28 July 2010

Too tired to post much

But I had an insight you might be amused by.

I realized tonight, as I was drenching the tomato and squash (and melon) garden with "cow poop soup" augmented with liquid calcium and soft rock phosphate, that there is little that is more grounding than coming home from a long hard day of meetings to play in a large bucket of fermented cow manure.

Somehow, intentionally sticking your hands in anything that smells that bad in the interest of your little green babies brings you right back to the basics.

My tomato brix is slowly rising, but still very hard to read. I sure wich there were a fellow devotee of brix gardening who could help me to understand exactly what I am looking for.

Oh well, where expertise is lacking, experience will eventually show the way.

Mystery Vegetable

This year, I planted zucchini and butternut squash. We ave had a very few zucchini, and lots of lots of butternut.

And then, there's the mystery vegetable.


Mystery vegetable

Baby zucchini

25 July 2010

For Steph

Posted by Picasa

My public apologies to Chuck

For three years now, I have blamed our resident groundhog, Chuck, for our "all the tomatoes are half missing" problem. I simply could not imagine wat else what doing it! (Though the fact that it happened inside the fence had me wondering...)
Chuck is completely innocent. (Of the tomato crimes, anyway. Of violets we will speak another day.)
This is the culprit.

An 8-inch long problem called a hormed tobacco worm. And his 29 (so far) buddies.

Posted by Picasa

Rain and chlorosis

We've had a LOT of rain in the last week.
I came home to find that we need waders to the do laundry and that the squashes have very yellow leaves. It looks like drainage problems in the beds may ave caused iron chlorosis. I'll check for borers before I treat for iron, but poo.
We have zillions of baby butternuts, but only *two* zucchinis, and they're tiny!

(I thought I had planted three of each, but as they've grown up, it's become clear that there is one zucchini, four butternuts, and one odd duck plants that looks like a hybrid of them both.)

Anyway, I am going to try soft rock phospate and liquid calcium to see if I can get the iron back into balance so the plants can absorb it again. As soon as I figure out how to add the SRP in powder form to an already growing bed. (Can't dig it in, like I usually would, and I'm not sure a drench would be effective or the added water welcome.)
Posted by Picasa

24 July 2010

The countdown ...

The countdown begins!

Laundry detergent made, dishes washed, kitchen floor mopped....tomorrow, the parlour and the guest room need to be cleaned. And the farmers market. And finishing Corey's birthday present! And make TJ's birthday card...and, and..

So much to do!
Corey, my beloved middle son, arrives Monday for his first visit in ten years! I am so excited! And I have heaps of cleaning to do, since just, uh, went camping! ;)

So I might, maybe, get quiet again -- though I will try to post every so often. (I have two posts half written...surely I can find time to finish one of them...)

Corey will be here for two weeks, so if I get really quiet, look back for me the second week of August.

23 July 2010

What I did on my summer vacation

I keep waiting to be coherent, but it's not happening.
Oh well.

We had a lovely camping trip to upstate New York. We made a two day trip of it and went down through Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mark loaned us his van and his GPS since out little Prizm is on her last legs and wouldn't make the trip even if she were big enough for a camping trip. We're extremely grateful for the loan, but we have come to the conclusion that Mark was absolutely right about the GPS being a mixed blessing at best...about half the time it was our savior, as it allowed us to find lodging and bathrooms when and where we needed them -- and about half the time it was Satan spawn as it led us down the merry path to...Canada. We weren't carrying passports, but regardless of what we did, the silly creature wanted to take us across the border. We did eventually convince it, but we wasted a fair amount of time back tracking as we realized where we were headed.

We stopped for the first night at Niagara Falls and had a quick look around next morning before heading out for Syracuse to visit with Glenna and Rich while we had lunch.

We were very grateful for the use of their kitchen for a civilized meal on the road!

Rich and I were good friends back in college at CW Post Center, LIU and we hadn't seen each other in 32 years. Glenna is his lovely lady and life partner.

This is an older photo of them because we were so engrossed in our reminiscence and catching up that we all forgot completely about cameras. Next time!

Next we headed straight to the family homestead away up north where there are more stars than I could ever remember! My brother, David, and sister in law, Tricia, were gracious in letting us pitch a tent in the yard to get our camping fix for the year (coffee in the early morning light outside the tent is a treat not matched by any amount of civilized convenience!)

But once everyone was up for the day, it was a merry round of socializing! The Durocher family reunion is, I think, a 44 year or so tradition. Two days of eating, talking, talking, eating, and more talking. Oh, and did I mention talking? My Dad used to laugh about how my mother and her eight sisters could sit in a room together and hold 4 simultaneous conversations, in which all of them took part, and none of which used entire sentences because they read each others minds. I think they still do! ;) (The two brother seem to keep up just fine -- one as 'the big brother and family authority on all things' and the other by listening quietly. )

After two days of family fun, artesian well water, and the deep sense of being HOME in a place that I only actually lived in for one year, it was time to head out again.

We got a late start, so though we saw Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage & Museum and museum and Almanzo Wilder's childhood home, we had to take a note to actually stop and explore them another time. Our real adventure on the way home was stopping at an organic farm in Gouverneur, New York to buy milk straight from the cow! I'm not sure who was happier, us or the farmer. ;)

I'm not sure where we stopped for the night...we pushed on until neither of us could see straight (about 11pm) and pulled into the first shelter that the GPS presented to us. We pushed right through the next day, too.

Jack was an amazing trooper through it all. He only lost his cool once, toward the end of day two of driving up to Cadyville, and then a stop under some trees to stretch, run, hop, and then ground and center settled him right down again. Mostly we read Percy Jackson and we talked and sang silly songs. It was really fun!

Janice, you wondered what we ended up doing for food. Oddly, it was so hot that we were really not interested in eating -- mostly we wanted water. But we roasted a chicken the night before we left and had that for dinner at the hotel the first night. We also made a salad at Rich and Glenna's apartment. Other than that, we made do with fruit, nuts, Lara bars, and way too many (safe) potato chips.

That's a pretty brief summary -- but though it was six days and we had a wonderful time, it's all one big happy blur.

21 July 2010

Letters to my grandchildren: July 2010

Beloved children,

What an amazing month it's been!
Posted by Picasa

First, the garden is making amazing progress -- we have had loads of greens (turnip, beet, and radish mostly) and not much else, so far. But the greens have been so good that even Rod likes them and asks for salad! The tomato plants, squash, and watermelon all look like they plan to give us LOTS of fruit, but so far there has been nothing to eat. We have some eggplants and peppers that will be ready in a little while and the tomato plants are taller than I am and have a LOT of green fruit growing. Even Rod has taken an interest in gardening this year, which is good because he is excellent at killing the big bugs that eat our tomatoes!

We'll have lots of juicy red tomatoes in the coming weeks so we will have lots to feed Corey. I am so excited to see Corey! He is coming today! He is getting together with his friend, Lara, before he comes here and then taking the bus to see us, but I will see him this afternoon.

We went to New York State last week and we just got home. It was a LOT of driving -- two days each way! But it was an important trip!

Sixty-four years ago, my mother's mother died; my mother was only seven years old. My grandmother knew that she was going to die before her youngest children were all grown, so she asked her older children (who were already married and had children) to take care of their little sisters and to keep the family together. They did the very best they could to keep the family together and to help my grandfather to raise his littlest daughters. The three older daughters came home every few days to cook for the little children and their father, and the two older sons worked extra jobs to help pay for shoes and clothes for the littlest children. My grandfather continued to do his farm work, while he took care of six little daughters, the youngest of whom was a very small baby.

After the littlest baby was grown and had moved away, the older children remembered what their mother had asked of them as her dying wish, and they decided that they must host a family reunion every July, in honour of her memory.

I can’t afford to make the trip every year, but I do try to go every few years. My brothers try, too. This year, three of my brothers were there and my baby brother brought his grandson, Bo, so it was especially fun! (Bo is only three, so Jack had a chance to be a Big Kid for his little cousin.)

Of course, since we were driving so far, we made a few extra stops. We stopped and said hello to my old college friend, Rich, and his partner. We went to Niagara Falls, too. On the way home we were running late, so we weren't able to stop, but we saw the cottage where the famous English poet, Robert Louis Stevenson, stayed for a year to recover his health at a “spa”. Stevenson wrote a lot of poetry for children and most American kids know at least one of his poems. We also saw, but couldn't stop at, the home of a very famous boy, Alonzo Wilder. He grew up to marry a very famous writer, who wrote a book about his life on that farm. Do you remember that I told you when we were reading Farmer Boy? That's the book about Alonzo's life on that farm -- in the same town where I was born! (Malone, New York). I really want to stop for a few minutes next time we pass by! We also ran out of milk and so we stopped at a lovely farm and bought some of the milk fresh and warm from the cow -- it tastes wonderful!

Jack is just finishing up his school unit about Ancient Egypt and we are preparing to study Ancient Greece. That will take a long time, because we know so much more about Greece than we do about any previous culture! Do you know about Ancient Greece? They developed the style of theatre that later developed into stage plays and then radio plays, and finally the types of television show that we watch today. The Greeks also developed some of the ideas about education that we still use to guide out lives and our schools today! And they were the first to develop the style of art that we still call "classical" and we still try to imitate today. The Greeks are important to know about if we want to understand about Western culture because so much of the way we live started first in Greece. I'll bet Farfar Olof would be very happy to tell you about Ancient Greece -- he LOVES history.

Bella, we saw your photo in your karate Gi! Jack and I are very excited that you are studying karate, too! I will send a photo of him in his gi for you! (I meant to send many photos with this letter, but didn’t get them printed in time. I’m sure you won’t mind another letter when I send them.) Jack hopes to get his gold belt (second level) this autumn, but we don't know exactly when he will be ready. I wish I had been able to afford karate school for Pappa TJ. I think he would have done very well at it. What do you think about that?

Leo, what are you learning these days? Are you or will you study karate? Do you think Pappa would do well at karate? Do you like school? What are you learning about now?

Wanja, I so hope that things are going well for you! I understand how busy you are and I really hope you're not feeling too overwhelmed. I love you, darling girl, and I think about you constantly! Please don’t worry about the things that you “should” do. There will be time for those later, when the kids are older and life is calmer.

I send you all my love; you are in my thoughts often!

Grandma ‘Farmor’ Misti

20 July 2010

Guess where we've been!

We went to a lovely family reunion up in the Adirondack Park in New York.
On the way, we stopped in Syracuse to visit with my old college buddy, Rich, and his lovely lady, Glenna. Then we stopped in Niagara Falls and had a bit of an explore...and then we headed north.

We're home after almost a week, happy and exhausted.

We took turns reading Curse of the Titans, and we've decided that Percy Jackson is a hero in wys he never even new! He saved us from boredom on a pair of two day trips separated by only two days. That's pretty good. ;)

I'll post more when I am coherent again. Night all!
Posted by Picasa

15 July 2010

Garden Update

The vegetable season has really begun for us! We have been arvesting greens for week, but we just got opur first zucchini and our first cucumber. Both are absolutelt delicious -- but they didn't linger long enoug for me to comment on how good they might have been at staying fresh.

The tomatoes plants are now taller than I am, and heavy with fruit. We have lots of baby butternut squash, a couple of baby bell peppers, an eggplant, some beans and peas, a lot of watermelon flowers...

Even better, it's supposed to rain much of the next week -- which always a great thing for the garden and likely to spur the plants on to even greater things! I think we're going to have a groaning board by 10 days from now. That's excellent news, since that's about how long it is until Corey arrives.

I have had some disappointing brix readings so far. The food and plants look good, thoug there are a few blemishes

I am about to start experiments to see if individual nutrients can raise those. I did some research, and the volunteers in my main beds (lambs quarters and chicory, mostly) suggest a rich but possibly calcium deficient (or magnesoin bound) soil that might be a little low on potassium.

I'll start there with foliar calcium and then after I see what that does for a few days, I'll add potassium.

Oh, and the tree in the picture? That's the tree the baby robins just vacated -- it has a regular parade of hummingbirds these days. :)
Posted by Picasa

13 July 2010

Uh oh...

The last computer on which our old copy of Sim City worked died.
Rod bought a more recent copy (from 2002!) and now all three of us are tempted by the evil seduction.

*sigh* Sim City gets better wit every release. That's why we were still using a very old release. ;)

09 July 2010

High Nutrition Gardening: How I got started

OK, I've explained why I got started in high nutrition gardening. But how do I get my gardens started?

Here's the drill:

I double-dig the garden bed and put in large amounts of amendments and then spend the spring, summer, and autumn foliar feeding and creating “cow poop soup” to use as a nutrient drench, both weekly.

Double digging means I dug a hole about two feet deep, and then put in my amendments, alfalfa meal, composted manure, blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, rock dusts, and whatever else came to my attention in my research.

I used a container that was about a gallon liquid measure to measure the major amendments (one container of alfalfa and one of manure) then
I put in about a 15 ounce bean can of the mix of other amendments. I added some shovels full of soil and mixed it as best I could, then did it again until the hole was full.

(I saved the leftover soil in a heap to use later for potatoes.) I then cover the bed with a thick layer of compost.

The double digging is very labour intensive but only needs to be done once -- it frees up the soil so that the roots can move down into it very easily, and it ensured that when they get there, they'll find welcoming soil. In subsequent years, I put down the amendments and dig them in to the top few inches of soil, then cover them with compost. (Of course, I also never walk on the beds. If you walk on the beds, it will need to be done more often as the soil compacts.)

I wrote about "cow poop soup" here. These days I also add a little boron and some molasses.

I use Peaceful Valley Brix Mix and Neptune's foliar spray liquid to spray the leaves of the plants one evening per week whenever it's cool enough. The first year, that's all I used, but now I am also experimenting with adding other things like vitamin C powder and hydrogen peroxide.

(They are especially receptive in cool humid weather. When it's over 80 or very dry, the stomata of the leaves close to reduce moisture loss and they can't absorb the nutrients. ) There's a lot out there on the web about why foliar feeding is so amazing and how and why it works -- it was verified at MSU 50 years ago. I won't try to explain any more than I have because the science confuses me. But it works!

In the days after a nutrient drench and a foliar feed (I usually so them on successive days, most often the weekend) we are rewarded with massive growth and once the season starts, we see quite a bit of new fruit setting for several days after a feed.

So far our Brix readings have been mixed. The total brix percentage hasn’t been wonderful, but the extreme fuzziness of the readings suggests a well nourished plant with a good mix of nutrients -- the low-ish readings may simply be due to one thing that the plant is missing for superb health. Now I can experiment using feedback that won’t require waiting to taste the produce. With my new refractometer, I am able to branch out into experimenting with more single nutrient experiments. (Silica, calcium, magnesium, oxygen, etc)

I can use them in the nutrient drench or in the foliar spray and see how the plant responds. If they like it (the brix increases) I can keep using it and add it to next years soil food. If not, the soil is probably providing plenty.

At the moment, I am still trying to assemble a list of single nutrients the soil could be deficient in and the best sources for those. I have a lead on a book that explains how to use weeds in your garden to diagnose the soil's condition. Once I find a copy, I will be better able to decide where to start with single nutrients.

High Nutrition Gardening: A view from the shallows

I got interested in gardening not because I had any desire to get my hands dirty, but in reaction to reading a number of studies that show that the nutrition in fruits and vegetables has been falling over the last 50 years. Organic or not, most commercially available vegetables contain significantly lower levels of vitamins and minerals than they did before WWII.

The main reason seems to be that for the most part, our industrial methods of farming have depleted the soil of the nutrients needed to create grow truly optimal crops. Before WWII, most farmers used composts from their own land and manures from their own pastured livestock to re-nourish the soil every year.

After WWII, chemical companies that had been founded to support the war effort moved to making agricultural products. Using NPK fertilizers replaces the nutrients that are most quickly used up, and for a few years it seemed that they were a real boon -- plants grew bigger and faster than they had before with far less effort. But the NPK fertilizers (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium based fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro) don’t replace the minerals the plants take from the soil, and so after years of replacing only a few of the nutrients and shipping the produce off the farm the soils are left badly depleted.

What isn’t in the soil, can’t be in the foods we grow on those soils.

That bothers me. How can we be truly healthy if the foods we eat aren’t supplying the nutrients we need?

I have been fascinated by nutrition since the day I discovered Adele Davis, back in the 1970s, and I’m a “do it yourself” kind of person, so I figured that the way to deal with this revelation was to take matters into my own hands. For a long time, I took lots of vitamins, but when we bought our house, with its nice big yard, I knew it was time to try growing our own food.

As I researched how to grow food with the best possible nutrition, one thing that became clear. If the nutrients aren’t in the soil, they can’t be in the food grown on that soil, so it stands to reason that the place to start is in nourishing the soil.

Traditional organic gardening has a great many advantages over industrial gardening. It relies primarily on composts for nutrients, and compost has a far broader range of nutrients than the industrial NPK fertilizers, so it will make for far healthier, much better tasting vegetables than those grown with industrial methods. But compost grown on depleted soil is also depleted, and anything grown on depleted soil is not maximally nourished, and so isn’t an ideal source of nourishment for the soil.

There are a few exceptions, of course; plants with exceptionally deep root systems can bring up minerals from deeper in the earth and make it available on the surface. Those composts are unusually rich in nutrients. Sea sources of compost are generally less depleted than land sources, since the nature of water is that it “mixes it all up” far more than soil does, and minerals are more available to everything growing there.

I learned, too, that soil can be a living entity. Little grows and less thrives on dead soil. Food grown on poorly nourished soil is more susceptible to predation and the produce is smaller, spoils more easily, and tastes more bitter than its well-nourished kin.

Of course, the best starting place for really well nourished soil would be a soil test. At $50 per plot/test, it’s not super expensive, but I have not had the funds to have the testing done and also to buy the soil amendments in the same year, so I have approached high nutrition gardening rather more haphazardly.

I looked into what amendments had the broadest range of nutrients and then approached the garden soil much like I do my own diet -- I worked toward a balanced combination that should be able to add back anything that’s missing without going too heavily into any one nutrient. It’s not ideal, but even so, my results were amazing the first year.

Since I didn’t know what was missing from my soil, I mostly didn’t use single nutrient amendments to begin with. Instead, I opted for composted cow manure, alfalfa meal, rock dusts, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, and fish meal, with a foliar spray of fish emulsion. They all have a broad array of nutrients and they each have their own balance.

The first year, I went all out: I double-dug the garden bed and put in large amounts of amendments and then spent the summer foliar feeding weekly, creating “cow poop soup” and applying that weekly. Our results were amazing! We had a tiny garden that year, but the produce was never ending! It was big, sweet, tender, and it lasted for weeks and weeks and weeks on the counter -- a good thing because our tiny garden produced far more in a week than we could eat . That bed still out-produces any other bed we’ve put in -- perhaps only because it’s perennially has the longest history of being re-nourished.

The next year, we expanded the garden a bit and I put in a few amendments, but then we took a trip in early spring. I didn’t do much more that year and our produce was sparse but tasty.

Last year, we expanded a great deal -- doubling the size of the garden. I triple dug the beds with the full array of amendments, and then applied cow poop soup and foliar feed weekly until July, when I became too ill to get out of bed, much less garden. We still had a huge harvest of really good tasting vegetables, but they didn’t last well.

This year, we have added the amendments and I am branching out into more single nutrient experiments. (Silica, magnesium, oxygen, etc) I have applied cow poop soup and foliar feed, though not as conscientiously as I did that first year, though I am working to improve my commitment. My plan is to foliar feed every week and add cow poop soup every week from now through fall.

I now have a refractometer, too, which I may be able to use to tell when I have hit on the right balance of nutrients. So far our Brix readings have been mixed. The total brix percentage hasn’t been impressive, but the extreme fuzziness of the readings suggests a well nourished plant with a good mix of nutrients -- the low-ish readings may simply be due to one thing that the plant is missing for superb health. Now I can experiment using feedback that won’t require waiting to taste the produce.

I am far from any kind of expert, but I have seen the difference the extra nutrients make and I wouldn’t go back to simple organic gardening knowing what I have seen.

Will it make us healthier? Maybe. But the vegetables sure taste and last better and that’s worth the investment.

Coming soon, specifically for Master White: how we do what we do.

07 July 2010

Zucchini and tomato salad recipe

We tried something new tonight and it worked out really well.

We originally had it as "raw spaghetti", but we decided tat it woks better as a "cold zucchini salad in tomato sauce". That disarms the "this is NOT spagetti" response of anyone who has had the original any time recently.

Cold Zucchini salad in tomato sauce
serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a small side

Put two medium zucchinis through your mandolin on the thinnest julienne setting. Salt them and let them drain in a colander.

Put three Roma tomatoes, seeded and roughly cut, into your food processor.
Add one red pepper, also seeded and roughly cut.
Crush one garlic clove into the food processor, and add a small wedge of onion.
Add enough olive oil to get the rest of the foods mixing.
Add fresh herbs (oregano and basil were delicious).
Add five or six dried, reconstituted (or packed in olive oil) dried tomato.

Whir it until it's not quite smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and add one avocado, diced and 1/4 cup or so of pine nuts.

Add to the drained zucchini, toss, and refrigerate an hour or so.

(Add the tomato and zucchini juice to your stock pot.)

Serve cold. YUM!

We ate too fast to get a picture, but I'll add one next time.

06 July 2010

An ancient Egyptian snack

Jack figures if he live din ancient Egypt, he'd opt to go hungry a lot.

He likes apricots, but doesn't like figs or dates. At least, not naked. He liked fig cookies just fine. ;)
Posted by Picasa

Card Class

Nerida and I took a very cool card class with Yvonne Adboo of Stampin Up yesterday.
We used the same stamp three times and then used three different techniques to colour it, so we could see how they were similar and how they were different. Interestingly, the technique I was least sure about created my favorite effect!

Not only were the techniques cool, but I *love* the cards!

05 July 2010

Empty nest ...

And then there was one...
And that one ventured forth... (the nest is just above and behind her)
Leaving an empty nest.
It was quite funny when Dad Robin stopped in a few minutes later with a beak full of breakfast to find the nest empty. He was quite confused and hopped around in the bush for a few minutes and then flwe to the roof of the garage to scout the area.

A few minutes later we heard the familiar peeping of a hungry baby from the privet hedge across the drive way and Rod went out and observed a parent/child lecture wit much peeping from baby and much melodic response from "Mamma" Robin -- and our daily nature study of the life and growth of robins is complete.

Fortunately, the rose of sharon has bloomed and our lonely front window will soon be filled with hummingbirds stopping by for breakfast.

Life is, indeed, good.

04 July 2010

Why High Nutrition gardening?

These basil plants came from the same little pot from Colemans on the same day.
This one is in my control bed.
This one is in my original high nutrition bed. (Meaning is has been supplemented every year since 2007 and can be assumed to be accumulating minerals.)

It really does make a diffrence. I think the basil in the high nutrition bed also has a stronger flavour, and as you see, it's more pest resistant.

Bird progress 4 July

Wow! It's amazing!
The little guy in the foreground as been stretching his wings for the last two days, and look about ready to fly. The parents have stopped feeding him and are concentrating on the littler one now, so that's probably a certain amount of incentive to perfect this flight thing.

Tomorrow will be a single month from the construction of the nest. And I thought human babies grew incredibly FAST!!

Yesterday's garden adventures

This is load one of the three hauls from the garden yesterday. We're still getting largely greens, but as you can see the radish is going to flower, so it's time to finish that up and replant. We're also starting to get turnips to add to the turnip greens. There were monster amounts of lambs quarters, so today I'll be blanching and freezing a couple of pounds of that for use in soups and smoothies later.
And the news is excellent on the tomato front! Just about every tomato plant that I cecked had 10 or 12 little tomatoes. Hurrah!!! Now I am looking for the zucchini and beets to make an appearance.
Posted by Picasa


It's subtle...but it's there...
Jack had his "last gluten hurrah" on Friday evening, after two weeks without. On Saturday morning, he had deep dark circles under his eyes and he seemed tired and distratced all day.

He swears he didn't feel any different, but I could see it.

Ahh, well. Now it's all of us.
Posted by Picasa

02 July 2010

Robin progress: 1 July

It was already getting dark, so these aren't as sharp...
But it is clear tat we now have nearly full-grown babies to watch.

Next up: flight school. ;)
Posted by Picasa


Just add salmon...delicious!
Posted by Picasa