Monthly Archives: June 2011

Traveling library

I’m going on vacation for a week, so you won’t hear from me for a little while.  I just hope I have enough books to read while I’m on vacay!






If not, I’ve heard of an outstanding book store in the area that I’ll make sure to check out!


Garden pics

The garden is finally in a state where I’m not completely embarrassed to show it to the world.  It’s still not perfect, but whose garden is right?  😉

The pic below is looking out from about the middle of the garden.  Directly in front of you is my cold frame bed.  It’s extra deep and I place two windows across the top in February to get the lettuce in early.  The lettuce has been dying because of the heat (and we’re eating it) so I’ve been sowing carrots in there as the lettuce comes out.  Directly to the right of that is a large batch of broccoli, cabbage and zukes/summer squash.  Straight across on the left are green beans.





The pic below shows the beans again but also the mixed bed.  That bed had lettuce and spinach in it.  It hasn’t been replaced much yet but also has carrots, some lettuce and cabbage left.  You can also see some kind of grass growing in there that I’m having a hard time getting rid of.  Behind that is the bed of peas, which I think I’m done growing.  They are a pain in the butt to harvest.  I think I’m done growing them.  On the right is more broccoli and carrots.  On the far left back is a bed of peas, potatoes and brussell sprouts, along with two onion plants that were left from last year I guess.  As you can tell I really need to get some wood chips down, but I’m behind the game so far.





Here I’m standing next to the bed of cabbage, squash and broccoli.  There are 3 beds of potatoes (I like to grow potatoes on new beds the first year so all the grass and leaves can decompose in place while they cover the taters).  Behind the black wheelbarrow I have some beans, onions, canteloupe and watermelon.  Also a bed with sweet potatoes and cukes.  Right in front of you here I have winter squash.  Only one has come up.  I think I’ll need to replant.  This area is all new this year and still being built out, but it’s still growing food.





My comfrey plants.  I finally got some after all these years of wanting some.  I ended up planting about 20 plants so I should have a ton of biomass here before too long.  The weedy patch right behind them is the sandbox which I’m going to fill in with compost and plant to carrots this month.






This year I’m doing something very different with the garden as I’m trying to grow a lot of things to store for the winter and focusing on the things we really eat, both fresh and preserved.

Even with all this stuff planted I still have about two beds that aren’t fully planted yet (we eat a lot more cool weather crops than hot weather crops) so I have to wait for July so I can sow more broccoli, cabbage and carrots for the fall.  I love working with small spaces and seeing each bed rotate over as one item is spent and replaced with another.  I don’t think you would get the same thrill from seeing that when you have a really large garden space.

Not pictures above is a bed with garlic and herbs in it as well as another bed of potatoes.  They are closer to the house but will move when they are harvested shortly.

It’s strawberry season too.  Last night I put up 20 jars of jam and last Friday it was 6 quarts of strawberries.  I have another 6 or so to do tonight and tomorrow and then we’ll probably be set for the winter.  My blackberry bushes have so many berries on them I’ll need to make plans to make jam from them too!

Suburbs are a Ponzi scheme

This article on Grist has an amazing photo that you have to see.


That photo is just disgusting.  It’s an interesting article too.

Farm update-Week 3

I’m a little tardy this week sending out your weekly e-mail.  I’m sorry about that. Things are still a little light coming out of the farm space.  This week I expect you’ll have some lettuce, radishes and potatoes.  The potatoes will be very fresh and will surprise you if you haven’t had a garden fresh potato before.  My favorite fresh potato recipe is below.  If you are conscious of your heart you might want to take a pass.  But if you like butter read on:

Gently boil the potatoes until they are cooked but still firm.  Place them into a large bowl with a good helping of butter and salt.  Add some dried parsley (fresh would be OK too) and swirl the potatoes around until they are completely coated.  Serve while still warm.

With farm fresh produce simple preparation is the key so you can enjoy the fresh taste.

Starting tomorrow we will be having a lot of youth involved at the farm space helping us weed, plant and tend plants, as well as do some building.  We are planning to add some nice outdoor spaces to the farm location.  Perhaps later this summer we can have a get together there and enjoy it!  In early July we will also have kids from the Matthew 25 summer meals program begin work, as well as summer daycare kids from St James United Methodist Church.  This is all part of the mission that you support with your involvement.  Not only do you get produce but you help us train the next generation of farmers and gardeners, as well as teaching them how they can provide for their own families.

My constant worry right now is the amount of produce that we’re producing.  Right now we are quite low (lower than I expected even) but I’m confident that later this summer we’ll make up for it.  My counting this week shows better than 15 cucumber plants.  (If you know cukes you know how much even one can produce)  We have in excess of 40 summer squash plants, over 20 pepper plants and rows and rows of green beans, not to mention the 70 or so broccoli plants that are in the ground and the 200+ onions.  I know the produce is coming, but it’s all later season items.  We’ll keep on top of them and keep all the spaces full and planted and I can make a promise to you that we will keep cranking out the produce until October comes.

We have some garden and food related events planned in July.  On July 9th the Tool Library is hosting a worm composting class so you can learn how to compost at home using worms, and you can even see our worm composter in action!  On July 30th the ISU extension office will host a preservation 101 class at Groundswell.  This class will cover basics and focus more on freezing items than canning.  Stay tuned for more information about them and let us know if you have any questions.  We would be happy to answer them.


Subsidy garden

Roger Doiron has done it again with another great graphic displaying the agriculture situation in America, when compared to the White House garden.

Check it out here.

It’s a really great example of how what people need to eat, and should eat for their health, is not respected as such by the government and where they put their dollars.  Very little of what is subsidized is actual food grown for human consumption, which the graphic shows is great detail.

Future plans for Cedar Rapids

In case you aren’t hooked up with me on Facebook I thought I would share a story that ran in the paper last week of some work we’re doing here in Cedar Rapids.

Click here for the story.  If you are on Facebook and you’re seeing this again, sorry.

Farm Update

I thought it would be interesting to post my weekly CSA e-mails each week.   The farm is on week 2 so you missed week #1, but no big deal.

I’ve been accused lately of becoming a “real” farmer.  Apparently I’m complaining about the weather and I’m not happy if it’s too hot or too cold.  Looking back at my e-mails, that appears to be true.  I guess I’m a bit like Goldilocks in that regard.  I like the weather just right!

On to this week’s produce.  I’m confident that we’ll have lettuce, radishes and more herbs for you this week.  Make sure not to get any lettuce at the store (or any of our fine farmer’s markets) because you’ll probably get a few heads, and they are larger than last week.  On top of that we should have cilantro, oregano and chives again.  It appears that we will also have garlic scapes and lovage.  We’ll have a write up in the newsletter about lovage, but it’s a bushy herb that gives your food a celery like flavor and best of all, it doesn’t require any attention after you plant it.  It grows year after year after year!  (News story about lovage from Mother Earth News)
There is an outside chance that there will be some small onions and beets ready.  While we wait patiently for our crops to come in I try to remember how difficult it must have been 100 years ago to make it through this period.  You’ve made it through a rough cold winter and planted your seeds.  Now you have to wait while they grow while you eat whatever you still have from the previous year.  If my little house on the prairie reading is to be believed, at this time of the year you are only eating flour and what your father hunts or traps.  In Native American culture they called this the starving time because your stores have run low but nothing is growing yet..  In many ways it can be the most difficult time of the year as the world all around you turns green, yet there may not necessarily be anything to eat.  At least in this time of plenty we can go to the store or live off food we stored from the previous summer’s bounty, not something that they could do in the past.  Right now is the time I think to the late summer when all the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers and squash we’ve planted will pay off.  In a world like ours, where everything is available to us instantly, Mother Nature still does her thing at her own pace.  Those of us who have a hard time with it, just need to accept that (myself included), though I’ll complain about it plenty along the way.
We’ll see you on Wednesday.  We’ll be set up in the tool library again.