Tag Archives | homegrown food

Happy Earth Day

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Love your mother.

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Vernal equinox

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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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Spring things

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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.

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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.

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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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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

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

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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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In the making

Soon to be a sweet yellow pepper.

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Potential

I made a little support teepee for my gherkin cucumber plants with sticks from the yard. I’ve never grown them before so I don’t know how big they’ll get. But I may need some stronger sticks…

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Babes in terracotta

Sweet, lime, and dark opal basil catching the last bit of sunlight in the evening. They’re starting to come along.

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Happy Earth Day!

This week marks one year since starting my No Trash Project. I feel proud of the progress I’ve made toward reducing my personal waste and excited by my potential to become more efficient still. This project has greatly improved the quality of my life. I feel more focused and motivated in general and I’ve noticed an increase in my productivity. At the same time I also feel more relaxed as my anxiety about participating in flawed systems that generate great amounts of waste has lessened.

Today I spent some time potting up baby herbs for my container garden. Sweet and purple basil, stevia, tarragon, and golden variegated sage. I worked in the rain, digging in the soil. I also located a used plastic restaurant tupperware container to start my worm compost in. I’m looking forward to the growing season.

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Chicago hardy

March is here and my Chicago Hardy fig tree that has been wintering over in my studio is starting to wake up. Largely because they are not a local fruit, I cannot find figs without packaging. Because they are my favorite fruit, I have been growing my own in my container garden for the past several years. The fruit grows and ripens throughout the summer months. In the fall the tree drops all it’s leaves and I take it inside where it can go dormant for the winter. I always love seeing the tiny fig leaves shoot out in the spring.

Welcome back, old friend!

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