Monday, December 13, 2010

I owe y'all big time

It's been a long time since I last reported on the happenings at the Garden. And it's not because nothing has happened. Quite the opposite.
The last BIG thing that needs to be mentioned was Central Park's Annual Gathering in October. STARworks Ceramics has talked about it on their blog, so I won't repeat everything. I would like to say that it was inspiring to hear Joel Salatin, and many other folks who are LIVING and BREATHING the change in American food ways. Who ARE the change. Those of you who attended the workshop - I know - went away with a positive feeling and the urge to help local food movement along - whether raising/growing local, volunteering with an organization, or buying at least a fraction of your food from local farmers. 

STARworks Garden CSA has wrapped up it's season for now. We stretched our luck until the end of November. And what a year this was! Tomatoes as late as mid November! That of course meant I (and many other growers) had a heck of a hard time getting fall greens going with the incredible late heat and drought we had. I wish I could have included more salad greens for all of you, CSA customers this fall, but I just could not get the greens to germinate! 

This is what we had to offer in the beginning of November, and below is what we had at the end of October:

Roses - just a few weeks ago!
By now, of course, the freezing temperatures have done their job (hopefully have killed some bad bugs as well!)
I have pulled up most of the summer crops, there is still plenty to do to tidy up the garden and make plans for next year.
Merry Christmas Everyone, and a Happy New Growing Year!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Annual STARworks Glass Pumpkin Patch - a success!!!

The last Saturday's early morning sunlight really brought the glass pumpkins, that Nick and his helpers had made - to life. I couldn't stop taking pictures! Here are some of my favorites.
As we set everything up, I wondered, how many people would come out to Star, on their Saturday morning, to splurge on Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations... 
...even if they were enticing...
Well. Little did I know, and to all of our surprise - we had people lined up, guarding the treasures they had chosen, before 9 am, the official opening time! It's lucky no fights broke out:)
Before we knew it - meaning - before noon the pumpkins were SOLD OUT!
HUGE thanks to everyone who came out and supported STARworks this weekend - the proceeds from the Glass Pumpkin Patch sales will go to support our Highschool Glass Program! Thanks Nick, Suzie, Tim, Eddie, Steve, Drew and Robbin - who have been sweating and blowing their heads off making the pumpkins! 
The Second Annual STARworks Glass Pumpkin Patch will be even bigger and better - Save the date - October 1 2011!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shiitakes anyone?

The cooler weather and rain we finally had, has made the Shiitake mushrooms pop out of logs like never before in our garden! Such a beautiful sight to see! Adam and I have been watering them yesterday and today, and I will be picking some tomorrow. 
This is the second year for these logs, and the first time they have bloomed so well!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seeds go in, fruits come out

How nice it is to step outside early in the morning and feel the cool fresh air! The midday heat is no longer relentless. We do desperately need rain though! I have tried to start lettuce in the STARworks garden twice now, and can't keep up with the watering - resulting in only a few plants coming up. However, my garden at home receives some shade and retains water better, so I'm putting my bets on those beds to give us the first taste of some tender greens. Carrots, bunching onions and some radishes and lettuces have already sprouted. I spent this morning turning the last available beds and sowing more lettuce, spinach and arugula. Keeping fingers crossed - and watering the garden overnight with drip hoses every other week or so...
Eggplants are still producing good at STARworks garden, they seem to especially love the bed I planted them in - full sun, and no competition from tomatoes or other crops. There is a problem with pests, mostly lacebugs. Those buggers had just covered lots of the more tender top leaves. I mostly avoid using chemicals for pest control, but this time decided that the small cap full of Pyrethrin, sold for use in home gardens, was worth trying. So, I sprayed them early last week, being careful not to get the solution anywhere where it was not needed. Inspection this week shows, that it helped reduce the bug populations to where hand picking and squishing the bugs will now be possible.
Our Oil Seed Garden is starting to look rather ragged... I decided to take down the gigantic sunflowers this week and had to use a saw to cut through the stems that were almost as thick as my 11 year olds arms...
Some of the seed heads were huge and heavy too.
Under the sunflowers there were a few cotton plants that had grown quite beautifully! I had thought we lost them - they were so slow to grow and did not look promising in the spring. But whaddayaknow:) Cotton has beautiful shy blooms - we have an old timey variety that blooms in shades of creamy yellow and purplish pink.
The pods that later pop open to reveal a fluffy cotton ball are beautiful too - they remind me of hazelnuts.
Another oil seed plant that I started on a whim is sesame. I'd never seen a sesame plant, and I LOOOOOOOVE the seeds, so I decided to throw a handful of brown sesame seeds from Grand Asia Market in our oilseed bed - and wow. The plants have grown taller than me, and are full of pods, which are full of seeds (I've checked!). The plants are so long and gangly (and still keep blooming) that I have to figure out a way to support them until the pods ripen. By the way, the plants smell wonderful if brushed against!

As we are gearing up for another Annual Gathering here at STARworks - there is plenty to do in the garden to get it ready...
Now, if only we'd get some rain!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Old debts and great news

Let's start with great news!
Montgomery county elementary schools are getting more fresh fruits and veggies to our kids!

Old debt...
This past summer STARworks Garden hosted a Star Library Reading program, where we explored the garden and tried to draw and paint from nature. Adam blogged about it here.
I'll add more pictures:)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time for fall!

Ahhhh, the mornings are crisp and cool! Fall is definitely in the air, and summer lingers during the days... I think this is my favorite time of the year in this part of the world.
I did find myself, just for a moment today, feeling sad for the summer almost being gone again.
Where did it go?! I guess it evaporated mostly through the airconditioning... the 90 + degrees are just too much to handle for a northerner.

Anyways - look what we picked today:) Tomatoes are on their last leg - we had couple of intense weeks when they were coming in strong, and now they're just splitting and rotting, and getting attacked by caterpillars. There is still enough for a few to be included in the shares.
Peppers however seem to be doing better this year - they were late to get going, but it's steady picking now. And eggplants have finally started putting out lots of fruit.
And basil has just flourished all summer!
Here's my little helper Anna:) She comes about once a week and helps me pick and bag stuff while we discuss life's persistent questions:) I have two other major helpers this year - Tony, our biodiesel boss, who cuts grass and helps with website stuff, and Gloria who also helps with picking and bagging. THANK YOU ALL!

I started some lettuce seed last week, and some of it is coming up. Keep our fingers crossed!
Also started a batch of carrots and more lettuce at home for the CSA. Trying to keep a few irons in fire in case of disasters.
Here's to fall!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mushrooms, Mushrooms Everywhere

It's quite true, mushrooms are popping up everywhere this time of the year. A good soaking of rain, and they appear seemingly from nowhere. People tend to feel strongly about mushrooms - they either love them, or hate them. But most of us don't know enough about them either way.
And it is not easy to know something about the kingdom of mushrooms, those quiet recyclers whose bodies of mycelia weave immense nets all over our planet, invisible to most.

To educate the people about the fruits of fungus that occasionally are visible, and also edible, we invited in an expert...
(Boletes and a medicinal reishi mushroom)

This past weekend STARworks Garden hosted two Wild Mushroom Hunts, with Asheville's Alan Muskat, The Mushroom Man.

On Saturday we gathered by Low Water Bridge, in Montgomery county, and walked in the woods that are protected by Land Trust for Central NC. Crystal Cockman from the Land Trust came out and introduced the mission of Land Trust for Central NC and joined the mushroom walk. Thank you Crystal for all your help, and to Land Trust for trusting us with your woods!
(Alan Muskat hearing the stories of modern hunter gatherers)

The Saturday workshop went by so fast. Following a lecture, a short walk and mushroom gathering, Alan cooked up the goods with a bit of garlic and olive oil. I think we all learned to identify the Leatherback Milkcaps and Honey Mushrooms. We also tasted some Boletes.

(Alan Muskat introducing characteristics of different types of mushrooms)

The Sunday group convened in my back yard:) Huge thanks to Carolyn McDermott and Fred Shucker for allowing 18 people to roam their woods! The mushroom loot gathered from a relatively small piece of land was amazing! (Lucky for my family now, that I know how many edible mushrooms are practically in my back yard!)
(Alan talking about the forest community, the symbiotic relationship between mushrooms and plants in relation to human community, and the symbiotic relationship we humans should strive to nurture with our natural environment)
(More pontificating)
After learning about some of the edibility identification methods, and how to handle mushrooms, it was time to pick out the edibles, and do a taste test.
I had two cast iron skillets going in the kitchen cooking the ELEVEN different edibles we found that day. Cauliflower mushroom, Old Man of the Woods, Boletes, and Common Fiber Vase are some that come to mind.

(Humans from the mushroom level)

Alan finished our Sunday workshop with his "Fist Full of Fungus" rap song :) He's a Fun guy. Get it?

We hope he will be coming back to teach us some more.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Midsummer Blues

I find myself longing for cool rainy fall days in mid-summer.
Most of the flowers are done blooming in the garden, except for the sunflowers that the Star Elementary First graders planted this spring. Those are HUGE!!!!

Here's our this years tomato "cage" solution. The teepee system seems to be working great - it's stable and sturdy, and can be installed with minimal effort. Bamboo poles and some twine - and the monsters can grow wild! I've been trying to keep pruning the bottom parts of the plants better this year - cutting off the leaves close to ground and some of the suckers.

Tomatoes look much happier this year, for sure.
Cucumber plants look like their on their last leg, so will be pulled up soon.
I planted some last minute okra at the garden at home and a second batch of zucchini and beans - the bunny that lives in the STARworks garden now has eaten up all the bean plants... and I found a teeny baby snake in the greenhouse the other day - yikes.
Happy summer days ya'll!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Long time no blogging

Isn't this usually like, August weather? Oh boy.
Anyways, all the green springy veggies are gone by now from the garden. But tomatoes are starting to ripen a few fruits, peppers are growing some fruits... basil is doing good... cucumbers are abundant!
I'm happy about all the garlic - it grew so well this year - I wonder if it was the well aged horse manure from Chad Brown that I added to the soil in October, when the garlic got planted. Some heads were big enough to hold in two hands!
The rest are pictures of flowers and color combinations in the garden this year. My main plan was to expand the garden with flower beds, and it's worked out:) I wish the first graders who planted all the sunflower seeds could have come back to see the fruits of their labor! The sunflowers are probably 3 times as tall as the kids by now!

Anyways - I'm hoping for a cooler weather! Don't forget about the mushroom workshop coming up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WIld Mushroom Foraging Workshop coming up!



Lookin' and Cookin'

Saturday, August 7th, 10am-2pm

Join America's troubadour of the toadstool on a quest for the edible and incredible wild mushroom: fragrant chanterelles and sumptuous morels; giant puffballs and purple fairy fans… You’ll learn how to safely find, identify, appreciate, maybe even eat these elusive delights. You’ll also learn about medicinal mushrooms, dyeing with mushrooms (that’s D-Y-E) and more, all with The Mushroom Man’s unique blend of poetry, stories, wit & wisdom. Short, easy walk; all ages welcome. Wild mushroom tasting, 42-page introductory e-book and wild mushroom identification program included. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.

To register, email Anne Pärtna, or call (336) 356 9551; send a check for $45 made payable to Central Park NC, to the address: P.O Box 159, Star, NC 27356 or

call Beth Throneburg # 910 428 9001 to pay via credit card.

Registration deadline is July 26th.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bloom Extravaganza

I walked around the garden a few days ago and here's what I saw:
Hollihocks blooming!
Snapdragons... this is my favorite color variation from all that have bloomed this spring.
Yarrow and Hollihocks in the background...The Hollyhock "column" creates an optical illusion on this image - looks like I just put 2 pictures together...
Lavender almost blooming, lilies, violas and Swiss Chard in the background.
First tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse.
Some of the Monkey-flowers have started blooming. I double checked and yes, they are called monkey-flowers.

Grape vine is LOADED with grapes this year. Can't wait to see what kind of grapes these are. It desperately needs an arbor to climb on, which would also form an entryway to the garden...
Savoy cabbages forming heads. I was late getting them in, but ya never know, we may just get a few heads!
Swiss Chard - always charming!
Lettuce mix.
Nasturtiums are among my favorites - beautiful and useful. The flowers and leaves can be added to salads.
A black Japanese tomato variety. Those got tied up and pruned yesterday.
Picknic tables in the back - we now have cool new space to hang out! Those will be useful also for workshops!

It's amazing how much on can get done on a cool overcast day in the garden! I pulled out some seed plants, cleaned the beds, transplanted more cukes, peppers and tomatoes, basil, flowers, celery and repotted more peppers ant tomatoes into bigger pots, tied up and pruned tomatoes, weeded beds and walkways and can't even remember what else...