, but I did try a little experiment with paper towels and carrot seeds. See, I'd been having trouble with my carrots. The first 3 sowings resulted in very spotty germination. I now know that this was probably due to the fact that I didn't keep the soil moist enough. But, since I didn't know much about carrots back then, I went looking for a solution. And where do we all go searching for solutions? That's right! The internet. That's when I heard about the "paper towel trick". And I thought this would be my answer. So, I placed the seeds 1" apart between 2 paper towels on a tray and moistened this carrot seed sandwich. Then I waited a few days. The idea was to encourage the seeds to sprout on the paper towels. After seeing what I thought looked like sprout-ation, the little guys got a 1/4" blanket of nice potting soil out in the sunny vegetable bed. Making sure to keep the soil moist this time, I watched carefully as only 1 little carrot seed sprouted. What a let down!

After "The Great Carrot Seed Sandwich Experiment" went bust, I simply planted the seeds without any fanfare, watered them lightly almost everyday, and most of them sprouted. Brilliant.
Any evidence of a successful carrot seed sandwich out there?