Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Funny Farm gets its Stripes

We live in the suburbs remember. About 2 weeks after we moved in, our friend Kim, Robin and I were sitting out back on the screen porch drinking beer and attempting to solve the world's problems like we always do when we look down and saw a well dressed man walk around the corner of the house. We all walked down to greet him. He said he was a neighbor and welcomed us to the neighborhood. Then he proceeded to tell us that everyone in the 'hood kept their yards well manicured and that in the past they all had to get together and clean up our next door neighbors' yard because it was too messy. We politely nodded and said unhuh, thanks for stopping by and the man left. As soon as he was out of earshot Kim cracked up laughing. She said while we were talking to the guy she looked down at my bare feet and saw that my toenails were painted bright purple. ( may arms are covered in tattoos as well). She said it was only with tremendous effort that she was able to restrain herself from telling the guy that despite my appearance I'm not all that crazy and weird. 
Don't bet on it dude.
Today I tilled in the rye cover crop in the front yard, thats right front yard, in anticipation of planting tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans. Will the neighbors freak out? Probably. Do i care? Nope.
When they taste my organically grown vegetables they'll see the beauty in what we are doing. Maybe some of them will be inspired to convert their own chemical drenched, energy gobbling, lawns to a more sustainable, productive use as well. I truly hope so.
Beauty in in the eyes of the beholder, right?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Collards - A Southern Superfood

Along with pinto beans, cornbread and sweetea, collards are a staple food here in the south. We've been eating them all winter long fresh out of the garden. We don't grow them like most people do. Come to think of it we don't do much of anything like other people do. I guess that makes us contrarians or maybe just contrary like Mary Mary.
Anyway we grow our collards not in rows but close together in a wide bed like people grow mixed lettuce. We harvest the leaves small and tender rather than big and tough where you have to boil them for a long time with a chunk of fatback ( health-conscious people use smoked turkey legs now but fat back tastes better. I don't have anything against it you understand). I like to saute them with garlic, mushrooms, a little salt and pepper, some left over beans, mix in a little miso at the end and serve it over steamed brown rice or keenwaa (quinoa). It is delicious and nutritious. A friend of ours who has aids swears that eating collards and pinto beans have kept him alive for so long.
Our patch is starting to flower now so we cut them and parboiled them and bagged them up and froze them so we'll have collards to eat until the new crop of fresh greens are ready in a few weeks. We trimmed of the flower buds to cook for dinner. Like little baby broccolis. We are also having cornbread made with kefir, and collardkraut as a garnish for the beans. No sweetea though. Sugar is bad for you.
Could you have a more southern meal than that? I don't think so. Hi Joyce!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What's New!

We transplanted our strawberries from the community garden. We had enough plants to fill the space at the Funny Farm and to pot up a bunch for sale at the Urban Gardener.
Our friends found an abandoned lot in the west end where leeks have perennialized and spread all over. They dug some up and gave us 2 buckets full. We planted one bucket along the new asparagus patch and gave the other bucket to Holly who is planning to plant them in the kids garden at Piedmont Park. Thanks Shannon and Steve.
There is some sprouting going on in the greenhouse which is very exciting.
I harvested some clover and millet from the community garden to make compost with. This is the first time i've had to make compost since last summer. This should be some primo compost which we'll use to make compost tea. I added lots of kelp meal, granite sand and alfalfa meal to the pile. The greens from the community garden are highly nutritious having been growing in the great soil we've made there over the years. I really want to harvest some of that soil and move it out here. I would be a real waste to just leave it for the weeds and whatever future development happens on that property.
Happy Spring everybody!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Carrot Fermentation

Believe it or not under all that chickweed and henbit you see in the photo above there lies a good crop of nice sweet baby carrots. What to do with all those carrots before they start to go into their flowering phase. Ferment them of course. The first fermentation process i'm doing is to turn them into sour pickles. I cleaned them up and covered them with a brine made up of 3/8 cup sea salt dissolved in 1/2 gallon of water that i boiled first to get rid of the chlorine. You know they put the chlorine in the water to kill the very microorganisms we want to grow on the carrots to make them turn sour. Lactobacillus is their name and fermentation is their game. We'll taste a carrot in a few days to see that the process is working. They should be ready in about a month.
Our collard and carrot kraut has been working for 3 weeks now. It is starting to taste pretty good.
We made some coconut milk kefir the other day. Wow is that delicious.
For more information visit Sandor Katz' wild fermentation web site listed over there on the right hand side of the page.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sowing Seeds is Satisfying Stuff

I spent all day working at the Funny Farm. It took most of the morning to find all the stuff i needed to sow seeds, get the work station arranged efficiently and develop procedures to get the work done efficiently.
That done, i sowed 5 flats each of stir fry mix and lettuce mix for baby greens. 4 flats of different kinds of lettuce for transplanting and sale. A flat of 36 celery. It has been a long time since i grew celery. I was successful in Virginia so hopefully i'll be successful here as well.
One vegetable i have never mastered growing in Georgia is snap peas. When i've tried in the fall the frost gets them before they produce. In the spring the heat gets them. This past fall i harvested and ate the top growth with the tendrils and flowers.  They were very tasty. They tasted like peas. They are a common vegetable in Asia. This time i seeded peas in some old hanging basket pots we had and put them in the greenhouse. We'll plant a succession of pots so we can have fresh pea shoots until it gets too hot.
Tomorrow i'll do some tilling and planting before it rains on saturday.
Fresh food is coming soon!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Race is On

I'm in a race to get plants moved out of the community garden and settled here at the Funny Farm before A. the thief gets them and B. spring advances so far that it is too late to move them successfully. Today i prepped the asparagus bed, dug up 13 crowns and settled them in. I was hoping that i would have until next fall to improve the soil before i had to do it but obviously I'm not the one in charge. The bed is in pretty good shape so i'm confident that the plants will do fine. I worked in some alfalfa and kelp meals after tilling the rye and clover cover crop under. After planting i topdressed with more alfalfa meal to feed the microorganisms as they break down the rye and clover. I sprinkled some of the super compost from the community garden over the bed to reinforce the existing army of microbes. I guess you could call it a surge with no timetable for withdrawal.
A few of the emerging asparagus stalks snapped off during the move so i felt compelled to saute them in some butter and consume. It has been a really long time since i've eaten fresh picked asparagus. I don't remember them being so sweet. Yummm!
Ok, i confess, they didn't really break off. I cut them off with my knife. I couldn't resist. I love asparagus. The rules say that one should not harvest any the first year. Well. technically this is the second year and since i got really good rootballs on them rather than being bare root, i figure it won't hurt to harvest a few more stalks this spring.
My pee is going to stink tonight!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Funny Farm Has A Greenhouse...WHOHOOO!

We finally got the greenhouse up and covered. We re-purposed a sales tent from the old Urban Gardener location. We had plastic left over from covering the greenhouse at the old location as well. The only new cost was for screws and staples. The seed order from Johnnys Seeds came today so tomorrow production will begin. We'll be growing baby lettuce and stir fry mix and starting tomato and pepper plants. All of which will be for sale soon.
We will be incubating our reishi mushroom logs in there too.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I hate a thief!

Can you imagine someone stealing plants from a community garden? Well that's what is happening at our community garden right now. We had to close our garden center The Urban Gardener, next door the the garden because of the severe drought here in Georgia and the subsequent complete outdoor watering ban imposed by our incompetent state and local governments. We downsized and moved our business to a nearby neighborhood called East Atlanta Village.
Perhaps the vile villain assumes the garden has been abandoned which it hasn't.
Anyway i have been busy transplanting what the intruder hasn't gotten away with to the Funny Farm. We've added blackberries, pineapple guava, kiwi vine and sorrel. I still need to move the strawberries and asparagus but i have to prepare the beds first.
The bastard even took my paramagnetic energy collector cone i loving carved out of local
May he or she rot in hell!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wild Fermentation at the Funny Farm

Robin and I attended the Georgia Organics Conference last weekend. It was a great event. Attendance was up 50% from last year with over 600 people attending this year. We are making progress people.
The highlight for me was the presentation by Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution will not be microwaved. He is a very dynamic speaker with a simple but powerful message. He has made sauerkraut making an agent for positive change and revolt against the tyranny of the corporate-industrial food monster. His book Wild Fermentation (haven't read the other one yet) is  a well-researched treatise on the history and politics of the culture of food growing, preparing, preserving and sharing. It is also an instruction manual on how to preserve through fermentation almost anything we can eat.

As winter retreats and spring advances it is time to harvest the last of the winter vegetables before they go to seed. Thanks to Sandor, I now have the skills to preserve the carrots, collards and garlic by chopping them up, putting some sea salt on them and letting those ubiquitous microorganisms go to work on them turning them into a delicious and nutritious fermented delicacy in a week or two.
For me it completed the microbial circle of the soil food web by explaining how the same microbial community that makes turns organic matter into compost, and helps feed plants, also helps us preserve the harvest and make it more nutritious, as well as breaks food down in our bodies into the component nutrients that we require to sustain us.
Its all connected. Long live the microbes.
Never use Anti-bacterial soap. Ever!
Oh Yeah, there is a link to Sandor's website to your right. Wild Fermentation.