Friday, March 27, 2009

Water update for Riot

I have a small bit of success to report on the water usage from last month. We were down 100CF to a total of 500CF for the month. I put a timer down near the shower to remind me when my 7 minutes are up, and I tried to skip a shower or two a week.

Our water usage is still not anywhere near the 10% goal, our 500CF a month puts us at 40% of the American average. Still, progress is a good thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Planting season + Banking woes = ??

It's getting close to planting season here in the midwest. I'm a little fearful about what the last of the snow melt will bring for American farmers.
Like most current business models, they rely heavily on loans to produce their yearly crops. These mostly happen at planting time, they need loans for seed since they can't save their own, and they need loans for herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers since the soil can no longer support healthy crops. None of these items are getting cheaper, and most farmers just don't have the capital to cover them in the spring.

What's going to happen when they go to get their annual loans and the bank they've used for years is no longer extending credit? Or is extending less credit? Or the bank is gone? A small toy store may be able to skate through a credit disruption and come out just fine when the government TARP money trickles in, but farmers have a much more defined schedule. Waiting around a month or two for government bailout money is not going to be an option.

And, that's just the problem facing farmers this spring. There's a much larger gorilla in the living room, it's being talked about in the Peak Oil community, but mostly being ignored by mainstream America. The recent release of the 2007 Ag Census shows only about two percent of the U.S. population is part of a farm family, and the average age of principal operators of farms is nearing 60 years. Take a second and absorb those numbers. Only 2% of our citizens are involved in one of the more important systems for continued life. And the AVERAGE age is 60. If you'll remember your math lessons, that means roughly half of the farmers are OVER 60. The Census reports that the farmers aged 25 or younger decreased by 30% from 2002. I see these numbers and I think to myself that we are failing to replace our aging farmers. This failure is going to become apparent very soon, and I think it won't be pretty.

Kunstler, admittedly one of the more "Doomer" voices had an eloquent take on this problem.
The net effect of the failures in banking is that a lot of people have less money than they expected they would have a year ago. This is bad enough, given our habits and practices of modern life. But what happens when farming collapses? The prospect for that is closer than most of us might realize. The way we produce our food has been organized at a scale that has ruinous consequences, not least its addiction to capital. Now that banking is in collapse, capital will be extremely scarce. Nobody in the cities reads farm news, or listens to farm reports on the radio. Guess what, though: we are entering the planting season. It will be interesting to learn how many farmers "out there" in the Cheez Doodle belt are not able to secure loans for this year's crop.
My guess is that the disorder in agriculture will be pretty severe this year, especially since some of the world's most productive places -- California, northern China, Argentina, the Australian grain belt -- are caught in extremes of drought on top of capital shortages. If the US government is going to try to make remedial policy for anything, it better start with agriculture, to promote local, smaller-scaled farming using methods that are much less dependent on oil byproducts and capital injections.
This will, of course, require a re-allocation of lands suitable for growing food. Our real estate market mechanisms could conceivably enable this to happen, but not without a coherent consensus that it is imperative to do so. If agri-business as currently practiced doesn't founder on capital shortages, it will surely collapse on disruptions in the oil markets. President Obama at least made a start in the right direction by proposing to eliminate further subsidies to farmers above the $250,000 level. But the situation is really more acute. Surely the US Department of Agriculture already knows about it, but the public may not be interested until the shelves in the Piggly-Wiggly are bare -- and then, of course, they'll go apeshit.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mmmm I Heart Spinach

I ate my first spinach out of my cold frame tonight. It's been ready for awhile, a couple of weeks at least, I just kept forgetting to go out and grab a handful when I was making salads. :-D Well, today I remembered, and it's super tasty! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of spring.
I spent the morning cleaning up the container garden, pulling out old annuals, getting soil into the empty pots and giving perennials some compost top dressing. I also moved the perennials that overwintered in the basement back out to the driveway. It's supposed to rain for the next couple of days, I'm hoping it gets my lettuce seeds sprouted and perks up the basement plants, they were getting kinda sad in the basement.
It's looking like I'll have a pretty cool container garden this year. I think I'll have green beans, peas, lettuce/spinach, eggplant, tomato, rhubarb and herbs in containers. The rhubarb and chives and green sage and russian sage are already up.

It's looking like my onion sets will be here in Mid-April. I'll have to get them in the ground a few weeks after our little one joins us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Equinox Potato action!

I've got seed potatoes sprouting! I have 2 varieties, Yukon Gold and Desiree. They will be on the window sill for about 2 weeks, and then I will cut them into slips and put them in my fancy little vertical potato plot.
Of course, we won't mention that in 2 weeks I could be giving birth, or recovering from said birth. But, somehow I'll get potato slips into dirt. Eventually. I'm sure.

It's nice to have things planted and sprouting and growing. The spinach out of my cold frame is tasty, and I've got the other half of the frame seeded with lettuces. Tomatoes are in the basement, hopefully germinating. :-D Yay spring!

This weekend, tonight really, is spring equinox. Which means? Come on, think hard, all the way back to Jr High science.... :-) After tonight the days are increasingly longer than the nights! Dave and I aren't planning anything too exciting for this time of fertility. Mostly due to our own fertility. I'm too big for exciting. :-D (If you've ever wondered what bunnies and eggs have to do with Easter, look up some of the pagan celebrations surrounding Ostera. ) But, I might plant a few seeds or take a long walk. We'll see.

Happy Equinox everyone. If you have some dirt, put some seeds in it this weekend! (nothing frost tender though) ;-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring garlic planting

Finally some sunshine! I was literally going crazy. Literally. Ask my hubby. Another day cooped up inside on that d*mn couch and I think I might have gone postal. :-D Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I spent all winter toasty warm with my little baby space heater, but I am ecstatic to get out and move a bit. It was rather hard to keep active with no safe place to walk, no swimming pool and no abdominal muscle control for dancing. But, now the earth is warming, the days will be longer than the nights, I can get out and walk and that all makes me really really happy. It will help with the upcoming labor too, both physically and emotionally.

We got out yesterday in the community plot and planted the garlic bulbs. Now, these were supposed to go in the ground last fall. They go in when the soil hits 60 degrees in late fall, with a 4" layer of straw to keep them cozy over winter and they pop up in early spring. Needless to say, between the morning sickness and job hunting it didn't happen. So, it's kind of an experiment to see what happens. The soil temps are still in the 30's, so it's the earliest I can manage. Dave had to help me since I'm unbalanced right now, but with his help we got the icy ground broken up and mixed with the nice warm top layer, and the cloves poked into their rows. I did some research, and about half the people who have tried planting in spring said it worked fine, and the other half got only large cloves at the end of the summer. Check back with me at the end of July and see how the experiment turns out. :-D

For my own records, the rows West to East are: German Hardy, Russian Giant and Chesnook Red. Last year I trialed 6 varieties, I whittled out the varieties that didn't grow as robustly, leaving me with these 3. Hopefully, this year I'll get another decent harvest of storable bulbs and I can look into which stores better and longer. But for now, I'm happy with growing all three. I only got about a dozen cloves of each planted, so that means a smaller harvest than last year. I'll have to supplement with garlic from some of my local market farmers in order to store enough local garlic to see my family through the winter. Not a problem, since I can get them for a dollar a bulb or so in August, I just have to remember to set aside the $20 to make sure it happens.

I'm down to the last few bulbs hanging from lonely little braids in the basement. And those are starting to shrivel and sprout, so I'll probably use them up this month. I'll have to try and live with the chopped garlic in oil that's in the fridge until the garlic crop gets harvested. I think we'll make it.

Dave says I should explain the comments about "used diapers" from last week's post. So, just in case anyone reading this didn't understand what I was talking about, here's the explanation.
We are diapering our little one with cloth diapers. They get washed and dried and reused, and when baby outgrows them they can be used for another baby, or recycled into rags or whatever. So by saying we have used diapers waiting for the little one, I was not telling you about a pile of dirty diapers. :giggle: I was telling you about the dozens of prefolds and fitteds that I have scavenged or made. They are neither dirty nor smelly, but they are used diapers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Baby has his head down, and I am 1cm dilated. I know, some of you are thinking, you did NOT want to know that. :-D But, there's not much happening in my garden right now, so you get pregnancy news instead.

I'm pretty happy with our preparations for baby. We have a stash of used diapers in a couple of sizes and a few shapes, ready to put on baby's bum. The majority of the stash was bought used from a gal here in town, and the rest were bought used from my online cloth diaper forum, (Diaper Swappers) or made by Mom and I. I'll need to add a dozen more once he pops out and we see what fits, but we are definitely prepared. I've made 6 small bamboo cloth fitteds, PUL covers, cloth wipes, I think 40 or so, 2 large wet bags for holding dirty diapers, 1 med wetbag for the diaper bag, a changing pad, 3 crib sheets, 3 swaddling blankets, 2 snuggle blankets, 2 drool bibs, 2 pairs of little mittens and I'm working on the crib bumpers now. :-D All the sewing for baby has really made a difference in my sewing skills. I know more stitching techniques and more about different types of fabrics and the quality of my sewing has taken a large step forward. There's a noticeable difference in my stash of fabric too. :-D I don't have a bedroom full like others I could name in my family, but I've definitely got a sizeable stash. Anyway, we have clothing too, I've got a couple of boxes of used newborn-6M clothing, one from Dave's family and one from a lady off Diaper Swappers. So, we've got lots of onesies and some footy pajamas, and some fleece stuff for next fall/winter. If he comes out big he might not fit in the newborn stuff for long, but at least we have it, and I didn't spend much money on it.

:-D I promise, the next post will be about dirt and seeds. I have CSA tomato seedlings that need documenting.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Belly belly

Just a picture my darling husband snapped last week. I thought I would share.
The second one is a picture I took, so I can remember the view from my vantage point. :-)