Pull Up a Chair: Ready or Not, Spring Is Coming

Life gets in the way sometimes, even for gardeners, so here I am with no seeds started (oh, the horror!), and scrambling around at the last minute (didn’t follow my own advice last fall, but what the heck) trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We’re still snow-covered here, but unless we get some major snow (sorry people in New England who are still digging out from the last snow; in Upstate NY, we didn’t get very much and have since had warm weather and some rain), not for long.

And without snow cover, we know what is going to happen: the soil is going to warm up. What to do…oh, what to do?

OK – if I want to speed things along, I can scrape off the snow off one of the beds and put to work our ‘old window over some lumber’ trick, which warms up the soil PDQ. And I can either order or go through our local seed racks (at this point, the seeds will still be pretty good) for what I can use right away and get started.

So, what can I use ‘right away’ (or what passes for that here)? Well, if I can get the soil temperatures up to 50+ degrees F, I can plant:

  • Anything from the CABBAGE family: broccoli, kale, cabbage, Chinese cabbages and mustards, cauliflower, kohlrabi.
  • Anything from the BEET family: beets, Swiss and other chards
  • Various sorts of lettuces and other greens
  • Spinach

And frankly, I have had just as good (if not better, actually) experience just putting the seeds into the ground rather than starting them and setting out the plants.

This year, for the first time, I am doing the research in terms of ‘who owns/controls/has agreements with who’ in terms of seed suppliers. There is part of me that is considering very seriously going with Seed Savers Exchange or another heritage seed group, just to make sure that the sticky GM fingers of Monsanto, Bayer, Dow et al. are not on there. I might even save seeds at the end of the summer (which is actually not all that hard to do; I’ll be happy to go over that if anyone is interested). Here’s an amazing factoid about ‘germ plasm ownership’: The number 5 organization in terms of who owns/controls seed germ plasm in…the…world… is……. Land o’ Lakes. The butter people. I kid you not. Look it up.

I’m also thinking seriously about trying, for the first time, to grow parsnips, strictly from having a plate with a whack-load of parsnip/apple puree on it. Yummy. Anyone with experience growing parsnips? I figure that since we’ve had some success with carrots, I will be able to grow parsnips (long pointy veggies under the ground? All the same? Or am I wrong?). We’re also going strictly production tomatoes this year: grow what we use, which is plum tomatoes. I might sacrifice some space to one slicing tomato (so that the DH will be able to make his beloved ‘mayo/black pepper/sliced tomatoes on horrible commercial white bread’ sandwiches), plus one cherry tomato, but other than that, I’ve decided not to bother. If I can find a plum tomato that comes from Eastern Europe or Russia, I’m sold.

The big work this spring will be on a bed we started last year with compost from the county landfill, which was compost in the same way that some Democrats in the House are Democrats. I don’t think I’ve seen as high a ‘wood chip to actual organic material’ ratio in anything other than saw dust in a long time. So that bed was as close to a dead loss as you can get. We’ll dump all the real compost out of the bins into there in the spring. I might even do nothing with that area but grow buckwheat 3 or 4 times (if nothing else, it will feed the bees really well) in the summer to put some more stuff into it. Anyone else have any ideas for cover crops that would do improvement there?

So, where is everyone else in their gardening? Any of you folks in southwest or southeast started? Or is it too dry? I’m not feeling all that good up here about that either – we’re having another dry winter like last winter, which does not predict good things.

You know the drill – fill up the coffee cups, pull the scones out of the oven and let’s talk.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jon Krampner, Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food

Welcome Jon Krampner (CreamyAndCrunchy.com) and Host Toby Wollin (Kitchen Counter Economics)

Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food

You are 8 years old. It’s lunchtime at school. You grab your milk from the ‘lunch lady,’ pay your money (2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, depending on where you live and when this event is taking place), and sit down with your friends to eat. You open your Roy Rogers (or Davey Crockett or whoever) lunchbox or brown paper bag and pull out your sandwich and unwrap it. You look at your neighbor who is doing the same thing.

Both of you are going to have the same sandwich, aren’t you?

And it’s not liverwurst.

For those of us over a certain age, if we brought our lunches to school, chances are that it was peanut butter and jelly – and grape jelly at that. Not honey, strawberry jam, or marmalade. (more…)

NYC Threatens to Shut Down Occupy Sandy Relief Sites

Inside an Occupy Sandy Distribution Center

While the history of relief efforts for Sandy victims in places such as Staten Island and Red Hook is still being written, a move on Friday by New York City will probably go down as one of the stupidest moves any governmental authority EVER made:

This Friday morning Staten Island police representing the mayor’s office have threatened eviction action against the crucial Staten Island hub at 489 Midland Avenue, in the heavily hit Midland Beach area. Aiman Youssef, a 42-year-old Syrian-American Staten Islander whose house was destroyed in the hurricane, has been running a 24/7 community pop up hub outside his property at 489 Midland Avenue since the day after the storm. He and a coalition of neighbors, friends and community members are serving hot food and offering cleaning supplies, non-perishables, medical supplies, and clothing to the thousands of residents who are still without heat, power, or safe housing. This popular hub is well-run, well-staffed, and has a constant hum of discussion, support, and advice as well as donations and pick ups and volunteer dispatch through another pop-up group, volunteers who call themselves “The Yellow Team.”

Occupy Sandy is looking for vocal support – call, email the Mayor’s office to keep these very vital hubs operating. Public Advocate’s office: (212) 669-7250 9am-5pm
EMAIL: GetHelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov

UPDATE: The 626 Midland Avenue hub in Staten Island has been evicted.

Donate here to send blankets to Sandy victims.

Photo by Jeremy Zilar under Creative Commons license.

Pull Up a Chair

Little One (photo: cwarnercarey / flickr)

Being someone who has more grey hairs than Clairol™ can cover these days, along with a grandson to match, I look at my kids and ask myself on numerous occasions, “Did we do the right thing by our kids?”

Some days, I think the smartest thing we ever did was to get them involved in 4H, which gave them a lot of experience in having to get up every morning, no matter how shitty they felt or how cold it was, to go out and feed the sheep and feed and milk the goats. Considering the amount of nostalgia they express about those experiences (which all seem to take place between May and November; no one remembers slopping buckets of water down their pants when they were going out in 0-degrees F), that decision gets a tick mark in the ‘good idea’ column.

On the other hand, I’ve asked myself more than once whether our emphasis on academics and going to college was the smartest thing. There are days when I think we should have enrolled at least two of them into voc tech and gotten them settled in plumbing or being an electrician. Some parents we know say that their greatest decision was in encouraging their kids to become computer programmers, but they’ve also said that their kids are generally miserable. Not that my kids are miserable – our eldest is a business development specialist for the local cooperative extension and our youngest has what passes these days for a pretty good job locally – he works in the facilities department of our local university and has full health and dental.

I’m not sure that any parent knows what to encourage their kids to do these days. What do you think?

Pull Up a Chair: What would I do any different?

Little One (photo: cwarnercarey / flickr)

Being someone who has more grey hairs than Clairol™ can cover these days, along with a grandson to match, I look at my kids and ask myself on numerous occasions, “Did we do the right thing by our kids?”

Some days, I think the smartest thing we ever did was to get them involved in 4H, which gave them a lot of experience in having to get up every morning, no matter how shitty they felt or how cold it was, to go out and feed the sheep and feed and milk the goats. Considering the amount of nostalgia they express about those experiences (which all seem to take place between May and November; no one remembers slopping buckets of water down their pants when they were going out in 0-degrees F), that decision gets a tick mark in the ‘good idea’ column.

On the other hand, I’ve asked myself more than once whether our emphasis on academics and going to college was the smartest thing. There are days when I think we should have enrolled at least two of them into voc tech and gotten them settled in plumbing or being an electrician. Some parents we know say that their greatest decision was in encouraging their kids to become computer programmers, but they’ve also said that their kids are generally miserable. Not that my kids are miserable – our eldest is a business development specialist for the local cooperative extension and our youngest has what passes these days for a pretty good job locally – he works in the facilities department of our local university and has full health and dental.

I’m not sure that any parent knows what to encourage their kids to do these days. What do you think?

And in further nun news…

The “Nuns On The Bus” tour from the Midwest to DC took off from Des Moines, Iowa today with a scheduled stops to educate and inform people on Paul Ryan’s disaster of a budget, and also give voice to their work through visits to homeless shelters, hospitals and food pantries.

“The tour’s first stop was at the office of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a supporter of the Ryan budget. The nuns had planned to present the congressman with a copy of the Faithful Budget, an economic approach drafted by a group of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious organizations as a rebuttal to the House budget. The Faithful Budget calls for increased aid to the poor and cuts in military spending.

Though the nuns say they had an appointment, the congressman’s office was shuttered and dark.”
Are we surprised that Rep. Steve King’s people were conveniently not there for the appointment? Absolutely not – these guys are more than happy to hide behind ‘balanced budget’ rhetoric while they basically send a goodly proportion of Americans down the toilet, but when it comes to facing a bunch of women (and even women who are dressed in ‘civvies’ these days; it is not as if they are facing Sister Joseph Mary from 1957, with a long black habit, a rope belt and an 8″ cross) with some actual moral credibility — nope.

No guts. Weenies, the lot of them. This is leadership?

Read More: Nuns Roll

New York’s Camel’s Nose on Fracking

Under the tent (photo: Adam Foster | Codefor/flickr)

Well, it’s finally happened – NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the DEC are basically caving to two bodies of people: rural landowners who are in trouble because the dairy industry is in trouble and energy interests.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology…Even within that southwest New York region — primarily Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties — drilling would be permitted only in towns that agree to it, and would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts…It would be contingent on hydraulic fracturing’s receiving final approval from state regulators, a step that is not a foregone conclusion but is widely expected later this summer. Department of Environmental Conservation regulators last year signaled their initial support for the drilling process around the state, with exceptions for environmentally sensitive areas like New York City’s upstate watershed. – Cuomo Plan Would Allow Fracking in Limited Area – for now

I live in Broome County and I can tell you that counties that border northern PA are already feeling the negative effects of the fracking/natural gas drilling that is going on just over the border in PA:
— Road damage from drilling trucks
— Increased crime
— People coming in and buying up all the housing to use to rent to out of state drilling workers
— Contaminated water (because rivers and creeks do flow north)

Yes, I realize that there are a lot of people in the area who are asset rich and income poor and the offers from energy companies look really good. But the corporations that end up doing the drilling are NOT the companies that signed the leases – they are packaging those up and reselling them to other drilling companies. And the drillers are not hiring local people for jobs – that is an outright delusion. The workers are being brought in from other states such as Texas and Oklahoma to do the work. We have no regulations on the books to protect townships and municipalities from damage from drilling companies and their equipment; we have no regulations on the books to protect landowners whose water supplies get contaminated because their neighbors leased their gas rights. As a matter of fact, in New York, if your neighbor has a gas lease and the drilling company decides to start drilling at the edge of your neighbor’s property, because fracking is a vertical and then horizontal process, the drillers can be drilling into your property, you wouldn’t know it and you have no legal recourse against them or your neighbors. When your water supply becomes contaminated, you have no legal recourse against the drilling company or against your neighbor.

And why do I call this ‘the camel’s nose”? Well because of this: The Marcellus Shale is attached to an even deeper and actually more ‘attractive’ geologic formation called the Utica Shale, which extends even farther north, east and west. Once the DEC gets away with this, the Utica Shale is next.

This is horrific. The Working Families Party has a petition going to Gov. Cuomo and the DEC here Petition Please sign.

Nuns to the Vatican (and Paul Ryan): We’re rollin’

In our last episode, the Vatican had told US nuns that they’re just spending too much time on the poor. Actually, that is not correct, what the Vatican told them is that because they don’t spend enough time speaking out against abortion, they are not toeing the line of the home office. And Bennie and the Jets have assigned a rather nasty Bishop from Seattle to take over the largest organization of nuns in the US to make sure that they clean up their act.

The nuns, understandably have politely disagreed. On the other hand, one of the groups, Network, also has a rather large bone to pick with Paul Ryan, who has referenced his faith in the budget that he is proposing. Because, as we all know, Jesus was all about ‘show me the money’. The nuns are not happy about THAT, either (ok, to be ‘fair and balanced, there has been some noise from “red shoes central” that Ryan is not exactly being true to the faith on this either, but I digress). So, the nuns have decided that what America needs, right now, is a Road Trip.

[Sister SIMONE] CAMPBELL: All over our nation, Catholic sisters are working at the margins of our society to serve people who are struggling in this economy, people who are hungry, people who are left out of the economy, people who have lost their jobs or people working at low wage jobs.

We thought the best way to bring an education to our nation about what’s happening here in Washington is if we went on the road and lifted up their work and the consequences they would face if this Republican House budget goes through.

For more info on the tour (I want a tee shirt, please), go here: Nuns on the Bus. (more…)

Nuns to the Vatican (and Paul Ryan): We’re rollin’

In our last episode, the Vatican had told US nuns that they’re just spending too much time on the poor. Actually, that is not correct, what the Vatican told them is that because they don’t spend enough time speaking out against abortion, they are not toeing the line of the home office. And Bennie and the Jets have assigned a rather nasty Bishop from Seattle to take over the largest organization of nuns in the US to make sure that they clean up their act.

The nuns, understandably have politely disagreed. On the other hand, one of the groups, Network, also has a rather large bone to pick with Paul Ryan, who has referenced his faith in the budget that he is proposing. Because, as we all know, Jesus was all about ‘show me the money’. The nuns are not happy about THAT, either (ok, to be ‘fair and balanced, there has been some noise from “red shoes central” that Ryan is not exactly being true to the faith on this either, but I digress). So, the nuns have decided that what America needs, right now, is a Road Trip.

[Sister SIMONE] CAMPBELL: All over our nation, Catholic sisters are working at the margins of our society to serve people who are struggling in this economy, people who are hungry, people who are left out of the economy, people who have lost their jobs or people working at low wage jobs.

We thought the best way to bring an education to our nation about what’s happening here in Washington is if we went on the road and lifted up their work and the consequences they would face if this Republican House budget goes through.

For more info on the tour (I want a tee shirt, please), go here: Nuns on the Bus. And yes, you can give them money and strangely enough, it is tax deductible.