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Latesst Posts From My Garden Blog

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chronicles of a Perfect Summer Weekend

Its Monday morning and while I can't say that I'm all that thrilled to be at work, my grumpiness is slightly lessened by the fact that I had such a nice productive weekend. And now, here's an account of the completely mundane weekend that made me so happy.

On Friday evening Nick and I enjoyed hanging out the backyard, having a cold beer, admiring the garden etc. Of course, as usual, my admiring the garden quickly turned into working in the garden. There have been several garden projects on my "to do" list for a while, so, feeling abnormally industrious, I started pulling weeds, removing old chicken wire in preparation for the prettier fence that would replace it, and harvesting some new potatoes and carrots in order to make room for planting of fall seeds. We ate a dinner that was prepared on the grill, by far the best way to cook in the summer. The night ended with some ice cream and TV comedy.

Saturday morning I woke up and was ready to get out of be before 8:30, which is pretty early for me. We rode our tandem bike over to the farmer's market, which has now become our Saturday routine. As we rode toward the market, we became part of a bicycle convoy of hippie fuel conserving bike riders which warmed my heart. I love riding my bike, have I mentioned that? Unlike other Saturdays, however, we did actually make it there in time to get some of the fabulous freshly fried donuts that are usually sold out by the time we arrive. We filled our backpacks with produce: red onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, broco-flower, mushrooms, blueberries, cherries, and peaches. We got out having only spent $24c, which is a victory for us. Later that day we took the bike out again to join our friends for a mid-day BBQ. After the food I feel asleep on the couch while everyone else talked in the kitchen. I love naps. We returned home for a pretty boring Saturday night of watching Mythbusters on TV which was the lowlight of the weekend (not that I don't like Mythbusters, I'd just already seen many of the episodes but couldn't think of anything better to go do.)

Sunday was the best day! We woke up around 9:30. I was craving pancakes so I made pancakes, waffles (for Nick), eggs, and fake bacon. Who needs to go to the Pancake House anyway? I probably cooked to much--who can realy eat nine pancakes in one sitting--but I knew that we'd be spending the rest of the day in the yard and would need the energy. After breakfast we applied the sunscreen, made a big pitcher of ice cold orange cool-aide type beverage, and headed outside. Nick washed the dogs while I planted some Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan plants I got half off at the garden center. Other projects included: overall weeding of the yard, finally got around to putting in the new prettier fence to replace that chicken wire to keep the dogs out of the flower bed, built 6 tomato cages to wrangle overgrown tomatoes that had begun to flop over onto the ground, planted some broccoli. sugar snap peas, and edemame seeds hopefully for a mid-fall harvest, watered container plants using water from the rain barrel (felt so eco about that), and Nick cleaned and oiled the Teak outdoor table that we hope to sell on craigslist.... I think that was it. Around 5 I was exhausted, covered in sweat and several scratches (from the fencing I used to build the tomato cages); I decided I was done. A shower and a glass of iced tea never felt/tasted so good. I made a dinner of fajitas, which was followed by a walk up to our neighborhood ice cream parlor. Walking to the locally owned ice cream parlor and then walking back licking our ice cream cones is one of my favorite things to do in the world. It was a perfect end to an almost perfect weekend. This is why I love summer.

What are your favorite summertime activities?

Thanks for reading. :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

The latest book to grace my iPod was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Lately, my garden obsession has been spilling over into my taste in books. This book caught my eye when I saw it on the City of Chicago Read Green Live Green summer reading program shelf at the Borders. There were actually a lot of books on the Read Green Live Green list that looked good, but this one also happened to be on Audible, so it was my obvious choice.

The short of it: I loved this book. I'll probably keep it on my iPod and listen to it again in the future. The only downside to the book was the narration which I found to be too slow, tedious, and just down right annoying. I was a bit disheartened (or maybe I felt guilty?) when I realized that the narration that was driving me nutz--she reads REALLY slowly, like she's reading to a 5 year old--was done by the author herself. Oops. Despite this, I did really enjoy the book.

The longer story: This book follows Barbara Kingsolver and her family from their home in the desert southwest to a small farm in Virginia (or was it West Virginia??) and take on a year of eating almost 100% locally. Having the advantage of fertile soil and a decent growing season, they grow most of their food themselves. What they can't grow or make themselves, they buy from producers within 100 miles. They do cheat a bit, allowing a few non-local items (such as coffee and spices from fair trade sources in Africa.) I liked the fact they allowed themselves to "cheat" just a little bit. If they had gone a whole year without coffee, tea, or olive oil, I probably would been left feeling much more discouraged about the idea of trying this local eating thing myself.

As well as growing their own vegetables, they also "grow" their own eggs and poultry. This isn't the first book I've read that's described slaughtering a chicken, so it wasn't completely shocking to me. And, it is definitely true that the at-home slaughtering process is a lot less horrific to read about than what goes on in meat packing plants. However, her defense of meat eating was one time in this book--probably the only time--that I felt like her arguments fell a bit short. (Full disclosure: I'm vegetarian, I was Vegan for a few years too, so I have pretty set views about eating meat. I'm sure most people reading this blog will disagree with me and that's totally cool. I don't want to come off here as a veggie-Nazi type.) Anyway, her argument is: eating requires the destruction of life, be it an animal life or a plant life, its all life, and therefore if a person is vegetarian because they don't believe in taking a life,then they can't really eat veggies either. In a way, I actually agree with her. Plants are living things, yes, and harvesting them invovles them no longer continuing to live. However, she doesn't ever discuss the possible difference between a sentient being (animals) and those that aren't (plants) in terms of their ability to feel happiness, sadness, or pain. I'm vegetarian, and a lot of that is based on a distinction I make between the sentient and the non-sentient, but even I'm not entirely sure that this is a 100% valid distinction to make, BUT I think it would have been nice if she had at least talked about this a little.

The book and the writing style itself has a really good flow to it. When I picked out this book I had no idea who Barbara Kingsolver was or that she has written several other books before this one, I think mostly fiction, so I guess I didn't expect such a good story. The ending of the book is particularly good; who knew turkey reproduction could be such a nail biter!

So, yeah, this is a great read. If you want to learn more about growing food, preserving food, or eating locally, this is a great choice. If you're listening to the audio book, I hope you find her reading style more tolerable than I did.

My next read will be The End of Food by Paul Roberts which is also on the Read Green Live Green list. I'm looking forward to it! I can't get enough of this eating locally / food industry / gardening stuff.

Thanks for reading. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Once a Hippie, Always a Hippie?

When I graduated college and pretty much abandoned the student environmental group that I started, mostly due to an overwhelming feeling of apathy associated with all activist / environmentalist pursuits, I wondered if I'd ever get back into all that. Well, I think its official. Jessica the environmentalist hippie activist community organizer is back! What's that? You don't believe me? Well, take a look at this.

Yes, despite the fact that my name is misspelled throughout the article (is that some sort of journalist code of ethics? must misspell everyones name?) and despite the fact that I think they could have chosen a more flattering picture (what's up with my hair?), that is indeed me, and my Forest Park gardening partner in crime, Gina.

That's all for today.
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Big News

I won the lottery! No, ok, I didn't.... which was particularly sad b/c I was really feeling it this time.... I just knew were were going to win $43 million on Tuesday night. I was already planning to call in sick to work on Wednesday. When Nick called in from the other room to tell me that we hadn't gotten a single number right I felt a bit more defeated than usual. So, no, that's not my news.

Now its time to finally tell you about something very exciting I've been up to lately. My new friend, neighbor, fellow gardener, and former Tennessee resident Gina and I have cooked up a scheme to start a community garden in our neighborhood. Gina and I, who met through blogging, have been talking about this idea for a couple months now. This officially became more than just an idea last month when Gina and I met with the Recreations Board in our Village to discuss our idea and potential locations for the garden. The Board had a very positive response to our idea, and they suggested four potential locations for the garden. However, we knew that this idea wouldn't go anywhere if we didn't have community support and other residents who wanted to participate. In what I think has at this point proven to be our tendency to set almost unreasonable goals for ourselves that lead to stress and ideas of jumping ship, we decided that we needed to get the word out about our idea and hold a meeting where interested individuals can learn more / tell us what they think. We hung flyers and posted on the web forum for our neighborhood and somehow managed to get 20 complete strangers to show up in one room last Wednesday all because they saw our flyer to discuss the garden. The group's enthusiasm was overflowing. People began to volunteer to help plan the garden and fundraise the funds we'll need to get the garden going. We also created a website and designed an online survey where people could tell us what they thought of our idea and what their vision of a community garden is. Yesterday, Gina and I, along with some of our new community garden supporting friends, visited the Recreations Board again to tell them about our progress. We told them about the wonderful meeting we had and showed them the website we've created. We told them that we had 15 people take our survey and express their support. We showed them initial site analysis we had performed for the three potential garden locations that had been discussed at the last Recreations Board meeting (the fourth location was judged to be too small). The Board was VERY impressed with all that we had accomplished over the last month. They gave us some ideas for our next courses of action: We plan to distribute a petition this Friday at our Village's 4th of July fireworks. We'll present the petition to the Village Board at the next meeting on July 14th. We're also going to get a soil test to look for possible toxicity at the preferred garden location to make sure that there's not a prohibitive amount of toxins in the soil. Lead contamination, we've been told, is a legitimate concern when it comes to urban soils, especially for land that's near high traffic area (the potential garden location is actually adjacent to the freeway). We also hope to organize a planning and a fundraising meeting sometime in July so that we, and our growing supply of community garden troops, can make more specific site / operational plans for the garden and start to solicit funds and donations. Our goal is to have the garden ready to plant by March of next year.

I just found out today that the local newspaper will be interviewing me about the community garden for their upcoming issue. This is great since it will be yet another way for us to get the word out about this idea. I'll post a link to the story once its up.

So that's what's going on... the big "news".... when I'm not working on this I'm usually working in my own garden (or shopping for purple dresses hahha!) so life is busy these days... but good.. very good. :) (a note to the universe: although, dont' get me wrong, winning the lottery would still be great too).

Thanks for reading.

Purple Dresses (Yes, I am still alive)

Hi blog people!!!! Its been so long... sorry about that. Having two blogs is harder than I thought. Ever since I created my garden blog (which you should read / bookmark / subscribe to.. hehe) I've been posting over there a lot more frequently than over here. Gardening is pretty much taking over my life these days, which is in most cases a good thing. I've got some big news, actually, but I'll tell you about that later.

But first, I see this blog as a place for me to share little tidbits of interesting thoughts / experiences I have. This one is pretty lame.. but... I just wanted to confess.... that I apparently have an addiction to purple dresses. Recently, I had to buy a purple dress for an event (I was told that purple was required, so its not like I just randomly picked it out... but also I must mention that I FREAKING LOVE everything that's purple so the purple dress decree made me very happy). Of course, I waited till the last minute to buy a dress, so every afternoon after work for two weeks I'd hit the stores / mall on Michigan Ave. and State St. to look for a purple dress. Fassotion 411: Apparently, purple is out this season, folks. Hot pink is apparently in. Eggplant is allowable too. But purple.... purple is no where to be found. I've never had this much trouble finding a purple dress, but of course the catch is that I've never had to find one. When I'm not looking for them, they're everywhere. Case and point: Today on my way to work I stopped by the H&M to check to see if a skirt I've been eyeing had be discounted (answer: no... grr) when I came across a rack of dresses for $10 (actually, they were priced at $20 but the rack they were on said $10 so I went to the trouble of trying on the dress under the impression that they were $10 only to discover that they were actually $20 after I fell in love with it... I think H&M mislabels thing son purpose which makes me mad) ... but anyway, they had a purple one that was the exact color I had just spent the last two weeks looking for. The event I was buying the dress for has already taken place, so at this point I have no need for more dresses, especially this kind of dress that are not work appropriate. There was absolutely no reason for me to buy this dress, folks, but having just spent the last two weeks searching for purple, I find that my eyes automatically gravitate to anything purple anywhere so I'm going to argue that its not my fault but instead is a symptom of an unfortunate purple brain washing of some sort. So, yeah, now I own a cute not work appropirate possibly too teenie-bopper for me purple dress for $25. Its sitting int he bag right next to my desk right now. I look down at it and have to admit that despite all the reasons that I don't need this dress, I don't regret buying it. I'd do it again. Someone should start planning my purple dress intervention sometime soon.

Thanks for reading. :)