Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Humus In A Hurry

No, not hummus...Humus! Humus is the long lasting remnant of decaying organic material. It improves soil structure and increases water retention. Gardens LOVE humus. I actually read a blog once where a woman was so desperate for humus in her soil that she put a bunch of compostables through her kitchen blender. Yikes! Here's a way to get rid of weeds (and their seeds) and make wonderful garden humus in a hurry (and by hurry I mean two weeks...this is sans blender, people).

About this time each year the weeds are going crazy. I just can't pull them all before they go to seed. Observe: And of course just throwing seedy weeds into the compost pile would leave their seeds unscathed and prepared to sprout in next year's garden. I know there are those out there who feel my pain. Here's what you do. Put all of your weeds into a bucket. I usually tote a bucket around with me while weeding and when it's full move onto the next step. The next step is filling the bucket with water and covering it. At first it will look like this: Cover it with whatever you want, this step is to essentially keep mosquitoes from spawning. I even used a pizza box once with a brick on top. I like to keep things classy. Leave your bucket to rot (lovely) for two weeks. Here's what it looks like at the end of one week: At the end of two weeks it should be good and black and ready to be poured into a compost pile or garden bed or lawn or whatever. Be warned, it smells like death. Seriously. But in the end you'll live through it, it'll kill all of the weed seeds and your soil will be all the better for it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

i have the best friends ever

The re-posting begins. So as stated in the previous post I was a dummy and erased a TON of blog posts. But I have the best BFF ever. She painstakingly (and time consumingly) copied all of the missing blog posts from her google reader into an email for me...without being asked!!! Couldn't you just cry from joy? No? Well I could. I'll start re-posting things soon -as in, immediately after this post if the wee one keeps sleepin- I appologize in advance to you followers for inundating you with previously read material. Bear with me. And a million thanks again Nikol, surely this will pass into legend.

And, I am twice blessed because my friend Ingrid's husband Richard left me 4 trash cans full of good black compost.

Make that thrice blessed, my husband and father-in-law got me a nice truck bed full of compost from a place up the street.

I'm in heaven. I told my husband it's like Christmas morning. And it totally is.

Yesterday I traded a large bowl of lettuce and 9 tomato seedlings with the aforementioned BFF Nikol in exchange for three large bags of oranges. How lovely. We had orange juice with breakfast. Nothing beats the feeling of growing your own food, or raising it, or swapping it. The wee one is waking. Look forward to post flashbacks soon:). It's probably best I go, dinner don't make itself, am I right? :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Life Lately

Sorry the blog has been somewhat devoid of pictures lately. I (or was it the Mr.) have lost the camera charger...and the camera is there you go.

Things are going great at our house! I'm busy making these for jonas's easter basket, and also a set of these
Now when I say a set I mean, I'm not making any of the whole-egg kind, but crocheting 6 of the egg-opens-to-reveal-baby-chick variety. I'm making 6 chicks in 3 colors, ergo 2 chicks of each color, it can be a matching game of sorts for the wee one. He's been begging for the eggs crochet (what a weirdo) ever since I bought this book and I figured what better time than easter? Anyone else making anything cute for easter? Please share!

Eating mostly meatless at our house is going swimmingly! I've been very, very bad about posting meatless recipes on the blog so here's one to begin making up for that.

Last night we had Black Bean Cakes. Which don't sound great but really are. Any time you combine the words "bean" and "cake"'s a dangerous road, but I promise they're great, and super healthy. We tell Jonas they're hamburgers and he usually eats them. But last night he wanted nothing to do with them...but that may be because he was forced to eat it in the car on the way to my sister's house for easter egg dying. I was running a bit behind yesterday. But I digress. I don't remember where I originally got this recipe but I've made a few adjustments to it anyway.

You'll need:
2 Tablespoons oil
4 chopped scallions
6 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tablespoon of ground cumin
2 Cans of black beans rinsed and drained
1 Large sweet potato peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
1 large egg, beaten
Half a cup of dried bread crumbs or (my fave) rolled oats pulsed through a processor until bread crumb consistency.

Sour cream, lime wedges and cilantro for serving.

Heat your broiler. In a skillet heat 1 Tbsp oil and add the garlic, cumin and scallions, if you want spicy bean cakes add a chopped jalapeno as well. Cook 30 seconds to a minute and then transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans and mash it all together using a potato masher. Leave about a quarter of the beans whole. fold in remaining ingredients, use the final tablespoon of oil to grease a cookie sheet. Divide the stuff into eight equal parts, form them into patties and broil them 4 inches from the heat. 8-10 minutes on one side, flip, 2-3 minutes on last side. Serve with serving stuff:) They look like this. Only better...and not so dry.

Next. My girls and I have finally gotten book club up and running again! This will make my goal of reading one book a month much easier. For this coming month we're reading Assassination Vacation By Sarah Vowell. In which the author travels to various presidential assassination sites and writes about it with wit and somewhat tongue-in-cheek humor.

Next month we're doubling up and reading both The Backyard Homestead and Made From Scratch both of which I LOVE and am very passionate about.

The garden is going great. We continue to eat from it daily and I cannot wait for the summer stuff to begin producing...have I said that yet? From the 3 brambles planted last year we now have 15 brambles and counting! The raspberry and boysenberry are spreading like wildfire...though I cannot say the same for the blackberry, it's just not pulling it's weight. The herb garden started last year is really starting to take off, and that side of the yard is looking much improved. Once again I'll be growing more tomatoes than I originally planned for. I should not be allowed to look at seed catalogues. I started like 8 different varieties and just can't stand watching all of the little seedlings go to waste. I'm trying to foist them off onto friends...still it should be a bounteous summer.


I am very angry. Here is why. I went to clean out my drafts that have been hanging around forever and ended up deleting like the last 6 months of posts. Including the one I just spent an hour or so putting together. I'm going outside.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is Edible Forest Gardening? (and making small changes)

This post is inspired by Nikol's comment which asks if edible forest garening is like having an orchard. Good question. The answer is, kind of, only much, much better.

When planning an edible forest garden you basically copy the format found in nature, specifically in the forest. If you walk through a forest you'll see that it's not just trees, but trees and shrubs and vines and ground level plants. Many niches are filled. In an edible forest garden you have all of these components and they either produce food or provide some other positive contribution to the garden (like fix nitrogen into the soil, or attract and house beneficial insects/birds). For example, in the edible forest garden I'm planning we have citrus trees, then various berry shrubs planted around them, followed by lower growing plants like flowers, vegetables, and strawberries. It takes some time and consideration when planning such a garden, but once the garden is put in place it takes very little time to keep it running. Think about it, with most space filled, there will be very little room for weeds!
My husband was skeptical of this gardening strategy at first, since it would appear that many of the plants are required to grow in the shade. But, remember in an edible forest garden you copy nature's format, planting shrubs in sunny openings and lower growing plants around the edges. I'm blessed as far as edible forest gardening goes since I live in southern california and inadequate sunshine is the least of my worries. In fact I've been planning one section of my garden so that it will create shade for my poor blackberry bushes. The truth is plants are much hardier than we give them credit for. They actually want to grow if you can believe that.

If this is insufficient explanation of edible forest gardening then either shoot me a comment or check out the book. There are two volumes by the way and, as much as I love the first volume, the second sounds even better.

In other news: can I just say that if you aren't washing your hair with baking soda by now you should be. It is AMAZING, I just can't say enough good stuff about it. My hair feels like it did when I was a young'un. And it's only been a little over a week. I've had a few conversations with people lately that have left me a little baffled. When I tell them I use baking soda to wash my hair they seem to think I'm plum crazy. Even when I give them the facts, they still think I'm crazy. And I can see their point, using copious amounts of chemicals does seem the smarter option. Well, live and let live.

On a somewhat related note: I was reading a raw food book about a month ago and something I read in it has stuck with me. I can't remember the exact wording but basically what the author said was that with each small, positive change she has made she notices significant improvements in her health and the way she feels. And she wasn't just talking about eating raw food, it could be any small change that you make for the better. Using natural cleaners, being more active, eating healthier, etc. I've made two small changes this year and the effects have been dramatic. One of the small changes was the baking soda thing (and I'm sure you're all sick to death from hearing about that) The other small change was green smoothies. Jonas and I started eating green smoothies every morning for breakfast, care of the embarassment of green riches our chard plant provides. If you are unfamiliar with green smoothies here's the recipe: 2 cups of greens, fruit, water (or liquid of choice), blend it, consume. Don't worry, they taste great. And if your's does not taste great, add a banana you'll be fine.

Now Jonas and I, of course, miss some days. Every once in awhile I dont feel like going out into the garden at 6am to pick chard (like when it's pouring rain) so we have cheerios instead. But we have them most days. And I feel great. I assume Jonas feels great also, but he's a kid, he always feels great.

Just something to think about.