Total Bee Magnet and Orange Smoothies

>> Thursday, August 21, 2008

I have several plants that are advertised as attracting bees, but this Caryopteris Dark Knight must be the holy grail for bees. When this shrub is in full bloom it gets all the attention.

Every morning there are dozens of honey bees, bumble bees and very tiny bees that unfortunately I don’t know the name of dancing around in a drunken stupor.

Also, we picked our first pumpkins a couple days ago. These are Orange Smoothies. The largest one measures 21” around and they all matured at exactly the 90 day point, as advertised. There are several others that are going to go to my granddaughters for Halloween. Their smooth skin makes them perfect for painting on.


Permaculture: A Revolution in Food Security

>> Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is a topic I posted on one of my other blogs at “Are We Green Yet?”. I feel the subject is topical enough to post here as well. I was going to rewrite it to take out some of the political aspects of it but reconsidered when I realized that a little politicizing is good for gardeners now and then. And after all many of us are part of the new food revolution, so here goes.

A new term has entered our lexicon, peak oil. What the everyday consumer is supposed to envision upon hearing this term is that the world has already extracted half of the planet’s natural oil resources and from this moment on the rate of production has entered a terminal decline. What this means to us of course is that the price of oil will only go higher due to its increasing scarcity and our ever increasing population size and our continued dependence on fossil-fuel-burning industry. British Petroleum (BP) claims we have not reached this ‘peak’ point while other oil companies say we have. And the debate continues without any clear way of knowing if we have reached peak oil because no one knows exactly how much oil is available under the planets surface.

Personally, I don’t know who to believe because I am not an expert, so I, like the rest of us, am at the mercy of those who are, or claim to be, experts. I do, however, believe we should aggressively research alternative energy sources no matter how much oil remains to be extracted. The longer we wait to actually adopt an alternative energy source(s) the more money we are throwing at big oil who clearly have no real interest in pursuing an alternative to using their product and the more environmental damage we are doing to the planets surface, air and water.

In the meantime, while we watch our government drag its feet in setting token and ineffective attempts at environmental policy while agribusiness and oil executives suck every dollar out of our pockets, there is a movement underway that has, unwittingly, been developing for years by individuals covering a wide spectrum of people who call themselves home gardeners, urban farmers, weekend garden ‘hobbyists’, and lately, locavores.

Permaculture and the increasing desire to become self-sufficient and sustainable is a lifestyle whose time has returned. Farming communities survived quite well for many, many years before we became industrialized and traded our independence for the convenience of having such things as: out-of-season fruits and vegetables every day of the year, and someone else to grow and can our foods.

With the emergence of recent issues concerning food safety, food and gas prices, genetically modified food, greenhouse gas emissions, transportation of food over great distances, and food freshness and quality, more and more people are becoming painfully aware of the dangerously vulnerable position we are being forced into. The continued reliance on agribusiness, government, big oil and even financial organizations to provide for our daily necessities is in jeopardy.

I am convinced that communities everywhere need to create local, sustainable, community gardens to supplement each individuals home gardens for the purpose of creating community food surplus in case of national emergency. I realize I may sound alarmist, but our nations cupboard is bare.

I recently discovered a group based in Nevada City, California, called Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy. APPLE is a grassroots group striving for a more self-reliant, sustainable local economy (as opposed to global economy that the world’s money changers are pushing for). They produce locally what they consume locally, as much as possible. It is an intuitive idea that I believe many people have been craving as an answer to our need for food safety and community activism. It is a means of re-establishing our own control over what we eat and how it is grown.

They have produced over 100 videos, they call them conversations, featuring everyday individuals who adopted permaculture and have taken the step towards sustainability in their own yards. Be sure to watch #51 “An Experiment in Back Yard Sustainability” and #100 “Suburban Permaculture with Janet Barocco and Richard Heinberg”.

One such video, entitled “How Much Food Can You Grow in Your Yard?”, shows an urban lot, measuring 75’ by 125’, in Port Townsend, Washington. The home owner, Judy Alexander, takes us through her self-sustained property re-educating us on how it is possible to grow enough food to sustain your family and have excess for neighbors, friends, or community storage.

Whether you agree or disagree with the narrators assessment that we have reached a peak of human innovation, information, wealth and health, check out the videos for some very educational insight to what it can be like to regain our independence and get back the satisfaction that being in touch with land brings.

There are of course many other groups out there creating their own sustainable eden. One of my personal favorite experiments in permaculture is taking place at the “Little Homestead in the City”. They call themselves eco-pioneers living a homegrown revolution on a sustainable, real-life original urban homestead. They have set an excellent example of how anyone can create an environment that reaches out to the community at large and can therefore inspire others fulfill their own need for independence. It truly is a revolution.

Our dependence on oil is becoming more and more expensive in terms of cost of extraction and production which gets passed on to the consumer, and in the cost of damage to the environment in terms of exploration, extraction and burning of oil which is felt by everyone. We are being forced to accept higher food prices as the result of short-sighted use of food crops for the production of bio-fuels instead of using non-food crops. In our rush to sever ties to foreign oil we are made to believe that the only immediate answer is to damage the environment further by increasing the number of offshore oil wells.

Through the use of the internet and our increased access to each others gardens and skills, through blogs and websites as educational tools, we are all becoming more empowered to take the course of our future into our own hands, to grow our own food, and share the excess with neighbors in an attempt to get this food revolution off the ground.

Further reading:
Instant permaculture for the suburbs

Are we running out of oil?

Why peak oil is probably about now

Permaculture Institute

Homesteading Today


Fall is Getting Closer

>> Friday, August 8, 2008

Maybe I feel this way because the skies are heavily overcast today. Start of our 'monsoon season'. Ha. We got a little rain this morning and more predicted for later this afternoon. To the north of us, it is raining pretty good but we are always just at the south end of it and sometimes, if we are lucky we get some rain.

Tomatoes, Juliet Grape. Check out the size of these babies. They are only supposed to get maybe 2" long. There must be some extra grow power in the fish emulsion I have been giving them.

Zinnia California Giant
This is the first time I have ever grown Zinnia’s. I started them from seed May 23rd and they are beautiful! Adding color just when the garden is beginning to fade.

Even bees love them.

Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia Goldstrum is loving the heat of summer. Plus it keeps getting water when I overfill the bird bath and the birds are splashing around.

Sunflower is developing seeds. I need to be careful with these because the seeds inhibit anything growing around them. See earlier post.

Geranium is coming along nicely.

The pumpkin Orange Smoothie is coming along nicely. I started them a little early this year so we can make some pies. They are good keepers so we’ll have small 6-11 pound pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving. The smooth skin is idea for kids to paint faces on them.


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