Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Pepper Time

Oh Boy, the peppers really ripened up this week so today we roasted about 15 whole to peel and freeze and I chopped up another 2 quarts to freeze raw for soups etc. this winter.  There will be more and we have already been eating them daily for the past few weeks as they have ripened up.  Having a monster bowl full of sweet red peppers is one of those things that makes gardening worthwhile.  I can't really tally the value, considering we started the plants from seed, raised them 2 months in the house, then in the garden for another two months before they started to bear ripe fruit, we have a fair amount of time invested in them.  But they will put on now until frost and at a couple bucks a piece at the store or market, I guess we probably raise the equivalent of over $150 worth in the end.  Abundance.

We're off to Alaska tomorrow and not a minute too soon. The forecast here is for another week in the 90's and a hurricane is bearing down on the east coast. I am really looking forward to some highs in the 50's and don't even mind that it's supposed to rain.  Haven't seen a drop around here in weeks.

I am not taking the computer - really feeling a need to unplug, so look for a dispatch about the great north country in a couple of weeks.  Adios amigos.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Can't Sleep

I don't want to become one of those folks that can't sleep so they mess on the computer all night long, but here I am.  Been awake since about 3:30 and finally got out of bed around 5, all hope of actually going back to sleep dashed.

We leave Tuesday for vacation in Alaska and I guess I've got lots on my mind to wrap up and take care of before we go.  Blogging at 5:45 am is not one of those items on the list but here I am.  I must say I couldn't be more ready to go away and just get a true vacay as haven't really had one yet this summer and despite the fact that the forecast for where we are going is rain every single day, I'm still pretty excited about seeing someplace so wild and new.

I really wish I was in my bed sleeping.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Starry Night

I woke up aroud 4:00 this morning, needing to pee.  I remembered it was the peak night for the Perseid meteor shower so I stumbled out onto the deck to check it out.  The sky was clear and within a few minutes I had seen 2 shooters, one of good size, so I wandered back inside, grabbed the camping mats and a couple of sheets and whispered softly to David. "Come with me and bring the pillows."  He grumbled but staggered out onto the porch with me and helped make our little pallet.  We lay there watching the sky and chatting, soaking up the brilliance of all those stars.  We said to each other "How long has it been since we looked up at the stars?"  Too long.  The night sounds were all around us, barred owls called, the chickens were clucking and murmuring up on the farm, coyotes howled off in the distance, a fox barked down at the pond.  Around 4:30 we heard the bassets sound their alarm as our neighbor headed out to start milking the cows.  We saw several more shooting stars before we dropped back to sleep and the next thing we knew it was morning, but what a delightful interlude that was, snuggling together in the coolish night air, taking in the vastness of the universe.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Atlanta Botanical Garden- ACGA Part 2

A highlight of the ACGA conference was a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This is a spectacular garden that shows what cities with money and a big tax and donor base can do if they work at it. There was a canopy walk; a broad steel walkway that wandered through the tree tops, we didn’t get that far but maybe next time. A huge conservatory holds a tropical house and 3 greenhouses of orchids from 3 different climate zones, tropical to mountain.
There were rare frogs that looked like jewels, water gardens and various plant collections. Colorful glass sculptures by the artist Dale Chilhuly adorned fountains and pools.

They used walls for plantings in several areas, an interesting concept for creating greenspace in narrow or small areas.  Here is an herb wall growing in the edible gardens.

The ACGA sponsored the evening visit, so we had the whole park to ourselves. There was a showing of the film Dirt, an interesting documentary about the soul of soil and how we are degrading the planet by letting our dirt slip away. It was discouraging but also had a hopeful ending, if we will all work to preserve land, and treat dirt as an important component of life on the planet as we know it, instead of just letting it wash down into rivers and blow away, creating deserts and polluting the air and oceans.
Here I am with Kelly in one entrance to the Japanese garden

Home for 3 days now and finally starting to feel back to normal, the go, go, go of Atlanta and the conference took its toll and left me feeling pretty tapped out. I decided this morning I might be suffering from a reverse form of SAD; Seasonal Affect Disorder, a depression normally brought on by short days and the lack of sunshine, I think I’m down from the hot days and lack of energy and/or desire to do anything outside….

There is hope- I see the forecast has highs in the 80’s for next week, perhaps we will see a break from the relentless series of 90 degree days, today made the 61st day over 90 degrees we have experienced this summer. All I can say is-Phew.

Monday, August 9, 2010

American Community Gardening Association Annual Meeting

Diving for free seeds, thanks Ferry-Morse
I got back last night exhausted but enthused after 4 days at the ACGA annual meeting in Atlanta. I traveled with my co-worker and garden manager Kelly O. This was my first foray into a meeting of this organization and I was majorly impressed. The title of this years conference was A Holistic Approach to Building Sustainable and Healthy Communities, the Choice is Yours. Not only was the content of the sessions excellent, but the extracurricular activities were outstanding including a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden and a throw down at the Atlanta Metro Urban Farm, an effort recently undertaken by the president of ACGA, Bobby Wilson along with other community garden and food security folks in Atlanta. The event was sponsored by Whole Foods Market, and featured:
 a pit cooked whole hog, collards and black-eyed peas,

roasted sweet potatoes,

and a low country boil of potatoes, corn, crab and sausage. Banana pudding rounded out the meal washed down by lots of wine from Robert Mondavi and the whole night was made complete with a killer blues band, led by fourth generation bluesman Tony Bryant. OOOO, OO, OO, OOWEE!

But seriously, I came back super inspired by the work that is going on all across the country, and the world for that matter, to bring people back to the land, to provide opportunities for people to grow their own fresh food on public and private lands. Many efforts are underway to provide assistance to the homeless and people who are visiting local food banks and pantries to get access to fresh produce. If you have ever visited a food bank you know that everything is usually in cans and boxes because they don’t have capacity to deal with lots of perishables.

When I have volunteered at our local Inter-Faith Council Food Pantry here in Carrboro I’ve been saddened to only have the occasional fresh potato, onion or bell pepper to offer to the families coming in, fresh foods are a luxury to the poor, and often completely unavailable to people who live in what has been termed “food deserts” places in rural and urban areas that have no decent grocery stores for miles. The only option many families have is the local package store or quickie mart to buy groceries to try and feed the family and the result is the obesity epidemic that we are now dealing with in our country that affects the poor more than other groups. It’s a crazy oxymoronic situation of overweight in the face of food scarcity thanks to the availability of high carbohydrate foods loaded with corn syrup that fill up hungry people but don’t provide nutrition.
But don’t get me started on that. Tours were offered to visit community gardens all over the city. My tour featured four gardens that were organized by various refugee relief organizations and I got to meet people from many places, proud of their gardens.

Ladies from Bhutan

Gentleman from Somalia
I recognized the vegetables grown by the people of Burma that have become familiar to me in our gardens, and saw a small farm that’s working to teach growing and marketing skills among a group of men and women from Burundi, Africa. What a wonderful thing to make land available to people who have been torn from there traditional roots via wars and famine and permit them an opportunity to reconnect to the soil and grow crops that can remind them of home.

Needless to say, we came back tired but excited and filled with ideas about how to make our community gardens better and how to work to advocate for more community gardens in NC. I want to challenge anyone reading this to consider making a contribution to or becoming a member of ACGA- its only $30 for an individual membership- in order to help promote this important work that’s feeding people and creating sustainability across our troubled country. I also encourage folks to get involved in your local food and sustainability movements wherever you are to help improve the health, nutrition and quality of life of all of our neighbors, not just those who can afford the high price that going local sometimes brings.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The word is out "Maria and David's fig tree is ready for picking!"  Every varmint within a couple of miles of the house seems to have discovered our bounty.  First we trapped a little possum, took him down the road a ways.  Next we caught this baby raccon.  We realized this is a losing battle and started to feel bad about uprooting these teenagers from their families and neighborhoods just because they knew a good thing when they smelled it.  Besides, we seem to have a surplus of figs and can't really keep up with the crop.  I need to make jam but haven't had time so we decided to just quit our trapping and share the wealth.
This little one was mighty happy to be set free!