Book Review: Our School Garden!

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Our School Garden! by Rick Swann, illustrations by Christy Hale

I read a lot of gardening books. It is very rare that a gardening book gives attention to food accessibility for low income families and food banks yet here those things are in a kids book. It’s not a standard story with typical narration although it does follow one story of a boy named Michael who is feeling alone in a new city and school but finds a home and connections through the school garden. The story is told through poems and standard narration with pages that also teach other concepts. There’s a lot of good information about basic gardening (like using the example of Three Sisters Gardens to talk about companion planting) and also great inspiration.

The illustrations by Christy Hale  are wonderfully warm and engaging and show a lot of diversity that is often lacking in children’s books.

Here’s some photos I took of a few pages that give a feel of what this book is like…

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I got this copy from our local library but it’s also available at readerstoeaters.com . There’s a lot of other titles there I am SO excited to check out (a kids book about Will Allen!)

 

 

[Daily Dozen]Potatoes in buckets, gardening as therapy, and good gardening tips

I guess “Daily” is a relative term here. Oh,well.I’m just trying to get back into a blogging groove. I’ll get there soon.
Here’s 12 gardening things for today. I’m starting to see signs of Spring here and getting antsy to get seeds started and things planted. You?

  1. The BEST Garden Ideas and DIY Yard Projects! – Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons – a lot of these are decorative ideas but some great ideas that would help be space savers in a small garden. I’ve done the wagon wheel idea before when I owned a pre-school but we made it a “Pizza Garden” with roma tomato,basil,oregano,etc. BTW, Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons has a great Facebook pg,too…here. I’m rarely annoyed by it! (Trust me…that’s a huge endorsement from me. I’m so grumpy lately)

  2. Growing Potatoes in a Bag or a Bucket – Countryside Network – since there are so many pictures on social media of potato growing but with few details on how and what to do, this is a good one to read. It covers all the basics. This year I’m growing taters in burlap coffee sacks that I got for free from a coffee shop.


  3. The Curious Case of the Antidepressant, Anti-Anxiety Backyard Garden -I love this article so much. I have often said that gardening is the only therapy I can afford and it turns out there may be some sciencey data to support that.

  4. Kiss my Aster!: Take My Tomato, Please! – my favorite gardener-writer doesn’t like tomatoes the same way I do but I still love her and appreciate this list of the top 4 she grew in 2015.


  5. A Pyramid Planter for 15 sq. ft of Garden in Just 4 sq. ft. – Gardens All – I’m really just sharing this to show the general concept of a pyramid planter for anyone needing to grow upwards to save space. The one they show is pricey and the DIY one on pg 4 of the post requires more than a hammer and nails. If any of you come up with a super cheap and easy to construct pyramid planter, I’d love to see it:-)

  6. Gardening Against the Odds: the restorative power of the garden – for the past 5 years the Conservation Foundation and The Sunday Telegraph have given out Gardening Against the Odds awards . This is a nice piece on the previous winners and emphasizes the power of gardening.

  7. A Kentucy Domestic Violence Shelter Helps Women Grow Food—and Confidence – a 40 acre farm that gives women escaping dv a safe refuge and employment with the added bonus of gaining skills,confidence, and therapy. Much love for this.

  8. Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – I am a devout practitioner of companion gardening. You absolutely should include flowers in your garden to create diversity and beneficial elements that aid veggie growth.

  9. DIY Pallet Top Garden: Using the most of your space to create a garden friendly for chickens and people! – Naturally Loriel – I love this idea and if I didn’t already have a fenced in garden, I’d be out gathering pallets right now.

  10. 28 Vegetables That Grow in Partial Shade | Small Footprint Family – I may have shared something like this before. Our last rental had mostly shade. I had good luck with all the brassicas and greens as long as I could keep the slugs at bay.

  11. 4 Problems with Starting Seedlings – Gardening Jones – All good advice.

  12. This is definitely not a complete list but it’s a good start for inspiration. I grew corn in a container last year. My advice with container gardening is to give it a shot, even if it isn’t typically something you see in a container. Even though I have gone through Master Gardener training, the bulk of my gardening experience is from trial and error, learning through doing.

 

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Daily Dozen: Garden Dreaming

[contents: seeds,no dig gardening,gardening and farming on rented or borrowed land,pest control,chickens]
I am itching to get seeds started ,even though it’s way too early here. I’m making do with planning and scheming. Mostly.

  1. Tomato Seeds: From My Garden to Yours – one of my faves, You Grow Girl , is selling seeds from her own garden at her Etsy shop
  2. 32 Seed Companies – Gardening Jones – my favorite seed company is missing from this list, so I will add FedCo and make it 33.
  3. how to grow spinach, with tom stearns – spinach is one of those easy indoor greens to grow and this talk with Tom Stearns tells you more than you will ever need to know about spinach
  4. Gutter Gardens – I’m thinking of reprising my  “Lettuce Turnip the Beet” rain gutter garden in the new place. It worked really well to keep slugs and other things from eating my greens
  5. Wine Bottle Reuse and Recycle Week – A Green Garden Border – just because. I don’t even drink wine so Id have to go raid a wine drinker’s recycle bin. Or maybe a bar.
  6. How to Make $100,000 Farming 1/2 Acre You Don’t Own – Lots of inspiration here from Curtis Stone (not the chef) who wrote a book about how to make money from land you’re leasing/renting or borrowing. And in my opinion, this is how food sovereignty and accessibility is going to happen. The problem is, we have landowners who are not willing to allow people to grow food for some odd reason and finding people who will let you borrow their unused land is kinda hard. Here on our Rented Homestead, I have 5 acres (although half of that is a huge ass pond and marsh) and I have no restrictions on what I can do with the land while we live here. My goal isn’t really to make money but to instead provide for my family (which is just as good as cash) and be able to share the harvest-wealth with others.
  7. How To: Reflective Garden Decor from Recycled CDs – I found a stack of crappy CDs when unpacking a box the other day,so…
  8. A Beginners Guide to No Dig Gardening – Indie Farmer – I mentioned a few times that I was “lasagna gardening” at our new place and people were like, HUH?This is what that looks like. It makes the most sense for me since I have all the materials needed for building layers and no real access to a tiller.
  9. 12 Great Uses for Wood Ash in Your Coop, Home and Garden – you guys, I can’t wait to get chickens but for right now, the wood ash is handy as a ice melter and I’ve also used it in my lasagna garden layers a bit.  I have not delved into soap making with wood ash because it sounds like a giant pain in the ass.
  10. Top Ten Chicken Keeping Blog Posts of 2015 -handy reference
  11. Grow Write Guild #32: When the Gardener Can’t Garden – I know it’s a writing prompt but I only need one sentence: It was hell. The end.
  12. The Poor as Folk Garden Party –  I made a Facebook group for low income gardeners of all skill levels. Get and give advice, boast about successes and cry about failures here. (I will change the privacy setting to closed so no one will see your posts unless they belong to the group

This post has gone bananas

[content notes: food waste, food rescue, recipes, too many banana songs and references to gorillas]

About a week ago we acquired 80 lbs of bananas. An entire shipment of banana arrived at the store “too ripe”. Optimally, stores want the naners more on the green side. This particular grocery store is one that does the responsible thing and works with food donation organizations that use food “waste” to feed people but this time… toooooooooooooo many bananas.

[Digression: These happens everywhere in America,every day, with a lot more than bananas. When people actually argue against feeding poor people and policing their food choices, I’m like…guys… there is more than enough food for everyone,ok? Good food. Food people can eat. This feeding of people does not have to be this complicated]

So, 80 lbs came into our house on Friday. On Saturday, 40 more lbs joined them.

And now I’m starting to see Grodd’s point of view a little clearer.


I am not really at the banana hating point but it may be awhile until I have a craving for a banana-anything. Also, hard to hate free food.

So, here’s what I did with 120 lbs of bananas:

  • Gave them to friends and people I don’t even really know
  • Sent some with my daughter to take back to college after break
  • Made banana pancakes (had that Jack Johnson song stuck in my head the rest of the day)
  • Made banana chips  (I definitely did not use fresh squeezed lemon juice like the recipe calls for)
  • Made banana muffins & bread while ,totally unplanned, my 5 yr old watched a Richard Scarry’s Busytown dvd with many episodes centered around Bananas Gorilla
  • Froze equivalent to a small boatload of bananas while singing “The Banana Boat Song”. One entire shelf in our upright freezer ($30 at a yard sale many years ago. One of my best buys ever) is just bananas in freezer bags. These will come in handy for quite some time for baking and smoothies. I also read yesterday that bananas are on the brink of extinction, so maybe I should hang on to some for the Bananapocalypse. They could be bartering gold!
  • Kept some out to ripen to make MORE bread & muffins. When my one daughter was little, I used to make her these banana-carrot muffins all the time. I think we’ll venture into those and maybe some banana-peanut butter muffins, even though my boys cant take them to school for snack (Peanut Free classrooms)
  • Stashed a bunch in the pantry to get truly black for Rotten Banana Pie. Should be able to make that for the holllerdays.

 

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My smallest guy practiced writing skills while labelling the freezer bags when he wasn’t peeling  piles of bananas

 

Obviously we had a lot of banana peels to contend with afterward. When we moved in here, I decided my easiest way to set up garden space would be to build a lasagna garden using our empty moving boxes as the base. We don’t have snow on the ground yet so I’m still able to add layers. Instead of composting all the peels in our regular compost, I just added them to the garden to bake.

Special thank to PAF reader Rose who saw me mention on Facebook that I don’t have a blender and offered to send me her old one. Yay, we can have Banana Ice Cream now,too!

 

 

 The Whiny Cold House Blog

[Content Notes: winter, home energy bills, HEAP, seasonal affective disorder, keeping poor people poor]

via my twitter. I will try my best to not make this happen here.For anyone not familiar with Cold House Journal, check it out here

. Even if you’re not trying to figure out how to cut heating bills, it’s fascinating to read about people living in a cold house on purpose. 

I am a winter hater. As I mentioned on my last post, I have a hard time with winter . Part of this has to do with seasonal affective disorder. The other part is just that I hate being cold . HATE. Loathe .Despise.

I’ve spent the last month trying to make our 1825 rented homestead as winterproof as possible. Just when I think I have all the cracks and holes stuffed or plasticked over or covered with an old blanket,   a strong wind will blow outside and I’ll feel another area that needs attending to.  There are drafty spots where I clearly feel air blowing at interior walls even. Maybe a freemason built this house and behind the walls are hidden chambers for masonic rituals.  Not cool, imaginary freemason dude. It’s hella cold in this house.

BUT only when the wind blows. Otherwise, the woodstove keeps the house pretty toasty.

Back in September, we found out that we would have to heat only with the woodstove and it has literally taken us this long to get organized enough to get a supply of wood. Remember how we were told we could not get HEAP for wood? That was not technically true. If there is no other source of heat in the house, you can use HEAP for wood. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to use HEAP for wood either. (disclaimer: this is my experience here. Elsewhere it might be different)

First we were given a list of wood vendors who accept HEAP. It is fairly easy for someone who sells wood to accept HEAP but not everyone does it.  Calling through the list was frustrating. I’d either hear that they didn’t have wood, they have wood but not seasoned, they have wood but they won’t deliver… or if they would deliver, we were out of their delivery range and wanted to charge quite a bit. Then I found, “Yes, we have wood and we’ll deliver but it’ll be a bazillion dollars for less than a cord of wood.

FYI: Less than a cord of wood isn’t going to get us far in NY winter. Also, less than a cord of wood should not cost a bazillion dollars. Interestingly, if I checked this company’s wood prices for non-HEAP customers, they were way less than a bazillion dollars. Clear price gouging to low income folks. Nice job,guys.

(No, it wasn’t really a bazillion dollars but might as well have been)

Basically,there’s a certain amount we’re granted for HEAP and if we had gone with one of these wood vendors, they would have taken our entire HEAP benefit and given us very little wood.

So, we decided to have our HEAP applied to our electric bill (we have one bedroom in the house that is kind of separated from everything else and stays cold, so we’re using an electric space heater in there and also in the dining room because it’s actually an enclosed porch )  and found a local guy on craigslist who just sells wood as a hobby. $150 for 2 face cord. Delivered. It will last for a bit before we need to hunt down someone else with wood.

Yay, we got wood.

Yay, we got wood. It’s all stacked nice and neat now.  It’s a little weird how much I LIKE to stack wood. 

I’ll also be really honest here and tell you that I have an inner 12 year old who could not help but find it hilarious every time I had to ask a guy over the phone if he had wood and if yes, could he deliver. Ok,maybe not hilarious but amusing. I was amused. It’s the little things that help me through.

 

Also, an acquaintance who lives in the area has been trying to clear trees from his property to make an actual yard and do landscaping. He offered it to us for free as long as we could haul it away. Some of it’s still green and needs to season but it’ll be a good source.

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Our cute little 2 door car wishes it were a rough and tough pick-up truck so we do everything we can to make it’s dreams come true. We can cram quite a few logs in there with the back seat down.

The good news is that I’m not AS nervous about winter as I was back in September.We aren’t going to freeze. High five to the man with wood who could deliver.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Update: The corn was definitely ‘knee-high by the 4th of July’

Well, the garden has had time to do some growing, so just a little update to tell how things are going.

First…
remember my Bean Trellis I made with crutches and 6-pack rings?

Here’s what it looks like right now:
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It was working beautifully. Then as the weather got warmer, it seems like the plastic started to deteriorate and would just snap. I was constantly mending it. But the beans were growing nicely regardless.

And then this guy got hungry. He cleared the entire thing all by himself.
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This is the 2nd woodchuck I caught in the hav-a-hart this summer. The 1st one was sticking to broccoli & cukes. This one ate the beans there (I have more elsewhere,though) , all but 3 swiss chard plants, ALL the brussel sprouts, and some more broccoli.

Hopefully, he’s the last one in the area and the rest of the summer we’ll have peacetime in the garden.

So, here’s what I have growing that I planted on purpose:
~cucumbers ~ yellow wax beans ~ green beans ~snap peas ~swiss chard ~beets ~cauliflower ~kale ~zucchini ~pumpkins ~spaghetti squash ~watermelon ~corn ~peppers~ tomatoes (both cherry & regular)~ okra ~carrots ~parsnips~lettuce ~spinach ~dill ~cilantro~basil ~sage~chamomile~lovage~bergamot~sunflowers(3 different types)~onions ~potatoes

I did not plant lemon balm but I still have it in multitudes. I could start a farm. I also have volunteer plants everywhere. I started the season with 4 regular tomato and 2 cherry tomato plants. I had plants seed themselves all over the place and now I have 25 tomato plants. Who knows what variety and I’m okay with that.

I also have herbs that reseeeded themselves in every crack and crevice.
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I have a lot of things that just grow here normally that other people would pull as weeds. Lots of mallow, wood sorrel, plantain,shepherd’s purse, and red clover. I use them to make tinctures & infused oils or dry them for teas & other medicinal uses.

Grey Gardens (the driveway/container garden part of the garden) hasn’t seen any pest activity beyond a few slugs and a chipmunk who thought he should uproot some sunflowers for the fun of it.
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The big tubs are quite packed and I might transfer some things out of there soon.

This is the ratty privacy fence that separates the backyard from the back of the bar next door. We mounted rain gutters & planted greens…

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Speaking of the bar next door…

We were having problems keeping patrons from peeing (and doing other things) in the garden. This is what I ended up doing:
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So far, it’s helped.

 

The bar decided to build an addition on to the back,so they let us raid the scrap lumber pile. We rescued an old gate and some scraps to build this bike rack.

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So, that’s how it’s going.
Haven’t harvested anything other than herbs yet and also haven’t spent any more money since the last update, so we’re still at $21 for our cost.