Saturday, July 18, 2009


A few months ago I got a call from a woman who had read an article i had written for Sevananda Natural Foods Coop's newsletter. She said she was with an organization called "Partnership for Community Action" and they had a program called the Dekalb County Neighborhood Leadership Institute. This is their description of the program.
DeKalb Neighborhood Leadership Institute is a year-long adult leadership development program focused on potential and emerging leaders who represent the low-income community to moderate in Dekalb County.The Program acquaints participants with the various levels of government, education, business, economic and community development, engaging them in the decision-making process, while allowing them to develop their own leadership style and skills. Graduates of the program join an Alumni Association where continued leadership education and other opportunities for community investment are available.
She asked if she could bring a group of women in this program to visit the Funny Farm. I told her i would be happy for them to come for a visit.
They came this morning. It was the most beautiful cool, clear morning we've had in a long time, an ideal time to tour the garden. I'm pretty sure from the questions they asked that they were expecting something completely different than what they found. A farm in a suburban neighborhood? "What did the neighbors think?" was one of the first questions they asked.

Most of them had little or no experience with gardening. They were very excited to see the source of a potato and a zucchini. Some of them got a little freaked out by all of the bees and other insects flying about but they were very interested to learn the roles the insects played in the process on an organic farm. When i showed them that zucchini had separate male and female flowers, someone asked how you could tell the difference. Another woman rubbed her belly and said " the female is the one with the fruit on it just like us". They so got it!
They got to taste fresh basil and smell dill. A few did have gardens and they got to take home some dill and coriander seeds. They were fascinated to see how a lettuce head eventually put out a flower stalk and then produced a seed. They were disappointed that they missed the blackberry harvest by a week :-)
I showed them our compost and vermiculture processes. They loved the idea.

When we got to the chocolate mint they asked what we did with it. Make Mojitos i said. Immediately everyone wanted to know if they could have a piece they could take home and root so they could make their own. I think that was the highlight of the morning.
They asked about where i got my seeds. That gave me an opening to talk about the crisis in the seed industry as Monsanto is trying to take control of all the seed sources. I asked who had heard of Monsanto. Only 1 out of 30 raised her hand. Someone asked why i did not grow soybeans. I said i did not like to eat them and went on to explain how in Eastern cultures all the soy is fermented before it is eaten. Tofu, tempeh, miso, tamari. I explained to them that here in the goodole US of A. Industrial Ag has tried to convince us that eating unfermented soy and soy-based derivatives that are found in many processed foods is a good thing. I told them how studies are showing that this consumption is harming our children.
I know that i live in an insular world where most of the people i am in contact with regularly know about these things. Clearly we have a lot of work to do make the general public aware of the problems in our food system.
I was truly inspired by this enthusiastic, engaged and totally fun group of women. This is the kind of experience that motivates me to keep on doing what i do because i know it is helping others.
Thank you ladies for a wonderful start to a fabulous day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Preserving the Harvest and Supporting the Loconomy

Saturday we did a workshop on various preserving methods. I asked the attendees why they wanted to learn these skills. Most said they had a garden and wanted to learn how to preserve the excess. One person was a CSA member who wanted to do the same thing. Almost everyone said that her/his grandmother (not mother) used to can food, make pickles and jelly. Both of us had grandparents who preserved as well. They grew big gardens, had fruit trees, picked wild berries and bought by the bushel from neighbor farmers what they didn't grow themselves. When we got married 455 moons ago we planted a garden, bought a canner and a bunch of jars and learned from our grandparents how to do what they did. In many if not most families today those skills are lost so it is up to those of us who still know how to do it to teach others.
In the class we started a crock of sauerkraut. We packed jars of green beans, cherry tomatoes, zucchni spears and mixed vegetables (baby squash, carrots, turnips, baby eggplant, garlic herbs) then covered them with a salt brine. These will ferment and turn into deellliiisshhhuusss sour pickles ready to eat in a couple of weeks. Fermented vegetables are highly nutritious, aid digestion and help fight disease.
We made bread and butter pickles out of cucumbers. We pressure canned a marinara sauce I made the day before. We canned acidic tomatoes in a hot water bath. All together we preserved about 20 pounds of vegetables for future consumption. We all had a great time working together and learning new skills.
If you would like to learn more about these methods you can download the handout i gave to the class by going here or, if you live in the Atlanta area you can take the next session of the class. You can download that information by going here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Zen of Watering by Hand

I water my garden by hand. I like to do it that way. It requires patience and being in the moment to do it properly. No twittering or playing lexulous on my iphone while i'm caring for my precious friends. I like that the robin (the bird not my wife) follows me around pulling worms out of the moist ground. I noticed the first signs of borers in the delicata squash vines in time to take care of them before it was too late. There sure are a lot of spiders scurrying around. They remind of the children's song about the intsy weentsy spider going up the water spout.
I saw a bunch of welsh onion seedlings that volunteered to grow in the swale beside their mother's bed. They germinated there after i watered last week. Now i'm thinking i might grow those onions on the edge of the bed so i'll have space to grow something else in the bed they occupy now.
This train of thought would never have occurred had i not been watering by hand.