Touched by Natures Simple Beauty

>> Sunday, November 21, 2010

We got dumped on last night. Three inches of snow now blanket everything as far as you can see. It is beautiful! The first true snow fall of the season. It's too bad that its beauty is about to be spoiled by dirty, noisy vehicular traffic.

Why are we so enamored of snowfalls beauty? The crisp, clean, pure white of it, the way it covers everything, especially the ugly things, certainly has to be some of the reasons. It cleans the air of pollutants and holds those particulates to earth's surface. But, even more than these things, to me, it represents a new beginning.

It is nature’s reset button. Returning every living thing to a fresh, equal and level starting point. Only the healthiest of nature’s beings can survive winters blast. Only these survivors will receive the blessing of a new beginning, relegating the past to but a mere memory, where it rightfully belongs.

The new future can be seen on the faces of the children. They always light up with such unbridled excitement upon their first view of nature's white blanket. Realistically, some of that excitement may be derived from the possibility of school cancellations, but the first thoughts are of building snowmen and snowball fights.

Adults on the other hand have a whole other set of issues that very quickly eat away at the 'excitement factor'. Shoveling the sidewalks and driveway to get to the car so it can be dug out. And then actually driving on this slippery stuff along side those people who foolishly believe their car is the 'one' that will never slide out of control and therefore think they can drive as fast as they want.

Before anyone else is out of bed, before the house wakes up with its usual noisy morning activity, I get to sit in front of the living room picture window, in my comfy soft recliner, selfishly admiring nature's simple beauty, with a cup of hot coffee and a piece of toasted wheat bread and apple butter thinking ain't life grand.


The Most Profitable Plants in Your Vegetable Garden

>> Saturday, November 20, 2010

Here’s some interesting info from The Cheap Vegetable Gardener.

The most ‘produce-value’ per square foot are, not surprisingly, many of the leafy green vegetables/herbs (cilantro $1.92, lettuce $16.20, chives $16.40, dill $16.40, Swiss chard $6.14).

Next, comes the larger vine plants (tomatoes $9.50, squash $8.40, pumpkins $6.20, peas $4.50).

With root plants taking up the rear.

Another factor is the going rate in your area.

Now much of this makes sense where many of the vine plants grow on trellises and are allowed to spread, which I guess is sort of cheating the square foot rule but I will let it slide. Compared to the root plants whose production is entirely dependent on the space allowed in square footage they have to grow as well as these are normally inexpensive produce items to begin with.

Of course, the true value of anything you plant is based on how much of it you actually eat divided by the cost of growing it. But, at least now you know how expensive the stuff you are throwing on the compost heap is.


New Farmers Market Database

Farmer’s Markets are great sources for locally grown food. Quite often you can find crops that you have never grown. Buy them to get the seeds and try to grow them yourself.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service maintains a listing of farmers markets throughout the U.S. and manages five commodity programs:
  • Dairy
  • Fruit and Vegetable
  • Livestock and Seed
  • Poultry
  • Cotton and Tobacco
Market information included in the farmers market database is voluntary and self-reported to AMS from market managers, state market representatives, state associations, and consumers. The farmers market database is updated on an on-going basis.


Number of Farms Increasing

With the future of farming seeming to be in jeopardy we learn some good news from New Jersey.

From flowers to vineyards, the state is seeing a spurt of new small operations, even as New Jersey loses more farmland each year to development.

A new trend in farming, called Boutique farming, allows farmers to go directly to customers to survive.

New Jersey lost a higher percentage of farmland to development than any other state between 1982 and 2007, a survey this year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Farmland Trust shows.

It seems that people today are more concerned with buying their food from neighboring farmers they know and trust. This enlightened trend is allowing more farmers to realize a better return for their investment.

Also, the local-food movement works under the philosophy that consumers, wherever possible, should buy fresh fruits and vegetables and other goods where they are grown.

Another trend that is helping growers is referred to as entertainment farming, i.e., corn mazes, hayrides and events. This form of agricultural tourism is being embraced by farmers everywhere because it helps some farms to extend their season and keep more of their workers employed longer.

Farmers also sometimes lease access rights to hunters or environmental groups as a means of increasing revenue.

Despite losing acreage, New Jersey added 400 farms between 2002 and 2007.

“During the last census, we had over 10,000 farms in New Jersey for the first time since the 1960s,” says New Jersey Farm Bureau spokeswoman Pegi Adam. “We’re seeing smaller, more specialized farms, growing a diverse array of things that appeal to niche populations.”

Some growers are catering to the organic market and more foreign influences, with Asian or African vegetables such as yu choy. The state still boasts a variety of farm products.

Long live the Farm!


Urban Agriculture Revolution

This is a topic close to my heart. Imagining food growing in every front yard, seeing tomatoes, potatoes, onions, beets, carrots instead of, or even better, along side of, Maple trees, evergreen shrubs, pansies, and roses makes senses in both a frugal and aesthetic way.

Vegetable greenery is beautiful. Diversity is beautiful. Saving money on your grocery bill is beautiful. The healthy aspects of it is just out of this world. But alas there are still so many front lawns still reserved for grass.

I love grass, don’t get me wrong. It feels good on your toes in the summertime…it is necessary for a children’s playing surface. And for some people…mowing it is their only exercise.

Imagine the power we have in our own hands to change the food system as we know it. Organic food prices would drop back down out of the atmosphere…the future would be green and tasty…neighbors would actually socialize more. Well, maybe that last one is stretching it a bit. But we would at least get outside more often and that only helps our health.

In the past, we have been too hasty in favoring an urban lifestyle over a rural one…but this is changing, slowly changing. If we grew our own in our yards we could still have a healthier lifestyle and still see the city lights.

Community gardens, farming in the commons, edible landscape, windowsill and container growing, should all be common language…right now…not in the future.

Examples abound of this phenomenon but haven’t we been talking about this long enough? Let’s get it going.


The Hawk Is Back, A Better Predictor of Winter Than the Weatherman

>> Friday, November 19, 2010

This morning, I got up at 3 am, my usual time. The house was just a tad bit warmer than usual for some reason. Listening for outside noises soon told me why. A strong, warm wind had come in ahead of a supposed major snow storm due this weekend. Our local weather forecasters can rarely predict what is going to happen next so it is always a surprise when I look outside. I know there it's going to be actual snow but I'm never certain when.

Over years of practice I have gotten fairly good at predicting the weather on my own. I’ll bet I have at least as good a track weather as anyone who gets paid for it. And when that warm wind comes roaring in this time of year, there will most assuredly be cold and precipitation folloowed closely behind.

The garden has been put to bed for the winter, except for a few bags of mulch that need to get out, this weekend. I always leave the seed heads on the perennials so the birds can have something to different to eat than what I put out for them everyday, so I don't need to cut them back. Speaking of putting out bird seed, I have not had to fill the feeders in the back yard for five days in a row now. I discovered the reason a couple of days ago, even though I had already suspected it. The hawk has come down out of the mountains and is hunting around the neighborhood feeders.

The other day, I happened to catch a glimpse of him as he swooped into the apple tree. He blends in remarkably well. The wind that day was quite strong and I actually saw him get blown onto another branch behind him. He stumbled a bit but held on and then flew back up to the branch he had been perched on. It was quite funny to see this majestic bird get knocked around.

I didn’t see him catch any birds, which is perfectly fine with me. It seems the Finches and Sparrows have already been alerted to the fact that he is around.


Homemade Food Is Now Legal to Sell

>> Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Michigan recently passed a food bill allowing homemakers to sell their homemade food products.

They can prepare certain foods, known as cottage foods, in their own homes, rather than having to use a licensed commercial kitchen, and sell the products directly to buyers at places such as farmers markets, roadside stands and festivals.

The law helps home bakers to earn a little extra money to help make ends meet.

Don’t we all love those homemade mini-loaves of Banana Nut Bread and Cranberry Bread and Blueberry Muffins?

More than 20 states now have laws permitting cottage foods, which are simply foods the law allows to be made at home. It's a short list, limited to items that don't require time and temperature controls for safety.

Still not covered by these ‘cottage food’ laws are pickles, tomato-based products" or other foods with a higher risk of causing food-borne illnesses.

The law requires each item to have a label saying it was produced in an un-inspected home kitchen, listing the food's ingredients and any known allergens, and including the producer's name and address. Products must be sold directly to consumers and not through stores or restaurants, so buyers will have no doubt about who made the food.

Annual sales are capped at $15,000 so that if you’re sales go higher then you need to use a commercial kitchen and start selling at stores.


Resource for New Gardeners

The site is in its early stages of development and is geared towards organic farmers in the Northeast but there are external links that everyone can benefit from.

From the intro page:

“It is intended to be a hub for those exploring farming as a career option, for those working and learning on farms, for those just starting out their own farming enterprise and for farmers interested in passing along their skills. Eventually you will find applications to be an apprentice farmer or mentor farmer, technical resources, interesting articles, links to other organizations and information about events geared towards beginning farmers and mentors.”

This program is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2010-49400-21847.


Stem Cuttings – Fail

>> Saturday, November 13, 2010

I really did have good intentions…Death was the furthest things from my mind…I love these plants…I only wanted to make more.

There are so many webpages, blog entries, all offering such great advice on how to take part of a stem from your favorite plant and make more just like it. They all make it look so easy.

Why can I not get it to work for me?

I followed the advice given…tried to water and care for the potentially new offspring…it must not be meant to be.

Maybe I tried to do it at the wrong time of year…yeah, maybe that’s it.

Or maybe, the plant itself was not as healthy as I thought it was.

Maybe, the moon and stars were not aligned properly.

Maybe, I just can't do it.

When they say ‘a good sterile rooting media’…they probably are not referring to something I have had in a bag for the past year and a half.

When they advise keeping the soil moist in a plastic bag they probably don’t mean 24 hours a day, I mean it should get some air circulation, right?

Their positive attitude and little success tales at the end of their instructions always convince me that I too can start new plants from cuttings. But. I am beginning to lose faith.

I do love my Caryopteris, Bee Balm, Forsythia, Butterfly Bush, Daylily, and want so much to make more.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Spring always spurs new hope and it seems when plants begin budding and those new green shoots start appearing through the snow, I always get filled again with the idea that anything is possible. So, I’ll wait until then and allow myself to be filled with possibility yet again that I too can make new plants from cuttings.

Yeah, It just might work.


Wall of Pro

>> Friday, November 12, 2010

I know I’ve seen this idea somewhere before but darned if I can remember where. Anyway, this photo came from the front page of School Nutrition Plus website. After digging a bit I found one of their posts dated July 4, 2010 that helps explain the idea.

From the website: “…in a widening number of schools across the country, students are growing their own food in pouches called Woolly Pockets, hung from outside walls. And if Miguel Nelson, founder of Woolly Pockets, has his way, every school in the country will be eating from their own vertical wall mini-farms”.

“There seem to be so many reasons why schools can’t have gardens,” Nelson told Natural Vitality Kids. “We came up with a solution that would actually eliminate all of those reasons—the gardens can be put up on walls. We’ve just started and we already have a couple hundred schools signed up. Our goal is to grow 11,000 school gardens by next summer.”

What a wonderful idea! It shows the kids where their food comes from, helps teach organic methods of growing your own food and can help them get some fresh food (maybe even freshen up those sometimes bland cafeteria offerings).

I wish Woolly Pockets and Woolly School Garden the best of luck in reaching your goal.

I am definitely going to build a wall in my garden like this next season.


Mobil CSA

Holton Farms of Vermont has created a unique business model centered on access, with a mobile farm truck reaching clientele across the economic spectrum in different parts of New York city.

I love this idea. It appeals to me on several levels, it helps farmers stay in business and it helps urban dwellers gain access to fresher food. It can be adapted to every part of the country.

Let’s face it, a lot of produce we find in grocery stores is not all that fresh. You just know some of it has been sitting a little too long on the shelf. Ever pick up a carrot and it is so limp you can bend it in half? Not very appetizing. Or how about those wrinkled peppers?

Farmers markets, currently set up in city parks and along country roads, are great if you have transportation to get to them. But this distribution network could be expanded to neighborhoods where transportation is not available. There are many parts of every city where city bus lines just do not reach so a mobil produce truck would be ideal. CSA membership fees could help cover transportation costs and members could get a discount on the price of produce.

The drivers could also take orders for other specialized items to be delivered on the next trip, such as, baked goods, canned items, cut flowers, etc. the size of the truck would be the limiting factor put businesses on wheels sounds like a great idea.

Now if only we had non-polluting vehicles that would be exceptional.


Radishes are more versatile than I thought

>> Thursday, November 11, 2010

I tossed some radish seeds in one of my beds about a month ago, along with some lettuce and spinach, with visions of an early winter salad and was able to harvest some of these delectable beauties just this morning. I must say they are quite crisp and tasty. Hmmm. I wonder if maybe the cold weather and recent snowfall has anything to do with that?

One of the varieties I planted, Helios Yellow,

an heirloom with creamy yellow skin, has an

almost sweet and mild taste without the usual

peppery after bite associated with radish.

The other variety, Purple Plum, has a darker reddish-purple skin

and offers the mild-peppery richness I look for in a radish. Both

varieties came from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds


Did you know they can be cooked? While I personally don’t have any experience with eating them in any other way than with greens in a salad, and of course alone right out of the garden, they can actually be grated into pasta or bean salads. Or mixed into a vegetable soup. Or, and this really blows me away, sliced thin and baked on a cookie sheet like potato chips! I’m amazed. I just have to try this.

One of my favorite cooking blogs, Kalyn’s Kitchen, came up with this recipe: Roasted Radishes with Soy Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seed. OMG. Doesn’t that sound simply delicious? Roasted radishes? Oh my! Kalyn, you are a genius.

There’s even a salsa recipe that uses radishes.

And as if finding all these wonderful new ways to use radishes wasn’t enough to send me over the edge, I learn that even the leaves can even be used. Yowza, what you can learn from the internet just never ceases to amaze me. The leaves can be sautéed in olive oil (or butter) with garlic, added to potato soup, added to bean and chorizo soup. My mind is simply reeling with new recipes.

Oh, and they can be pickled. I really don’t think I grew enough.

As far as storage goes, if there are any left after initially satisfying my unbridled and admittedly unashamed pigging out of these raw bejeweled prizes, they can be stored, minus their tops, in the chiller drawer of the fridge in a plastic bag for a few days. I’m not one to allow them to get very comfortable in their chilled surroundings just to see how long they will last, I mean really, they are for eating right? So, I don’t know for certain how long they will last but I have heard tales of them surviving for up to two whole weeks.

I looked up the health benefits of radish and was again blown away. On a website called Organic Facts I learned they are good for the liver and stomach. They help detoxify our body, cures inflammation and burning during urinating, cleans the kidneys, the list goes on.

This is one very versatile vegetable indeed!


© 2007 -2011 - Utah Valley Gardens - All photos and content copyrighted by Utah Valley Gardens unless otherwise attributed. The use of photographs posted on this site without permission is forbidden and is protected by copyright law, as is all original text.

Blogger templates made by

Back to TOP