I can’t tell you how excited I was to grab this bit of HTML real estate back…. then, the spring before last.
Back then…. I actually had a real head of steam. I’d done some things, helped some people, and felt like things were going to work out, with my help.
Back then…. I thought I was actually going to be able to make up some of the ground lost. By folks that were my age when I had my last head of steam.
Back then…. I was a kid. There’s no making up for lost ground. So what? Anyone defending that which has been lost has been lost.
I thought I could, if not lead the charge, at least be part of the company into the breach. How do you think I feel that I was serving slop at the chuck-wagon when Gen. Rumpke was issuing the orders to stand down?
Truth be told, I lost the reasons I’d started this blog. I’m a composter: check, and I got (stupidly) involved in the idea to sell the stuff, albeit donating the grand share to charity, when it turned out that it would cost $1k to do so, eh? I’m a volunteer, and got a lot of the juice needed to keep doing so from writing here: when it was clear that my efforts were going to “garbage,” I resisted and was finally overcome. Then, I was just embarrassed.
But, hell, I have the address so let’s let ‘er rip. I’ll do my best to get here twice weekly, and should.
I’ve not touched an effort in 4-5 months. My last one went “kablooie” in a dramatic fashion, and I just didn’t feel good about anything.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking out at the 10 or so acres surrounding my son’s suburban school, and thought “why no garden?”
Of course, I inquired. The principal was very nice, considering his difficulties juggling the 18, pre-dismissal things he was doing at the moment. He indicates interest, intent, and acceptance. I think there’s a shot there, really, to put together a small program in the spring and grow from there.
Fortunately, through our localvore community, I had the opportunity to contact Roberta @ http://grannysgardenschool.com/, a pioneer in the effort. What an amazing thing she has going, and how generous she’s been with everyone. She’s provided an amazing example.
As it happens, I shared my discussion with my friends the Carnevale’s (no link, yet, but he’s a photographer might give us some potatoe shots?) and they shared http://wilsongardenwonder.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html , another program in the same school district. I had the opportunity to speak with the founder here, too. Wow.
I’m not crazy. People are capable of doing the right thing, or even great things, without regard to status or personal gain. Please inform Gen. Rumpke that the surrender is conditional.
After talking with Granny, it was clear that I needed to contact a teacher first. There has to be someone willing to put some sort of curriculum together, or enact some, to make a schoolyard garden work. I reached out to Mrs. J., who’s my son’s teacher, who immediately expressed interest.
Tying the loop at the school, I let the principal know of the prior discourse. He let me know that a parent, Mrs. M., was very interested in the topic. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to connect on the lawn, and afterwards by phone.
Cautiously optimistic that this is going to work. From multiple perspectives, this has to be a small pilot. It has to grow to become part of the culture of the school.
Still, I’m excited, to get going and to be a part.
Have fun out there.
One of the things that spurred me to get more active with “green” thinking is the idea that most things labelled “green” just aren’t. I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “greenwashing,” which refers to the marketing of materials purported to be green, but aren’t. Research suggests that up to 90% of “green” products aren’t green, at all.
In my experience, what pushed me over the edge were “green” sunglasses. Enough, already, I thought, and started looking around for ways to help organizations with long-term commitments to green ideas.
Truth be told, though, we as gardeners are some of the worst at being green. It’s taken me years to do no-till gardening, for instance. It’s so simple, and I’ve always been a composter, but (and I’m ashamed to say it) I only within the last 5 years made extensive use of mulch. Water here in the Ohio Valley is plentiful, but it never dawned on me how much time I was wasting composting to create good topsoil, and then just washing it away.
I’m still ignorant on many fronts, to be sure, so I’m more than happy to let others do their things, and express my opinion here and wherever else I feel comfortable. I am interested in ideas, to be sure, and want to make sure I understand what folks are up to before I make any decisions. Most people don’t do everything I do in the garden, and I’m not even sure I should do everything I do in the garden. But, even if you’re not doing something I would expect, I’m doing my best to just ignore it.
But, I’ve had a few experiences lately that have increased my concern that things among the “green” movement are going to have some problems.
Random overheard conversations.
Overheard, a couple of weeks ago at the Library, teenage boy to his mother: “The don’t have [the movie I was looking for]. Can’t we just buy it?”
Mother: “Have you heard about the economy?”
Son: “Yea, I’ve lost money.”
Mother’s jaw must’ve dropped, awkward silence.
Son: “From my college fund.”
Mother gasps. Author laughs.
In a local store, known for a green clientele and product line, before a class.
A lady picking up her CSA allotment discusses with the clerk her teenagers recent declaration
Pretty Lady: “So they came home the other day, and said ‘I’m not eating anything but organic food. Do you know what they do to the animals? And I just looked at them, and thought, What is it I’m serving you? Hello? We’ve been eating this way for years?”
Pretty Lady’s kids had absolutely no idea that the work their parents had put into feeding them healthy foods from local sources was a choice that’d already been made for them. Some dope at school, teacher or child, had assumed the avant-garde, spouted off and made some assumptions, resulting in hysteria in PL’s children. I guess that’s the way it is, with schools, but what is this? Since when is it cool to be sensible?
It isn’t cool. People making decisions because it’s cool is going to bring this whole thing down on its ear.
Don’t tap the glass
At the poker table, where I find myself frequently, there are, in many peoples eyes, two types of players: sharks and fish. Now, being a pretty lousy player (for the time I’ve put into it,) I don’t necessarily subscribe to that logic. But, there are some undeniable facts about poker.
It’s not, solely, about luck. The only edge a person can count on is they’re understanding of the basic facts about the game, and their ability to understand the situation at hand. I mean that there are good hands, and bad hands, to start with. There are a finite number of ways a hand can play out, and there is an opportunity in every situation.
Some folks don’t believe this. They’ll say, for instance, “Every time I do x, y happens.” They’ll stick to sub-par hands at the start, because they like them, they “hit” more often for them.
At the poker table, it’s in a player’s best interest to let these fallacies go uncorrected. It is a game, afterall.
The shark, who corrects a poor player (the fish) on a bad decision, is said to be “tapping the glass,” as in the aquarium glass.
Granted, most poker players learn from discussions with other poker players, but mostly not while the chips are on the table. These are discussion to have outside the game.
Sometimes, you don’t care if someone else knows better or not.
To cool for school
Some things happened recently that concerned me, among people who should know better. Both involve the health and welfare of a hypothetical third-party, unrelated to the author.
One was coincidentally timed after Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment to appoint a board of livestock regulator. It’s a little more complicated than I’m letting on, but the fear among small farmers, and reasonably so, is that this board will make it difficult for small farmers to continue, due to regulation designed to favor “the big boys.” I suspect that this will happen, and sympathize with the plight.
Shortly after the passage, though, a notice went out, requesting that folks recycle their egg containers to be used again. Now, I don’t know if you know, but this is really, really not up to regulations. Chicken eggs aren’t exactly sterile, and have a lot going on with them. Putting them in a cardboard container shares that “going on” with the cardboard container. There are reasons farmers aren’t supposed to be doing this.
When your local farmers market, do you want the chance that your vendor has a 5th use egg container? Of course, you’ll keep the carton clean, in your garage or basement, but did the other 4? Do you even know if your basement doesn’t have something someone shouldn’t have on their eggs (who knows what this is, but you get the point.) In the effort to be “cool,” thrifty, we (and the vendor) risk causing some major issues. There are reasons those regulations are there, and it’s not to make it tough on the small farmer, it’s to make it safe for the customer. The cost of an egg should probably be a chicken and a clean container.
In another instance, a lady is dumping dog poop tea on her garden. Not composted, no processing other than put it in a bucket with water, let it steep. Tremendous results, naturally. No one’s ever been sick.
Not yet. I’ve noticed a resurgence of the “humanure handbook” in local circles, and having now read a bunch of it (for free, over at humanurehandbook.com) I can say that it’s a pretty interesting read. However, the man is attacking a taboo, namely humanure, and doing so with well. I don’t think that he’d suggest that other feces are more or less pathogenic, or that you should take more or less caution with them.
And, having experienced the business part of humanure, and the 2nd step in the process, I doubt I’ll be partaking.
The net result of these experiences has been to make me more worried than ever that this “green” movement won’t take flight. A Prius is no more a solution than a dog turd tea. Each can have their place, but a Prius is much less efficient, for instance, than mass transit, and we know that, just as we know that not composting or otherwise treating feces is a bad idea, just as we know that egg cartons can harbor dangerous pathogens.
I’m stuck in my own little world over here. I make mainly self-interested decisions (thank you, Ayn Rand). But, honestly, some of the choices people are making, with regards to supposedly protecting our common future, seem strange. In some cases, as strange or stranger than driving an SUV like a Hummer while living in a city, for instance.
But, glad to have the conversation, at least. There are good things happening. Let’s keep it that way.
Had a pretty productive day today. Got out into the yard at about 9:30, took care of a few prepwork type things, and got started, in earnest, at around 10:30 w/the honeysuckle popper.
10:30 am: identified the biggest stump, in terms of shear girth. Probably, 6″ around. Go get gloves.
10:32 am: Find gloves. On way to stump, see Lilly, the llama, across the way. Say “damn.”
10:32 am: Lilly, the llama, hears me. She says “damn” back.
10:33 am: piano teacher shows up for my oldest’s lesson. Let him in, dogs come out.
10:34 am: Lilly and Willy (Lilly’s boy) come to investigate the dogs. At bottom of photo, notice the honeysuckle I’d popped the night before. I left the tool out overnight, and should be ashamed, but I was amazed and was going to take a photo then, but got distracted. Anyway, at this point, I can’t retrieve it without feeding Lilly, which is difficult because Willy is there, and she’ll get upset with him and spit on me, or both of us.
10:36 am: Lilly isn’t so interested in me anymore, and is looking at my dogs. Good boys. Retrieve tool, attack biggest nastiest stump.
10:40 am: Dogs think Lilly’s boring, she’s offended, is back to bother me. OK, fine. Have a smoke.
10:45 am: finish smoke, curse at Lilly. See Marlow, the zebra, across the way. Whistle to him. He starts on his way over.
10:50 am: Marlow’s at the fence. Grab some hay. He chases of Lilly. My Hero.
The critter in the back is an alpaca. They do spit, too, but Lilly is the only one of the neighbor animals with any sort of attitude.
10:52 am: I’m attacking the thing, in earnest, having popped a couple of supporting roots.
10:55 am: the thing is done. Wow.
10:57 am: Piano lesson’s over. Teacher leaves.
11 am: the new donkey comes over to see what all the fuss is about. Cody, the old donkey, was struck by lightening and this guy got here a couple of weeks ago. Marlow doesn’t like him. Marlow leaves the fence to harass him.
11 am and change: Guess who is back?
She’s loaded for bear, with me giving the other animals food and not saving any for her.
11:15 am: wife is back, brought lunch home. Eat and take a nap. It’s Saturday, and I deserve one.
Wake up later. Spent the afternoon clearing out the rest. The camera was getting knocked around, so I didn’t get all the things photographed, but here’s a pile of just roots.
All told, that’s about 35 minutes of “work” with this thing. It is very, very impressive.
It also worked on this tree root. Although it is designed, and works very well, on things with shallow roots and a crown, this thing came up easier than the bigger honeysuckles. Next to borrowed 2 handed pruner for scale. Wow.
That was fun. I now have another garden area as large as the entire yard in my last house. Blueberries and something (else) for birds, maybe butterflies, will be going in there.
Have fun out there. The honeysuckle popper was a treat to use; simple and remarkably effective.
I should have taken photos, the blogger’s lament.
Promise, I will.
I cleared an area that will be dedicated to, probably, blueberries. Huge honeysuckles dominated it, and I cut them out with a chainsaw and a great pair of shears (borrowed).
In the course of it, I considered a few times how I was going to convert it to a planting bed. My consideration was interrupted by a spitting llama more than once, poison ivy about as many times, and the piano teacher twice (in and out). I’m happy to say: the llama was not injured, my poison ivy is remarkably limited to a small patch on my hand, and my son’s piano teacher will be back despite my language and appearance.
The fact about the llama is most striking, of course. It seems that the llama, Lilly, was very interested in my doings, especially after I lit the fire to burn all the brush. Of course you know, that honeysuckle is an impossible bush to do anything with, angular and stringy. I decided to burn the proceeds of my lopping/sawing close to the location, which also happened to be within 10′ of the fence Lilly and I, and all the rest of the neighbor animals, share.
Lilly is a special sort of creature. When we moved here, the llamas were very interested in our dogs, but not so much us, or seemingly; the donkey and the zebra were much more interested, and probably shooed them off. Just a few weeks into our residence, Lilly gave birth, and Willy, the kria, has been her constant companion. She’s got, immediately, a little edgy, protective, and rightly so I’m sure. So much so that she made, for a while, the area on my fence almost impassible with llama spit.
I buttered her up with hay, and we’ve been OK since, but this fire, well, fired her up. She saw it and did the Dr. Seuss llama run over to see what was going on. From about 200′ away. If you’ve never seen a llama run, you should find some in your area or check out youtube, because it’s an interesting experience.
Arriving on the scene, Lilly looked at the fire, she wasn’t happy, stamped; she looked at me. Smoke went in her face. Her ears, as Lilly’s do, went back. Lilly’s a llama that has a perpetual scowl, when she realizes you’re looking at her. It’s her way of getting something out of you.
Then Lilly passed out. Bamm. No kidding. I thought the damn llama had a heart attack. I did, honestly, feel terrible for a second. Then Lilly got a breath of air not in the smoke, and got up. I said “oh, my God, thank you.”
Lilly looked right at me, tilted her head up a bit, and projected a cloud of spit. I’m sure Lilly had taken account of the thermal properties of the fire between us, because, had she not, it would have sailed over me and settled elsewhere. Damn Lilly.
Unfortunately, Lilly was now on guard. It actually took a lot longer than necessary to clear that area. Lilly continued, whenever the fire got smoky, which was often because the fire was made up of green honeysuckles in an open pit, run over and repeat the “hustle, breath, pass out, spit” procedure. Honestly, she was so accurate that when she hit the ground, I waited until she got her footing and dodged. I got hit twice, but 1st stomach bile, but she dug deep a few times. Llamas have multiple stomachs, and use spit as their main defense. You can tell when they’re getting bile from a lower stomach by the way they work their neck; get hit by a deep one, and I assume it’s like tear gas. Lilly, fortunately, would hit the ground and spit immediately, without resorting to “cocking” the spittle, but she would immediately assume that position, which kept me away from the fence until she found a better way to focus her aggression, or cleared her head.
She’s since chilled out, thankfully, because I didn’t want our relationship to regress to just after Willy’s birth. I got it all burned, and she actually stopped the passing out bit, too. What is funny is that none of the other 6 llamas had any ill will towards the fire, and never exhibited the same behavior, but were curious enough to come see what I was up to.
So now I have a bunch of lopped off honeysuckle. There are a few options for eradicating it, none of which are all that easy. You can immediately treat it with Roundup, which I was reluctant to do at the time. I didn’t realize that my decision was “final”, though, but it is. The stumps must immediately be treated (within a couple of minutes) or the wound is healed. Remarkable, but true.
The other option is burning, which is OK by me, but with this many stumps, I’d be amazed if I’d accomplished the task without some really strange luck.
I settled in, after I’d learned this, to dig them out. Then, lo-an-behold, I discovered the honeysuckle popper. I’ve been anxiously awaiting it all week, and it was delivered to my office this morning. I actually spent my lunchtime attacking some honeysuckle in a local park, and I can’t tell you how impressed I am. As soon as I got home, I hit one of the larger crowns with it, and finished it off in just minutes. It works, and great.
Pictures to follow. I have some work to do tomorrow, but it’s going to be a whole lot easier and more productive than I though, I bet.
If you know me, you know I can get excited about anything. I mostly get excited about things I see as obscure, or specialized. The better mousetrap, as it were. Like most sons of engineers, for instance, I vowed at 8 years old that I’d make improvements to the diesel engine (and they are needed!) Also, as most sons of engineers, I grew away from my father, and discovered various new problems.
Somewhere along the way, I got hooked on gardening. Hooked, completely. I can get excited about anything, but just a few things are things that I think my children must know, that I dream of sharing with them. Diesel engines are important, and I’m sure they’ll get it from me; gardening, active or passive, as limited as understanding or grand as production, is important and vital. I don’t know how I got hooked, but I did, and here I am with a billion unconnected facts, a few ideas, and an approach that has defined me from day two: this has to be simpler.
Also along the way, I’ve picked up a knack for writing, that has defined me. I was a high school dropout when I decided I’d go to college to learn how to talk about writing. Talking about it got me through, doing it became secondary, and now this is my little ledge to jump off of into doing it again.
I do also enjoy poker, which has been the source of my greatest frustration but also another of my lifelong obsessions. I remember playing penny anne in trailers, with the various adults who made up the characters of my Appalachia, until way past bedtime, at ten or eleven. For the last couple of years, I’ve reached into the online world to play it, and have done pretty well, not as well as I’d hoped, but I’m still a winning player.
This is all to say, that I’ve been divided for a long time. I’m going to be a lot of things, forever. I’m just going to have to accept that, and go with what feels right at the moment, or fits best into the long-term.
There was an opportunity to work with an organization I thought would give me less division. I wasn’t able to reach it. Bummer. No platitudes there. Something else will happen.
I’m in the long-term game with writing and gardening, no doubt. Poker, well, let’s just say that ain’t going anywhere, and it’s one thing my boys will be good at; my honest hope is that I can teach them to fly on the proceeds of my own escapades.
The bokashi thing, well, that was the better mousetrap to a problem I’ve had for a while. My involvement in that will recede as folks figure out their own approaches to it. I’m sure that it works, and works better than landfills or conventional composting. I will advocate and educate at every opportunity. But, my honest hope is that I don’t have to do it much longer. I’m down with a couple more years, but not at this schedule. I’ve spent a lot of time on it, a lot of energy, and I’m glad to share. But, meanwhile, I’ve got my own garden to weed, a couple of fish over at table 7, and two boys to teach. And a blog. Hopefully, readers.
Simply put, I don’t know where this is going, but buckle up. I need to write, about a lot of different things. I’m going to enjoy doing it.
If you told me six months ago I’d be standing in front of a crowded room, talking about what to do with kitchen waste, I’d have murmured and said “yea, sure.” Of course, I was pretty sure that everyone could compost, but I was having a private battle with it myself, one that had waged a decade or so.
If you told me that I could, in good conscious, say “sure, gather all this food waste in your apartment,” I’d have surely considered you bonkers. I lived in an apartment or two (or ten?) and couldn’t imagine suggesting that anyone would seriously compost in that situation. The roaches… the horror…
But, yesterday, with all good intentions and a bit of ignorant well-meaning, I stood in front of 40 or so colleagues and did just that.
It works. There are no guarantees how well, but I’ll just say: Better, by far.
I’ve given away over a dozen sets now, with an out-of-pocket expense of about $150 expense. I’ve mailed off bokashi (within the states). I’ve interested folks with a professional stake in the issue: educators, landscapers, writers.There’s a great stanza from Hurricane Eye (Paul Simon) that pretty much sums up my feelings about these activities:
You want to be a leader?
You want to change the game?
Turn your back on money
Walk away from fame
You want to be a missionary?
Got that missionary zeal?
Let a stranger change your life
How does it make you feel?
You want to be a writer
But you don’t know how or when
Find a quiet place
Use a humble pen
I’m going to do at least 3 more classes, hopefully 4. With different folks, from different walks of life; from homemakers to aspiring Master Composters. I hope to work with a harvest celebration for local foodies to distribute information.
My honest hope is that I’ll be done by Thanksgiving. I’m not a leader; gardening is a passion for me, and the passion for good soil led me to bokashi. I’m absolutely not a missionary, though I feel more and more like one every day. What really got me started writing here, though, was less about bokashi (as a process) than about gardening.
I wasn’t too serious about the blogging bit, though, as I’m not too serious about gardening; everything I do, is (I think) pretty simple, and not surrounded by a real understanding of why things work, but just that they do (or have, for me).
It’s done a lot for me, to write these things out. I’ve gotten through some pretty sticky situations related to a project I’m on (and not bokashi), just by virtue of banging away at the keyboard and making my case. Isn’t that what story-telling is all about? Making sense of disparate things?
Giraffe, gorilla. Speak Japanese. And all they’ve said, lately, is “bokashi” a few times.
I hope to carry this out, get the ball rolling, watch it splash into pool of knowledge and emerge. I really do. It’s been a wonderful ride, a fascinating (and yet so simple) discovery, but it just ain’t my game.
Garden is producing. I’ve been eating roasted okra (in the toaster oven, about 30 minutes @ 350 with a little salt) for supper a couple of times a week.
It finally got hot enough to produce enough tomatoes for them to make it past the picker, into the house, and into the refrigerator. We didn’t eat them immediately, as we’ve been doing, and I actually stopped with the second bag full to weigh it. I couldn’t get it on the supermarket scale, too much, so onto the bathroom scale.
Grainy photo notwithstanding, those are all tomatoes. 20lbs of them.
We’ve had more tomatoes so far than we had all of last year; most of the tomatoes we had were green when Ike came through, and we certainly ate the ones that were ripe before they hit the fridge. I haven’t used any commercial fertilizer this year, and have only sprayed the tomato plants for bugs once (neem) as a precaution.
Very happy with the haul we’ll have. Next year, lots of changes to the garden, but good and necessary.
Looking forward to it.
I’m pretty excited, as I now have a hydroponic system.
Better than that, it was free.
Best of all, the people that gave it to me are actually interested in the topic as a source for food.
I once watched a program about hydroponics in rooftop gardens, and was impressed enough to regard it as a potential for food production in very economically challenged areas, like inner-cities where there isn’t much land and there are very few ways to garden conventionally. I just never had the cujones to put one together myself, or look much further into it.
Now that I’ve got a little system myself, I’ll be messing with it. It will, I’m sure, be a lot of my winter experimenting.
With respect to the inventor, I’ll be scant on the details, but explain the principles.
Plants need sunlight, nutrients, and water to grow. In my little example, I’m using a grow light on a timer, which isn’t ideal but does work; in a rooftop garden, natural sunlight would be free.
In order for plants to get nutrients, the nutrients must be available to their roots.
By suspending nutrients in the water, the roots are able to dine to their heart’s content. They grow through the medium, in this case a peat pellet surrounded by expanded clay, without resistance.
In the system I have, there are different types of lettuce. However, one could reasonably grow just about anything in this way, depending on the amount of space and heat they’d be willing to generate.
The next step for me is to put this on a Kill a Watt energy usage meter, to figure out the costs associated. I really have no idea, but suspect that, while it’s more expensive to grow this way than buying from the grocery, it’s not all that much more. Several design features here are pretty unique to any system I’ve seen, though to be honest I’m not exactly knowledgeable about hydroponic systems.
I’ve just gotten over a huge hurdle in my 9-5, with year-end reporting completed, but there’s a few things I have to take care of on the bokashi front before I get into Terra Preta more seriously. I am curious, as I write this, how charcoal might enhance the hydroponic system, though; I may consider replacing some of the medium I’ve been given with quarter-sized chunks of charcoal.
I’m going to start calling barrel recyclers at some point this week, to get the bio-char parts. I have to stop up at the lawnmower shop to see if he’ll let me use his metal tools; I think he will, as he’s suggested several times to customers that he’d let them work on their own mowers to cut down costs (ala’ the Car Talk guys, who had a People’s Automotive shop in Boston, where they charged a membership fee for folks to come and work on their own cars.)
I’m meeting with a lady from the Civic Garden Center to talk about how to add bokashi to their curriculum. They’ve been designated the county’s compost educator, and do quite a bit of work and education about the topic. I’m excited that they’re excited about taking part; it really fits into their urban and community garden focus.
Short term, it turns out my truck does actually qualify for the cash for clunkers program, as it was built in Canada. Buying a car is a pain in the ass, and that’s all I have to say about that.
Have fun, whatever you’re driving. If you’re 1985 pickup truck is worth more than your 2003 Saab, we have something in common. What are you trading them both in on?