Category Archives: food security

Garden Update: 4 May

Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers. And, if I’m not a dumb-ass tomorrow, some jalapeños as well. That’s what’s in the garden this year. Things are looking pretty good, though!

Unfortunately, though, there was some natural selection that happened. One of my basil plants died and most of my slicing cucumbers haven’t come up.

Pictures (taken with my Samsung Captivate Android smart phone) after the jump

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Farmer Geordon In the Garden

My cucumber trellises came in from Gardener’s Supply Company yesterday and I was excited to put in my cucumbers. I did that today. While I Was out there, Kristen decided to come help out some (Bless you!) by pulling some weeds out of the ground in and around the garden boxes. She also brought her camera with her to document our efforts.

Photo collage after the jump

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Potato aprehension

I finally have everything on hand to build a couple of potato towers, but the things that I’m seeing online suggest that potatoes grown in towers have a relatively low harvest.  To the tune of about 3 pounds of harvest for every pound of seed used

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Bog fat blob

Oh. My. God. I am in the process of tilling up my garden area, and have discovered something: I don’t think I will be able to do it all as I wanted. One of the 4×8 beds down, one more of the same and a pumpkin patch to go. I can barely lift my forearms.

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Gardening and cooking are subversive acts

Today, I spent a good hour of my day just listening to the following talk:

Authors@Google: Michael Pollan – YouTube.

Michael Pollan is the author of, among other things “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” of which the latter is the topic. There was a lot of information to chew through, but one of the core points is that much of what we eat in America today is “edible food-like substances” rather than “food.”

What is the difference between these two terms? your grandmother or great grandmother would recognize anything that is “food” as edible without difficulty.  “Edible food-like substance” on the other hand, would stymie her. Pollan gave the example of Gogurt as something that she would be confused by. What is in this sealed plastic tube? It feels like toothpaste! The ingredients are crazy, too: High fructose corn syrup (Huh?) and tricalcium phosphate? Neither of those occurs in nature, and Grandma certainly wouldn’t use them in her cooking.

The American diet is so far removed from the natural state of food that most of us have no idea where what we eat comes from. Even our lettuce comes processed! When I was a child, I had to tear apart a head of lettuce If I wanted to have a salad.

Count in that the fact that much of the produce in the grocery store comes hundreds or thousands of miles from where it’s grown to our table. Much of that produce is genetically altered and designed (hybridized) with an eye toward being shipping-durable above all else. If you’ve ever tasted a garden-grown tomato against a grocery store tomato, you know that there is a giant difference in flavor, appearance, and texture between them.

There is a movement underway that has people returning to “real” food, food that Grandma would recognize, and food that doesn’t travel thousands of miles to get to the market. This includes buying food at farmer’s markets and home gardening to raise produce. I don’t have any numbers, but I’ve seen lots of things on the Internet and in my town that proves that some people are “getting back to real.” Even my family is getting back to real food, though that’s as much necessity as anything else.

A big problem with this is that “real” food is more expensive than edible food-like substances. The reason for this is two-fold. First, there is a supply and demand curve that must be overcome. More people want the real food than there are farms and gardens to support it. Second, a great deal of what makes up the food-like substances are subsidized, therefore artificially driving the price down. Watch “Food, Inc.” for more on that. One person that I know summed up that movie in five words: Want some corn with that? Corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the country, making it dirt-cheap to use.

For another problem with our current food supply, just refer to the recent uproar over “pink slime“. Household cleaning chemicals are used to make something only fit for animals into people food. I object, your honor.

Sometimes the sheer thought of eating in the American public makes me sick. I’m growing a garden, so I know where it comes from. (and because it will subsidize my family’s diet for the Fall.)

Planning on potatoes

Today’s goal is to develop a plan to grow somewhere around 60 – 80 pounds of potatoes in a staged or staggered harvest.

The idea is to start three or four groups of potatoes with a week or two between each, so that they have a chance to mature in sequence and we don’t get a too-large harvest all at one time. Since the spuds can take a lot of space, I won’t be planting them in the prepared beds, but rather in some sort of potato tower or (new) trash barrel container.

At this time, I’m thinking that I’ll be doing three or four stages of growing, so I’ll need at least the same amount of barrels or towers.

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Food in Jars

While I was looking for some home canning gear (I am in need of a water bath canner for this Summer’s expected harvest) and I stumbled across the blog Food in Jars by way of Googling for “Steam Canner” information.  I had no idea what a steam canner is and I saw the reference in my search for water bath canners.

Anyway, I found Food in Jars.  What a cool site!  Clever Girl Marisa McClellan talks about home canning and small-scale food preservation, among other things. She’s got recipes galore, and may have me begging for a pressure canner in the moderately near future.

She’s also got a big list of other canning bloggers as well as a list of what she calls “flavors” and appears to be food-related blogs.

Check her out!

Starting the garden off

We are not past the danger of frost, as evidenced by the past three nights of sub-freezing temperatures. In fact, I’ve been bringing in the pots of herbs just in case it gets too cold.

That being said, there are a bunch of things that I can and should be doing in order to get the raised beds ready for planting. Since they’ve been growing wild for a couple of years, I need to rent a tiller in order to break through the weeds and loosen the soil. After due consideration, we’ve also decided that there will be a couple of regular beds opened up along the fence line, so that we can grow some melons and squash (e.g. pumpkins for Halloween) for later in the season.

But, like I said, I need to rent a tiller. I found out that Home Depot rents them, either by 4 hours or all day, and for less than $50.00 so the price is decent. There is a rental place closer to home, so I still want to check that out, but the Home Depot is available. The plan is to rent the tiller this coming weekend and have at.

Some other things that I am able to do at this point include obtaining soil amendments for the raised beds in advance of the tilling, and picking up seeds and the like. I’m also planning on planting a “potato tower” that I saw on Pinterest. Potatoes make up a fairly large portion of our family diet, so having some home grown would make for an interesting experiment.

Since I’m getting what many “serious” gardeners would consider a late start, I’m going to be using seed packets from the garden centers this year, though I would like to plant heirloom varieties next season, so that I can save seeds and not have to buy all over again. Why can’t I save seeds from the garden store packet plants? They’re often trademarked or copyrighted (not sure which applies) by companies like Monsanto, or they grow sterile seeds

So, here’s my plan for today: scope out the fence line for planting melons and squash, and decide where I want to put them.

Learn to garden NOW!

I stumbled across this blog post by way of Pinterest today and had to read it a couple of times for it to really hit home for me.

New Life On A Homestead » Blog Archive » You Must Learn To Garden NOW!.

Why did this hit home?  Simple: I waited too long and now find myself really, REALLY needing the skills that I could have learned already.  I need my garden to be well and truly productive in order to help minimize our food bill this year, since I’m not working at this time.

In light of this, I am a bad “prepper” in that emergency preparedness is one of those things that I am a fan of and I was complacent. I’m paying the price for that now, though.

That’s a feeling that is definitely NOT comfortable.

Besides that, though, I’m thinking that managing the garden may be good therapy to help me stave off the depression that I am sure is coming. It hasn’t hit yet, at least not overtly. But I’ve been trying to stay busy with planning the garden plots this year, as well as making plans for herbal concoctions to sell on Etsy. The problem with that, though, is that there is a moderately high cost of entry and a LOT of competition. Would be less at a farmers market, though.


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