Monday, May 18, 2009

Park in Bloom

Yesterday was Planting Time at IB. Late morning half a dozen of us assembled on the beach with the huge bunch of plants we'd bought the day previous, and plant we did!

I intended to take my camera and get pictures of the crew in action, but left it at home and didn't take time to go back to get it. They are no substitute for pictures of the "crew", but I will put in some pictures of the containers full of flowers later. This gorgeous tulip is growing right next door.

I won't even begin to guess how many plants were put into containers, but we started at the beach, did one on a corner, and then broke for lunch at Timmy's.

Once back we moved up to the front end of the Park, and filled containers around the office and in the garden next to the office, where an old rowboat holds a cargo of flowers each year. Very pretty it is too.

Gardens are popping up all over the Park. People have planted loads of flowers, in pots, the ground and in hanging baskets. In the Community Garden things are popping out of the ground. There are radishes, carrots, kohlrabis, peas, cabbages and some marigolds in Ruth's garden. I have tomatoes in a container. Others will soon be filling their containers and planting. After a day or two of rest I will be planting as well.

Today is warm but overcast, which is probably good for all the plants we transplanted yesterday. They need a day to get accustomed to their new homes and bright sunshine.

It was a long weekend and the Park was busy with visitors. I love seeing the many kids riding up and down on their bikes, trikes and scooters, under the watchful eye of dozens of adults. I love hearing people laugh and enjoy themselves as they visit, cook a meal or play with their children.

From now until school vacation there will be a rhythm as families arrive on Friday evenings and leave Sunday afternoons. The Park is quieter during the week, and there may not be more than a few campers, though the RV lane is almost always full. Once summer vacation starts it will be wall to wall campers, and the pleasure of sitting outside late into the evening watching bats dip through the pools of light from the street lamps. They are a welcome sight, as each eats its weight in bugs every night.

Ahhh, summer approaches...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Eat Local?

This post is a "steal", directly from the 100 Mile Diet site. Why? Because it says exactly what I want to say, and am too inept to do! :) We live in a area which is rich with wonderful local foods. Our foods need not travel 2000 miles from California or 10,000 from China, New Zealand, or Argentina.

Over 30 years ago I learned to dry foods from a neighbour, and in one summer dried over 1000 pounds of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables when they were plentiful and inexpensive. Much came from my own garden! Dried food need only be kept dry and protected from light to retain its colour and nutrition. It is easily stored in plastic buckets or in jars.

When cherries like these are dried properly they rehydrate so well they even retain their original colour and texture. This bowlful went into the drier as soon as we had a picture. Imagine those on your cereal or in baked goods in February! I have a small drier and may make a larger one. They are very simple and easy to both build and use. And they allow you to eat many local foods year-round.

Why Eat Local?

1. Taste the difference.
At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor, unlike supermarket food that may have been picked weeks or months before. Close-to-home foods can also be bred for taste, rather than withstanding the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting. Many of the foods we ate on the 100-Mile Diet were the best we’d ever had.

2. Know what you’re eating.
Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many build relationships with farmers whom they trust. And when in doubt, they can drive out to the farms and see for themselves.

3. Meet your neighbors.
Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Join a community garden and you’ll actually meet the people you pass on the street.

4. Get in touch with the seasons.
When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.

5. Discover new flavors.
Ever tried sunchokes? How about purslane, quail eggs, yerba mora, or tayberries? These are just a few of the new (to us) flavors we sampled over a year of local eating. Our local spot prawns, we learned, are tastier than popular tiger prawns. Even familiar foods were more interesting. Count the types of pear on offer at your supermarket. Maybe three? Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties–while more than 2,000 more have been lost in our rush to sameness .

6. Explore your home.
Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.

7. Save the world.
A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country. The ingredients for a typical British meal, sourced locally, traveled 66 times fewer “food miles.” Or we can just keep burning those fossil fuels and learn to live with global climate change, the fiercest hurricane seasons in history, wars over resources…

8. Support small farms.
We discovered that many people from all walks of life dream of working the land–maybe you do too. In areas with strong local markets, the family farm is reviving. That’s a whole lot better than the jobs at Wal-Mart and fast-food outlets that the globalized economy offers in North American towns.

9. Give back to the local economy.
A British study tracked how much of the money spent at a local food business stayed in the local economy, and how many times it was reinvested. The total value was almost twice the contribution of a dollar spent at a supermarket chain .

10. Be healthy.
Everyone wants to know whether the 100-Mile Diet worked as a weight-loss program. Well, yes, we lost a few pounds apiece. More importantly, though, we felt better than ever. We ate more vegetables and fewer processed products, sampled a wider variety of foods, and ate more fresh food at its nutritional peak. Eating from farmers’ markets and cooking from scratch, we never felt a need to count calories.

11. Create memories.
A friend of ours has a theory that a night spent making jam–or in his case, perogies–with friends will always be better a time than the latest Hollywood blockbuster. We’re convinced.

12. Have more fun while traveling.
Once you’re addicted to local eating, you’ll want to explore it wherever you go. On a trip to Mexico, earth-baked corn and hot-spiced sour oranges led us away from the resorts and into the small towns. Somewhere along the line, a mute magician gave us a free show over bowls of lime soup in a little cantina.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How to Build an Earthbox-type Container

The sub-irrigated planter box (aka SIP or "Earthbox") is said by many gardeners to be the most productive type of container. With an SIP plants are never overwatered, and it's even possible to go away for a few days and plants will not dry out and die on you. You pour water into the bottom chamber through the pipe, and the water wicks up into the soil as drawn up by the plant. You never water from the top.

You can build a SIP from a two-litre pop bottle. For instructions click here. But the directions on this page are for building the larger SIP, suitable for growing tomatoes, or other large plants.

To get the pictures to line up without overlapping I am going to have to add text in a few places. So read, or disregard, the bits in italic. They are there to make the pictures line up properly. And besides, a little philosophy early in the day never hurt a soul. :)

We've built three SIPs to try this method out. We planted tomatoes in two of them and will plant a watermelon in the third one. We began with an 18 gal/68 litre Sterilite tote from Wal*Mart - $5.98. Building the first one took 15 minutes start to finish. The second one was faster.

In addition we used the following:

1) a plastic basket bought at the dollar store, two for $1.00.

2) Four empty yogurt containers. Any kind of rigid plastic container would work. Put the lid on, as it adds to the rigidity of the container.

3) a pipe or piece of hose. For one of our SIPs we used a length of garden hose, for another we used a two-foot section of aluminum pipe and for the third a piece of black PVC pipe.

4) Landscape cloth. If you don't want to buy a 50 foot roll of landscape cloth for this one project you can use j-cloths 10 for $1.00 at the good ole dollar store

5) A black garbage bag.

Tools required;

1) a drill

2) a sabre (jig) saw

3) a marking pen

How - to

1) Remove the lid and draw a line with the marking pen around the lid where it dips in.

The Community Garden is coming along. Ruth has planted peas, marigolds and cabbages so far. This is going to be a very pretty addition to the park's landscape when we get all the boxes in. If you haven't yet decided to take a growing space please consider it. It's work to get it started but what lovely rewards will be yours when you can come down and gather food for your summer meals.

2) Drill a pilot hole at one corner of the lid so you can slip the blade of the sabre saw into it to start your cut. It's easiest to do this while the lid is on the container.

Zak tried the next steps two different ways, the first time (here) cutting the inner section out first and then cutting holes for the wicking basket, pipe and aeration. The second time he cut the holes for the wicking basket, pipe and aeration before he cut out the inner lid. He felt the second way was better. Although a bit more awkward the outer rim lent rigidity which made it easier to handle while cutting.

In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations ~ The Great Law of Peace - The Iroquois Confederacy

3) Cut a hole in the lid, following the line you drew around. This is easiest when the lid is held on a table with just the edge you are cutting projecting over the lip of the table. It's a good idea to wear safety glasses, because these little plastic shavings can really fly. A finer toothed blade on the saw is helpful too.

"They disparage one who remains silent, they disparage one who talks a lot, and they even disparage one who talks in moderation. There is no-one in the world who is not disparaged."

4) Place the basket in the middle of the cut out piece of lid and draw around it. You can use a round basket, like an old plastic colander with the handle cut off, or even a yogurt container with 10-15 holes drilled in it. The water needs to be able to come into this wicking basket freely.

The art of living is learning to be content with where you are now, with what is. ~ John Haines

5) Remove the wicking basket and draw a second line 1/4 inch inside the outline. This is to keep the wicking basket suspended in the water chamber below it. Whatever you use for a wicking chamber should be at least an inch off the bottom of the container.

The world has enough for everyone's need,
but not enough for everyone's greed. 

~ Mahatma Gandhi.

6) Place the pipe near one end and draw a line around it. You can see the outline of the pipe in the next picture.

7) Drill a pilot hole in the edge of the pipe tracing, and one in a corner of the basket tracing. Drill a series of holes in the lid to act as aeration holes for the roots of the plants. Drill at least a dozen but not so many that the lid looks like a screen door!

8) Cut out the holes for the pipe and basket with the sabre saw. Again, a table edge makes this easier. What makes it even easier is having a big strong guy to do the work for you while you take pictures!

“If I look at all the mass, I will never act.  If I look at the one, I will.” - Mother Teresa

10) Place the yogurt containers upside down in the corners of the box. The inner lid will rest on these. You don't have to use any one particular kind of container, but they should all be the same size/height. Put the lids on them to increase their strength and rigidity.

‘Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.’ Mahatma Gandhi.

11) Lay the inside lid on top of the yogurt containers and insert the pipe. The pipe should be at least an inch above the bottom of the container and long enough to stick up above the soil when the box is filled with soil. You water through this pipe. Also put the wicking basket in place. The bottom half of the wicking basket sticks down into the water and is the conduit for the water to move upwards to the plant's roots.

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." ~ Albert Camus

13) 13) Cover the surface of the inside lid with landscape cloth, pushing the fabric down into the wicking basket and drawing it up the sides. (Here it is pushed down, but it needs to be drawn up before you begin to fill it with soil. Drawing the landscape cloth up the sides up the sides prevents soil from falling into the water chamber below.

Difference is not a threat, it should be perceived as ever energizing diversity. ~ Anwarul K. Chowdhury UN Under-Secretary-General

Drill an overflow hole on each of the four sides, an inch below the level of the inner lid. This ensures the soil does not become waterlogged. Some people drill one hole, but by having one on each side you are certain that at least one will remain open throughout the growing season.

"Be the change you want to see." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

At this point take your SIP and place it where you want it for the season. Once filled they weigh about 125 lbs and are immovable! Moisten soil meant for container gardening and place it in the wicking basket. Moisten the rest of the soil, which can be a combo of container soil and topsoil, and fill the container. With a hose fill the bottom of the container until water runs from the overflow holes.

For tomatoes lay in one cup of agricultural lime along one edge of the box, and a cup of an organic fertilizer meant for tomatoes and vegetables in a line on the other side. Do not mix these into the soil. Leave them lying on top of the soil. For other vegetables lay in the fertilizer but not the lime.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ~ Jesus Christ

Transplant your plants into the SIP. Cut a black garbage bag into two pieces and lay it over the top. Feel carefully for the tops of your plants, and cut an X in the garbage bag large enough to gently slip the tops of the plants through. Water lightly. This is the only time you will water from the top all season.

It's taken far longer to write about it than it took to build it!