Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Teeny Tiny Green Things

The transformation has begun.
The flat brown surface in the greenhouse, the one caused by the trays and trays filled with potting soil, is slowly turning green.
It starts with a tiny little spot right in the center of each plastic square. The dot gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger. You walk into the greenhouse one day and all pf the sudden the flat brown surface is multi-textured, green and alive.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I've become a deer fence consultant. I advise budding young farmers, Buddhists monks and growers of fine wine.
What I've neglected to tell all these people is that my deer fence is built of industrial salvage - old pipes, cable and wires, greenhouse pieces. Junk I've picked up out of the great American scrap pile.

In other junk news, the incubation chamber is doing fantastically. It's an old bakery rack, like a foot and a half by two feet, and about five feet tall. It's got sidewalls made of horizontal bars, so you can put your trays of muffins at whatever height you want. I wrapped the whole thing in an old remnant of greenhouse plastic and put a hot plate on the bottom (yes, they still make hot plates.) So I've got a pot of water simmering at the bottom of the rack all the time, and it stays about 70 degrees and moist inside the plastic wrapping. I put plug trays on the shelves and the seeds germinate in less time and in a greater percentage than they did in the old put it on a table in the greenhouse method. I can fit thousands of seeds inside the chamber at any time.
Some seeds are placed on a moist paper towel and put inside a plastic baggie and then set on a shelf. Then you just look through the plastic every day and look for something sprouting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And Don't Forget To Put Roses On My Grave

Winter is lingering like a lion, and yet it is going out like a lamb, and yet it is lingering like a lion.
Jack and I cut down a walnut tree about a week ago. Relax - it was a wild walnut off on the edge of the fields. Jack's gonna turn bowls. The sap had already started to rise, and the next day there was a puddle around the stump.
In more exciting news, the multi-flora roses is leafing out. And out and out.
And there's times when you disturb some grass, like you're doing some work and you crush the blades and the like, when, if the wind's just right, you get the faintest whiff of chlorophyll.
But the night before last it got down to 18 degrees, a bit colder than the greenhouses can handle and I lost a few trays of marigolds.
The maples are starting to look like they're about to do something, and the chickens are started to lay again, but winter lingers in the form of a few trays of dead flowers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's the Big Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's a picture of the Beagle.
It's Darwin's birthday.
I'm trying really hard to evolve.

That First Comma Is An Important One

It would have been two hundred years ago at about ... now ... that Darwin's mother would have felt the first pangs of labor.
Let us also reflect on Darwin's father, who gave these words of encouragement to his adolescent son:

You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching and you will be a disgrace to you and your family.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Getting Worse

Okay, he hates bankers, his daughters are cute, and he's gonna save the world, but that's no reason to appoint Vilsack as Secretary of Ag.
Or did Mr Obama not anticipate remarks like these, delivered to the National Association of Wheat Growers and quoted on the somewhat hopefully named Farm Futures:
Vilsack called on farmers to accept the political reality that U.S. farm program direct payments are under fire both at home and abroad and therefore farmers should develop other sources of income. In his remarks to the groups he said he intends to promote a far more diversified income base for the farm sector, saying that windmills and biofuels should definitely be part of the income mix and that organic agriculture will also play an increasing role.
I hope all of you are happy. We're in for four long years of fresh fruits and vegetables. And, if Vilsack has his way, organic fruits and vegetables.
Me, I'm stocking up Chef Boyardee and Coca Cola.

In other news, people the world over are rejoicing at the bicentenary of Darwin's birth. This is a good time to recognize the great man's many experiments with worms, conducted he said, to learn "how much mental power they displayed."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Economics, Evolution's Much Maligned Sister Science

In honor of Darwin's bicentenary, I am quoting a famous Catholic:

Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
Bobby Kennedy

Sunday, February 08, 2009


In honor of Darwin's bicentenary, I offer the words of the big guy himself:

We will suppose the letters A to L to represent allied genera existing during the Silurian epoch, and descended from some still earlier form. In three of these genera (A, F, and I), a species has transmitted modified descendants to the present day, represented by the fifteen genera (a14 to z14) on the uppermost horizontal line. Now all these modified descendants from a single species, are related in blood or descent in the same degree; they may metaphorically be called cousins to the same millionth degree; yet they differ widely and in different degrees from each other. The forms descended from A, now broken up into two or three families, constitute a distinct order from those descended from I, also broken up into two families. Nor can the existing species, descended from A, be ranked in the same genus with the parent A; or those from I, with the parent I. But the existing genus f14 may be supposed to have been but slightly modified; and it will then rank with the parent-genus F; just as some few still living organisms belong to Silurian genera. So that the comparative value of the differences between these organic beings, which are all related to each other in the same degree in blood, has come to be widely different. Nevertheless their genealogical arrangement remains strictly true, not only at the present time, but at each successive period of descent. All modified descendants from A will have inherited something in common from their common parent, as will all the descendants from I; so will it be with each subordinate branch of descendants, at each successive stage. If, however, we suppose any descendant of A, or of I, to have become so much modified as to have lost all traces of its parentage, in this case, its place in the natural system will be lost, as seems to have occurred with some few existing organisms. All the descendants of the genus F, along its whole line of descent, are supposed to have been but little modified, and they form a single genus. But this genus, though much isolated, will still occupy its proper intermediate position.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Dark Days for Agriculture

"This [USDA] is a department that intersects the lives of Americans two to three times a day. Every single American. So I absolutely see the constituency of this department as broader than those who produce our food -- it extends to those who consume it."
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
The Washington Post
February 5, 2009

I predicted in these pages long ago that the Obama Administration would signal the end of civilization as we knew it, but even I did not know it would come so fast.
This is a tough business even in the best of times. There have been many occasions, be sure, when I and my brethren, when looking up at a cloudless sky, when ducking swarms of incoming locusts, when wading through rows of fungus infected tomatoes or turning our collar up against the chill of a late frost, have taken solace in the fact that at least the government is on our side.
Now, we don't even have that. Now, it seems, we are expected to grow food that is safe, hygienic and palatable. Next, they're gonna tell us we can't sell food with salmonella on it!
And if all of this were not enough, get this, another disturbing quote from that same
imposter of a secretary of ag:
"We want to make a better connection between what kids eat and knowing where it comes from. I've seen it in my own family. If you educate kids at an early age, you can have a tremendous impact."
Mr Obama seems to believe he was elected with a mandate to improve health and nutrition. It would appear he wants to educate the youth. Well, by my count, this will only last another 1,142 days.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I Moved the Table To Where I Could See the Song Sparrows

An arctic blast descended with savage fury on us poor mountain folk and dumped almost two inches (!) of snow. Night time temperatures plunged to nine degrees, and yes, that's Fahrenheit. It was the perfect time to start some seeds!
I've been inside since the mercury plummeted, warm and snug in a house full of plastic potting materials, potting soil, seeds packets, and more plastic potting materials.
As I sorted through my vast collection of plastic potting materials, I reflected on this early February ritual: seed starting. More than ten years now, that's what I do in early February.
What felt different this year was the pleasure I took in the routine: these are my plastic potting materials, these are my seeds, this is my list, this is my little radio next to my table playing the latest country and western hits.
I seem to have entered a point where the seed starting procedure is a routine, an act that follows a yearly check-list, and is no longer a new and exciting adventure on which I am about to embark. When I made this transition I do not know, and I am even more clueless as to how I feel about it. It is not, I assure you, a feeling accompanied by a sense of expertise. Nor is it accompanied by a sense of tedium.
I do feel a longing for the of awe and giddiness that accompanied every act during my first few years. I miss the discovery and the wonder that every day held.
The newness has not been replaced by a sense of maturity. I am no veteran capable of advising the youth, nor do I feel in any way any more proficient at this now than I was years ago.
In fact, I still feel that every day is a learning experience, and that if I keep at this some more, some day I'll get good at it. It's just that I know how to start all the seeds now.
I've done it before, and I welcome it as it rolls 'round again.
Wait til Groundhog Day. Wait til it's closer to equinox than to solstice. Start the seeds you have. Start the ones you don't have when they arrive. Don't start them by following a schedule. Start them when you have time to start them. They're all going to come up. They're all going to get bigger. Bless every seed. Listen to music. Drink tea. Put the table near the window. It's fun to watch the sparrows.

Dana A, Dana B, Dana C,

I haven't been able to update my blogroll lately. Anyway, here's a shout out to Dana, her blog, and her all-American way of life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Could Be Worse, I Could Live in Moose Jaw

I confess to utter confusion about the weather, but I'm preparing for the worst.
I drove down to Haywood County yesterday, and snow was piling up on Betsy's Gap as I came back. Thick on the branches of the trees, sticking to the road. I came down into the valley again and the ground was clear. It was a bit disapppointing.
I wake up this morning to find that schools are closed all over, but there's nothing on the ground here at the farm. I suppose it's coming.
The cold is coming, too. Single digits tomorrow night, according to the radio. I'll be fine, but it'll be rough on the chickens. Bees might shiver a bit, too. Maybe I'll give them a blanket.
The tarragon is my main concern, greenhouse-wise. There are five trays in the greenhouse, and I usually bring them inside during the single digit nights. And I'll light the heaters in the greenhouse, just to keep them in the, oh, low twenties.

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