Monday, March 30, 2009

Worm Workshops

We had our first vermiculture workshop today with Mrs. Dawkins' third grade class. Kids were wired up - you could tell the long rain last week was too much for them! We learned a little bit about Red Wrigglers anatomy and behavior, their habitat, and what they like to eat. Kids got to get up close and "personal" with a worm, and observed them closely.
Later we shredded newspaper, and started a new worm bin with a handful of worms from the bin I've had since going to the vermiculture workshop at Piedmont Biofuels. 
I think everyone had fun today and learned a thing or two. Kids are very observant and ask so many questions! Sometimes I don't have the answers...

My worm-bin is looking really good right now - I've moved it into the greenhouse for next few months - or until it gets too hot in there. There are TONS of cocoons in there, and plenty of worms. After the workshops are over I will try to collect all the castings (and record and post the process) and give the worms a semi fresh start...
Stay tuned:)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fresh from the Greenhouse

Took these pictures in the greenhouse today after transplanting a bunch of lettuces from cardboard "flats" to paper pots - they were getting too crowded. A bunch is already transplanted in the garden. Some of these are just gorgeous - especially those that got planted outside a few weeks ago - brilliant reds, speckled and spotted leaves... such eye candy!
You can also see some cherry tomatoes poking their noses up despite it being relatively cold still... I'm planning to plant those in pots in greenhouse - to add a few handfuls to salads.

This is called "Violetta Pak Choi" - you can tell I am especially drawn to red/purple varieties of almost any leafy plant - they just make me smile:) I also have two varieties of red okra this year that I hope to plant SOMEWHERE...
This particular Pak Choi has been growing well so far - better than some other varieties I have tried to grow before. I still have a LOT of paper pots to make and a LOT of transplanting to do - and a LOT of bed building so that eventually there is somewhere to transplant all those beautiful plants.
I also bought 2 different black tomato plant seeds, 2 yellow tomato seeds, 3 different eggplant seeds on top of all the great seeds that Tom gave me and what I still have from previous years. It's amazing how long some seeds stay viable! 
Well, that's it for today!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Organic Growers School

This Sunday, I went to the Organic Growers School.
It is held once a year in Flat Rock NC, at the Blue Ridge Community College. This year they had organized a 2 day event - it's great to know that more and more people are starting to grow organically and sustainably and that means - one day of classes is not enough to accommodate everyone! Classes were spread out all over the campus, after an hour and half class it was nice to step outside and walk to your next class, stopping by to see the vendors. I bought a wild mushroom field guide, some homemade soap, and seeds... yes. more seeds. I usually can't stop myself from buying more seeds. This time I got some hot thai basil, chamomile and something else I can't remember right now... who cares if I don't have enough space to plant? 
I learned a few things about drip irrigation, passive solar greenhouses, making potting mix and how to use cover crops on garden scale. I also learned that I already know quite a bit! And that I am more hard core on sustainability than most... For instance... comes out that some people use drip tape - made of plastic, and use it only one season, after which they either throw it out, or find other uses for it, since drip tapes require an acid rinse and thorough cleaning before storing... now, does using less water with these drip tapes justify all that goes into making the plastic for the tapes in the first place if you end up NOT reusing them????
Still - Organic Growers School is a great thing. I strongly recommend checking out their website - most of this years lectures should appear on their "resources" section within next couple of weeks. Currently they still have last years lectures up - some in "word" document and some in other formats. You can always learn more!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Making Vegetable Stock

To all of you, who will be getting vegetables from STARgarden CSA this summer - it may be worth your while to check out ASTROGIRL's blog, to deal with any leftover veggies you have!
I know, sometimes it's hard to get through the pile of veggies in a week. Freezing is an option for some things, but not everything. However, if you make soup stock - you can stretch the "life of your veggies" by using the stock a few days later, or by freezing it. 

Can You Believe This?!

I opened up my e-mail this morning and this made my day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

New additions and more links.

I am so proud of our new additions to the garden, that I wanted to share pictures! Adam is behind both inventions. Here's our new bird feeder!  Nancy donated the bird feeder, and Adam
used some PVC pipes that worked perfectly, to make a post for it. I checked it today, and it has been discovered! - Some of the sunflower seed is gone. My hope is to attract more birds to the garden to deal with bugs, and enliven the ecosystem in general. 
And here is the new 3 compartment compost bin. In the center section is a nice pile that the third graders from Star Elementary started last week. It's so cheery and goes great with our "post industrial garden" - conceptually as well as visually:)
Also, I just updated our links and blogs section on this blog. On Friday I was searching for accessible information about pasture raised meats, to compose some sort of info sheet that I can use for educational purposes for general public, and ran across all these great websites. Samantha from Bulldog Pottery sent me a link to the Slow Food in Piedmont and Triad.
There is a lot of great info on all these sites, so check them out!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Star Elementary Kids are Composting:)

Star Elementary third graders are learning about composting this week. They are full of energy and eager to get their hands dirty - which is so wonderful for me to see! Kids are learning about all the  things that can go into compost bin instead of becoming stinky garbage, and why compost is better for gardens and our ecosystem than chemical fertilizers. 

We also look at some of the other ways of reusing cardboard and newspaper as seed starter containers in the greenhouse. The kids feel and smell our last years compost, and so far the general consensus has been: "Hei! All that yucky stuff we put in that pile turns into clean, fresh smelling food for plants!"
 Some of these kids are going home, asking their parents to start a compost pile, I  bet.

A week from now we'll have the same kids back in the garden learning about vermicomposting.
Now, THAT'll be fun!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Flowerpot Making Last Friday

This blogging thing really helps me realize how fast time goes by!
On Friday the 27'th, before the Mushroom Madness we had another Flowerpot Workout here in STARworks. It was great fun to have all the people together, making pots for a good cause, eating and talking... A lot of good energy in the studio.

Thank you, David, Mike, Mark and Meredith, Kacy, Santiago and Kacy's parents, Evan, Gloria,
Tim and Robin, Hitomi, Takuro and Ken, Crystal - for coming to make pots!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mushroom Madness

Sorry folks! I know I am behind with blogging - and I will try to make up, as there is quite a bit
to blog about. So let me start with the Shiitake Workshop which we held here at STARworks.

It was cold and pouring rain outside, but that didn't stop about 45 people showing up for the workshop. Greg Bender and Mr. Iyobar Osagie from NCA&T ran the workshop, and Hugh Martin helped them out. Greg has grown mushrooms for 7 some years now, and we sold his Shiitakes through our CSA last season. NC A&T supplies free spore to those workshop participants who want to start a small 200 log Shiitake operation. If you are interested, contact your local Agriculture Agent and inquire about NC A&T workshops or about getting the spawn.
 I was extremely pleased with the crowd that we drew on such a dreary day.
It looked like everyone had fun learning something new, inoculating a log or two to take home, and making a few new contacts. Some of the participants seemed eager to try and start the 200 log mushroom production this spring. I am still on the fence, as time is running out, and there are soooooo many things in the works in the garden, still...

Here we're all patiently waiting 
for the workshop to start.
Demo on drilling and plugging.
Oh yes, there was a lot of drilling.
Filling the holes with mushroom spawn.
Spawn is sawdust inoculated with spore.
NC A&T is working with many different
strains of Shiitake's and Oyster mushrooms.
After the holes are filled they have 
to be covered with wax to keep out
any invasive mushroom species.

Then the logs have to be kept in a dappled sunlight, semi shade. They don't require a lot of work after the initial plugging, just an occasional watering when there is drought. If you plug at the right time - which is preferably February, early March, you can expect your first "blooming" - or mushroom crop in the fall. Once the mushrooms are poking out from the logs it's a matter of picking them in timely manner. Sometimes it's a matter of few hours...
Good luck to everyone who came!
Thanks Greg for giving up your Saturday, for bringing tools, conducting the workshop and assisting everyone!
Thanks Hugh for dropping in and helping out big time!
Thanks to STARworks Glass Studio for lending space - and everyone who jumped in to clean up afterwards! 
Looks like we may be doing this again next year!