July 2011 Archives

It's nice to be friends with really smart, capable beekeepers. What's better is being friends with smart, capable beekeepers that never lose their sense of wonder and are always topping themselves. It's inspiring to be around.

This is Tim O'Neal. He is my friend and he's one of those folks. Look out, because you're gonna see great things from him!

Urban Beekeeping: NYC from Adrian Bautista on Vimeo.

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

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This summer can go hang.

The extreme heat of the past couple of weeks has put a noticeable strain on a lot of vegetables in my garden and many of them have gone the way of chicken snacks. As disappointing as it is to pull up plants I've been fussing over since they were tiny seeds, full of potential....all has not been lost. When Mother Nature kicks you in the teeth, smile real big and say "Please, ma'am, may I have another?!" It's all we gardeners can do. We're at her mercy. In any case, to replace the shriveled, tender greens I lost I've decided to let the fickle bitch do most of the work from here on out.

I've been pulling edible weeds out of my garden beds and the gardens of my neighbors and planting them in containers above the chicken coop. Purslane & Lamb's Quarters are mostly what seem to be growing in abundance around here and both happen to be really tasty! It's been too hot for any of my delicate heirloom lettuces and mustards to thrive but these hardy, adapted weeds have this butt-hot Brooklyn weather on lockdown. It's a risky move ( I could be picking weeds out of EVERYTHING next season), but one I've chosen to take. I need my salads...cooking this time of year is not an option. I'll have to stay on top of cutting back flowers when they come, but that shouldn't be too much of an issue because I'll probably gnaw it all down before it even produces buds.

Just as an aside, we pulled a ton of purslane up at Newton Farm and will be bringing it down to Brooklyn...if anyone has a need for weeds, get at me and I can be sure to harvest some and bring it to BK for pick up. Good weeds can be difficult to find around here these days, what with all of the voracious foragers flocking to parks to fill their shopping bags.

We've also got pastured eggs out of the wahzoo, so if you are interested in buying some from the farm, please do email me for info.

purslane.jpg (Purslane growing next to the pea shoots I planted that fried in the heat. Purslane is still going strong.)

Last weekend the boyfriend and I ventured down to my hometown of Baltimore, MD to visit my mother who just celebrated her birthday. While we were down there I hoped to check out some of what's going on in the local food scene. The farmer's markets have always been great but I had been reading recently about some of the urban farms, backyard chickeners and beekeepers making the waves down there.

I didn't get to delve in as deeply as I would have liked, being as I was only there for a day and a half, but I'd like to share some of the highlights from my trip....

foxfirebeegums.jpg
(Reading about Appalachian bee gums in the Foxfire series before breakfast of biscuits and homemade sausage gravy and locally roasted coffee at Clementine in Hamilton)

freefarmcomgarden.jpg (Stopped by the Baltimore Free Farm which popped up in my old neighborhood of Hampden. Nice guys with BIG ideas!)

freefarmcoop.jpg (Backyard hens. Kept in a secret location pending permit approval. Made entirely from salvaged material!)

freefarmhens.jpg (Pretty ladies. Almost ready to start laying eggs!)

woodberrykitchen1.jpg

woodberrykitchen2.jpg (A fantastic seasonal meal at Woodberry Kitchen: Mint juleps, Ladyfinger popcorn with fresh butter, homemade cornbread and honey from an Ellicott City apiary, pork ribs with fennel slaw, peach and watermelon radish salad, lump crab cakes...it was all so awesome!)

beetattoo.jpg (Last but certainly not least, I got a tattoo of a bee on my arm. Done by my friend Bill Stevenson at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum!)

I had such a fun visit. I can't wait to go back soon to check out some of the other great urban farms giving the people of Baltimore some much deserved public green spaces and access to clean, wholesome food. If you live in Baltimore, make sure to show these organizations and businesses your support.

I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm a shitty gardener. I know the rules, but I break them all the time. I'm too lazy and distracted to do a proper job of planning and maintenance. My garden is a series of closely planted, haphazardly trellised, wildly growing crops and anytime a spot opens up I toss a handful of radish, bush bean or lettuce seeds in the space to fill it in. It's the complete opposite of the way I teach gardening. It looks absolutely nuts but for the most part it works. Except for when it doesn't.

There are times when the weather doesn't co-operate and puts a damper on my plans for an abundant harvest. One season it rained heavily and the soil couldn't properly air out. Mildews and blight took much of my garden (Cucurbits didn't stand a chance) but some things could be salvaged. In response I ripped up all of my blighty tomatoes, pulled all of the healthy green tomatoes off and pickled them. I might have to do the same this year as some of the tomatoes I bought in seem to be showing signs of early blight. The others, however, seem to be going strong.

One big mistake I make year after year is not thinning my carrots. They grow in and end up competing for nutrients and shading one another. I end up with stubby little carrots with long, abundant tops. The average person might feel some level of disappointment over it, but I took the opportunity to make a batch of Carrot Top Pesto with the greens and still had enough funny, stubby carrots to make a batch of spicy pickled carrots.

nubbycarrotsNpesto.JPG (Nubby carrots before pickling and a jar of carrot top pesto)

Remember: Error + Salvage= SUCCESS!

raspberries.jpg (Only picking a few raspberries a day, but I've got abundant leaves for tea!)

My raspberry bushes take up a ton of space in the garden. Though it is the shadiest part of the space, I often wish I had that portion reserved for faster growing, shade tolerant crops. It takes a few seasons for the bushes to produce much of anything but instead of crying about it, I just harvest the leaves of the plant for teas that help with digestive complaints and menstrual discomfort. It also tastes great and is high in vitamins and minerals, so if your gutty-works or woman parts are working just fine, enjoy it as a refreshing and nourishing beverage with slices of citrus and a bit of raw honey. I have a sensitive tummy so I find that this helps to soothe it when it's feeling a little queasy.

In another season or so, my raspberry bushes will have really established themselves and I'll get a larger berry harvest, but in the meantime the rest of the plant provides me with another form of sustenance.

When I sow seeds in a place thats a bit too shady and the seedlings get spindly, I pluck them up and use them like sprouts. When some of the leaves on the greens I've grown get a little chewed up by insects, I blend them into a pesto. When I plant things to close and I have to rip out some established plants to make room, I dry them out on the pavement and use them as mulch. Just because I've failed to produce one product, it doesn't mean there isn't some other matter there that can be put to good use.

It's important as a new gardener to try and think outside of the box. Read up on the crops you are growing. Find out what components are edible, their benefits and how to prepare them...you'd be surprised at how many parts of common plants are just forgotten about or composted instead of being used, which in many cases can substitute things you're probably already spending your money on!

I Need You In My Life!

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Looks like I'll be taking a workshop this Summer or Fall on working with Oxen. Perhaps next Spring I'll have some calves of my own to train! Maybe Newton Farm will be powered by draft animal! Possibilities certainly are exciting!

Wondering if I should attempt to make my own yoke or buy one from a supplier. Any teamsters out there to advise me?

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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