January 2010


What would urban agriculture look like if it were industrialized? Everything on this site approaches urban agriculture from an ecological perspective. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, we find entrepreneurs looking at opportunities in the field. Some of those entrepreneurs will follow the current trends towards local, sustainable agriculture. But, others will see the opportunities and approach urban agriculture from the industrial approach. What will their agriculture look like?

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In an earlier post, I provided a recipe I was experimenting with to make homemade black raspberry liqueur. As mentioned in that post, the berry flavor was overpowered by the rum used in the liqueur. I’ve now tried two additional batches using vodka instead of rum. I’ve also reduced the sugar in the sugar syrup. The berry flavor now comes out more strongly, since the vodka doesn’t overpower it like the rum did and cutting the sugar reduces the overpowering sweetness of the first batch. Both batches used the same recipe, although I didn’t test the batches as thoroughly as suggested in the recipe. So, the first vodka batch came out very nice, but the reduced sugar left the second batch a little hot. The experiments will have to continue, I’m afraid. 😉 Here’s the revised recipe.

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For years, I’ve been interested in participating in the Master Gardener program, but the weekly training has always been held during the workday, so this hasn’t been possible. Now that I’m retiring, I can participate. I got into this year’s training program by the skin of my teeth, learning about the program right at the deadline, applying late and hoping to get an interview. Fortunately, my last minute email got me an interview and I was accepted into the program.

This will be interesting. I’ve often admired the USDA’s Cooperative Extension services, and have used resources from the California and other states’ Extension Services. The information ranges from a production focus (often using industrial techniques, but usually trying to minimize their negative impacts) to what I would consider good agricultural practices (sustainable and ecological). The Master Gardener program is an outreach of the Extension Service, with a focus on providing information primarily to non-commercial home gardeners. With this focus, I expect there will be a strong emphasis on non-toxic methods (ie, no pesticides) and drought tolerant landscaping and food production.

This post introduces what I plan to be a new series on my experiences training to be and as a Master Gardener. I expect it will contain a mix of what I am taught or learn from ongoing activities with my own experience and knowledge from other sources. I’m most curious to see, for example, what we learn about GMO crops and light brown apple moth. I don’t know if I’ll agree or disagree with the Extension Service on every issue, but I do expect to learn a lot.

Stay tuned.

I began saving water late in January 2009 to see how much water I could save by doing simple things like saving laundry rinse water and collecting my morning shower water while it warmed up. I also started saving rainwater in my five-gallon buckets. The results are in.

Some observations about my experiment:

  1. My biggest water savings came in two ways: a few large savings and many small savings. My largest source (44%) was from daily collection of about 1 gallon of shower water while the water warmed up. My second largest source (33%) was from laundry rinse water, collected five gallons at a time with a bucket in my laundry tub. So, it’s important to note that small savings do add up, and that it doesn’t require large “chunks” of water to save. (more…)