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 Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I wrote a story about a project being done at the CSU research farm in Fruita a couple of months ago for a GJEP section. Calvin Pearson, one of the research agronomists, is growing sunflowers to convert into biodiesel. He called me two days ago to say that the sunflowers were blooming at their peak and invited me to come take a photo. So I did.
Yes, two acres full of sunflowers. Pretty cool, huh?
Later this fall, I'm going to do a story in our On the Go section about the research and perhaps include a pic of the tractor running on sunflower fuel. In the meantime, these are just kinda cool.
If you want to see the field, it's at the Fruita Research Station, which is at 19 Road and L. According to Calvin, they'll be at the peak for just a few more days. Definitely worth the drive to Fruita.
By Annie LeVan
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
As I mentioned before, blogs can be a little intimidating, because not only do you have to admit to yourself that there may be flaws in your garden, but you admit to the reader of the blog that you may not indeed be that supreme gardener you fancy yourself to be.
I do have to say however, that my garden this year has far surpassed my hopeful expectations. Early on when we set up the trellises I thought "those are so far apart, I'm losing good growing space."
I've discovered that they allow for great sunshine and thanks to the rain, I'm now wondering if there will be enough room to walk. It is an almost daily ritual to "train" the spaghetti and acorn squash and whatever else I planted there to "sit...stay, good plant."
The abundance of rain this past week brought a growth spurt everywhere. Not only in the garden plants but in the unwanted weeds, much to the joy of the chickens. Every time I spend time in the garden I have an audience. I like to think they are cheering me on, but more likely they are just waiting to see if there is anything good in my hands when I head to the mulch pile. I think their favorite is the bitter lettuce that has gone to seed.
I was also a little intimidated by my less than perfect soil early on, but with the addition of much organic matter, compliments of the chickens and horses, and whatever I could find, I think I see success if not only in the size and color of the plants, but in the soil itself. As I turn over soil where I have pulled up varieties already harvested from the early spring growing, I find an abundance of worms, yes worms! That has to be a good sign. Every size from tiny to fishing size.
I am so looking forward to the harvest this year. This week we enjoyed our first tomatoes and egg plant.
Beans and squash are around the corner, Yeah!
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.