June 2008

I just returned from a five-day canoe trip. I had some camp clothes, and others waiting in the hamper, that needed laundered, so I ran a couple loads of wash. Due to last winter’s low rainfall, we are now under drought restrictions for water usage and the water district wants to cut back usage 20%. Although I’ve experimented with this before, because of the new drought guidelines I stuck a five-gallon bucket in the laundry tub and ran the washer outlet into the bucket. While this isn’t efficient, it did give me the last five gallons of rinse water from each load. I used this grey water to irrigate the sad looking plants in my front yard. (Although I planted drought tolerant plants two years ago when I re-landscaped my front yard, the low winter rainfall is clearly having an effect. These guys will need some water to keep them going, and it’s not even July yet.) (more…)

Given that logic wasn’t working, thank gawd politics did. Today the State of California and the Federal government announced that aerial spraying of urban areas to “eradicate” the light brown apple moth (LBAM) would not be conducted as planned. This is a victory for those activists who let their elected representatives know that they didn’t want to be sprayed with untested chemicals for a questionable purpose with failure the likely result. I thank all those who took a more active role than I did. Given my concerns with asthma and the fact that the sprayed particles were small enough to be breathed into¬†lungs, it’s no wonder there were earlier reports of problems from people with asthma. I was not looking forward to having to deal with the spraying.

In addition, as an ecological urban gardener, I had a “down to earth” concern. (more…)

[WARNING: Long post. It’s long because it’s important. The myths surrounding industrial agriculture’s “cheap food” are widespread, and this post addresses those myths by responding to a “cheap food” blog post at Freakonomics.]

Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book Freakonomics, recently wrote in his blog about trying to make orange sherbet with his children (Do We Really Need a Few Billion Locavores?). Apparently, he wasn’t very good at it, spending far more than is reasonable for ingredients and making a product that wasn’t very good. This isn’t surprising, of course, for a first effort. What is surprising is that he used his first-time-effort failure to introduce an argument that eating locally produced food is inefficient due to lack of scale and specialization. In the process he exhibits an appalling ignorance of the locavore (local food) movement and industrial agriculture, plus he makes egregious rhetorical leaps. Let’s take a look. (more…)

When I was a kid, I liked some of our family traditions around food. One of those was a weekly meal, sometimes with popcorn or pickled herring or oyster stew, which we shared before watching all the exciting new TV shows on Saturday or Sunday night. I liked the idea of that tradition, so years ago I started a couple myself. Saturday mornings became my “egg day,” when I allowed myself a few eggs. (I started this around the time eggs were considered bad because of cholesterol.) Over the years I’ve added more and more vegetables to my scrambled eggs or omelettes, to the point where I now call the scrambled version scrambled vegetables instead of scrambled eggs. The eggs provide a nice binder to hold it all together, but what I really like are the veggies.


[Pictures still to come, once I receive them from the person who loaned me her camera!]

Saturday I visited a cohousing community in Nevada City. A few years ago I drove by the development when it was under construction and it didn’t look very appealing. Now, however, with plants and people in place, the development has turned into a community, and was very appealing. Our visit was on a monthly workday, so there were lots of people about, mostly in teams of two or three, working on various projects. After an introductory talk, our hosts asked if there were any questions. My hand popped up and I asked about gardening. I was promised a visit to both their garden and chicken pen. (more…)

This is one of my favorite seasons, simply because of stone fruit. For the next two months, I will consume vast amounts of cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots and, especially, pluots. I wish I could pick these in my yard, but I can’t. At least not yet. Last year I planted apricot, plum and peach trees, so in the future I will have some stone fruit of my own.

But, growing your own food doesn’t mean you have to grow everything yourself. (more…)

In my last post (Gotcha! Agroecology in action) I said I wasn’t particularly concerned about aphids in my garden, because I rely on natural predators like ladybugs to deal with the problem. Ecological controls work.

However, in the bigger picture this isn’t a small issue. (more…)

While planting summer crops this morning I noticed a ladybug on one of the kale plants I’m letting go to seed. It has aphids on it so I was curious if the ladybug would be eating any of the aphids. Check it out! In picture one, the chase is on. In picture two, it looks like the ladybug has caught the aphid and is sucking out its juices, thereby killing it.


I’ve never cared for artificial holidays like New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the sentiment behind them, especially if they really are modern versions of traditional natural holidays.

For example, Thanksgiving Day is really the United States’ way to celebrate a harvest festival. It’s just that I prefer natural holidays that mark the rhythm of the seasons, like the solstices and the equinoxes. Even better are the natural holidays that come to mark the seasons of my personal life. (more…)