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‘Tis the season of Waste and Want

Waste2Want4

While spending Christmas day with loved ones, I have been reflecting on my fall semester in the Transdisciplinary Design program at Parsons. I can hardly believe how quickly it passed. The design methodologies, technical skills, and new modes of thinking I learned are clearer from the retrospective “balcony” than they were on the mid-semester “dance floor.” I want to share a project I made for my portfolio. This post has a lot of photos because I geeked about how beautiful the process is.

In one of my classes, I was given the assignment of producing a physical portfolio, business card, or brochure that reflects my professional practice. I knew that I couldn’t simply make a digitally printed book on industrial paper manufactured from wood pulp and claim it’s an object that represents my No Trash principles. So, I consulted my enormously talented friend Pam DeLuco, who I’ve written about here on this blog in the past. I told her I was thinking about making the paper by hand and she advised me on different materials that I could scavenge from the trash and natural fibers I could forage to make the pulp. She then invited me out to California to make it in her beautiful studio, Shotwell Paper Mill, the only handmade paper mill in San Francisco. Because the cost of the flight was affordable and I knew I would also get to see my sister who lives in the Bay Area (we grew up out there) I decided to make the trip. Having access to Pam’s know-how, resources, and facilities was an incredible gift. We worked for five days around the clock to create a little book (a chapbook folded from a single sheet of paper) that both describes and embodies the ideas I have been tumbling around over the course of my semester.

JuteSacks

After meeting Pam at SFO, we headed straight to an evening workshop at Dandelion Chocolate where we indulged in holiday samples and collected jute burlap cacao bean sacks. The burlap sacks are used to transport dry food goods around the world but they are only used once. Pam has been collecting these from vendors around San Francisco who would otherwise throw them away. Processed, the jute fibers make a crisp, smooth, beige paper, which I felt would meet the aesthetic and utilitarian requirements of my project. The following morning we hit up Four Barrel Coffee for a few more coffee bean sacks before heading to the Mission district studio.

cuttingJute

To start, I cut the bags into one-inch squares with a pizza cutter-style blade and scissors. By the time I was finished with this first step, my right hand was numb. Pam is 5 feet tall and not much more than 90 pounds, but she must have strong hands from this work. During this process, I created trash—a dulled pizza-cutter blade.

Cacaobeans

As I dismembered the bags, I collected stowaway cacao beans, which fueled our work over the next several days.

CookingJute

Next, we submerged the cut pieces in a 10-gallon pot of water and cooked the fibers over a propane stove for several hours, occasionally stirring them with a long stick. It was a very special brew. The smell of the fermented cacao beans clings to the jute sacks and it filled the studio as the water bubbled and boiled.

BeatingJute

Once the fibers cooked down, I rinsed them until the water ran clear. Pam’s business partner Drew Cameron taught me how to operate the Hollander Beater and we added the fibers to the trough. Drew explained that the beater does not cut the fibers but rather it compacts them, which in a sense makes the fibers “grabbier,” so that they can form the hydrogen bond necessary to make a sheet of paper.

Pulpcheck

To check the beaten pulp for inconsistencies, we drew a sample from the beater and held it up to the light. No clumps. Time to make the sheets.

SeedPaper

I decided to make seed paper. I felt that this element made the piece conceptually stronger. I wanted to create a prompt for users to lovingly move the object I produced into the “disposal” phase of its life. By making the paper plantable, I hope that those who interact with it will one day bury the jute paper in soil and in turn feel rewarded for their stewardship by the food reaped from the sown seeds. I rode Pam’s bike to the Scarlet Sage Herb Co. to pick up their very last packet of heirloom lettuce, which I chose because this seed is hard enough that it doesn’t germinate in the sheet before the paper can dry.

PullingPaper

“Pulling” the paper was one of my favorite parts of the process. We added the pulp to a bath of water, sprinkled in the seeds, and pulled a papermaking mould and deckle through the mixture. The fibers catch on the screen as the water drains through. The paper is then “couched” or pressed onto pieces of felt that are pressed between wood boards and dried.

OldNewType

While the paper was drying, I got to work setting type to letterpress print the text of my book. After making the paper by hand, it wouldn’t have seemed right to run it through a laser printer. I chose sans serif, no frills, News Gothic 12 point font. I did print a digital copy of my text onto a white sheet of paper to use as a reference while I worked. As I sat there lifting each letter out of the tray, I was struck by the strangeness of using a modern technology to assist the antiquated process.

TypeSetClose

This part took many hours. In order to justify the text on the pages of my tiny book, I was editing on the fly, searching for synonyms, unessential words, and rephrases in order to make each line fit. The letterpress printed version is essentially a translation of the Microsoft Word document I had been tweaking before arriving in SF. The contents of this book are ideas that I have been working with very closely for many months. But setting these thoughts in led type has deepened my relationship to them.

FinishedPaper

After the paper was dried and the type was set, it was time to print a test sheet.

PressSpins

So we took the press for a spin.

ProofingType

And discovered some (ironic) typos.

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Finally, we got all the kinks out and ran the edition through the press. The seeds broke the type in some places but I think it was worth it to have them in there. I can’t wait to plant one of the books. 

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I hand illustrated and signed each edition copy, because I’m particularly interested in the tension between the preciousness of the object and its true disposability. When I posted an image of the finished piece on instagram, a friend commented, “But why would you want to plant such a beautiful little book?!” My answer is: Because it can be as beautiful in its death as it is in its life. I’m pleased with the end result and so grateful to Pam and Drew for their guidance and unfettered support throughout the project. It’s a glimpse at what I’ve been up to and what I’ve been thinking about.

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Earthy delights

chiveflowers

I’m not sure what I enjoy more, growing my own food or having generous friends who grow and share food with me. These chive flowers and salad greens were a gift from a bestie. Grown in his Bristol, RI vegetable garden. It’s lunchtime and I’m feeling pretty darn fortunate.

chiveflowersalad

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Pallet project

palletprojectprogress

This past weekend I got into a project I’d been scheming on since the start of spring. My landlady generously offered me a bit of space to grow some food in by the cement wall/iron fence that surrounds her backyard garden. The sunny spot is located in the small driveway off the alley by which I access my apartment. Two cars fit snuggly in the lot so building anything with substantial depth would have blocked vehicles from pulling in and out. Inspired by readings and projects from the Urban Agriculture class I took at Brown this semester, I decided to try my hand at some vertical gardening. I had seen DIY pallet garden projects in books and online and thought that might be a good place to start. I figured it would be economical too. A couple weeks ago I picked through some discarded samples behind a paper supplier in Pawtucket and found a few good specimens that I could pull apart and rebuild into a Franken-pallet. Gorgeous weather, a visit from my enormously talented woodworker/furniture maker friend, and the day off from work on Monday gave way to a perfect opportunity to finally get busy.

We started with a sturdy 3′ x 4′ pallet that boasted tightly fitted boards on one side. This would serve as the retaining wall on the back of the planter. Then we framed the sides and bottom of the planter with wood from the other dismantled pallets and some leftover scraps that were available from an ongoing home repair project (a new floor being laid in the laundry room/entrance to my apartment). Next, we mapped out the spacing of the boards that would enclose the front of the box. I decided to leave 2.5″ gaps between the boards to plant in. It seemed like a good amount of room for my herbs to grow but not so much space that the soil would forever be spilling out.

palletprojectdetail

After lifting the basic frame into the right location/position and wiring it to the iron fence posts, we built the garden layers from the bottom up. We filled the pallet with soil, laid and watered each plant, then one by one we nailed each board to the frame. We collected sticks from the property (last summer’s cuttings from my landlady’s hedges) and pressed them in between the plants to try to create a webbing to help retain the soil until the vegetation fills in. To give the plants a good  start, we mixed in worm castings as we worked our way up.

palletprojectdone

Above is the finished garden. Eight rows (including the row planted in the open top) currently hold twelve different edible plants. I’m growing rosemary, oregano, sage, two different kinds of marigolds, dill, cilantro (coriander), three different kinds of basil, tarragon and nasturtium. Marigolds, rosemary, cilantro, and basil are all pest repellent crops. The plants were grown from seed in my windowsill and purchased at the Southside Community Land Trust plant sale. I’m pleased with the look of the garden and I think its’s a great use of the very narrow space. I’m not sure how well everything will grow in this planter. I wonder if there will be enough soil for all the root systems that will be vying for water and nutrients. And properly saturating each layer with water may prove to be a bit tricky. There’s already been talk of a piped in irrigation system for the next pallet project. For now, I’m very happy about what we were able to create with the resources around us. The garden is an experiment and I’m excited to see how well it works over the course of the growing season.

memorialdaypicnic

To reward ourselves for a day of work in the sun, we bought some take-away and headed to the coast for a sunset feast on the beach. With a bunch of stainless steel containers in tow, we hit-up East Side Pockets and the grocery store salad bar for some good eats. We also packed some water, fruit, and trail mix to snack on.  My trusty 17-year-old Block Island beach blanket served as both a nearly sand-free surface to sit ourselves and our delicious meal upon, and later as a much appreciated wrap to keep warm with after sundown.

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Happy Earth Day

earthday2013

Love your mother.

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Vernal equinox

sprouts

Here in the northern hemisphere, spring has officially sprung! And so have my chamomile sprouts. Today, the Earth’s axis tilts neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in equal parts day and night across the globe. In my biology class I’m learning about photoperiodismthe physiological response of an organism to changes in the photoperiod. The photoperiod is the relative length of day (light) and night (dark) periods in a 24-hour cycle. Flowering plants like chamomile use a photoreceptor protein to sense these changes and signal the buds to bloom. Some plants require longer night periods to bloom, while others require shorter night periods. My chamomile plants will open their potent flowers when the days are long and the nights are short. Well, first they have to survive the nursery period. Here’s hoping I can prove to be a proficient caregiver!

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Pam

pam

I know some pretty incredible people. A dear family friend recently gave this yarn to me. I think of her often on my journey toward Zero Waste, as her values and work have influenced me greatly. Pam is a renaissance woman who for as long as I’ve known her (about 14 years) has been interested in sustainability, health, and handmade processes. She spun these wool yarns herself. The gray yarn on the bottom is a worsted Shetland yarn she made with wool fibers from her friend’s sheep in Idaho. The warmer colored yarn on top is a woolen yarn she made from Polwarth sheep fibers she collected while living in Australia. I can’t wait to knit something from these beautifully crafted, oh-so-soft materials. She described the processing of both to me in an email.

“The Shetland wool was prepped and spun worsted–that means all of the fibers were combed out first so they are parallel and then the spinning is also controlled in a way that preserves the alignment of the fibers. If you look closely, you’ll see it’s a relatively smooth yarn. I spun it on a drop spindle. The Polwarth is from Australia and I got it when I lived there. That one I prepped and spun woolen. I washed it first and then carded it with hand cards. This makes the fibers go in all different directions. I spun it on my spinning wheel using a long draw (a technique where you draw your hand back and let the twist enter the yarn). I also fulled this yarn. That’s a finishing technique where you basically shock the fibers. Fibers either felt or full–trial and error will let you know which one your fiber will do. So for fulling I put the yarn in a bucket of really hot water with soap. Using a small plunger I plunged it up and down a bunch of times. Then I took that hot, soapy, skein and put it into a bucket of ice water. The process is repeated a bunch of times until it looks finished. Woolen yarns tend to be fuzzy and this helps give it a cleaner look.”

Everything Pam does she does all the way. Her past projects include a hand-knit mohair sweater made from yarn spun with angora fur she collected over time from her pet rabbit, Jambo. And another sweater she knit using silk yarn spun from the silk fibers she collected from her own silk worms. I don’t remember where she got the silk worms, but I do remember that they escaped their designated habitat and made their cocoons all over the bathroom of her San Francisco apartment. Not wanting to disturb their pupa phase, she coexisted with her metamorphosing roommates for weeks until they emerged as moths.

Once while I was in high school and Pam was staying with us, I arrived home after class and entered the kitchen through the sliding glass door. I was met with a strange and terrible odor that filled the house. “Pam!” I shouted. “What’s that smell?!” She appeared laughing and said, “I’m rendering cow kidney fat.” Sure enough there was large pot of white suet chunks and water simmering on the stove. “What? Why?” I exclaimed. “I’m making soap,” she giggled. “The old fashioned way!” Oh, duh. Of course she was. And she did. Lavender and orange scented bars, which she later gave to my family. The soap smelled lovely.

It was Pam who first hipped me to the questionable and hazardous ingredients in common beauty and hygiene products. She taught me the importance of knowing the source of the goods we consume and the conditions under which they were produced. And most importantly, she taught me there’s almost always an alternative way of getting what we need, if we are dissatisfied with the products that are marketed toward us.

These days Pam’s newest loves are paper, print, and book making. She runs a studio called Shotwell Paper Mill in SF’s Mission district. All their papers are made from recycled fibers. Check out this beautiful video of Pam making paper from an old pair of jeans. She also rides her bike around San Francisco collecting used jute coffee and cacao bean sacks from local coffee roasters and turns them into beautiful cocoa colored sheets. She explained that since great amounts of work, energy, and resources are required to grow and harvest the jute and manufacture the bean sacks, it seems right to extend the life of the jute fibers by turning them into paper. Yep. I like the way this lady thinks. Oh and she also keeps a beehive and grows food in her local community garden. I hope to visit her and see all these fantastic projects in person someday soon.

Thank you, Pam for this beautiful gift and the endless inspiration.

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Spring things

botanicalgarden

I feel as though too much time has gone by since my last post. I have so many things I want to write about, photos loaded, and drafts saved. I had trouble choosing a topic tonight. So bear with me as I gush about some things that have me excited these days.

This past weekend was lovely. It began with a small test of will power when I signed off, shut down, and unplugged my computer, phone, and lights on Friday night in participation of the 4th annual National Day of Unplugging. The respite officially took place from sunset Friday, March 1st to sunset Saturday, March 2nd. I was a little late to the party because I had to work Friday evening, but I did manage to hold out for 24 hours. Well, almost. The digital detox is meant be a break from laptops, iphones, and tablets. I decided to try to go without using any electricity (save my refrigerator). I ended up turning on some lights and my electric stovetop to cook dinner late Saturday, about 20 hours into my power-free period. On Saturday I rode out to the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center for the Urban Agricultural Spring Kickoff hosted by Southside Community Land Trust. Demonstration and information tables on seed starting, urban chicken keeping, rain barrels, bee keeping, and maple sugaring were set up along the pathways of the indoor gardens. I talked with some friendly folks, gathered some resources, and got the inspiration (kick in the pants) I needed to start my seeds.

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As the event was winding down, I took some time to peruse the gardens. The botanical center boasts of nearly 12,000 square feet of plantings. The air inside the building was warm, humid, and fragrant. A stark contrast to the chilly, windy, and grey weather outside. As I moved rather languidly from room to room, species to species, I lost track of the time. Actually my sense of time was pretty well off throughout the entire day as my phone, which normally acts as my time piece, was powered down. I suddenly realized I was the last person (besides a couple botanical center employees) in the place. So I bundled up in my enduring wool outerwear and hit the road back to the east side. Time to get busy.

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I’m sitting in on two classes at Brown this semester and I’m IN LOVE WITH THEM. One is an Urban Agriculture course in the Environmental Studies department and the other is a Biology course called Plants, Food, and People. There’s been some wonderful overlap between the two, and both seem to be mirroring my life and personal projects in uncanny ways. Or maybe it’s the other way around. At any rate, I’m so excited for the growing season. We’ve been learning about vertical farming in my Urban Ag class. Innovative systems like the Sky Greens vertical farms, and the Plantagon are taking shape around the world. One of the primary problems of growing food indoors is how to maximize sunlight. In my apartment, I have just one window that faces south. It overlooks the tenant garden below my kitchen and receives the most uninterrupted light of all my windows, the rest of which are moderately shaded by trees. It’s the best spot I’ve got to start seeds so I’ve been experimenting with ways of using the light efficiently.

seeds1

With hemp twine, I strung up some Burpee seed starting cells (a 100% biodegradable product made from plant fibers) that I picked up from the hardware store. I wanted some lightweight vessels that I could fill with soil  and easily string together. It occurred to me after I purchased them that I might have been able to make my own from folded recycled paper, but I wonder if I could come up with something that won’t drop out the bottom when saturated with water. I’ll have to do some tests. Meanwhile I feel good about using this particular product. The only packaging is a paper sleeve. I marked the cells with a wax pencil to keep track of what I’ve planted.

seeds3

I also planted seeds in some small glass Weck jars that I normally use for spices or hygiene goods. I’m hoping the glass lids will help trap humidity while the seeds germinate. Mini greenhouses. I placed some paper labels on the lids, but I may tape them to the sides of the jars with acid-free paper tape to allow more light to fall on the seeds. In my biology class, we’re learning about the factors that affect germination, including lightness and darkness, water, oxygen (I sometimes forget that plants actually respire!), and temperature. I’m also gaining a basic understanding of what occurs on a cellular level as a seed grows from an embryonic state into an adult plant. This new information and vocabulary gives me a new perpective, and I imagine it’s going to provide a whole new level of enjoyment in growing my own food this season. So the seeds are in the dirt, they have plenty of moisture, but not so much that they can’t breath. They have as much light as I can offer, and hopefully they won’t get too cold by the window. Now for the waiting game. Waiting, wishing… and singing to them. Okay, okay I know how woo-woo that sounds but I can’t help it. Growing things engages both my scientific and nurturing (dorky) self.

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Green tomatoes

I returned home to find my garden looking pretty shabby after a couple chilly nights moved through Providence while I was in Canada. I spent some time this week putting it to bed for the winter. I collected all the remaining ripe and unripe fruit from my browning tomato plants and then pulled them, clipped them up, and added them to my compost.

I’ve read that green tomatoes can be ripened on a windowsill or in a brown paper bag. I plan to try both. I may also dig up some recipes for green tomatoes. I was thinking that sautéing them in oil or even roasting them in the oven would soften both the flavor and texture a bit. Does anyone have any good green tomato tips?

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Air travel

Yesterday I took a trip on a plane. Trash-free air travel takes a bit of planning, but it’s very manageable. To tote toiletries, I fill small glass jars and bottles that I use specifically for traveling with my essentials (baking soda, shampoo, and grape seed oil) and pack them in a small nylon zip pouch.

Airlines make a ton of trash through food service and I find bringing my own sustenance is easy and far more agreeable than anything I could get from and airport cafe or on the plane. An airplane cabin is a pretty dehydrating environment, so I make sure to drink plenty of water the day before and the day of before going through security. I bring my stainless steel canteen and fill it at the water fountain on the other side of the checkpoint. Yesterday I packed my stainless steel lunchbox with a small meal made with ingredients from my garden—stir fried eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and basil. I also brought an apple… ‘tis the season after all. I brought a small bamboo utensil that I think I received as a stocking stuffer many years ago. It’s perfect for travel—practically weightless and compact. The meal was light and delicious and held me over until I reached my destination (Canada). My neighbor in the seat next to me expressed his jealously of my spread.

I sometimes get cold during flights so I like to bring a large scarf/wrap that I can use as a blanket rather than having to ask for plastic wrapped one from a crew member.

At the end of the day, the only piece of trash I made was my boarding pass, which feels good especially when I’m electing a mode of transportation that uses so much fuel.

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Love everlasting

Can’t seem to get enough heirloom tomatoes.

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Eggplant

My eggplant off the vine. A recent conversation with my brother about the origins of the name “eggplant” led us to discover that it was the white cultivars like this one (and some yellowish varieties) that resemble goose or ostrich eggs that were first given the name. I enjoyed this one sliced into coins and pan fried. It was the best eggplant I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.

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Homegrown Fennel Seeds

These are so flavorful!

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Eggplant in the garden

My first ever homegrown eggplant! A strange beauty.

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An autumn offering

autumnofferingA garden harvest… tomatos, peppers, and gherkin cucumbers. Happy fall equinox!

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Stevia

I harvested some stevia (stevia rebaudiana) from my garden today. This is my third summer growing it and I’ve been meaning to share my experience with this amazing plant. I first learned about stevia many years ago while visiting Logee’s. An employee was growing some in one of the back greenhouses and brought a few sampling leaves up to the woman working the register. I was offered a taste, and having never heard of the plant before, I was completely surprised and delighted by the explosion of sweetness that hit my tongue. At that time stevia seeds or starter plants were still very difficult to find, because it wasn’t until december 2008 that the Food and Drug Administration gave stevia the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) approval. Today it’s not uncommon to find it among other herbs at greenhouse nurseries in the early spring. It’s sometimes labeled “sweet leaf”.

Stevia is a small perennial shrub that belongs to the Chrysanthemum family and is native to Paraguay. The leaves contain two “glycoside” molecules, steioside and Rebiana (rebaudioside A), which can be up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar (it varies from plant to plant). Stevia is virtually non-caloric and has a zero glycemic index, which means it has no effect on blood sugar levels. The leaves can be used whole or in ground form in food and beverages. I sometimes add fresh leaves to my tea. Otherwise I cut and dry the stocks, then pick and grind the leaves into a powder to use for baking projects in place of sugar. Many stevia recipes can now be found online. Because it is so sweet, I only use very small amounts at a time. The stevia I grow in a small pot in my container garden over one summer will yield enough powder to last me more than a year. In this project, less is always more.

Powdered stevia from last year’s harvest. A little bit goes such a long way!

Hearty Jumble Cookies made with only 1.5 teaspoons of homegrown stevia powder. These gooey treats are gluten-free, dairy-free, and of course trash-free. All the ingredients were obtained without packaging. As with most of the recipes I post, this one is very simple and pretty loose. There’s plenty of room for experimentation and substitution…

2 cups rolled oats
1 large apple, finely-diced
1 cup of raisins or currants
1 cup of nut butter (your choice) 
1 cup pecans (or any nut)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup carob chips or chocolate chips
2 whole eggs
1 cup water
2.5 tsp stevia powder

Combine rolled oats, eggs, water and oil in a mixing bowl. Stir in nut butter and remaining ingredients. Form into balls and place onto an oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy them warm out of the oven, room temperature, or fridge chilled.

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Carrot soup

carrotgingersoup

For lunch. Homemade carrot/ginger soup with basil from the garden.

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Joy

A tomato from the garden.

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Best breakfast

sethstomatoes

Peach, tomato, and basil salad for breakfast again. This one was made with two beautiful heirloom tomatoes (one red and one yellow) grown and given to me by my friend Seth. Best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Thanks bud!!

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Good morning

Morning Yerba maté, brewed for myself and visiting friends from the leaves grown on the plant in my windowsill. The tea smells earthy and sweet.

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Green beauty

jalepeno

The jalapeño peppers I planted in the spring are bearing fruit!

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Breakfast love

breakfastlove

Visiting friends in NYC. Rooftop breakfast. CSA produce, nuts, granola, cheese, and the most delicious blackberry jam I have ever tasted—made by my friend Caitlin with berries grown by her parents.

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Flax

I’m excited about this one. Flax seed pods from the garden. The precious few. I don’t have the space to grow enough to cook with, but it’s been edifying to see how this little seed that I purchase and consume in large quantities grows. I’d love to see it farmed… some research to do.

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Container garden

I arrived home to find my container garden happy and healthy, thanks to my friends who watered it while I was away. Lot’s of good food in the works…

Oh my gherkins!

 

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My home away

The clothesline at the apartment I’m staying at in Maine is so perfectly positioned. Laundry dries much faster high up off the ground in the sun and breeze than it does in the machine. The air here has been dry and warm during the days and my sheets only need to hang out for about 15 minutes. The apartment is also equipped with a little foldout rack, perfect for skivvies. Check out the solar panels in the back. There’s also a compost heap and a chicken coop below the deck. Property owners Eric and Laura know what’s up.

 

In the garden, raptor silhouettes help deter small birds from the berries. Such a simple form of pest control. So far, they seem to be working—the crop has been bountiful.

The grapes on the vines just a step downhill from the blueberries are coming along. I’m really hoping that some will ripen before I leave. It can be difficult to find grapes in a store without the plastic bag.

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Rubies

Blueberries, raspberries, and red currants picked from the property I’m staying at. Brought these with me to the studio today.

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Great escape

I’m currently in Maine. I’ve been here since Sunday. I’m enrolled in some woodworking classes at a school in Rockport and I will be here for the entire month. Being away from home for this time means having to make adjustments to keep my No Trash Project on track. Luckily, I’m finding I am surrounded by resources that support my lifestyle.

I’m staying with a couple that rents their garage apartment to students of the wood school. They have the most beautiful home with spectacular gardens. Eric and Laura live on about six acres of land, much of which they’ve cultivated into a community garden that’s shared with and cared for by about 10 of their friends. They’re growing so much food! I am so inspired by the work they’ve done and the systems they’ve established. The scene above is what I wake up to every morning. The deck off the apartment kitchen overlooks the vegetable garden, berry bushes, orchard, chicken coop, compost pile, and solar panels. A grape vine is growing on the deck railing, and a clothesline runs from the exterior of the garage to the trunk of a pine tree. There’s also a modular greenhouse in the side yard. The enclosure sits on tracks and can be moved to house different crops at different times of the year. Their Labrador, Moxy is hanging out in the apartment with me, sitting on my feet as I type this. Basically, I’m in heaven.

I’ll be in class full time during the 4 weeks that I’m here. Right now I’m learning how to hand cut mortise and tenon and dovetail joints. I hope to come out of the courses with two functional objects. Some of my posts this month will be about the property I’m living at (fruits and vegetables will be ripening while I’m here), shopping for food and hygiene goods in a new community, woodworking waste, and conservation. It’s going to be a good July.

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Raised bed

Took a ride out to Smithfield Peat Company today to get some yard waste compost for my planting box. With buckets and plastic storage bins loaned from a friend, I was able to get enough to fill my box. The company sells top soil, gravel, mulch, compost, and more by the yard. I was shy of a yard but they were very generous to let me have just as much as I needed.

It’s late in the season to be preparing the box, but some of my plants are really going to appreciate being transferred to this cozy bed.

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Bed frame

Built a planting box today for my tomatoes. My landlady suggested the project and I took her up on it. I will put it in a corner in the driveway that gets a lot of sun and hopefully they’ll grow well there. The wood is salvaged from outside the Ajay Land Company building where I share a studio. There was some slight warping to the found boards, so the box turned out a bit wonky, but it will serve it’s purpose well. Now I need some dirt!

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Flax

Fla

Growing flax this year. The dime-sized periwinkle blue flowers only last a day before dropping off.

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Father’s day

I love giving plants as gifts. I gave my dad a black cherry tomato and a Thai basil for Father’s Day. The tomato will have to be repotted in a larger container, but otherwise these are low maintenance plants that my parents can grow right outside their kitchen. The basil is so delicate and sweet and the tomato is one of my favorite cherry varieties. When I was growing up, my dad used to make me salads and sauces from the tomatoes and basil my parents grew every year in their vegetable garden. They no longer have a vegetable garden, so they’ll make good use of these.

The irises I gave my dad last year are flowering now. As they spread, there will be more blooms each year.

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New arrivals

My North American pitcher plant is shooting up new pitchers. These are still just babies. That little hook end will grow into a reddish speckled fan shaped pitcher.

My first pepper of the season is coming along like a champion. This one is a chili.

 

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A welcome visitor

I was out of town for most of last week. I arrived home to a few surprises in the garden, including this ladybug pupa which is currently attached to a leaf on my Chicago Hardy Fig.

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Salad burnet

I’m growing salad burnet this year. It has a cool crisp flavor that is similar to the taste of cucumber, great in salad or as a garnish. I love the way the rain clings to the points of the small leaves.

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Calendula

My first calendula flower is starting to open up. I’m always amazed at how vibrant colors look under an overcast sky.

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In the making

Soon to be a sweet yellow pepper.

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