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Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

What I Can Do

Posted by tinako on June 28, 2015

Native plants support native animals.

Native plants support native animals.

I was tabling for our local vegan society and a GMO Labeling Bill a few weeks ago, and I was struck by the despair expressed by a few people who came up to me.  “No one cares, even when they know the facts about animals,” said one woman.  An organic farmer said, “Monsanto is so big.  People don’t know.  Who will tell them?”

My responses?  Who will tell them? “Me!!”  No one cares? “On this side of the table, I return to the same locations and every year hear from people who have come to care based on the info that I gave them last year.  In my personal life, I know several people who are vegan directly because I am.”

While I am sad at the effects of animal exploitation and GMOs, I am undaunted by the scope of the problem, because that is not my task.  Someone said,

It is not for us to peer dimly into the future
but to face the issue clearly at hand.

What I can’t do is not my job.  My job is to do what I can do.
What other people do is not my job.  My job is to do what I can do.

And I can show up with a table and some vegan and GMO materials, stand there a few hours and do my best to answer questions.  This is not impossible.

Vegan educator Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.  Do something.”

I thought about all this as I have spent many hours pulling and bagging invasive alien Garlic Mustard from woods by myself (with permission), and knowing I will have to repeat this for several years in each site before the seeds existing in the soil are all gone.  I would look up and see a large area infested, but before I could lose heart, I looked down at my feet and said to myself, “That area is not my job.  Next year is not my job.  This right here within my reach, this is my job right now.  Now it’s this plant.  Now this one.”  I would think about the relief the remaining, native plants will have with this individual allelopathic poisoner gone, and the relief the animals who live here will have when a co-evolved native plant of use to them can flourish.  After a while I looked around and the area was cleared.  This year.

My son thinks I’m nuts with a goal of eventually clearing an entire woods, but I see no contradiction in attempting the seemingly impossible.  I can’t rid the continent of this disruptive pest by myself, but as long as I have sufficient health, and as long as I care, I can pull that one.  And now it will never seed.

I tutor inner city elementary students, mostly immigrant refugees, a few hours a week.  Will I solve our country’s education crisis?  That’s not my job.  One week my task was to show 40 kids, not all of whom speak English, how to use a protractor.  Done.

In analyzing what is my job, two aspects to consider are, 1. are my efforts efficient and useful?, and 2. what do I do with failures?

As for the first, I try what seems sensible, listen to constructive feedback (seeking out contradictory opinions), watch carefully for results, and adjust.  I will choose this path over paralytic indecision.  As for the second question, first be sure you have defined failure correctly.  If I am vegan, someone asks me why, and they don’t immediately go vegan, have I failed?  Not if my goal was to express my veganism – automatic success.  If I approach a non-profit and they talk with me about social justice for animals but ultimately decide not to make any changes, did I fail?  Not if my goal was to offer a wider view of social justice for their consideration.  If I find I could have done better, I can learn and either try another direct approach or “go around.”

Each plant pulled, each person spoken to, each person who sees me rejoice in my vegan life.  Was I solving animal and consumer exploitation at that tabling event?  No.  That is not my job.  Was I making a difference?  You betcha.

Will you join me?  Please consider volunteering for any organization which is striving to make the world a better place, one action at a time.

Posted in Environment, Garden, GMOs, Musings, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Invasive Plants

Posted by tinako on September 2, 2013

Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) N

Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) (Native)

I’ve started a new blog this summer to show what I’m learning about invasive plants in New York.  I read somewhere that invasives are the second greatest threat to diversity, only topped by loss of physical space to development.

If you have land or a say in how some land is managed, why not find out about the invasives in your area so you can make informed choices about what plants to encourage and what to discourage?

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Cold Frame Greens

Posted by tinako on April 14, 2013

Cold Frame Salad

Cold Frame Salad

I’ve been making my salads with greens from my cold frame.  This one is mostly composed of the mystery green and arugula, with cilantro, tomato, cuke and avocado from the store.  On this I had Balsamic Maple Dressing.

Mostly my cold frame has been disappointing.  I planted seeds in late August, before I had even built the cold frame, and they sprouted great, but then never grew.  They remained 1″ tall for 4 months and then most disappeared over the winter.  I previously discuss the soil I used, and how I adjusted the pH and added a few nutrients recommended in the cold frame book I used.  Local cooperative extension was stumped.

001So not much was growing, and then the cold frame itself got warm in the daytime, and the thermal-activated window-opening arm worked great.  But at night it was the same temperature in and out of the cold frame, and I had a lot of problems with the plastic lights blowing off even with the rope and rocks, even one board wasn’t enough.  Eventually I put two boards across, and that worked pretty well as long as it wasn’t warm enough to need the arm.  But between the hassle of removing the boards to open it and the little food available inside, I really didn’t bother going out all winter.  Now that it’s warmer, I have the arm installed again, and the boards are set as you see, leaving free the panel which opens automatically.  Still doing well are one out of two Swiss chards (from last summer’s garden), the collard greens (ditto) which from experience would have overwintered fine without a cold frame, and from seed: arugula and a mystery green.

Mystery Green - Miner's Lettuce?

Mystery Green – Miner’s Lettuce?

I would expect the mystery green to be either Mache or Miner’s Lettuce, two cold-hardy crops I sowed from seeds from Bountiful Gardens.  But these plants don’t even look like the pictures at their own web site.  But they did better than anything else over the winter and taste good, nice and bland even though they’ve bolted, a welcome relief from many peppery greens.  Despite having (edible) stems and very small leaves, they make a good substitute for regular lettuce.

Last week I replanted the cold frame with cold-hardy crops, some of which produce through fall: kale, beets, parsley; some will be done sooner: cilantro, kohlrabi, radishes, lettuce.  We’ll see if it pulls the same trick.

I also sowed a flat of seedlings for taking to my parents’ cottage, and they’re starting to come up.  The flat includes the cold-weather crops, since we won’t go down for another month.  This year I planted mesclun, Amish Paste Tomato, Ronde de Nice zucchini (softball size and shape, delicious), jalapenos, Fordhook Giant Chard, Laciniato (Tuscan) Kale, Satsuki Madori seedless cuke, purple basil, and seeds saved from mini cantaloupes and heirloom German Striped tomato, both delicious from farm stand last year.  My daughter should be planting her Roma tomatoes for her beach cash crop soon.

Posted in Garden, Menus | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Penne with Swiss Chard

Posted by tinako on November 8, 2012

Penne with Swiss Chard, Turban Squash, Edamame, and Salad

For dinner we had Penne with Swiss Chard, Turban Squash, Edamame, and Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing.

My cold frame isn’t growing things very speedily.  Seeds I planted at the end of August germinated quickly but then stopped and are mostly only an inch or two high.  An exception is the pea plants, which are big but never flowered and obviously aren’t going to now.  But I discovered that the leaves are pretty good, so I’ve been putting them in salads.  They taste kind of like alfalfa sprouts.  The Swiss Chard I transplanted into the frame in August from my better garden is hanging on but didn’t grow much this fall.  But that’s the chard we ate tonight.  The yellow and red tomatoes from my garden are slowly ripening in the basement, been down there about a month now.

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Cold Frame – Finished?

Posted by tinako on October 7, 2012

I “finished” my cold frame this afternoon.  I use quotes because while it may work perfectly, I imagine there will need to be changes made.  Coming down the home stretch, I started choosing the simplest options involving the fewest power tools.  Maybe it will work as is.  For the back story see my previous post.

The picture at left shows how I left it since it’s warm enough and was starting to rain and I wanted to expose the garden.  Only the leftmost light is on; it’s the one with the automatic arm attached – the arm unclips quickly but on a whim I left it on.  The other three lights are stored nearby.  The post at the front corner is a fencepost; nothing to do with the cold frame.

I thought a LOT about how to keep these lightweight lights from blowing away and how I would open them for venting and garden access.  I considered bent nails, hook and eyes, Velcro, and other ideas, but in the end decided to do no cutting, drilling or shopping.  I went for nails on the ends of the front and back spans, onto which I’ve hooked rope that runs along the tops of those spans.  The lights just tuck under the ropes.  They’re somewhat sheltered here, so hopefully that will hold them on.  The one light with the automatic arm is not under the ropes.

I should mention that those wavy white things along the top front and back are foam things they sell with the corrugated plastic.  One package was plenty and I just caulked them on.  There is a small gap at the sides but I’m going to see how the temps go before I bother putting a strip of something there.  This thing isn’t a submarine.

I also thought a lot about how to connect the arm to the light.  Considered connecting it at back or front using a board to support the flexible plastic (they bend a lot in that direction).  I decided the side would be simpler in that the corrugated is strong that way and it would open more (the whole four feet back).  I installed the arm at a slant to match the slant of the frame, of course, and it should push up the whole left side.

Even after reading the whole book Four Season Harvest I’m a bit unsure as to when I should put the lights on and when I’ll need to vent.  I think I’ll be watching my thermometer till I get the hang of it, trying to keep the temperature as close to about 60 as I can.  I had bought a wireless thermometer/humidistat but it doesn’t record high/low temps, which I think would be useful for seeing overnight or “oops, I forgot to take off the lights” temps, so I guess I’ll exchange it.

I bought a pH detector for $10.  It also detects moisture and light.  My soil was 6.0, so I sprinkled on some lime per package directions.

Posted in Garden | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Cold Frame

Posted by tinako on October 3, 2012

Not wanting to say goodbye to my garden in the fall, I’ve been building a cold frame to go onto my new raised bed.  You don’t at all need a raised bed for a cold frame, and as a matter of fact it might make the soil a little colder or dryer over the winter, but I was just sick of dealing with the clay here (back story).

My mom had a cold frame once, but I think she used it differently than I’m going to.  I think she just used it to give seedlings some extra protection and lengthen the tomato season a bit.

But I’m going for it.  I bought a book called Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.  Here’s the web site for their farm.  This book is great, with interesting stories but also crammed with data, such as last planting dates based on your zone and what you’re covering your crops with.  They garden in Maine, one zone north of me, which makes me hopeful.  Even though nothing much grows in the middle of winter, they’re able to harvest year ’round.

So.  Based on the recommendations in the book, I went shopping.  There were several things I couldn’t find locally despite a lot of trying.  I bought some Phosphate Rock from Wayfair, 28 lbs. for $30 total.  All these prices include shipping.  I bought Greensand from Gardner’s Supply, 5 lbs. for about $15.  Those two are all the soil amendment they recommend beyond compost, and I figured I didn’t want to have the discouragement of bad results from poor soil my first year.  I’ll need 2.5 lbs. per season, probably twice a year.  I appreciated that both the recommended products were vegan so I didn’t have to figure out a substitute.  In looking at the local garden or hardware stores, all the fertilizer stuff is these mixes you don’t know what it is, or it’s all blood and bones and fish and stuff.  It struck me as “processed food” like muffin mixes and frozen burritos.  There’s always a problem or a mystery in a mix; just sell me the ingredients I want and let me do my own thing.  So I had to buy online.

I also bought an automatic venting arm from ACF Greenhouse Supply for $60.  This will lift up (open) the “light” (clear cover) on the cold frame when it gets too warm.  It works just by heat expansion, no electricity.  And I ordered some obscure seeds from Bountiful Gardens: $8.25 for a packet each of Claytonia (Miner’s Lettuce, Montia Perfoliata), Corn Salad (Mâche, Valerianella locusta), and Tatsoi.  All are really good at standing up to winter.  I put on the phosphate and greensand and planted the seeds as soon as they came in.

My cold frame waiting on the lawn.  It looks turquoise here but is actually a dark grey green.

My cold frame is almost done.  I followed the plan in the book.  The lumber is plain Douglas Fir; I bought a 16 foot 2 x 12 and an eight foot 2 x 8 and had Home Depot cut them down to two seven footers and two four footers, to match my raised bed.  I think that was $35.   My husband helped me cut the short side pieces so they slant from 12″ (back) down to 8″ (front).  And he helped me rip a scrap 2 x 4 into the three braces, and then cut gaps in the front and back for the braces to rest in.  Even though the book said not to bother, I painted it with leftover house trim paint both to make it last longer and to make it more heat absorbent.  And I screwed it all together this morning.  Ta-da!

Now for the lights (the clear covers).  The best is probably glass, and you make wooden frames for them.  But I wanted this project to be something doable in a short time period, so I planned on something simpler.  I kept my eye out for discarded storm windows, but no luck.  So I figured I’d use plexiglass, but Holy Smokes, the price!  Why is a 2 x 4 sheet of plastic over fifty bucks??  I was going to need four!  Plus nothing was the right size.  I’d already made the raised bed 7′ x 4’3″ (including the overlapping ends), and unfortunately 4′ is the max on most stuff, with 3′ being more common.  D’oh!  Hope was draining away in the back aisle of Lowes when a guy went whistling past me pushing a cart of those flimsy corrugated plastic roofing panels.  They were available in crystal-clear: eight footers were $20, twelve-footers $30!  Unfortunately the whistling customer had nabbed the last of what I needed, but I’ll forgive him.  They should be in soon.  I’ll post again when I have them and the venting arm installed.

Posted in Garden | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Gardening Up

Posted by tinako on August 28, 2012

I like to garden.  I like to see things grow, I like to eat stuff from my garden and I used to have a huge garden.  Most people who know me are amazed to discover I do not have a vegetable garden at home.  But I can explain…

I hesitate to call this a garden.  It grows puny garlic really well.

My yard of 10 years has lousy soil, heavy clay that perma-puddles in spring and turns to concrete in the summer.  This area used to be home to brick factories.   It grows grass, myrtle, and hosta well.  I’ve planted a couple good-sized flower beds with more or less success, mostly in dappled all-day shade that would not grow vegetables.  But the few areas I’ve tried to grow vegetables, despite dumping yards of peat moss and leaf mould and compost onto them every year, are underachievers to say the least.  One year I planted tomato seedlings, and at the end of the summer they were four inches high.  Literally.  That was the year I gave up.

This is my cottage garden.  Foreground is piles of dried seaweed mulch.

I’d normally be more persistent about something that matters so much to me, but I spend my summers mostly at my parents cottage.  They have great soil; I stole a patch of lawn right next to the beach, and it gets full sun from the break of dawn to after dinner.  I water it from the lake and I mulch it with washed-up seaweed and grass clippings.  The only other input is last summer’s compost pile, added in every spring before planting.  This small garden is a bounteous riot of good eats.

Even better, my daughter has started planting Roma tomatoes in three-gallon nursery pots which I bury for her in the beach rocks, a few feet from the shore.  I dig down a foot to the water level and the pots sit on that – no watering!  I pay her market prices, $2 per pound, for all the tomatoes she can produce, and I cook them into sauce which I freeze.  The first year she paid back what she borrowed to buy bagged compost, which she reuses by storing the pots for the winter, and she has made a lot of money.

But having to say goodbye to my still-producing garden on Labor Day is just too darn sad.  I want a garden at home, and even better, one I don’t have to say goodbye to in the fall.

New raised bed which of course will be perfect.

This year I finally gave up on the earth and put in a raised bed.  It was surprisingly easy and cost $50.  I made a trip to Home Depot for three Douglas fir 2×10 x 8 footers and about 15 bags of top soil I think.  I wanted a 7 x 4′ bed so I had them cut two of the boards to 7′ and one in half.  I screwed them together on the lawn, then shoveled the accumulated compost that was heaped on the old garden onto a nearby tarp to get a flat surface.  I put the bed in place, used a few short 2×4’s cut to a point to stake in the long sides and corners, screwed to the 2x10s to keep it steady and level, laid down some weed barrier fabric, coming up the sides a few inches, and started filling it up.  I also got a station-wagon load of leaf mould (leaf compost) which the town provides free from fall leaf collection.  I just line my car hatch with a tarp and shovel it in.  So it was a bit of leftover compost and then half bagged topsoil and half leaf mould.

We have woodchucks so I fenced it in as before, only it is nice and neat attached to the raised bed using bent nails which can be easily swiveled to release the fencing and open it up for access.

The tomatoes on the left were in pots here all summer, doing so-so.  The Swiss chard in the middle I brought home from the lake, to see if I can keep them going, because…

My next step is a cold frame.

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Garden Edamame

Posted by tinako on July 7, 2011


I planted edamame this year and we ate our crop for dinner.  I’m hoping without much confidence that there will be more to come from these six plants, since the harvest was only about 25 small pods, or about 50 beans.  But they were very good, even the ones we tried raw.

Corn, Collards, and Kielbasa

With this we had stovetop Tofurky Kielbasas with farm stand corn relish on whole wheat rolls, boiled corn on the cob, and steamed collards.

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Garden Salad

Posted by tinako on June 30, 2011

Salad Greens

We are at my parents’ cottage, and the garden I planted here in April is bursting.  In it is lime basil and sweet basil, cuke, yellow and paste tomatoes, Swiss chard, collards, mesclun lettuces, cilantro, purple potatoes, soybeans, garlic, hot pepper, and zucchini.  I splurged and bought heirloom seeds of almost everything.  Everything’s growing so well, and even a purslane sprouted and has gotten big.  My perennial herb garden has oregano, chives, sage, and spearmint.

I made a salad from the mesclun, basils, cilantro, chives, spearmint, wood sorrel, and purslane.  I topped it with shredded beet and We dressed it with Balsmic Herb Vinaigrette, which never lets me down.  This salad was wonderful with all the different flavors.

The rest of dinner was Curried Lentils over whole wheat fusilli.

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Arugula Salad

Posted by tinako on November 17, 2010


I took a picture of my lunch because I thought it looked extra colorful.  This is no-salt veggie juice, chick peas with Cajun seasoning, black grapes, and arugula with chick peas, yellow tomatoes (still from my garden) and Orange Balsamic Dressing.

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