Monthly Archives: January 2015

GOOD BOOKS, GOOD LECTURES

One Book = Years of Experience

    I’ve been gardening for over 30 years. Don’t be impressed. The number of years spent with hands in the dirt doesn’t necessarily confer any particular expertise in the field (pun intended). Some gardeners do the same foolish things year in and year out, or never sufficiently investigate other, perhaps better, ways of doing what they’ve been doing. Or not appreciate cause and effect. (Was it really the compost tea spray that led to bountiful yields last year, or was it reliable rainfall interspersed with bright, sunny days? The tendency is to hold the former responsible.) Or, the wizened, old gardener’s wealth of knowledge might not extend beyond what they’ve grown on their own “back forty,” severely limiting the benefit of any wisdom passed on to others with a shorter history of gardening.    Reading is a efficient way to squeeze wisdom of others, reflecting decades …

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NOTHING TO DO? SEQUESTER CARBON?

Agriculture: Good or Bad for Our Planet?

    I’m enjoying this farmdening interlude, with essentially nothing to do, farmdenwise, for a few weeks. No planting, no pruning, no weeding. Seeds have been ordered and the greenhouse, full of lettuce and kale and chard and other fresh stuff, is cold enough to require no more than weekly waterings, if that. Even then, watering involves nothing more than a quarter turn of the mechanical timer to start water running through the drip irrigation lines.    I’m going to use this lull as an opportunity to ruminate — on rumens and other relationships between agriculture and global warming.

Deb, first time herding some very big cattle

    Let’s get started right away with the rumen, that part of the digestive system of a cow, steer, or other ruminant where cellulose is fermented. With a capacity of more than 50 gallons, a cow’s rumen is a …

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FRESH-PICKED SALADS ALL WINTER

Greenhouse, Coldframe, Hotbed = Fresh Lettuce, Mâche, & other Salad Fixings 

You can’t beat the luxuriousness of entering a greenhouse on a sunny, cold winter day, and hitting that welcome wall of moist, warm air. Once you get through that soft wall, you drink in the redolence and visual vibrancy of green, growing plants. All this is possible even with a relatively inexpensive greenhouse, such as mine, which is, basically, 2 layers of plastic film supported by sturdy, steel hoops (plus thermostats, a propane heater, a cooling fan, and a “squirrel cage” fan to inflate the space between the layers of plastic for better insulating value).

Fresh greens in the greenhouse

Still, a greenhouse — my greenhouse, at least — isn’t for virtual trips to Puerto Rico; It’s for growing edible plants, mostly fresh lettuce, celery, mâche, claytonia, and arugula to fill the salad bowl every day from late fall through …

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To Every Thing There is a Season

Pruning is reduced to small steps, in time & process

So many branches, so little time. Or so it seems. Annual pruning is needed to get the best out of most trees, shrubs, and vines, of which there are many here on my farmden.

But wait. My brother once remarked — and the remark rang true — that a large part of feeling overburdened from so much to do comes from thinking about it, rather than doing it. And now that I think about it — if I may be allowed a bit more thought — many trees, shrubs, and vines do not need annual pruning except for size control, in which case a different plant or dwarfer variety could have been planted. My witch hazel shrub is in that hardly-ever-needs-pruning category, as is fothergilla, goumi (an attractive shrub with tasty fruits), mountain laurel, and rhododendron. 

Witch hazel is a shrub …

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NOTES TO MESELF

Of Mice, Disease, To Grow, and Not To Grow

Despite rain, some snow, and temperatures that dipped below 10°F, the whole bed of endive was lush and green. A low tunnel of porous, light fabric and clear plastic held aloft by wire hoops kept the worst of the weather at bay. As I reached in to harvest a head, no knife was necessary; the head lifted, unattached, off the ground. Mice have been at work again!

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. A timely sowing of endive seeds (early July) gave sturdy seedlings that were transplanted (early August) into compost enriched soil to present (by September) a beautiful bed of wall to wall greenery. The beds were covered for cold protection in November.

What a cozy home that bed became for mice. The tunnel provided not only food and lodging but also cover from the hungry eyes of local hawks. The …

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