Monday, December 8, 2008

More food politics!

Here is an article that Tom Gray pointed me to recently.
Totally made me angry! I hope you will take the time and
dig into this one! I'm getting the book. Are you with me?


OK everyone. You absolutely HAVE to take a look at this video!!!
What an awesome job Annie Leonard has done exposing how the system works!
It takes about 20 minutes. Trust me, it's well worth it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recipe corner

We have a new addition to the blog - Must Eat Those Veggies - or a recipe corner!
Check it out! I'll try to keep it updated as often as I can. If you have some recipes you'd like to share with everyone e-mail me! Or if you try any recipe's I post - let us know if it gets thumbs up - or "eeeh... so-so"...
Happy munching!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I've been meaning to write this blog entry for a while and something always keeps messing me up. Do any of you have a problem uploading some images? I had one more I was trying to upload from the vermiculture workshop and after 3 attempts I gave up...
Let me see... looks like server is down or something or the other... one more try..

It worked this time!
But see, I run into all sorts of technical problems with this blogging that keep me away for days sometimes.

Ok. to the point...
Melanie Lamonds and I attended a vermiculture workshop in September at Piedmont BioFarm
in Pittsboro and had a great time learning about composting with worms and tearing up piles of newspaper. We came away thinking "boy - this is a lot more trouble than we thought it would be!" and our very own worm bins with 1 lb of fresh new worms introduced to the shredded newspaper.  Here you see Brian Rosa - the NCDENR - DPPEA Environmental Specialist/Organics Recycling Coordinator explaining something to very attentive listeners...
I don't have a picture of Amanda Sand, Piedmont Biofuels Vermiculture Specialist, who organized the event and runs the worm project at Piedmont Biofuels... 
This (below) is my Worm House... Let me tell you... The first few weeks were like having a new baby! well... not quite, but if you're thinking there's nothing to it to start a new bin, think again. The worms were not at all delighted about being dumped on fresh  wet newspaper in a plastic "house" after coming from wherever safe and nice they came from. 
At home I raised the bin on a plastic lid of another bin on three styrofoam egg cartons (they were readily available) and put it in our former dining, now sewing/craft and pilemaking room, under a table lamp that had to be turned on overnight. And did I say that I DO NOT LIKE burning lights at night... I guess not, well, I DO NOT LIKE burning lights at night!  The light has to be on to keep the worms from escaping the bin in search of a better environment (which they are not going to find inside a house...). 
Well. Despite the burning light and all, I still had to pick up a few dried up worms off the floor but at least the fatalities were not massive. After a few days we dug some kitchen scraps (coffee grounds and some veggie cuttings) under some shredded paper. 1 lb of worms can eat about 0.5 lb of scraps a day (once they are established, and the food is pureed for easier access to the worms). We added a little stuff to the bin every few days. I did not weigh or puree anything though. It didn't take long for fruit flies to settle in - of course, free food and lots of moisture!!!
So i think after about 2,5 weeks of babying them inside I put my worm bin on front porch and kept adding kitchen scraps (no fats and meats or dairy though!) and checking for moisture. I also, sort of turned the whole concoction over a few times. The worms stopped trying to escape, and started churning out some great looking worm poop in return for the food.
Well. Then it got cold and I moved the busy little guys/gals into our garage. Since it is sort of cold there, the worms have slowed down and we don't add as much food for them. Most days I forget I have them, to be honest... last time I checked it looked great in the bin despite the general neglect! I haven't had to add much water but it is moist, most of the newspaper has turned into an indistinguishable mass of brownish matter mixed with some distinguishable veggie parts. There is a whole host of other "bugs", mostly fruit flies but as I remember that is not a problem... I want to say there is also way more worms than what I put in... but that may just be a parental pride...

So there! After the initial doubts and second guesses about the whole undertaking I can say it is worth the few weeks of "trouble" in the beginning, to have this wonderful living kitchen scrap recycling machine, that requires minimal attention, and gives pure black gold in return! I'm hoping to use some of the worm castings this spring to add to our seed starting mix, and start a few more bins with our own worms!

PS! Melanie has her worm bin in her classroom where her fourth graders can keep an eye on the worms and give them something little to munch on every now and then. Way to go!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Winter garden

What a gorgeous weather we had last week!!!!
I got inspired to clean out the garden from the
debris of frost bitten summer veggies, and planted
some cover crops on a few beds, to replenish the 
soil in the spring by digging it under.
The garden looks so orderly now, compared to the 
summer's wild abundance...
I also transplanted some Chinese cabbages and a few
varieties of pak choi, and looks like they are enjoying
the fresh new grounds.
Spinach, chard and lettuces are growing beautifully
and I'm eager to see how long we will be able to 
enjoy salads this winter.
This is such a great region for growing veggies all year long! 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Food Initiatives.

People are starting to come around!!! I've watched the American food-ways change little by little over the past 10 years, and FINALLY there are positive VISIBLE changes taking place. If only the information reached more people in the small rural areas... faster... stronger... hit them harder...

Lets spread the word!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Michael Pollan rocks!

Tom Gray brought my attention to this article:
Mr. President

Michael Pollan has been advocating change in American food system for a while now. He doesn't just point the finger but directs you to sources and solutions. I'm a big fan!!!!
"The Botany of Desire" was a great read and opened my eyes to seeing the plant-human connection/interdependency in a different way...
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" which I'm still reading, has made me ever more careful and mindful about the food choices I make for my family. If you have the guts to find out about what America eats and why, you need to read this book. (If I could I would force you!!!!) I have to warn you that you will never again be able to blindly and mindlessly buy another coke or eat at McDonalds. There is always going to be that choice to make between home packed lunch (hopefully consisting of a sandwich made with home baked whole grain bread and "happy chicken" salad - (chicken from your local farm)) and a quick grab from unknown source... but at least you will be making an informed choice...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

sneak peek into the baby greens nursery

Fall is in the air!

It's here.
The leaves are turning, air is crisp in the mornings and the lettuce is LOVING IT!

To me this summer ended sort of abruptly. One week it was hot, the next you had to drag a sweater out of the closet...
Luckily we've still had some nice warm days to ripen the last tomatoes and even give enough time for the eggplants to form beautiful purple globes... I really did not want to bet on them, but surprise - surprise!
The greens of all sorts (well, some of them are red...) grow so well in this weather. I just wish we had more land... More land! More land!!!!
I tend to go crazy with the seeding thing and pile everything on top of each other. I guess that is called intensive cropping...? That's what I call it. Max the land use!

Here are some recent pix from the garden.
Let me brag also about progress on the greenhouse! Adam and I worked hard yesterday (he did most of the heavy lifting and I think I did most of the unbolting of the frame) getting the greenhouse disassembled. I forgot to take my camera to the site, so you won't get to see the demolition derby. But I'll make sure to document the setting up.
There is still the frame to take apart, the anchor tubing and railroad ties to take apart and bring here. (first we have to figure out how the heck to do that...) we're about 1 third of the way there!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

STARgarden is proud to present: the Wonky-Doo Salad Bed!Need more beds! Need more beds! This has been the mantra for the past few months. We had problems with timing and weather, equippment, prioritizing, a million other projects needing attention - you name it. But this week it all came together!!!
Adam - the guy you go to when you need to get things done here at Starworks - and I, started on Tuesday, leveling the land with Bobby. We didn't use a level however, just eyeballed it... that's what got the "wonk" going. Adam brought over a bunch of concrete bumpers with Bobby - our signature raised bed building material from way over yonder. He felled a few trees to get to the nice and shiny and semi straight bumpers (we're used up all the old and crumbly ones). This was our 6th bed to build (the biggest so far) and we have downsized the operation from about 6 people to 2. I'd say that's pretty darn pro. And mostly I just got in the way which should tell you something about the level of expertize and sheer muscle power of my better half.On Wednesday, Santiago - who is always ready to lend a helping hand - filled the bed with topsoil and compost, and tilled it into a consistent mix. Santiago has been the tiller operator from day one and if it wasn't for him I'd still be wheeling the compost in with a shovel and wheelbarrow. I had brought 4 lawn bags full of leaf mold from home - since we have not established a supply of brown organic matter in the garden yet (all of you with trees in your yards take note - I NEED THOSE LEAVES this fall!!!) and we tilled that in also just to loosen up our clay soil. It went like a pinch of salt into the ocean...Here's Santiago fastening some landscapers cloth to the bumpers before putting in the "growing medium". We have learned a few things since the first bed built. There was some soil erosion at the corners of the first beds and where the concrete bumpers meet, so I decided to try the landscapers cloth to discourage the runaway soil! We'll see if it does the trick. Go back to the very first picture and you'll also notice the staggered method of layering the bumpers! DUH! Took us laying nearly 100 bumpers to figure that one out! As my father used to repeat to us tirelessly: "Work was what made humans out of monkeys"...

This morning (which was a lot like an Estonian summer day) Adam and I were back in the garden. While Adam bent some scrap electrical conduit (10 points for recycling!) into "loops" for row cover; I transplanted the spinach, arugula, purple mizuna and radicchio I had started a few weeks ago. It was a good overcast day for transplanting with a promise of rain... and extra heavy winds, which made the row cover installation quite challenging. Unfortunately there are no pictures of that process. I was a bit too busy trying to make sure the whole operation wouldn't fly away...
So there!
The whole thing is as Wonky-Doo as can be and I bet it will grow some yummy lettuce for the Starworks Annual Meeting and forever thereon!

Here's Adam and I showing off our latest gardening moves!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Parsley Trouble

Every monday I go straight to the garden to take a critical look at the plants
and make a mental list of chores for the week (in addition to the "bigger plan"
that I keep mulling over in my head and working on).
Today there was 2 more parsley plants that had keeled over and died:( 
The roots were a stinky slimy mush, and the plants had wilted completely. The swallowtail 
butterfly caterpillars are NOTHING compared to whatever has attacked the plants 
now. I actually let the caterpillars munch in peace - they are so adorable and the butterflies
they turn out to be are gorgeous!!!!

It looks like the disease is called (surprise-surprise!) a ROOT ROT. (Fusarium spp. and Rhizoctonia solani)
Right now I don't know what else to do but cross my fingers and hope the last 4 plants will make it a few more months. I've already started new plants and I'll plant them in different beds to see if it will help.

In the spring I want to plant parsley in flower beds too give the caterpillars something to eat and attract more butterflies to the garden. 
Am I crazy????

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

STARgarden Blog Begin!

Well. The first beds are built. The first vegetables grown - AND eaten. 
It is time to start recording what is happening in the STARgarden on a 
regular basis. 

I just added a post on STARworks main blog page. A sort of collage of 
last 7 months of "farm"operating on an old parking lot . To be honest, I did not expect to get so much produce out of such a relatively small plot. I certainly didn't think we'd have enough to sell this first year. But whaddayaknow. Plants grow. And grow more. 

I'll keep posting short notes on STARworks page, but 
wanted to have a separate space for garden only, where I can add more pics and rambling thoughts without boring everyone. SO. If you have more interest in what goes down (literally) in STARgarden, check in here every now and then. 

The latest news is that we have purchased a us
ed greenhouse from Mr. Allen. It looked lonely and in need of someone! It also looked good and sturdy and in good shape with all sorts of bells and whistles, so we decided to stay
 true to one of our visions which is to RECYCLE wherever possible, and bought it used, rather than brand new! 
Yesterday we had great help from Tommy and Johnny, leveling the ground for the greenhouse. 
There is still tons more to do before it can be put up though... plastic to be ordered, watering system figured out and ordered, more beds built, more fall veggies started, flower beds planned and dug for next summer, vermicomposting started... oh, the list keeps growing almost as fast as the plants!