Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

It was about a week after I placed my last seed order that we received word from on high that the facility where I work is slated for closure later in the year. Translation: unemployment. It's been a hard blow to absorb, and the fallout spreads far.

For example, now I have over $400 worth of seeds in my fridge. Will I be around this summer to tend a garden? What about in the fall when it comes time to harvest?

Do I take a chance that I'll still be here and start my tomatoes (I'll have to get them going soon)?

If I don't plant, and I'm still here come fall, then I'll have to purchase my veg all the next year! I've already spent the money for the seeds...I'd hate to have to buy the veg, too, especially if funds run low. I suppose I could always live on rice and beans.

I've decided not to invest in the greenhouse this year. That money may have to go towards mortgage and/or car payments.

If I have to move, and I've put in the garden, could I get someone else to tend it and reap the harvest, or will it become a perk for the buyer(s)? I'd hate to have it all rot and/or go to seed.

So many questions; so many decisions to make.

Rough times ahead.

They're Baa-aack

Ah - just when I thought the battle was won, reinforcements came in.

Yes, it's the fruit, uh, vinegar flies once again. In the worm box.

In January I finally decided to give the poor starving worms some food - after all, it had been three months or so since I last fed them. The fruit/vinegar flies seemed to have disappeared, there were no eggs or larvae on the sides of the bin. So, I dumped in some slimy old greens and covered 'em up.

A couple weeks later, I dumped in some more slimy greens, and turned the "soil" to cover this new offering. Hm...still lots of uneaten greens from the first batch. And what are all those white things? Fruit/vingegar fly eggs?

A couple weeks ago I went to add a third batch of greens, and discovered the sides of the bin covered once more with "rice" - the flies are definitely back.


I'm beginning to wonder if this worm composting is all it's cracked up to be.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mid-winter Musings

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is rapidly becoming one of my favorite seed sources. Started by a young man (Jere Gettle) not too many years ago, it has grown into quite the outfit. Not only does he have his catalogue seed business, promoting the propagation of heirloom varieities of fruits and veggies, but he has also established an "old time village" to go with his operation there in Missouri, and now has an impressive shop (The Seed Bank) in an old bank in San Francisco! To top it all off, he also puts out a nice little magazine four times a year, called "The Heirloom Gardener."

When I got my first issue about a year ago, I was disappointed because it was all about Asian vegetables - strange foods that would never grow here in our northern climate. Many of the seeds they sell are also for these exotic veg, which I thought was odd for an American heirloom gardening company. But, just because it's not an American heirloom, doesn't mean it isn't an heirloom in some other country. With the globalization of food, and the seed monopolies that are taking over, it is good to save heritage seeds wherever possible.

The current issue of "The Heirloom Gardener" arrived this week, and it had some great articles (and recipes), like this piece on parsnips:

There was also a good article on hardy kiwis, a fruit that has long gone unnoticed, but is now starting to have its moment in the spotlight. If you like kiwis, you might want to look into growing these, for they are supposedly hardy enough to survive Zone 3!

The bit that always gets me, though, is the FrankenFood column:

Here we are kept up to date on some of the latest breaking news in the burgeoning field of genetically modified seeds/plants/foods and seed monopolies. There's some scarey stuff here - stuff that the Big Companies (like Monsanto) would like to keep under wraps. For instance, one study showed that a particular variety of GM corn killed ladybugs. Developed to be resistant to corn rootworms, this GM corn, should it get out in the field, would have devastating effects on our already suffering ladybug populations. The company forbade the scientists who did the study from reporting these results and got the EPA to approve commercialization of the corn in 2003. Doesn't really sound "late breaking", but it is only recently that one of the scientists had the courage to leak the information. This toxic corn is now out there...killing beneficials without remorse.

Then there's the piece about how another company has admitted that they are unable to control the spread of GM organisms once in the field (this particular case had to do with GM rice contaminating the non-GM rice crops of two Missouri farmers). The company actually admitted that outdoor field trials and commercial growth of GM crops should be stopped IMMEDIATELY before regular crops are irreversibly contaminated. If European countries can ban GM crops, then why can't we?

The last issue had a piece about how these seed giants are devastating traditional farming in India. They are pushing their "latest and greatest" products, stating that farmers will get greater yields with their seeds...and their fertilizers. Oh, and you can't save any of the seeds for next year because the varieties are all either hybrids (which don't produce viable seeds), or are patented and it is illegal for you to save them. So, the great saviour food is now devastating the local farmers, who have a hard time affording the new seeds and fertilizers, which are all chemically based. Organic farming is strongly discouraged (you must sterilize the soil and use our chemicals to grow these great crops) and seed saving is out. Doesn't sound like a sustainable operation to me.

I think most of us Americans are pretty sheltered from the realities of daily life in the rest of the world. As long as we have our chips and dips, our ice cream and cakes, our black angus steaks and Maine lobsters, we are content. The American dream isn't sustainable, and I think more people need to be aware of the realities of the world's food (for starters). I'm not against free enterprise...but when the almightly dollar becomes a diety in its own right, then it is time to step back and take a good long look at the bigger picture.