Friday, March 10, 2006

Snow, Snow, No Electricity

Dear Readers,

I am up in Willow Creek at the resource center, as we have no electricity in Hoopa. And the snow is coming down. Hopefully I will be able to get home tonight. The garden is blanketed in cold cold white, and the inside plants have no light.

But it is beautiful!

I may not be able to post again for a while.

We shall see what the roads, the bus service, PG&E, and the and the weather have in store!

More sooner or later . . .


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Snow, News, Politics, and Saving Seed

Dear Readers,

It is snowing in Hoopa! My artichokes, greens, parsnips, etc., are definitely getting a dusting. However the snow has been sticking pretty steadily for at least an hour, so it may get worse than a dusting. We shall see how everything does. If I was more able bodied I would protect a few things. As it is, I just brought in one big old succulent and one large spider plant. I also moved some things that are potted up - closer to the house and out of the snow. Now I have the heating pad on the back of my chair as I write to you. Out the office window I can watch the falling snow against a backdrop of blooming Prunus nigra. It is glorious. I don’t actually care if I get any plums this year or not. My only regret will be if I am not able to send seed to a few folks that I have promised it to.

This morning, as many mornings, I was listening to the news on the local tribal radio station. We get great news here. First was AIROS (American Indian Radio On Satellite) with a program on global warming. Next was Democracy Now. The plight of our planet is really quite intense. For me it just emphasizes the need for home gardening, small farms, and seed saving. With the coming weather changes, and the constant political changes we can’t really know what to expect. In war torn countries the infrastructure is often so damaged that folks can’t get their mail or other deliveries. But the survivors and the warriors still need to eat. If they don’t have their own saved seed it can contribute to the myriad problems of survival.

Now I certainly don’t hope for war in our territory. Certainly not. But there is no guarantee that we will be free of this kind of strife. The balance of power in the world is shifting. Things are also shifting here in the United States. The outsourcing of jobs, international ownership of US property and infrastructure, the importing of foreign workers trained in technology and other skills - is changing the face of the US. Changing it in ways that we never imagined. However, we are no longer considered the brightest and the best. In fact our record of torture and imprisonment, of political, monetary, and violent interference in other countries has severely affected the US’s reputation in the world. Of course you don’t need me to tell you any of this. Current polls now indicate that over 50% of us are in favor of impeaching our president. Most of us are well aware.

All this leads me back to the garden. Saved seed is a small insurance policy. The more of us with saved seed, the more food secure we all are. With the possibilities of floods and fires ever more real, with political and violent upheaval the norm rather then the exception – saving more seed than one needs is ideal. You can always use your extras to replenish stock for those who have taken a loss. Decentralizing seed banks is another small insurance. I donate to two seed banks. One north of me – in Canada in fact. And one in Southern CA. I also have made quite a few trades, given away seeds from bumper crops and made donation to a community garden in Rosebud which is quite a long distance east of my present location. It is unlikely that all these places will simultaneously loose their seed banks. But the more seed banks we have, both large and small, the more resilient we will be, come what may.

It is not just the politics that worries me. In fact the weather changes are truly problematic. The small farmer and home gardener is much more likely to be able to adapt to weather changes than is the agri-business. We don’t need to start huge numbers of seedlings of the same crop all at one time. It is easier for us to stagger, or successively sow a number of varieties, making us less vulnerable to weather changes. We can access the weather now and decide to start more cool season crops, and in a few weeks, if the weather warms up we can also start some warm season crops. Depending on the weather one or the other may fail, but we will have something. Agri-business depends on planting vast plots all at the same time in one crop. If that crop fails, the folks who depend on it may suffer. From the farmer, his employees, all the middle men, right through to the consumer.

Grow your own food to whatever extent you can, and if you can’t support your local small organic farmer. Try to be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you. If the early crops fail, be prepared with a middle and late season crop. Grow a diversity of crops that are adaptable to a wide range of weather extremes and consider it an investment in the future. And don’t forget to save your seed. It only takes about three generations of seed selection to begin the process of adapting certain strains to specific regions. It stands to reason that the process of selecting to adapt to weather changes will take about three seasons also.

While we may not really know what sort of pattern our weather will settle into, we do each have available a wide range of cultivars, heirlooms, and selections to start with. A search on the Internet for cold hardy, heat, or drought tolerant, mild summer, cool night or what have you and a slash with the name of your desired produce will locate possibilities and sources. IE: Cool night / watermelon, short season / cantaloupe.

Be creative, resourceful, and embrace diversity. The more diverse our gardens and farms become, the more resilient they will be. Diversity helps resist the build up of disease and pests in our food plants, and it will provide the genetic diversity necessary for us to survive the weather changes that the corporations and the capitalists are forcing upon us.

Bless the snow, Nature is doing the best she can,

Wishing us all Peace,


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sharing Plants & Raised Beds

Dear Readers,

We have been getting lots and lots of rain. However we did a couple of short breaks in the last week or so. First break I planted out one Falstaff Brussels Sprout plant, with the company of a garland chrysanthemum and a sweet cecily. Yesterday I planted out an arum lily. Oh and I went and dug up a little henbit plant from a patch I found and it is nestled in the garden also. They are great little winter annuals that can help protect the soil over (or under) dormant plants.

Other than the above and fussing around with my seeds and seedlings, most of my gardening is done either here on the computer or at the library. Dang rain anyway. It does give me time to read the gardening magazines from the library though . . .

In this months issue of Martha Stewart Living, in the Editor’s Letter Margaret Roach states that “Part of the unwritten code among gardeners is to share plants . . .” she goes on to explain that this is sometimes accomplished through sharing cuttings, divisions, or seeds. While she doesn’t mention the calls for boycotts of patented plants – she does state the reason for the boycotts very succinctly and poetically. Of course she can’t call for boycotts, even is she believes in them, because some of the magazines large advertisers are purveyors of these patented plants. If our unwritten code is to share, we can become law breakers by buying patented plants. I would like to encourage you to read your labels and refrain from buying patented or licensed plants. There are tons of open pollinated, heirloom, and native plants to choose from. You don’t have to feel deprived.

Also in this months Sunset Garden Magazine and in Organic Gardening Magazine they have plans for raised beds. If you found yourself pondering the whole raised bed thing after reading my article on Spring Salads – both these magazines have photos. Sunset actually has plans for one type of bed, and Organic Gardening has examples of beds made from several different construction materials. Visit your library, book store, or favorite magazine counter and learn more!

You all have a great evening, curled up with your favorite gardening magazine!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Few More Thoughts On Kale

Dear Readers,

I recently received an e-mail from someone that had stumbled on my blog as the result of a search on the nutritional benefits of Kale. She found my article posted here titled “Kindly Kale.” (You can use the search function on this page to find it yourself, if you haven’t read it all ready.)

I wrote the article for the local paper – so I stuck just with the basic facts. But for everyone else who wants to follow my fringe and broken thinking around, here are some more thoughts.

Kale, is apparently low in a group of food chemicals know as amines. I say this, because I am fairly intolerant of amines, and I can eat lots of kale. A substance such as corn chips is fairly high in amines – and just a few will make me ill a very short time.

Do some research on amines on the internet and you will find that an inability to utilize them – because of a lack of an enzyme can cause all kinds of problems from migraines, high blood pressure, cancer, anxiety disorders, mental illness – and in children it can cause learning disabilities and mental retardation.

Another thing I ran into while researching amines was that they can be implicated in certain birth defects including and related to cleft pallet and spina bifida. It seems they can interfere with the differentiation along the central cleft in the developing fetus. It is theorized that depending on when and how often and how concentrated the pool of amines the fetus is exposed to is, has a relationship to how these deformities are expressed in the child’s development. Of course this is all theory.

However, it seems to me that all of this is just one more reason to eat kale . . . If you need some tips on growing your own - I refur you back to the article . . .

Coming up in next week newspaper I have an article on Giant Red Japanese Mustard. In that article I mention some greens that are high in amines. You will have to wait and read the paper – or wait till I post it here to get that scoop. (Impatient are you? Well you can always do your own search.)

Later Gator!


Monday, March 06, 2006

Blackberries at Rosebud

Dear Readers,

I think it must be over a month ago now that I mailed some young bare root blackberry plants to a community garden program on the Rosebud Reservation. I received an e-mail from them stating they were doing very well. They are pretty excited about the prospect of blackberry jam . . .

Those blackberries are spending this winter indoors. I am pretty sure they will need a good thick straw or leaf mulch to make it through the icy winters they get up there. Or maybe if they are industrious enough they can bring some in every winter just for insurance they will make it.

If the blackberries do well they will eventually make a nuisance of themselves. I have been thinking over all the uses of blackberries. Blackberry flowers make a nice tea, and I hear they are edible –though that I have never tried eating them myself. Blackberry roots are considered medicinal – they are very astringent. Blackberry leaves make a good tea – it is similar to red raspberry leaf tea - but contains a little more tannic acid. They are used for the same things as Red Raspberry tea. (Some folks are on special diets to reduce tannic acid – blackberry leaves / roots / stalks are definitely not for them.)

I have heard that if you catch the spring shoots from the blackberries at just the right time – they are edible like asparagus. I have tried and so far failed at this. But it may be that I am not preparing them right – or maybe it is an acquired taste. I will try again this year.

Also, I am pretty sure if you catch those shoots at just the right time they could be gently pounded and then dried and prepared for use as a basket or cordage material. You would have to catch them after they had developed some pretty strong fiber, but before they became woody. I have done some initial experiments – but now I am too beat up from the accident to carry them on. Maybe in another year or two.

Last but not least, I have been reading about how important “carbon” is for the soil and for soil organisms. Well the blackberry shoots – when mature definitely contain a lot of carbon. I am in the market for an electric shredder that can take up to 2” limbs. I can make lots of carbon rich mulch out of the blackberries that surround my yard. I am looking forward to it too!

All for now!


Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Few Notes

Dear Readers,

Yesterday while I was writing to you about blackberries at Rosebud, the electricity started to flicker. We had quite the storm blow in. The wind was so strong it made the house shake, and it was cold in here even with the fire going. Our electricity went off and on a few times, but we woke up with power. It seems that we got another inch and a half of rain over night. We are well over our average for the year.

Today it is dreary, but not much rain. I started my walking program back up – it had been on a week or more break. I used to hike straight up the mountain 6 – 10 miles and back down again, carrying a knapsack with water, lunch, and snacks for myself and three dogs. But that was before the accident. Now a mile with no baggage does me in.

I took a few root cuttings on my walk – mugwort, horsetail, flag, and meliot. We shall see how they do. I also brought home two small flat rocks, one dark slate and one white quartz. The dark one is about palm sized and the quartz is a bit smaller. I saw a cairn in a magazine as garden art – and I really liked it. I can’t do anything as large as what was in the magazine – so maybe I will go for miniature.

I also brought home two curved sticks. I have been making a small collection of interesting arched sticks. I am installing them as a sort of low ornamental fence along one side of my yard. I have also been collecting some moss, and started collecting some straight sticks with moss and lichen growing on them. All this is getting installed in my garden. In the corner where I have begin working from there is also a small ceramic pot designed to look like a green rubber garden clog. (Looks almost identical to my garden clogs . . .) It is now planted with moss and has the core from a small pinecone for decoration. Anyway it is starting to look like someone cares for that corner.

I also started organizing and packaging winter squash seeds today. I ran out of envelopes – but I got 7 varieties ready to send off to seed banks and round robins. (I have two or three more varieties to go.) I am saving out what I need, and also saving a big jumble bag to package up to give away on Halloween. I think I will have a few of a few kinds left to give away in conjunction with an up coming article on pumpkins and winter squash . . .

But man, I am beat. And aches and pains? Oh man, don’t even get me started . . . Somehow I lucked out, and my son decided to cook dinner . . . I am lucky! I think in the future I shouldn’t walk till the dinner thing is handled – cause I am trying to get myself worked around a cholesterol lowering scheme. And that means high fiber and low fat and sugar. Did you know that sugar could raise your cholesterol? Anyway . . .

I will tell you my thoughts on the blackberries tomorrow . . .

You all be good now, ya hear!