Monday, November 30, 2009

Tools Inventory: I (heart) My Compost & Mulch Fork

Some years, I ask my husband for a new garden tool for my birthday or Christmas; sometimes, I don’t even specify the kind of tool I want. My compost & mulch fork was the result of just such a tools request for my birthday one year, and it turned out to be a wonderful surprise.

This particular fork has 10 fairly closely spaced tines that are not especially pointed at the ends. Using the compost & mulch fork to turn the compost pile a couple of days ago reminded me that it’s a tool that really works!

Anyone who has tried to shift compost using a spading/digging fork will have had the experience of watching the littler bits fall right through the spaces between the tines. A shovel, though, sometimes can’t even be shoved very far into a compost pile because it jams up against a tough piece of plant that hasn’t yet decomposed.

My compost & mulch fork avoids both of those problems. The tines are spaced closely enough to hold the crumbly, dark compost, but the spacing is wide enough that the fork doesn’t get hung up on the un-decomposed bits. The fork goes right into the pile and comes away with a full load.

Even better, the fork works for more than just compost. It works for chipped wood that we get a load of each year to spread on paths through the backyard, and it works for manure, grass, and old, soggy leaves.

I have seen similar forks online at Lee Valley ($65) and at Lowes Online ($36), but I have also seen them at the old Cobb Hardware store (price similar to Lowes) on Roswell Street in Marietta.

It is hard for me to admit that my compost & mulch fork is not really a necessity, but that is true. I could get by with my spading fork and a regular shovel, which are both ESSENTIAL tools. The compost & mulch fork does make some tasks a lot easier, though.

A couple of my sisters have birthdays in the same month as mine, and the year I was given the compost & mulch fork I remember a conversation with one of those sisters, that I told her about my great gift, and that there was a moment of silence on the phone. Then she said something like “I got a diamond bracelet.” Now, I am sure that the bracelet still brings her plenty of pleasure, but it is hard to imagine that she gets as much enjoyment out of that bracelet as I get from my compost & mulch fork.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Planting Some Spring Flowers

I planted some bulbs today---paperwhites (var. Inbal) and anemones (Blanda mixed colors).

One great feature of the Spring-blooming bulbs is that they reach their peak when many of my other plants are seedlings, or still just seeds. Seeing the flowers provides an inspirational boost, helping me stick with my seed-starting and planting schedule. Another great feature is that the bulbs get planted now, when the outdoor work-load in the garden is fairly minimal.

I have several kinds of daffodils out there already, along with crocus and some other small bulbs, but I hadn't planted paperwhites before today. I put them pretty far from the house, because they are a Very Fragrant Flower. I want to enjoy seeing them without being overpowered by the smell.

The anemones are planted in front of one of the planting beds installed last year. I've planted these before, maybe 10 years ago, in the blueberry bed, but very few of them are left. I am thinking that the higher pH of the side-yard lawn (which mostly is not grass) will be helpful to their survival. We will see.

Something I didn't remember was how puzzling anemone bulbs are to plant. The instructions on the package say to "plant the bulb with the pointed side up." The problem is that no pointed side exists. The little bulbs are shaped about like flattened gravel, with oddly angled bumps in seemingly random locations. The bumps don't really show up in the picture below, but they are there.

I tried to find the scar on each little bulb that looked as though it could be where the roots grow, and planted that facing downward. I hope my little bulbs aren't actually upside-down!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saving Seeds: Southern Seed Legacy Project

As next year’s seed catalogues begin to arrive (I’ve received two already!), it may be useful to note one great seed resource for Southern gardeners that doesn’t blanket the South with catalogues: the Southern Seed Legacy Project, based in UGA’s Anthropology Department, whose “ objective is to keep southern agrobiodiversity alive, not in gene banks, but in the fields and gardens of people. . .” A link to the homepage for this project is located on the sidebar of this blog, in the section titled Georgia Gardening and Food.

The Project keeps Southern agrobiodiversity alive through locating and saving heirloom Southern seeds, then growing them out both at UGA’s Agrarian Connections farm and through the Pass Along Southern Seed program, which gives seeds to member-gardeners to grow out. Member-gardeners then return a portion of seed from the grown-out crop to the program, so more is available to other gardeners, and they also share a portion with another gardener.

Many of the seeds available through the program are different varieties of Southern Peas, which are great for beginners to try as an introduction to seed saving. Southern peas (crowder peas, black-eye peas, cowpeas) grow and produce really well in the South, the flowers self-pollinate and are not subject to a lot of cross-pollination, and the seed is also the plant-part that is eaten, so saving the seeds is easy!

Saving your own seeds from the garden is a way to make sure that a particular variety endures, but it also is a great way to save money on gardening; fewer seeds need to be purchased each year! Anyone who has never tried might want to check a local library for Suzanne Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed, or, for a quick introduction, check the website of the International Seed Saving Institute for basic information on saving seeds from garden plants.

Reading up on seed saving now could lead to some great ideas for next year’s garden.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Celebration of Orange Vegetables, and Especially Pumpkin Pie

One year at Thanksgiving dinner I sat down, looked at my plate (food was set out buffet style), and realized I would be eating four orange vegetables at that meal. Seminole pumpkin squash and spiced sweet potatoes were piled on the plate, the stuffing included bits of carrot, and a pumpkin pie was waiting for dessert. No wonder I liked that meal so much!

I love pumpkin pie, and I eat wedges of leftover pie for breakfast, days in a row, until it is finally all gone, so this particular pie is an important part, to me, of any Autumn celebration.

For years and years I made a standard recipe pumpkin pie, but last year I made the Cook's Illustrated Pumpkin Pie recipe, and my youngest son said it was the best pumpkin pie he'd ever eaten. This means, of course, that I will be making it again this year, even though it is a bit of a pain (many more steps than the old recipe).

The Cook's Illustrated recipe uses both pumpkin and sweet potatoes. It actually calls for canned candied sweet potatoes, but I used roasted ones that had grown in my garden last year, and will again this year. It also, like most pumpkin pie recipes, calls for canned pumpkin puree. I will be using a Tahitian squash from my garden and letting it sit in a strainer for a while after roasting to let excess moisture drain away before mixing it into the other filling ingredients.

The pie crust recipe that accompanies the filling recipe on the linked page above is excellent. I will be making several batches of the dough tomorrow (I went to a liquor store for the vodka this morning), for use on Wednesday when I put together and bake the pies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tools Inventory: Tool Care

This weekend's weather forecast is for yet more rain. Even though I should start working on getting ready for company on Thursday, I will probably also work on tidying up my tools. I do clean and sharpen my shovels, hoes, trowels, pruners, etc. during the busier gardening seasons, and my husband helps (he is better at sharpening than I am), but a good Fall cleaning, sharpening, and oiling should help prolong the useful life of each tool.

The youtube video below, from Central Texas Gardener, presents the basics of garden-tool care.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Winter Weed

Last Saturday I was a guest on the America's Home Grown Veggies hour, on Radio Sandy Springs. When the host, Kate Copsey, asked about winter weeds, purple dead nettle is one I mentioned. She asked when it would flower, and I said something like, "oh, maybe February."

Well, I was pulling a few weeds in the garden a couple of days ago and saw that the purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), which is in the same genus as henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and looks a bit like it, is already flowering! This is annoying for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I thought it wouldn't flower until later in the season, which explains why there is so much of it around right now. In years past, I must have let it go to seed before pulling it up.

If I thought plants could purposely bloom to show how I'm not such a know-it-all after all, I would say that this is an example of just that behavior. Obviously, however, I need to pay more attention to what is going on in the yard before opening my mouth.

The other reason its blooming now is annoying is that it means I need to get busy pulling up all the rest of the purple dead nettle before it can flower and go to seed yet again, so maybe NEXT year there won't be quite so much of it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I am so surprised that my Camelia is flowering already that I wanted to tell about it. If my bush were a Camelia sasanqua, November blooming wouldn't be any kind of surprise. Those have been blooming beautifully for several weeks all over town, but mine is a Camelia japonica. It usually opens its first bloom in December.

I brought the first flower inside to enjoy in my kitchen window. The bush has several more buds in the process of opening, so when this first flower turns brown, I will be able to bring in another one, then another one, and so on until the first very hard freeze.

Making New Garden Beds

Over the last week, we have added two new garden beds to the front yard, over on the other side of the driveway. We are making them following, approximately, the Lasagna Garden method (the linked article, by Patricia Lanza who originated the method, is very detailed!). The boards that define the beds are cedar, the ground inside is covered with cardboard and newspapers, and the middles are filled with layers of organic matter.

Right now, the layers are horse manure that I picked up at a stable in the next town north of here, in our little truck, and leaves from the yard across the street from us. We will be adding more layers over the next few weeks, so that in Spring there will be enough composted organic matter in the beds for planting.

To locate a source for the horse manure, I looked in the little local phone book, in the yellow pages under "stables." There were two, and I called the first one. The person who answered said they would LOVE for someone to come get some of their manure, and that for $5 a guy would fill my truck for me, using a backhoe. This worked great.

My truck (a Ford Ranger xlt) was very full when I left the stable, and clods of horse dung fell off here and there along the way home, but I had fun seeing all the horses at the farm and then watching in my rear-view mirror on the way home to see how drivers reacted to following such a fully loaded truck. Not too surprisingly, there was no tail-gating.

The original Lasagna Garden method uses quite a lot of peat moss, which I would rather not use. I will, instead, be using a lot more leaves.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Green Things Update

We had another 5.5 inches of rain this week, so it may be miraculous that ANY plant in the garden is actually in good enough shape to eat, but the last head of bok choy (there were 6, originally) is heading for the dinner table.

I am still waiting for the 10 broccoli plants to head up, but their stems are thickening, which is a good sign.

Many of the lettuces, and all of the spinach plants, drowned in last month's Big Rain. The one kind of lettuce that has survived, though not exactly thrived, is the oak leaf lettuce. One is in the picture below. Oak leaf lettuce is also, typically, the last to wilt in a hard freeze and slow to turn bitter as the Spring heats up. It isn't my favorite lettuce in terms of flavor and ease of use, but it is reliable!

One short row of chicory is doing well in spite of all the rain. It is in the same bed as the drowned spinach and lettuces, and I am thinking that its tap root may have contributed to its survival. Chicory is too bitter for making a whole salad of just itself, but it is good added to other greens both in salads and in cooking. I like it snipped onto a pizza.

Other veggies doing well enough include cilantro, chard, the few beets I managed to save from the bunnies, carrots (2 kinds!), and winter radishes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Space Management

The bed that the garlic and onions are planted in this Fall held my Southern peas in the late summer and the zucchini before that. When this batch of garlic and onions comes out near the end of June, a late planting of tomatoes will go in that space. Being able to use the same space over and over throughout the year for different crops makes a small garden more productive than at first seems possible. This particular method of wringing more food out of one patch of ground is usually called succession planting.

In my yard, the garden beds that are closer to the road are more intensively managed than those farther from it because they get the most sunlight. The planting beds closer to the house become completely shaded in winter and don’t really emerge from that shade until March.

Because my year-round sunlight is so limited, careful planning is necessary to maintaining this level of production. I record on a little map (not fancy, since I am not at all artistic) every year what has been grown where, so I can avoid planting same-family plants in the same place too soon, and so I can avoid planting root vegetables, even those from different families, in the same space too soon.

When I need a new copy for next year's planning, I either photocopy a clean copy of the map or I lay a clean sheet of white paper over an old copy and trace the lines to make a new copy of the map. The text in the photo above isn't 100% clear, I know, and the top of it is missing, but the outlines of the beds are clear.

Having the 2009 map on hand will make planning the next season's plantings much easier than if I relied on memory, which, by February will have developed some blanks. Also, since I have several clean copies in reserve, it is easy to pull one out for planning, change my mind, and start over on a fresh copy.

The very first drawing of the front yard planting beds was made (years ago!) on graph paper, after carefully measuring every planting area. As a result, the beds are "to scale" and it is easy for me to figure out how much planting area is available for each crop, even though the beds aren't even close to square.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Statewide Emergency Pest Alert

This pest alert came to my email today:

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia
Researchers from the University of Georgia and Dow AgroSciences have identified a kudzu-eating pest in northeast Georgia that has never been found in the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately, the bug also eats legume crops, especially soybeans.

The bug has tentatively been identified as the bean plataspid (Megacopta cribraria), a native to India and China. It is pea-sized and brownish in color with a wide posterior, said Dan Suiter, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences....

"We have no idea what the long-term impact on kudzu will be, but we also have to consider the fact that it feeds on crops, too," he said. "It´s kind of a double-edged sword. It eats kudzu, which is good, but it also stinks and gets on homes. And the ominous threat is that it eats soybeans and other legume crops."...

Homeowners who find the pest should call their local Extension office at 1-800- ASK-UGA1.

"We´re still trying to get a handle on what its distribution is in the state," Suiter said. How to control the pest in Georgia is a mystery that scientists will have to solve, Eger said. In India and China, manually removing them is the most common way.

"Kudzu is its preferred host. So, it might be helpful by controlling kudzu," Eger said. "It is a significant pest of soybeans and other types of beans in its native countries. My guess is that it has the potential to be an important pest of all types of beans."

The complete article, which includes photos of the pest, is available through the link up top. Although the pest seems to be limited to the northeastern part of the state, I am going to check the kudzu patch at the local park tomorrow to see if it is infested.

I would be very sad if these insects become abundant in this area, because green beans are one of my most reliable crops. The only real pest on my beans so far is the Mexican bean beetle, and when it does become a problem (not even every summer!), it is usually after I've already harvested plenty of beans.

This new pest, which eats all kinds of bean plants, could change my beans' status as one of the most pest-free crops in the yard (okra wins the "most pest free" title).

Finally Dry Enough to Plant Garlic

I finished preparing the planting bed on Thursday after work, and planted 34 cloves of garlic, 2 shallots, and 7 multiplier onions yesterday. I would have planted more garlic, but a friend and I have decided to split an order of Inchelium Red and a “starter pack” of other garlics from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. That company sent out their Fall e-Newsletter, advertising what was still available, and it worked. We both wanted some.

This particular friend and I often go in together when ordering our seeds for the year to reduce postage and handling charges. Splitting a garlic order works because we both have small gardens.

I left some space in the planting bed for the garlics that are on their way, and a broad strip across the front for the onion sets that will be planted in early March. Since it is so late in the Fall, I did not plant out those red onion seeds that I have saved, but I am planning to start those in the house, to use as part of my March planting.

When planting the garlic, I laid the cloves out in my planned spacing before actually planting them. They should be 3 to 4 inches apart, and I used my 13.5 inch long trowel to help estimate that distance. When ready to plant, I poked that narrow trowel into the ground under a clove as I picked the clove up, opened up a space under where the clove was, and dropped the clove in, pointy end up. Since the cloves were all laid out in advance, this went quickly.

In a few weeks, when the green tips of the garlics emerge from the ground, we will see how well (or not well!) the method worked in terms of spacing the cloves.

Most of the garlic that I planted is just grocery-store garlic, the fattest cloves I could find. One, though, was a bulb consisting of one extremely fat clove plus a tiny hitch-hiker clove that I decided to just plant together. This one was a gift from a friend who had been given some garlic from a garden in Rabun county, where this garlic has been "in the family" for a very long time. I have marked this clove with craft-stick markers so I can be sure not to lose it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Caring for Creation--A Conference Report

I arrived in Macon for the Caring for Creation Conference early enough on Friday to spend a little time walking around the Mercer University campus and to locate a blogging friend, Owlfan, who was also planning to attend. It was great to meet my online friend in person! I also met Sharon Astyk, the person I had gone expressly to hear, and she signed my copy of her book, A Nation of Farmers.

This post is a report of what I heard at the conference, for anyone who might be interested. I made only very sketchy notes, so my report may have some inaccuracies, but the gist of it, I think, is right. (Warning, the report is long!)

The first two talks were given in a Plenary Session for all the conference participants.

The first talk of the morning was by Judith Curry, who does research at Georgia Tech. Her talk was about the science of climate change, and it focused on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. There have been four, the first one published in 2000 and the last in 2007. The 2000 report showed that, based on available research at the time, no conclusive statement could be made about whether human activity was causing climate change. However, the reports have become successively more sure about the role of human activity in causing climate change. The 2007 report says, with 90% confidence, that human activity IS causing climate change.

Dr. Curry spent a few minutes explaining the authority behind the IPCC reports, that hundreds of scientists from around the world worked together on these reports, that the reports were based on the results of thousands of studies, and that thousands of scientists had reviewed the reports before publication.

Additionally, Dr. Curry talked about (and showed graphs concerning) our planet’s natural heating and cooling cycles, and showed that what we are experiencing now and can expect to experience in the future in terms of climate change goes WAY beyond the natural cycles. The three major greenhouse gases were discussed (methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide), and so was the cooling effect of particulate matter, but the upshot is that there is no more room for waffling on the human influence on climate change.

Dr. Curry talked some about how much carbon dioxide is now in the atmosphere compared to other times in geologic history (more!), how much warming we can expect, and what that all means for us and for life on our planet. Globally, droughts will be more frequent and more severe; so will floods. Storms will be more powerful. As the oceans rise (both from increasing temperature and from freshwater inflows from melting land-ice), we will lose agricultural land, cities, forests, coral reefs, and more.

Dr. Curry did point out toward the end of her talk that scientists can only say what is happening, and that doing something about it is up to communities like those in churches that can influence people to alter their lifestyles in ways that will reduce greenhouse gases.

Dr, Jeremy Hess, a physician and professor at Emory University and consultant to the CDC, spoke next, about health effects of climate change. He mentioned hurricane Katrina as an example of a weather event NOT resulting from climate change, as being within the range of expected storms, but said that the heat wave in Europe (2003?) that killed thousands of people, especially in France, was definitely a result of climate change. Deaths from heat are considered by the CDC to be preventable, but these are expected to increase as climate change progresses.

Many of the expected health effects will result from lack of food, caused at least in part by droughts and floods, and increased disease. The disease effects will result partly from increased spread of zoonotic (animal, insect) vectors, like the spread of the mosquito that carries malaria as warm weather and flooded conditions allow it to thrive in more parts of the world. The migration of displaced people will also cause negative health effects.

The migration and resettlement of New Orleans residents was brought up as an example of how such displacement can affect mental health, as people lose their homes, their communities, and their families in extreme conditions. These people will be at risk for depression and suicide. Additionally, as people are displaced, they may not have access to their usual medications, for both physical and mental problems, exacerbating any pre-existing conditions they may have.

This part reminded me of a news report I had seen during the Katrina mess, before buses finally came to move the newly homeless people out of the city. A reporter was interviewing children; one little boy was worried about his diabetic grandma, and he was saying very loudly something like “and what’s she supposed to do without her insulin? What’s going to happen to her?” I worried about her, too.

Dr. Hess also talked about the situation in developing countries being even worse than in developed nations, because they had fewer resources for responding to climate-change-induced emergencies. He seemed to think that, here in the U.S., we would be able to handle the problems.

To be honest, I do not share his confidence. Everything I’ve read recently about the climate situation indicates that change is progressing more rapidly than the models projected, and that we are in for some serious trouble. Also, the government (at many levels) response to Katrina was not exactly a confidence builder. When crises develop in several locations at the same time, citizens could be on their own for quite a while before “help” comes.

The first breakout session I attended was with Sharon Astyk, the person I drove to Macon to hear, but she also gave the very next Plenary Session talk, and I have probably mixed up in this report exactly what information was given in which talk. However, in the breakout session (for sure), after a general introduction, she spent considerable time discussing the effectiveness of motivational propaganda from WWI and WWII in getting people to make changes in their lives that helped save resources like food, oil, and rubber for the war effort. This conservation, the reduction in use of resources, is almost exactly what needs to happen again in order to reduce the additions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Sharon pointed out that the activities represented in many of the posters of those times, gardening, canning, and mending, are all activities we can do again. The changes that people made in other areas of their lives, like carpooling, not taking vacations to far away places (or taking fewer of these), enjoying lower-energy entertainments, and choosing productive hobbies instead of consumptive ones, can be made again.

It was made clear that all of our actions are deeply political, even if they don’t seem that way on the surface. Who we give our money to determines to a large extent who will have power in our lives. In the World Wars, U.S. citizens understood that their individual actions, multiplied across the nation, made a difference in the war effort. Back then, the results of our actions, what we wore, what we ate, whether we walked or rode a bicycle, were definitely seen as political. Sharon extended that to say that our choices, our actions, still are political, even though we are no longer reminded of that connection, and that our actions and choices are important in creating cultural change now to help stop climate change.

Sharon also said that, even after this massive conservation effort ended, people in the 1950s had comfortable, happy lives, using 18 times fewer resources than we do now. Essentially, Sharon emphasized two points: 1. we did it before, we can do it again, and 2. it won’t be awful.

At one point she showed the poster with Roosevelt’s words “We are now in this war We are all in it all the way Every Single Man Woman and Child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history We must share together the bad news and the good news , the defeats and the victories—the changing fortunes of war.” I remember thinking that it would be great if our current president could make such a strong commitment to fighting climate change that he could issue this poster again, in this new context.

Sharon’s Plenary Session talk had a different end-message, even though it covered some of the same points along the way. For me, this is the talk that really tied the two themes of the conference, the scientific and the theological, together. For part of the “scientific” component, Sharon talked about the “Four Degrees & Beyond—International Climate Conference.” Essentially, a very high percentage of climate researchers do not believe that a global rise of as much as 4 degrees Celsius is out of the question. This is a somewhat different view from the morning session with Dr. Curry, who was discussing a lesser rise of perhaps 2 degrees over the next 100 years.

Sharon showed a map that had been created to show expected effects of such a temperature increase, and the result was that much of the world would be a desert. The best places to live, because it would be possible to grow food there, were parts of the Antarctic, very far North America (the U.S. was toast), and Siberia. If I could find a link to the map online, I would post it, but I haven’t found it yet. Hilariously, it showed solar panels all across the U.S. making power to send up to the inhabitants of the farther north. For anyone who cares, we would still be a center of energy production, and finally independent of oil from the Middle East!

As Sharon talked about the science of global warming and what some expected consequences are, she showed, interspersed among the graphs, pictures of people who already are having a hard time surviving, and she pointed out that today, we could feed the world and reduce a lot of suffering with our current resources, but that there is a problem with distribution that is a justice issue.

If anyone reading this has been also reading Sharon’s blog, the link to the story of Noah will not be a huge surprise. Noah had a big role in this talk, as a way to link actions to the idea of doing what is right. Not being Jewish, I haven’t read the Midrash, the commentary by numerous rabbis on the Jewish scriptures (which have huge overlap with the Old Testament Bible), so I heard some things I hadn’t heard before. According to the Midrash, in making the ark, the first thing Noah did was to plant the trees. As a result, building the ark took more than 100 years.

Part of the reason for growing the trees first was so other people would have a chance to change their ways, to allow for the possibility that a flood wouldn’t be needed. Also, it isn’t certain that Noah was an especially great man, only that he was a good man “for his time.” He didn’t plead for his people to ask that their lives be spared, for example. Considering how things are in the world today, that gives the rest of us some room for hope!

It is thought that Noah became a truly good man in his service to the animals over the long period of time that it was afloat. One story is that he didn’t sleep the whole time, because when one animal’s needs were met, another needed tending. All had to be fed, and their wastes shoveled out.

Sharon told another story involving the planting of trees, and that is the story of Jacob, whose family was required to move into Egypt, even though he knew in advance that they were in for a long period of suffering. What convinced him to go was that G-d said he would go with him. But before crossing into Egypt, Jacob stopped his family and made them plant trees. When they asked why, Jacob told them that they were planting the seeds of their own deliverance (the trees would be used later to build the Temple).

Now, there are details in these versions of the stories that are not in my old RSV Bible (I re-read Genesis to check), but they are interesting and instructive. Essentially, for Noah, we can see that going ahead with a task you know to be right, even when most people don’t seem to believe that the task is a good one, is important. Also, you don’t have to be an especially important person in society to be useful/helpful. For Jacob, going into a difficult situation with faith, knowing that your G-d is with you, really helps. Apparently, so does planting trees ;-)

I cannot exactly remember how she got back to climate change, but Sharon re-emphasized that we, as individuals, need to work on reducing our own connection to the production of greenhouse gases. Already there is a lot of suffering in the developing world. That suffering is going to get a whole lot worse as climate change progresses. Much of the cause of climate change is the use of resources here in the U.S. We don’t see the results of our action s right in front of our faces, so it is easy to ignore the problems, but our wastefulness hurts other people.

The take-home message was that, regardless of what we would prefer to do, changing the way we live, reducing our wastefulness, is the right thing to do.

When Sharon was done, someone behind me said something like “best talk of the day,” so I am pretty sure that people paid attention. Also, at the next breakout session, I went to hear Farmer D, and the questions people asked at the end made it clear that more than just a few people had heard and understood.

Farmer D has a company that composts veggie and fruit leftovers (not what he called them, but I don’t remember the exact words) from 14 Whole Foods stores in the Southeast. He has his own retail store that sells the compost, but it also sells everything else a person might need for gardening. In addition, he sells “Gardens to go,” which are kits for raised bed gardens, complete with thick cedar boards and soil, that his gardeners set up for customers. His store also carries worm bins, chickens, and chicken tractors.

What was most compelling, though, for his audience of mostly Mercer University students, was that he had started farming when he was college age. He told about going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a big agricultural school, and taking a summer internship on an organic farm. When he came back to campus, he wanted to study sustainable and organic farming, but those options were not available.

As a result, he quit college and did more work at organic farms before starting his own little farm using a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model. Basically, he contracted with local residents to provide boxes of produce for them weekly in exchange for a subscription to the farm. They paid in advance; he delivered food as it became ready. Over time, he shifted to what he is doing now, in Georgia.

The students who came to the talk wanted to know what they could do. Farmer D did talk a bit about students at UW-Madison starting a 2-acre organic garden on campus. At Mercer, a much smaller college, 2 acres might be a bit much for a start, but it seems likely that those students will find more than one way to make their own reductions in resource use.

I also attended the closing session, which included readings from a couple of my favorite poets: Wendell Berry and Pattiann Rogers. I had been kind of hoping for a reading of Berry's "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," but I settled for reading it later, when I got home.
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