Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baby Ruth

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Simple Quick Salsa recipe

Here is my simple quick salsa recipe.  It makes a mild to sometimes medium tasty salsa.

2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes (2 pounds of fresh tomatoes peeled would work too)
1/2 a large onion
1 tsp salt
1 cup cilantro, fresh
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 lime, juice only
1 tsp worcester salsa
1 tsp cholula hot sauce, (The best hot sauce out there.  Lots of flavor with a little heat)
Garlic 1 clove fresh or 1 tsp dried

Remove the top and core of the jalapeño and place it into the blender.  Add all of the other ingredients to the blender and blend till all ingredients are well mixed.  This makes about a quart of salsa. If you have different peppers use them, but you might need to adjust the amount based on how hot you like your salsa. If you like a hot, but not burning salsa add a second jalapeño to this recipe, or experiment with adding other kinds of peppers.

As with all of my recipes this one can be modified at will to add, subtract or replace the flavors you do or don't like.  Try adding sweet peppers or ripe bell peppers (not green) when they are in season.  If you like garlic or cholula then add more if you want.  If you can't stand cilantro then leave it out or replace it with something else.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gaia's Garden - Book Review

Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture By Toby Hemenway

I just finished reading this book.  I have been reading as many books on permaculture that I can for the past month. This is by far the best book on the subject that I have found.  Since permaculture was developed in Australia, most of the books deal with different plant and animal species and you have to constantly exchange north for south and vice versa.  This book deals with plants that are available in the northern hemisphere, our pest, and most importantly it does it on the scale of an urban or suburban yard.  Books from Australia tend to deal with the ideas and concepts without going into detail on how to implement them.  Or they give practical advice if you have acreage, but not if you have a 1/4 acre plot.  

Gaia's Garden goes step by step describing what permaculture is, what all of the pieces are, how the pieces fit together, how to design your ecological garden, and how to implement it.  While the author does explain how an ecosystem works, it does not feel like an elementary school lesson like most of the other books I have read recently.  Unlike other books that mention a few species of useful plants, most of which are not available where I live or will not survive where I live. The author provide long list of plants that are useful and then provides a very helpful resource section where you can actually find someone selling the plant.  Though the author lives in the north west and I live in the southeast many of the species overlap.  I live in an area that does not freeze enough for many fruiting trees, or it is too hot for them.  But It is too cold in the winter for most tropical plants too.  Still I was able to find many cultivars of the species mentioned in the book that were breed for and available in this area. Ideas like keyhole gardens and guilds that are breefly mentioned in other books are gone over in detail here.  Nothing that I have seen before this book showed how to link multiple keyhole gardens into a functional bed, he does. What little information I have read on guilds deals with individual trees, not an entire yard or food forest.  The author shows how to build a guild around a single tree and how to build multiple connected guilds across a larger area.

This book is not meant to be all inclusive, it is packed with information, but no one book can cover everything.  So he provides a bibliography filled with sources of more information on topics not fully covered in the book.  I feel confident that I can design and implement a permaculture system for my yard based on the information in this book. I could not say that about any other permaculture book I have read.  I got this book from ILL, but it has so much reference material that I will want to read through again and again that I will have to buy it.  That is unless someone wants to buy it for me for a fathers day present.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My favorite cucumber is a melon!

I have a new favorite cucumber. It is the Metki dark green serpent melon. It is an Armenian mellon that taste like the best cucumber I have ever tasted. It has a thin skin that does not get bitter. They can be picked small for pickling, or let to grow large for slicing. They can grow to be over 3 feet long but are best when picked under 18 inches. The biggest I have let one grow is 2 feet and it was still good, but they have less seeds when picked under 18". The vines are very prolific and take to trellising easily. I like these better than the english cucumbers, their thin skin does not need to be pealed. I direct seeded mine 60 days ago and they have already sold me. I'll be growing them from now on.  We had 100 degree temps last week and it did not phase these melons. A month ago it dropped into the mid 30's and it did not phase this melon.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Squash Vine Borer Moth Damage

Yesterday I noticed two moths with red backs breeding on one of my zucchini plants.  They were squash vine borer moths. (link goes to someone else's blog that has pictures of the eggs and moth)  They lay their eggs on the stems of the plant and when the larvae hatch they chew thru the stems and kill the leaves and eventually the whole plant.  I started looking for damage and sure enough I had it.  The larvae had wiped out  my zucchini and pumpkin stems, the plants were barely hanging on. I performed surgery to the vines that did not look too badly damaged.  I think I managed to save all but 1 of my squash, one pumpkin plant and my bushel basket gourd plant.  When I pulled my zucchini plants I found 2 pupae that had already eaten their way out of the stems to pupate in the soil.

I read an article/blog that said that if you plant sunflowers in the same row as your squash it will attract fire ants to the blooms.  Then they can find the eggs and soft bodied larvae and eat them.  If anyone else knows a way to attract predators that will prevent or kill squash vine borers, their larvae, or their eggs please let me know. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Silent Flowers

First Fruit - Tomatoes

Here are my first 2 tomatoes from the garden. The red one is a "moneymaker", the vine has 60 fruits on it already, and the Purple one is a "Cherokee Purple".

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bottled Water

As any of you who know me and my wife will know we use reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.  I recently watched "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" and "Flow: For Love of Water". I had never considered where the water in bottled water comes from.  Some of it is city tap water (without the chlorine and fluoride) and most of the rest is either "mineral water" or "spring water".  Mineral water is only tested for the levels of 13 minerals, less than 1/4 as many as tap water.  The "spring water" is never sourced from an actual spring.  To call it spring water there has to be a "natural" upwelling of water from the ground.  But they don't bottle what comes out of the ground, they sink wells and pump water that "would have eventually come from the spring.  The problem is that they can place the wells over a mile from the source, even in a different drainage, but still claim it as "spring water".

This is very harmful to the local ground water.  Some of the companies mentioned in the movie have over 70 brands of water, one for each region.  And an average plant can pump 300,000+ gallons of water every year. That may not sound like much, a medium sized river may take anywhere from a minute to an hour to move that much water, but this is not coming from a wide basin like a river, it comes from an area often under 1 square mile.  To put that in perspective it would drop the local ground water by up to an inch per year.  That does not seem like much, but when you consider that the local residents are already using the ground water at or beyond capacity, and that these plants keep pumping even during drought this can quickly become feet.  Causing local wells, streams, and rivers to dry up or become too salty to use.

Bottled water has less than 1 person in the federal government regulating it!  That means in addition to other duties one person has to look after a 10 billion dollar industry.  Up to 1/3 of bottled water has, when tested, failed to meet the safety standards of tap water.  That is because there ate NO standards for safety with bottled water.  Tap water on the other hand is regulated by the EPA and state and local agencies.  Tap water is tested daily, while "Mineral" water only has to be tested once a year (whenever the owners think it will pass the test is fine), and spring water does not have to be tested for purity.  When bottled water failed testing it was for items ranging from bacteria, arsenic, lead, aluminum, salt, nitrites, perchlorate, carcinogenic man-made chemicals, etc...  Though most water bottles don't use BPA, but that does not mean that there is not an equally dangerous chemical in them.  Plastics companies don't have to release what is in their plastics, since it is proprietary.   It was over a decade after BPA was banned in Europe that it hit the news here.  What other dangers are in plastic that they know about, but won't tell us about?

We know that the plastic bottles are polluting our land and rivers, and can cost over 1000 times more than tap water, but they are also stressing ground water supplies.  In some areas agriculture is pumping 15 times the recharge rate of groundwater. We don't need to  further burden our precious ground water, a  resource that is available to the whole community, with large corporations pumping it and us dry.  How would you like it if a large company moved into your area, pumped the streams and ponds dry, and then wanted to sell you the water back at $2.00 for a liter, or if you buy smaller bottles over $10.00 per gallon!

In short don't buy bottled water.  Buy a reusable bottle and fill it at home or work.  If your tap water taste bad install a filter, it will be safer and cheeper than bottled water.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Garden Update 6-1-11

A couple of post ago I showed some of the multitude of tomatoes and blooms on one of my plants.  Below is a picture of what will soon be my first ripe tomato.  But the vine has 59 more tomatoes hanging on it and just as many blooms!

My corn is sending up tassels too.  It is kind of short, 3-5 foot, hopefully that won't hurt productivity too much.

And I now have Acorn Squash.

I picked my first cucumbers on Monday.

and a few flowers for the road.