The Backyard

The Backyard

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Getting Reel

I casually mentioned to Rick this morning I'd like to get a reel mower to save a little gas in the riding tractor for mowing this year. My thought is to use the reel mower around the house, under a tree that's difficult to mow under (and I don't want to trim the branches), and generally help save a gallon or two of gas. Mr. Brown didn't like the idea. So he says, "I may as well take the new battery back I just got for the riding mower." I said, "Why?" He says, "because if you're going to use a reel mower you may as well cut the whole lawn with that. It doesn't make sense to spend $100 bucks to save on a gallon or two of gas. " Ok Mr. Brown, if you want to be that way about it, fine. I'll cut the whole damn lawn with it.

So my work will likely be cut out for me this summer.

By the way, what prompted me to think about a reel mower was the latest book I read, "The Green Book" which gives hundreds of tips on being environmentally friendly. It said a gas powered mower emits as much pollution per hour of use as 6 cars! I found that a bit astounding.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Saving the World - With a Doomsday Seed Vault

What a fascinating story... CBS 60 Minutes did a piece last night on the "Doomsday Vault," a vault buried in the ice of Norway that contains all the seeds of every plant they could find of the world. An estimated 4.5 million seeds will find the vault home to be available to save mankind when doomsday hits. Doomsday could be anything -- including global warming, natural disasters, war, and (in my opinion), when Monsanto takes control over all seed production in the world. 60 minutes did, in fact, mention the "industrialized seeds" that are causing many original strains of plants/seeds to become extinct. All the more reason to buy organic or better yet, heirloom. Seeds that existed for 1000's of years are slowly disappearing, until these devoted seed folks found and preserved them forever. Very, very interesting topic. One many folks think little of, yet IS our life on earth.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Worlds Healthiest Foods Website

What a cool website...tons of info on healthy eating, foods, cooking, nutrition data, healthy foods for kids, etc. Is this just about the healthiest picture of breakfast you ever saw? In my Healthy Chili blog, I reference a homemade energy gel recipe using Blackstrap Molasses, and my buddy Chrissy asked what it was. Which led me to this healthiest foods website. Thanks for asking Chrissy! And my apologies to my vegetarian friends, but this website includes meat too. Lamb is their healthiest foods of the month. How could anyone eat a lamb? They are adorable.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's Official - Hands-In-The-Dirt Has Begun

Starting seeds in Februray and getting a whif of the aroma of wet dirt makes any gardener crave warmer weather to get out in the real thing. The real thing became official yesterday with:

  • 9 wheelbarrow loads of dried up dead stuff. I don't clean up in the fall because if you let the dried dead stuff on the plants, it gives beneficial insects a place to burrow and winterover.
  • 10 wheelbarrow loads of mushroom soil as mulch to ward off fresh-sprouting spring weeds.

  • 2 wheelbarrow loads of horse manure to prep the compost pile.

  • Dug up and prepped the onion patch. I do have a rototiller, but sometimes good old fashioned hand digging is so much more worth it. It takes gas to run the rototiller too.

There will be a small compost pile dead-center in the vegetable garden. It seemed easier to put it where it will end up. Much more detail and pics coming the next couple weeks/months. The above is the tip of the spring/summer/fall iceberg.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Composting the Chili Way I'm not fancy. But it certainly gives me a workout and creates the same nourishing, finished black-gold product. The latest Organic Gardening magazine has an advertisement for Garden Tools by Lee Valley . It pictures some nice tools to help with composting...but a comparison of some less-costly, Chili-riggin gadgets is in order:

-Stainless-Steel Compost Pail, 6 litres - $21.50
or Kitchen Compost Pail, 7 litres - $18.50
vs. Chili's never-used Tupperware Lettuce Crisper from cupboard - $0. (I can't remember what I paid about 20 years ago).

Compostable Bags for kitchen pails, roll of 25 - $7.50
vs. clean the container when empty - $0

"Composter Bracket Set" to build bins - $79.00 plus lumber costs
vs. Chili's pile in middle of field - $0

Compost barrel Turner (I must admit, these are nice for small, urban yards. ) - $179.00
vs. Chili's field - $0

20" compost Thermometer - $28.50
vs. stick hand in pile - if hot to the touch, it's cooking! Better yet, if its steamin, you don't need to stick your hand in the pile.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Fresh" Delivery of the Startings of Black Gold

There's nothing that excites me more in the springtime than coming home from work and seeing the signs that a delivery has been made of my most prized garden additive. From the tracks in the driveway, to the sunken tracks in the field heading to the garden work manure spreader full of horsey doodoo has arrived! I feel like the luckiest girl in the valley when my dear old dad cleans his horse stalls and makes a delivery for me in the spring. I get SO excited that I wanna just roll around in it. Last night, I couldn't wait to get out of the car and run out and check it out, with camera in hand of course because this stuff is gold to a gardener and I have to share with everyone. I'm in heaven -- thank you Pappa! I have to take off next Wednesday, and I planned to be off next Friday, and my boss suggested I take Thursday also (I love my boss). At first I wasn't really planning on it, but now that my delivery is here, I decided I'd use the day to prepare for the compost pile. I'll separate some of this to my composting area which I haven't quite decided where that will be yet because of the requirements for composting: connvenience to the house to "dump" my scraps; easy access to water it to keep it wet, and close to the garden to deliver the finished product to the vege plants...I may put it directly in the garden, but I may not have room. There's a couple other options I have to scope out. The springs seeds will go in the ground too on Thursday. Woohoooo...spring is here!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Organic Alternative to fight Weeds

There are few organic weed killers beyond good old fashioned weed pulling. This is not possible in a 400 ft stone driveway. Each year, millions of tiny blades of weeds start poking their heads through the stones and a green tinge covers the driveway. 3 times a summer, I swallowed my pride and ate my hippocratic words and sprayed Round-up on my driveway because I knew of no other way to kill weeds in stones...until this year. I cannot support Monsanto, so after extensive research, I found the alternative is in my cupboard -- VINEGAR. I have tried this with left over pickle juice just to see what happens, and it worked! The weed was dead in a day. The other choice is scalding water and of course good old fashion hoeing (what I do everywhere else but the driveway). So lets hope the local stores have enough vinegar to kill about a gazillion weeds in my driveway this summer. Its actually quite affordable too -- $1.50 per gallon times about 3 gallons per application -- that's $4.50 per month (or so) to kill weeds. I'll keep you posted on my weed patrol this summer.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Birds and the This Case the Bats and the Bees

Our environment and ecosystem is SO precious and we, as stewards should pay more attention to stories like these. I truly believe humans and our "modern" practices have impact on what is happening to both Bats and the Bees. The story on the Bees in particular I found alarming. If you don't have time to read them - here's a short summary of both: The honey bee populations are declining at huge rates and they can't pinpoint exactly why. With less honey bees, food doesn't get pollinated as well, thus lower production and higher prices for fresh fruit and produce. And in New York, they are finding dead bats in their hibernation locations. Again, they aren't sure why, but bats play a HUGE part in our ecosystems and controlling insect populations. Both are key to everything in nature working the way it should. The Bee story and the Bat Story

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

Organic meat that is. The meaning of the famed Pink Floyd song "Another Brick in the Wall," is what the listener wants it to be -- what they believe. And that is what made the song such a classic. At the moment, this song, for me, relates to "how can you expect to compete in multi-sport races and do ok if you don't get adequate protein?" Over the past couple months, I've experimented with no meat (but eggs and milk), with just fish/eggs/milk, and of late with some beef and pork added in. All the time I focused on about 100g of protein a day. Low and behold, I'm feeling best, recover best, and perform best with the meat in the diet - no surprises there for most folks. Meat was not part of my diet for two reasons -- primarily the enviornment and how most animals for food are raised. I adamantly oppose factor farms and feedlots, and battery-cage raised poultry which causes huge environmental concerns (mass food production using GMO beans/corn, water consumption, methane gas issues with the waste feedlots generate, etc). ANY raising of the animals in confinement is cruel and unneccesary, in my opinion and I will not support those industries if I can help it. Thus...enter organics. Our local Natural Acres will be my meat-buying establishment of choice. I can see the cows in the field, the chickens in the barnyard, the water flowing in the stream that they drink from, and it all appears good and the way it was meant to be for the environment. There's no excess water needed, no processed feed other than that which is cut from the neighboring fields (grown organically of course!) and its the way animals should be raised. Right now they are offering a special on lean ground beef -- $2.99 a pound. That's about the cheapest I've seen organic beef ever. Organic pricing is definitely falling which means more consumers are making the switch to organics. Better pricing is coming, for sure.