Saturday, February 18, 2006

Kindly Kale

Kindly Kale

776 words, Copyright Harvest McCampbell, 2006
Published 2/14/06 The Hoopa Valley People Newspaper, Posted here with permission

Kale is one of those gracious vegetables that we can grow year around here in the temperate regions of Northern California. It is highly adaptable. It can survive triple digit summer time temperatures as well as a fairly hard frost and a dusting of snow. In hot summer areas Kale benefits from ample moisture, a thick mulch, or afternoon shade. No special winter time protection is necessary. Kale will take all the rain, fog, and mist we can muster, as long as the ground doesn’t freeze.

There are a number of varieties to choose from. There are kales with curly frilly leaves, flat leaves, and savoy – or crinkled leaves. Kale comes in dwarf forms that barely get 10 inches tall, all the way to standard forms that can reach upwards of 3 – 4 feet when in bloom. Kale also comes in a variety of colors, from silver sheen, blue green, purple, to Red Russian Kale with its red stems and veins.

My favorite kale, so far, is Red Russian Kale. It has a mild nutty flavor, a few plants will provide all the kale most families will need, and it is very ornamental. It’s feathery blue green leaves with their striking red veins are as at home in a flowerbed as in the garden. Compared to frilly or savoy leafed varieties Red Russian Kale is easy to care for. The relatively flat leaves are easy to inspect and wash, in case of pests. Aphids, slugs, and cabbage worms sometimes bother kale. A goodly trickle from the hose while gently rubbing any infested leaves is usually all that’s needed to control the aphids and cabbage worms. Cabbage worms and slugs can be hand picked mornings and evenings. If all else fails, insecticidal soap can be purchased from your nursery or mail order supplier.

In the kitchen kale can be used all the ways that spinach, chard, and cabbage are used. Flat large leafed varieties can be employed as alternative wrappings for cabbage rolls. The cooked leaves from any variety can double for spinach in quiche and dips. They are equally at home in soups, stir-fries, or sautéed with garlic and onions. The young leaves make a crunchy, nutty, attractive addition to salads.

Kale is generally considered more nutritious than spinach, cabbage, and lettuce. It is a Brassica, which are what members of the cabbage family are called. Recently the Brassicas have been much in the news because of research that shows they are high in anti-cancer compounds. Kale is also high in vitamins A & C, and it contains considerable amounts of a number of minerals, B vitamins, protein, and other nutrients. Kale is considered a supper food! For complete information on kale’s nutritional benefits please see:

Kale is also easy to grow. Very soon six packs of several varieties of kale will be available at many nurseries and garden supply centers. Kale seed can also be found in many catalogs and at seed counters. While kale can be started at any time of year, spring is perfect. Kale plants started in spring will begin to offer a few leaves at a time through the warm months and by fall they will be in full swing. Consider your garden plot carefully before planting kale, as it lives and produces for two years.

Near the end of kale’s life span it begins to bolt. Those immature flower stalks are delicious. You can graze on them right in the garden, or use them raw or cooked. The more you cut the more the plant will produce – so cut as many as you like. The bright yellow flowers are also edible, as are the immature seedpods. Kale is a truly versatile vegetable.

To save your own seed, you only need to let a few stalks mature. Each pod will contain 5 or more seeds. And each stalk will have 5 – 10 pods, so you will have plenty to share with friends. Just wait for the pods and stalks to be crisp-dry before picking them. It is possible for kale to cross with other cabbage family plants, so keep this in mind if you want to save your own seed. Brassica seeds keep for a few years, so it is possible to stagger the flowering times of your various crops to keep the lines relatively pure.

If you find you enjoy kale as much as I do, you will want to start a few plants each year. That way you won’t ever be without this easy, versatile vegetable. If your nursery doesn’t have starts or seeds they can be ordered from the following companies:

776 words, Copyright - Harvest McCampbell, 2006
Published 2/14/06 The Hoopa Valley People Newspaper. Posted here with permission.

Other gardening articles from the Hoopa Valley People Newspaper:

First Flowers for the Season, February 7, 2006

Florence Fennel, January 31, 2006

Cilantro, January 17, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Apologies, Brain Damage,Writing, Mail, Etc.

Dear Readers,

I am sorry to neglect you. It is not intentional . . . I am not sure what my excuse was for Wednesday, I, um, well, I forget. Maybe I was tired, or distracted, or my shoulder hurt. There was a reason. I just don’t remember. Ya know this brain damage is a funny thing to live with. I have my areas that I am still knowledgeable and skilled and then there are other areas that just don’t work very well anymore. My own brain is a mystery to me. And it seems to pretty well be a mystery to people around me. As certain functions improve, folks seem to expect the others to improve at the same pace. But it just isn’t so. I still can’t cross the highway by myself, at least not safely. But I can write pretty dang good. (Maybe not this morning, though . . .)

Yesterday was the monthly meeting of “Mountain Voices.” It is primarily a group of poets; most are from up here in the hills. I am a sort of unofficial member – as I have never paid my dues. Anyway, they meet once a month for informal reading and sharing, and several times a year they sponsor a performance. I often participate, but not always. When I woke up yesterday morning, I actually remembered that the meeting was going to be held later that day. But I did not intend to go.

As you may already know, I have been doing some writing for the local paper. It started out as an extension of this blog. But it is evolving into its own thing. Yesterday I was working on an article for the paper, on soil nutrient cycles. It used to be that writing that sort of thing took me a few hours. Now it takes much longer. I used to be able to compose whole essays in my head, edit and revise while I washed dishes or pulled weeds, or even while I did filing at work or drove from one place to another. Now I can’t even remember what words I used in the paragraph preceding the one I am working on. Oh well, I can write. (But maybe not this morning . . . Did I mention that already?)

The little journey of getting my thoughts on paper regarding the nutrient cycle, and attempting to express my self proclaimed depth on the subject was a challenge. I was hoping to express something useful, and transformational, on the subject of gardening to my fellow seed poets here in this specific water shed. Since I can’t hold the whole essay in my thoughts at once – I don’t even have an idea of how well I succeeded – even from my own vain perspective. If I did succeed I can’t entirely take credit. Because I am not entirely in control. There is now much more of a spirit of whimsy and prayer in my life. Whimsical irreverent foul-mouthed prayer. And while I lean towards the whimsical, I am also more cautious in many ways. But that is another story.

Yesterday, by the time I got through with my initial attempt to transform the way folks think of their soils, I had a real need to get out of my own broken head. I needed to be influenced by thoughts that ran in different rhythms, sang in different melodies, rushed through different watersheds. So, I arranged to get a ride to the Mountain Voices meeting. And I neglected you, Dear Readers, and I am sorry. There is not much that is more important to a writer than their readers. Readers, in fact, have a hand in shaping writers. It does not just proceed the other direction. The small or large feedback, the questions, comments, and suggestions have a profound influence on writers. Writers and readers belong to a community of thinkers. The role of the reader is often undervalued and viewed as much more passive than it really is.

Mountain Voices was lovely as always. While we mostly live along the same river system, we are situated along the drainages of different creeks. We face different ridges and valleys. We have different points of view. Listening to other writers read their work is a great way to get out of your own head. Next month there will be a performance night at the Straw House in Big Bar or Big Flat, or whatever the heck that town is called. They are usually on the third Thursday or Friday of the month. If I remember I will keep you informed. If I forget and you care, just ask.

Anyway, I now have submitted two articles to the local paper that you have not seen here on this blog. (At least I think that’s the way it is. I can’t check cause this dang old computer I am writing on won’t let me get on line this morning. The thing of it is, I don’t know how many articles I have written or even what their topics are. Even I find this amusing. ) One of those articles has been published, I think, and other may be published next week. We shall see. I have been trying to get a hold of the editor, who is very busy. Instead of posting the articles here first – I want to let her publish them first, and then with her permission, post them here. So, I do hope to share them with you soon. But we shall see.

Anyhow, I received two small packages in the mail, which is always exciting – at least to me. The first on is from a lady I got acquainted with over the Internet. We have been doing some trades, and if I can get on-line I will give you a link to the group where we met. I received from her some bulbuls of a plant variously called tator vine, cinnamon vine, air potato, and monkey balls. It is in the sweet potato family and produces edible roots and above ground bulbuls. I am pretty excited about it. I don’t think the plant will take a frost, so I am going to start them inside and move them out later. There are also some generic pumpkin seed, Long Island pumpkin, passionflower, and money plant, as well as some seeds that look like morning glory but are supposed to be running okra or “Viet Cuke.” Doing seed trades is great fun. And I finally got on line after about the tenth attempt. Here is the link:

Also in the mail were the seeds I had forgotten in my friend car down in San Jose. The hotel was right across the street from a large Korean Supermarket. I had tons of fun wandering around in there. Our whole town could have disappeared in that market. They had produce I had never seen before, and I was delighted to see they had seeds. I purchased a kind of squash seed called Early Bulam. Heck I got no idea what it is or how to say the name. But I am going to try to grow it. On the package it is a dark green barely ridged and barely striped remotely pear shaped. And sufficiently different than anything else I am in the habit of growing to be very intriguing. I also purchased some “Dragon Tongue” lettuce. It has a very long narrow leaf of a dark green with red veins. I think it would look lovely in a salad with my red deer tongue lettuce. Then there is a hot looking pepper, long and narrow and wrinkled looking. It is called “Twist Green.” Last but not least, they had these huge radishes in the market. HUGE. Bigger than a big turnip. They probably weigh several pounds each. I am not sure if they will grow around here, but I am going to give it a try.

Gosh darn it, I don’t need another dang seed . . . LOL . . .

One more little thing. The February issue of Better Homes and Gardens has a couple of interesting articles. One is called “Digging a New Life.” I really like the rock cairn they picture in the article. If you read many gardening magazines you know that garden decorations are in. Most I can live without – even most of them in this article. But the cairn is cool. The other article is called “A Stroll in the Tropics.” While most of the plants pictured definitely would not grow around here, I like some of the effects they have achieved. The front walk and the outdoor sitting room are lovely. There is also a photo of some drift wood used as a garden ornament much in the way I have all ready been imagining. Their driftwood is festooned with orchids. That definitely wouldn’t work here. However the driftwood could be used as a pedestal for a small sculpture, birdbath, or an attractive stone . . . Anyway, I am not to the ornamenting stage. But it is still fun to think about . . .

All right, time to get off my butt. (Hopefully I can get back on line and post this thing.)

You all have a great day in your gardens!



Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Agapanthus Update

Dear Readers,

I just surprised myself. I am a lousy speller, even before the accident, and worse since. My spell checker doesn’t like how I have been spelling Agapanthus. I just looked it. Dang if I didn’t spell it right! Now, I wonder if this is the same way I spelled it on the other post . . .

I have bad aches and pains today. The cold front moving in has hit me hard. And I assure you that has everything to do with the accident and nothing to do with age. Don’t even suggest . . .

Somewhere or other on here I was telling you about the Agapanthus I had accidentally germinated. I will find the link for you in a sec. Well, I ended up with 6 - six packs. I think I told you that too. I had kept most of them in my room, which is relatively cool (at least this time of year.) But there is a bright south-facing window. Four of those six packs were hanging out in the window, where they warm up for a few hours a day – in direct sun, and have bright light the rest of the day.

One of the other six packs was on the back porch, which is about the warmest outside spot. It gets a few hours of direct sun, the cement warms up and the house reflects some heat also. I noticed right away that those Agapanthus seedlings did not like being in the direct sun. It was much too bright and hot for them, so I moved them into the shade of another plant. The last 6 pack was placed in my tray with bottom heat and full spectrum light.

A few days ago I did an assessment on how the plants were doing. The ones in my room were absolutely doing the best. I had no need to push the little test any further. Now they are all living in those bright windows. I know once the weather turns warm they will need a new spot – because that window gets down right hot. But that time has not arrived.

And as I was telling my buddy today, I hope it doesn’t warm up till my shoulder gets better. I haven’t shaved my dang legs all winter. It is a really scary sight. I know this is true by his reaction when I lifted up my pants leg and revealed an inch of fuzzy calf. When he recovered from the shock, he said – “Well, at least it keeps you warm.” But I digress.

I have been checking out how much Agapanthus plants go for in the catalogs. Depending on size, variety, and the catalog in question the range seems to be from about $5.00 to about $10.00. Not that I intend to sell them. I also have no idea how long it takes them to grow out to a sellable size. But we shall see . . .

Here is the first post on the Agapanthus:

There is always so much more that I could tell you. But I got aches and pains. I am going to go take care of my news group (there is a link to the right of this page) and then snuggle up with my heating pad. Oh, what a relief it will be . . .

You all have a cozy warm night . . .


Monday, February 13, 2006

We Didn’t Have Much . . . – Book Review

“We Didn’t Have Much, But We Sure Had Plenty / Rural Women In Their Own Words,” by Sherry Thomas, published by Double Day – an Anchor Book - 1989. ISBN 0-385-14951-4

The second subtitle of this enjoyable paperback is “The hardships and joys of being a farmer.” Sherry Thomas as taking great pains to provide the female voice and perspective to American farming. Included are farmers wives, women farming on their own or with family or other partners. She has included poor farmers, share croppers, laborers, and those who own their own prosperous farms. The women whose voices make up this book range from middle age to elderly, from illiterate to a former university professor. They discuss life close to the soil from varied perspectives. They speak of their lives, their loves, their heartbreaks, their children and the work at hand. It is a lovely inspiring read that reconfirmed my commitment to the garden. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in farming or women’s studies.

176 words, Copyright 2006 Harvest McCampbell

Sunday, February 12, 2006

This is not real food:

In fact it is a zillion pills (or maybe only 57?)

Dear Readers,

I had to make this list of my supplements for one of my docs. Since I can only be on the computer a little while each day, because of damage to my right shoulder and arm, I am going to post it here too. (I am trying to post every day.) You can always just skip this and come back another day . . .

Please note: I am not recommending anything here. I am simply making a list with some information. Before starting supplements it is always wise to do your own research. Make sure anything you plan to take isn’t contra-indicated for any health condition you may have. And do some math on all the totals. Certain things get toxic if you take enough. I did math on this stuff once – but since I have brain damage and am having trouble with numbers the doc wants to check it. It is probably a good idea to consult with your doc or other knowledgeable professional about your supplements. But heck, before the head injury I never did. What they heck do they know about how I actually feel anyway?

Now I think that generally healthy folks without dietary restrictions can get all their nutrition from real food. And not only that, I think if you are able bodied and determined, you could raise all that food, given enough good land. But I have health problems and dietary restrictions. (And just an average sized yard.) So I do what I got to do. By careful use of supplements and carefully attending to my diet, I am for the most part, able to avoid drugs.

Now, for all most all this stuff I can tell you what happens if I don’t take it. (But that would take an essay of its own.) This is all expensive and I am on a very limited income. I have experimented with not taking each and every thing – except the B2. If I were not seeing a tangible benefit I would save my money for seeds and plants . . . I got down to the B2 and it was just one little inexpensive pill – so what the heck. I just take it.

For Rickets, injuries, etc.:

I had rickets as a child and as a result I have deformed bones, that pinch nerves, that cause muscle spasms, and it hurts. Sometimes a lot. I also am very prone to soft tissue injuries on account of my joints not being put together entirely well. These are the things that I have found; over many years of experimenting actually lower my pain level.

Vitamin E 400 I.U. Twice a day

MSM 1,500 mg twice a day

Cod Liver Oil: Once a day
Vitamin A 1,250 I.U.
Vitamin D 130 I.U.

Alacer Vitamin C * 1,000 mg Twice a day
Supper Gram
(I use either II or III which ever is the better deal.)

Echinacea 125 mg Sporadically as needed

Beef Gelatin 500 mg 4 – 2-4 times a day

Kirkland Sig. Calcium Citrate * 3- once a day
Vitamin D 125 I.U.
Calcium 250 mg
Magnesium 80 mg
Zinc 10 mg

For Menopause:

Wild Yam 500 mg 2 x a day

For Migraines:

I have had chronic migraines for many years. It got so horrible that I was ready to throw myself off the Martin’s Ferry Bridge. At that time I maybe had 5 migraine free days a month. They are now pretty much under control through a combination of diet and supplements.

First are those things that I have found useful over the years:

Feverfew 90 mg 3 x a day
B complex
Kirkland Sig. B-50 * 2 x a day

Next are the things that a friend of mine (who is a nurse) researched when I was very ill, for the migraines:

Vitamin B2 100 mg twice a day
Magnesium 250 mg 2 – 4 times a day (Also helps with parasthesias)
Coenzyme Q10 150 mg 2 x a day
Fish oil 1,000 mg- Omega 3 300mg 2x a day

As a result of a blood test which showed low levels:

Potassium Gluconate 550 mg once a day

For paresthesias:

Vitamin B 12 500 mg 2 – 4 times a day
Niacin 50 mg 2- 4 times a day (Also helps with migraines and menopause.)
Skullcap 850 mg 2-4 times a day (Also helps with migraines.)

And just on general principals:

Kirkland Daily Multi * Once a day

Note to doc: Those items marked with an “*” have multiple supplements of which I did not list them all. If you can’t find the formulas please let me know and I will list them out for you.

All righty then! I had a busy day puttering in the yard. Not what I planned to do – but heck, once I got out there it was so nice I couldn’t make myself come back in. So now I am headed to a hot bath with Epsom salts and lavender. Wish my aches and pains away, OK?