Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Erin McIntyre
Monday, August 1, 2011
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer is the most thought-provoking book I’ve read in a while. Novella Carpenter wrote an immensely honest and cautionary memoir about raising her own food – vegetable AND animal – in the inner city of Oakland, Calif.
Carpenter starts her guerrilla gardening project by squatting on an abandoned lot behind her ramshackle rented apartment. She plants a lush garden and eventually gets permission from the property owner. This project evolves to include beekeeping as well as raising chickens, rabbits, ducks, turkeys and pigs. Apart from my personal views about private property and trespassing, I feel Carpenter accomplished a noble project. Then again, I’m not her neighbor.
Some parts of the book are blatantly honest. Other parts are pretty gruesome, such as the butchering of the animals she raises and the manner in which she procures food for said animals. When Carpenter starts raising two pigs, she quickly realizes that she needs a source of protein to properly nourish the animals. She finds free food in the Chinatown fish market dumpsters – Hefty bags full of fish guts, scales, and other undesirables. One of the most amusing parts of the book is during this scene, when a homeless man actually tries to give Carpenter and her boyfriend Bill money because he figures they’re worse off than he is if they’re raiding the fish offal for food.
At another part in the book, Carpenter takes on a personal challenge to eat only food she can grow herself, the 100-yard fast. This results in weeks of eating a lot of shredded pumpkin and she even resorts to grinding up cobs of corn that were previously adorning her mantelpiece.
Carpenter eventually purchased the property, but recently had the project shut down for growing food and raising livestock in a commercially-zoned lot. Her last blog post here says she’s waiting for a conditional-use permit (which costs $2,500!) to keep her Ghost Town Farm going, and she’s taking the summer off.
Yes, she’s extreme. And very honest. And that’s probably why she has “haters” (as she calls them on her blog) ranging from the animal activists to the city of Oakland employees. But she definitely deserves credit for all this hard work, and for the message she promotes.
The truth is we would all appreciate our food more if we were personally connected to raising that food and had to think about it. Steaks do not just appear in neatly-wrapped Styrofoam containers at the grocery store.
If you can grow a garden and raise animals in the Oakland ghetto, you can do it anywhere. And, we should all make an effort to know where our food comes from, even if we’re not willing or capable of raising our own livestock and butchering it. Ignorance does not excuse you from this responsibility, and reading this book definitely makes you think of what your food is really worth and its origins.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Thursday, July 28, 2011
My family took a road trip through Yellowstone National Park where the weather was balmy, wild animals appeared as if on cue and my post-hiking evenings were lazily spent sipping Moose Drool ale and flipping through magazines. Man do I love the West.
I also love canning, and one of those magazines was a Better Homes and Gardens collection of canning recipes, including one for Carrot Cake Jam, with which I quickly became obsessed, dog-earing the page and bemoaning my choice to wait and plant carrots for fall. I would just have to wait for cinnamon-raisin toast slathered with cream cheese and spicy jam.
Co-worker Chris to the rescue. His urban garden is an oasis of vegetative productivity. He brought in a bag of freshly dug and scrubbed carrots. I promptly plopped one in my mouth and took the rest home to grate for Carrot Cake Jam, which did not disappoint.
The magazine is titled Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: Canning. It’s $9.99 and widely available at grocery stores. Other tasty recipes I’ll try from it include Pickled Pear Tomatoes With Rosemary, Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce and Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto. Magazine recipes are copyright-protected, but there are other recipes and great canning tips at bhg.com.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Look! My first tomato! It was tiny and delicious. I considered dressing it up with fresh basil, but it was so small I didn't want anything to overpower it. The only problem was that it tasted like six more. Alas, I don't have six more.
Btw... it's supposed to be orange, it's a sungold hybrid. I'm not picking it early. Well, maybe a day or two.
I do have plenty of green tomatoes that are intent on teasing me like these little patio tomatoes.
I also have green ones in pots on my patio. They're either Jetsetter or Sioux - I didn't label them with yarn because I told myself that I wouldn't forget. Hah! Of course I forgot.
As you can see, I've got plenty of tomatoes. Just not plenty of ripe tomatoes. So far, all the tomatoes that are forming are either Sungold, Sioux or Jetsetter, although I finally quit pinching off the blossoms on the Viva Italia because the plants got tall enough to reach the trellis and I think they're also starting to put on a few tomatoes.
I don't want summer to zoom by, but I'm hoping I don't have to wait another week for my next little bite of tomato.
By Carol Clark
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A friend was lamenting, "When is fall going to be here?" Seems she is sick and tired of the summer heat.
Well, I am here to say, "Don't Rush it!"'
Before you know it fall will be here, so enjoy the moment. You schedule your doctor appointments on the calendar so how about scheduling a little fun? Don't let summer slip away without doing some of the things that bring you and your family joy.
Here are a few ideas:
Surprise the one you love with a picnic in the mountains.
Swing in a hammock and watch the clouds go by - Remember finding shapes in the clouds when you were little?
Go to the library and check out a fun book to read, just for the fun of it.
Find a new trail to hike.
Take a bike ride down the Riverfront trail early in the cool morning.
Make homemade ice cream and invite people you love to eat it with you.
Play yard games like croquet.
Have a night time garden party with tiki torches to keep skeeters away.
Take the kids to the Delta drive-in.
Go camping - it's the worst camping trips that make the funniest memories.
Most importantly, don't let the lazy hazy day's of summer slip away without really enjoying them.
Above all - Don't let summer slip away without having some serious fun. Fall will be here soon enough!
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer
-Nat King Cole
By Penny Stine
Friday, July 22, 2011
Becoming a potager gardener rather than a straight vegetable gardener has been a good decision. Although I love finding food in my garden, the flowers are delightful. Now that summer is in full stride, the annuals are strutting their stuff.
I planted zinnias for the first time last year in a few select places, then collected seeds at the end of the season because they were so easy to grow and so bright and colorful in the garden. I've planted them everywhere in my gardens this year, including this box where my peppers aren't yet producing.
Zinnias and marigolds make a good combination in these beds, where I've also got tomatoes, tomatillos, melons, pumpkin, peppers, basil, Thai basil and perilla. This seems to be a good flower combo for keeping bugs away from plants, too.
This is an annual called love-in-a-mist. The colors look faded thanks to the bright sunshine in the pic, but they're a brilliant blue and white. Quite pretty. They were thank you gift from one of the seed companies. I believe the packet said they're known to re-seed themselves, so I'm hoping they'll come back next year.
Most of the perennials in my garden have already bloomed, but this delphinium is just starting to show some color.
Below, those are not flowerpots with tomatoes. They are tomato pots with a few flowers thrown in for good looks. I still don't have any tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers. At least I can enjoy the flowers.