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Archive for March, 2010

There are days in our lives that we cherish.  Times we wish to recall as we idle away our golden years in a rocking chair with a bottomless glass of iced tea beside us.  Yesterday was not one of those days.  From beginning to end, it was fraught with aggravation, disaster and disappointment.

Let me share a few events.

It was windy here in the burb yesterday morning.  Not outrageous, but March was demonstrating she had no intention of going out like a lamb.  The stiff breeze would make a few of our chores somewhat more difficult, but so be it.

After my morning caffeine hit, I proceeded to water all the seedlings.  I was gratified that most of the ones we’d re-potted after last week’s scorching were still surviving.  A small  number didn’t make it, but on the whole, things could have been worse.

Once the plants had been given their drink, I placed the portable greenhouses (plant stands with plastic covers) in a sunny, south facing spot behind the house and went inside to get ready to head to Carlton Farms in Rockmart to pick up eggs and raw milk.  The trip took a little longer than we expected because we got to chatting with the farmer, and on the way home we remembered we needed to stop at the feed store for dog food.  That stop, too, took longer than expected because we found ourselves pricing poultry supplies and rabbit feed in preparation for our expansion project next month.

By the time we left the feed store, it was lunch time.  We made a stop at Ziglar’s bbq in Acworth and enjoyed a nice pulled pork sandwich.  The Ziglars have added a spicy sauce to their menu that is really tasty.  You needed to know that.

When we finally returned home, we intended to get right to work preparing soil mix for some planting beds.  Due to rain, we are way behind in our garden prep.  As I was carrying in dog food, I heard Brittan shout, “Oh No!” and grab her head.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Look.”

I did.  During our absence, the wind had devastated one of our greenhouses.  Parts of the frame were scattered across the yard and plants were piled and thrown everywhere.  It looked like vandalism.  We were horrified.  So rather than building and filling beds, we spent the next couple hours trying to salvage what we could and re-pot the plants that weren’t ruined.  This is the second killer in 10 days.  This is not our spring.

The next couple days will tell us how many we managed to salvage.

At 3:30 we had a vet appt. for Iris, our Cardigan Corgi.  She has developed a serious hip problem.  One vet says it’s not dysplasia, another thinks it is.  Either way, she is deteriorating.  And she’s barely at mid life.  Surgery is out of the question, it’s just too expensive.  So she is going on a course of pain killers and we are looking into physical therapy.  The prognosis is not bleak, but not good.  And all options have expense attached to them.

Thinking we’d had enough drama for one day, we returned from the vet and went to work planting some cabbages and broccoli.  I pulled the truck around back to unload some soil and bags of compost, etc. and we went to work.  At about 5 p.m. we finally accomplished what we had hoped to be done by lunch time.

Expecting rain, I drove the truck back around to put it in the garage so the dirt and compost wouldn’t get wet while still in the truck.  As a went through the gate, my brakes puffed smoke and vanished.  The brake pedal went to the floor and did nothing.  Nada.  I slowed way down, pumped the brake several times and got just enough power to get turned around and into the garage.  If you’re keeping score, we now have ruined plants, a deteriorating dog, vet bills and a truck that must go into the shop this week for a brake job.  We’re almost done.

After getting the truck into the garage, I was moving Brittan’s car to the spot where the truck usually sits, when I noticed her pointing to the driveway.  I looked and saw a small pool of radiator fluid.  It seems her car has a gasket leak and will need to go to the shop.  I see a $1500 dollar repair bill for a $1000 car.   Mama Mia, what a day.

Fortunately, the day came to a peaceful conclusion.  Today has been quieter.  The biggest pain point today has been……… taxes.  I used to like weekends.

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If ‘Food, Inc.’ left you discouraged and frustrated with the ‘American food system’ , FRESH will bring you hope.  This film will do much to promote the local food movement.  It features mainstays, like Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin, but also spotlights other great movers and shakers like, Will Allen, a genuine hero of the Urban Farm movement.

B and I are positively psyched about it and are hosting the only official screening so far in NW Georgia.  The date is Saturday, April 3.  We will hit ‘play’ at 7:00  p.m.  The film is 72 minutes long. Our license limits us to 20 attendees, so it’s by reservation only.  If you’d like to attend, send us an email or post in the comment section.

You can learn more about the movie and the movement by clicking on this link.

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Yesterday was a big day here in the burbs.  It was gloriously sunny and warm, perfect for getting things done. 

First, we made up some planting mix for our raised beds (we grow everything except a few fruit trees and raspberries in raised beds and containers).  The mix is based off of Mel Bartholomew’s recipe in “All New Square Foot Gardening”.  We use Organic Planting Soil, screened top soil, sphagnum moss, vermiculite, composted cow manure, worm castings and a little dolomite lime.  We mix it up on a big tarp, put it in a wheel barrow and transport it to the beds.  We think this mix will give us better first year results than just using the Organic Planting Soil and lime.  We’ll keep you posted.

We made a short film during the mixing process.  B will edit it and put it here on the site in a couple days.

Suburban Farmer Weight Loss Program

After mixing, it was time to dig and plant.  Unfortunately, the trees don’t go in the planting beds.  We grabbed a spade, grubbing hoe, post hole diggers, some fertilizer and planting mix and planted two paw paw trees and a quince tree.  Using the same implements we planted 24 Rugosa roses which will eventually form a privacy hedge as well as provide beautiful flowers and vitamin c rich rose hips.

We planted two patio peach trees and two single stem apple trees in containers, then built a raised bed for currants.  We planted red, white, and pink champagne currants.  We have two black currant plants in containers from last year.

By the time we got that done, my digging muscles were shot.  We still have 12 raspberry canes, some strawberries and a couple other misc. plants to get in the ground before the veggies get planted in mid April.  We also have a lot more planting mix to create.  We have several raised beds to fill.  But that must wait for middle aged muscles to recover.

We finished the day by tending to seedlings.  It appears that our recovery project has saved several.  The total damage looks to be about a dozen plants.  I gave the survivors a dose of epsom salts with their drink of water last nigh.  Hopefully the mineral boost will aid the recovery process.  At least it won’t hurt.

I surely love spring.  It’s has harder physical labor than the other three seasons combined, but the feeling of gratification at the end of a hard day’s work is priceless.

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Last evening did not go as outlined.  So much for expectations.

On the way home from ‘the day job’, I stopped to pick up some Organic Planting Soil and a couple other items at Lowes.  My intent was to make some planting mix for our new Square Foot Beds.  Then Saturday would be devoted to planting young trees and various berries, with enough energy left over to put in the proposed Rosa Rugosa Hedge (must tell that story another day).

When I got home and went down to light the grill for burger time, Brittan showed me a horror that she had discovered earlier.  Our seedlings were scorched.  It looked like a vegetable killing field.

We bought some 4 shelf plant stands with plastic ‘greenhouse’ covers a while back to make handling our seedlings easier.  Up until yesterday it was.  They take up less space than the folding tables and are easy to roll in and out of the house.  We can zip the cover down so that frost doesn’t get the plants during the hardening off period.  So far, so good.

Then spring came….

Yesterday, it hit 70 degrees here in the burb.  The greenhouses are on a south facing wall.  I didn’t open them before going to work.  Result?  Ovens.

Several plants, especially tomatoes, were gone, as were all our cabbage and cauliflower.  I mean, gone, dead, cooked.  A couple of my beloved Ghost Peppers were ghosts now, too.  But there were others that looked like they might be saved with some intensive care, so B and I went to work carefully repotting tomato plants.  Time will tell whether or not we were successful.  We gave all the plants a good soaking and will probably bring them into the basement this afternoon before the sun gets too high in the sky.

This year, we went to only open pollinated ‘heirloom’ seeds.  That fits our philosophy, but I must admit that we have found all plants to be less hardy than the ‘hybrids’.  We will have to be more diligent in their care.

Today is catch up day.  Much planting and digging in the future.  Feel free to grab a shovel and come on over.

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Talking ‘Dirty’

Hidden from view, from our awareness is a dark underworld teeming with life and activity. It is an exotic place, filled with beauty and wonder (I’ve included some pictures).  And we’re killing it!

I’m speaking of soil, common dirt.  We view it as an inanimate object, but the entire circle of life is revolving under our very feet.  I doubt we could disrespect it more.  Each time we sear it with chemical fertilizers or insecticides or pesticides, we are also commiting a kind of microscopic genocide.

I’m not suggesting a moral equivalent to Bosnia or Rawanda, but I am calling attention to the fact that we should pay closer attention to the bigger picture of soil managegement and not merely ‘weed control’.

In our nuclear, instant gratification obsessessed world, we want results now, so we blast our gardens and yards with chemicals to make our desired plants grow faster and the undesired ones die more quicly.  But at what cost? Topsoil and humus are disappearing and a staggering rate.  And not just in the corn and wheat belts.

Consider for a moment a slower approach that uses compost and mulch to feed the soil which will feed the microbes which will feed the plants which feed us (not to mention the fauna we also eat).

We might not be able to influence the commercial agricultural world right away, but the millions of us who live in the suburbs and on hobby farms can begin changing the earth one flower (vegetable) bed at a time.  By paying attention and optimizing the systems God established at creation, we can have TWO beautiful worlds; one filled with color and flavor we can see, and an invisible, but grateful one below.

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Tomorrow is a big day.  We will start building some new raised beds, but the exciting part is that we will plant our first wave of snap peas.  Finally, the gardening gets serious.  Our basement looks crazy with grow lights and seedlings everywhere.  We love all the baby plants, but once there are things growing OUTSIDE it just feels more like spring.  Normally, we would plant our lettuce right now as well, but with our trip to Hawaii coming in mid April, the early harvest would hit at the same time.  So………. we will plant the lettuce about April 1.  We will be home in time for the first harvest which is due in about 25 days.

While I’m rambling, our fruit trees are ready to burst into color.  I love spring.  Gotta get the rose bushes pruned and fast or it will be too late.

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Why Rabbits?

Everyone understands the milk cow thing.  They comprehend chickens.  Maybe even a goat.  But why rabbits?  Why would we consider raising meat rabbits?

I recognize that the ‘cute’ factor in bunnies is difficult for many people to overcome when trying to imagine rabbits as a meat source.  But, world-wide, rabbit is one of, if not, the, most consumed meat.  It’s almost only Americans who see them as primarily pets.

If you are a strict vegan or PETA type, go ahead and hit the back button now.  Save yourself three minutes of your time.

Rabbit meat is flavorful and highly nutritious.  It contains higher levels of protein and less fat and bad cholesterol than red meats or even poultry.  Many doctors recommend rabbit for patients with heart conditions.

Rabbit can be prepared in many ways, using a variety of techniques.  It is enjoyed everywhere from redneck backyards barbecues to upscale French restaurants.

Rabbits are easy to raise, care for, feed and breed.  They are land and food efficient.  It is estimated that 6 pounds of rabbit meat can be raised for the same cost as a single pound of beef.  That, my good reader, is just plain old good resource management.

Rabbits don’t make big mud holes and they don’t crow.  They are quiet and easy to handle.

Rabbit meat is an underserved market.  There are not enough producers to keep up with the demand either on the consumer or commercial levels.

Then, there is the pet market.  At certain times like Christmas and Easter, families are looking for quiet, calm critters for the young uns.  Who doesn’t love bunnies?

Our plan is to raise our rabbits as naturally as possible.  They will spend time each day in ‘pastures’ (moveable pens), nibbling grass and hopping about in the clover and hay fields. They will sleep in the safety of well protected hutches, away from severe weather and predators.  Their diets will consist primarily of natural forage and home grown vegetables and raspberry canes.  Store bought pellets will be a supplemental snack, rather than the main diet.

The rabbit waste will be used for compost and used in our gardens.  Any excess will be sold to the public.  Rabbit manure is one of the best fertilizers money can buy.

The more I think about it, the question should not be “Why rabbit?” It should be, “Why NOT rabbit?”

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