Friday, November 30, 2012

asparagus and beans

the grow light i installed in the basement has weekend has been effective as the old one has slowed the growth of the industrial soybean which was growing entirely too tall as the natural light has become both less direct and of less duration...instead of investing energy in vertical growth it has begun to develop a third tier of leaves and hopefully a more extensive root system...the asparagus plant i identified by the seed casing has begun to both green up and "fern"...if it continues to develop well and grow ii will be soaking more of the seeds i harvested form the campus garden and starting more plants to put in the bed at the iuncg in the spring...i was ( and still am ) prepared to resort to purchasing year old crowns to populate the bed but i would much prefer to grow the plants from seeds...the usda sent me some zea diploperennis seeds that arrived here today so i will begin to scout out suitable locations for both them and the northern tepehuan teosinte...spring is only about 110 days away.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

peri-urban agriculture

"asian cities, as seen from the air, have been traditionally surrounded by a bright green corona of high-productivity market gardening, extending to the radius of the economic cartage of night soil." mike davis "planet of slums".______________________ "the impact of such problems ( pollution, particularly of surface or groundwater supplies)on the urban periphery is magnified by the fact that it is usually an area of major importance to the urban poor, offering them opportunities for cheap shelter, woodfuel, farming, and other economic activities. the destruction of this ecosystem is thus viewed differently by the urban and peri-urban populations." david drakakis-smith."third world cities".__________________________________________________ you can find quite a bit of information around about urban and peri-urban agriculture and its importance to the communities of urban poor around the world... you can find it here as well...the i u northwest community garden qualifies as urban agriculture...and most kitchen gardens in northwest indiana fall into that category as well...the produce grown in urban and peri-urban gardens in the third world ( for want of a better term...there would seem to me to be many more gradients of political and/or cultural organization than just three) provides the people there with an alternative source of subsistence outside the formal economy just as my kitchen garden provides me with some fruits and vegetables more local and doubtlessly more wholesome than the foods i could find in the supermarket at a much lower ecological ( if not monetary ) cost...that existence outside the formal economy seems to me to be a key ingredient of "urban agriculture"...a response born either of necessity or from dissatisfaction with what the formal market supplies ( or, possibly, both )...bearing that definition in mind i have to reject the idea that the industrial agriculture that takes place inside city limit or on the peri-urban fringe is urban's still industrial agriculture...mechanized and dependent on petrochemical inputs ( and so a contributor to the pollution of surface and groundwater drakakis-smith singles out as a major problem for the urban poor trying to grow some potatoes or peppers or tomatoes ) the biomass it produces is a commodity destined to become hot pockets, mountain dew, or feed for that future big mac...which may also be what the formal market envisions as food for the urban poor but whether it's healthy or not isn't on the radar if it doesn't impact the destruction of arable land by suburban sprawl presents a deeper problem than just saving it from gated communities of pretentious mcmansions...the methodology and philosophy behind what it grows and how it is grown needs to be security has traditionally been a local concern...adapted to local conditions and carrying capacity...the days of drawing on resources from afar are numbered ( the "pink lady" apples from new zealand allowing an out of season snack will be a thing of the past )...time to learn to eat in season again and grow a sustainable agriculture.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

sprouts and droughts

last day of the long weekend (for me ) and everyone is at work but and at loose ends i drove over to campus not expecting much from a closed garden...i was mistaken in that...despite the recent cool off i discovered that the brussels sprouts are still producing..small but harvestable i brought them in and left the plant up to see if there is any more movement there...the wheat grass from kansas is still up and running...the palmer drought indices long-term hydrological conditions still show us in a moderate drought and the moisture content in the soil in the garden reflects that...if the wheat grass refuses to go dormant ( and as i recall the winter wheat i planted on campus and at home last year never did go dormant due to the weird winter) ) i will have to start watering...if i need to water plants in december i will go toe to toe with the staunchest climate change denier with absolutely no fear ( and while we're on the subject have a shufti at the n y times op-ed piece about new york's eventual submersion in the atlantic )...i've been sold on climate change for quite a while...a watering can in december in northwest indiana ( recently moved into usda hardiness zone 6 )mshould ice that for anyone...iknew there would be life in the garden again...i just hadn't thought i'd find it so soon...stay tuned...this could be an even weirder winter than last year..what's that old proverb about living in interesting times? or was that a curse?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

it's still a peculiar place II

there's a laundromat in the town i live in that has the residential quarters for the owner/manager attached to the back of the shop...they live where they work...don't see that much anymore...but that's the way it used to be...industrial capital clustered its operations in urban centers along rail lines and everyone but the elite lived close to work...light rail allowed the managerial class to escape to the "suburbs" but the real change came, as brugman and a multitude of others point out, with the advent of the federal highway system...that was when the real socio-spatial adjustment removing living space from work space came about and all but the very poor became suburban and exurban commuters...everybody gets their own chunk of space ( and i am guilty as anyone of commute is only six miles...but it is still a commute form a bedroom suburb to an industrial center even if it markedly shorter than can tell how close i live to industry be the property values ) and that was where things stood until 2008...the concept of everyone owning their own space may still be valid in the eyes of developers ( witness the signs...even the corn field i have been monitoring all season has been sold [unit 2] but i wonder where the capital has been frozen in corn all summer...wonder what's on tap for 2013 ) may just be a smaller chunk of space with a bit less of a arable land acreage will continue to shrink if the conventional wisdom set has its way...that could prove to be regrettable down the road...i would never really have noticed how complicated the relationship between the rural and the urban is if ii hadn't started driving around farm fields and looking to see what's in can take you to odd places.

Friday, November 23, 2012

it's still a peculiar place

"federal highway construction suddenly reduced the importance of locating manufacturing facilities...and neighborhoods...adjacent to rail lines." "welcome to the urban revolution"jeb brugman______________________________________________ the neighborhood disinitigrated into suburbs where there is no neighborhood or community...just satellite tv, cul de sacs, mini-vans, and suvs...i drove a little closer to the borderline of the nexus between rural agriculture and suburban sprawl that is one of the defining characteristics of this backwater in the milwakee-chicago-detroit megapolis...this spot probably isn't more than forty-five miles as the crow flies form downtown chicago and it can't be more than seven or eight from a junction of two of the streams of federal highways that jeb is speaking of...on a good day you can make it to the loop in forty minutes if the ford holds abuts a field that had soybeans in it just a month and a half ago ( you can tell by the stubble...identification of the most recent crop is made much easier by having a two crop monoculture in the industrial fields ) and the dividing line between zoysia grass and the fields of mutant zea is well defined and abrupt...plowing speaks of an effort to install some sort of cover crop ( although it is a bit late...i will be looking at this out of curiosity ) and the signs dug into the fields speak of the sprawl's intention to continue pandering to the desires of the developers and builders who need "growth" to keep the cash flow going...there has to be a natural limit to this and arable land is valuable for more reasons than housing...i wonder when we will begin to understand that?

indoor movement

i had said yesterday that the pot i had put the asparagus and hopi blue maize seeds in was still dormant bu this morning i discover it is alive with activity...still a bit early to tell what they are but two seeds have germinated ( if i am going to hazard a guess i would say asparagus...but ii have been mistaken before )..i went out to the shed and prepared a couple of pots with potting mix and compost then took a teaspoon and carefully lifted the plants ( which both had well developed roots ) and put them into roomy new homes...if they are asparagus it will be a challenge to keep them in pots large enough to accommodate their roots until spring rolls around and i can get them into the bed i will be starting in the iu northwest community garden early next spring...more as they become identifiable to my identification skills. 3:26 p.m. 11-23-2012 i believe the telltale remnant of the black seed case still attached to on of the germinated plants clues me in to its asparagus ancestors in the pgp at would be neat to establish a second generation on campus from the original 2010 crowns i to see if it thrives and if i can keep the root sstem happy until april or so.


it's black friday and i am determined not to indulge in consumerism so i went out to the corn field to see how things were...what i discovered was a reduced amount of cobs with seems the wildlife has found a food supply ( i startled a flight of geese sheltering in some tall grass next to the field [the weather has turned decidedly more winter-like today] and i can only surmise that they were there for food as well as shelter ) could that broken cob with a few kernels left be the result of a deer hoof? maybe...or maybe someone just stepped on it ( not me ) whatever the cause there does seem to be less corn in the field this week than's going to be gleaned whether it abuts a few "big box" stores ( whose parking lots were surprisingly under parked...particularly walmart...perhaps they will finally get the labor unrest they so deserve )...i will be making a few more trips out there to see how things progress...more later.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

acacia corner

the acacia, the bean plant, mother-in-law tongues, an unidentified plant ( because it's a flower not a grass or a food crop...don't have a clue ) and the unmoving asparagus and hopi blue

beans III(a)

a pre-thanksgiving dinner trip out to the supermarket for pesky forgotten items took me to the vicinity of the soybean field so after i put the purchases in the vehicle i wandered over tot he edge of the parking lot and took a look...the winter cover crop is doing well ( as are the wheat grass plants on campus and in the back yard...more on that after a campus trip late this long weekend ) and, surprisingly so are the a degree anyway...there are still a lot of ungerminated seeds and a large number of seed pods about and there are still seeds that are germinating as well...this in spite of a hard frost this past week ( and still the germinating seeds are those that are protected by old bean stalks and other organic matter...i haven't seen anything that is in an exposed area )...but there is nothing out there the size of the bean plant here under the acacia ( and that acacia always puts me in mind of the acacia on the landing in the boardinghouse in the novel "steppenwolf"...hesse wrote that while he was in his mid-fifties and that may be why it resonated so much more for me when i reread it recently...i believe i will post a photo ) and i think the temperature is the cause...anything that grows large enough to be exposed is being done in by the the beans are still behaving in a counter-intuitive manner by germinating in november..more on this and the dense yellow number two field as i get out to them later this weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

beans III

the little soybean i brought home at the end of october and planted in some potting soil and compost is thriving in the cool temperatures and low light ( or. more accurately, shorter day length ) and has grown to over six inches in height in a mere three weeks ( to the point that i have begun to contemplate just what larger pot i will be transplanting it into and what i will be using for it to vine on ) this all strikes me as unnatural, particularly since the web site for all the industrial seed giants place soybean planting firmly in the spring...the hopi blue maize and the asparagus seeds haven't budged so just to see what happens i have begun soaking a couple of industrial corn kernels in water and i will be planting them over this holiday weekend to see what ( if anything ) comes up...sometime this weekend i am planning to take an excursion out to the bean field and the corn field to have a look around...i am a bit leery of this because both fields are near retail establishments and there will be a real chance of serious traffic...obviously friday is not a good time for this so i am thinking the post will be up later in the weekend...a maintenance trip out to campus is on the agenda as well...crowds and traffic should not be an issue there...more on the kansas born wheat grass friday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

fifty-fourth day of autumn

the weather has turned markedly cooler here in the last week or so...i saw some snow flurries earlier one morning this past week on the way to work and the garden is pretty well shut down for the season...the only thing still up and running is the wheat grass...the brussels sprouts in the background have seen better days and will be coming out next time i can get out here...the mulch repairs seem to have survived the wind with no problems and, if past experience holds true, should be good for the winter...most of the work out there over the next few months will be checking on the grass the meantime the oddly timed industrial soy bean seems to be doing well in a fairly cool, low light has deployed two new leaves and shows signs of new growth at the top...the mixed medium of potting soil and composted manure seem to be to its liking...i have to say that i have gotten a scarlet runner bean to germinate and grow well in the dead of winter...but that is an early spring planter adapted to cold beans ( to the best of my knowledge and going by the industrial seed companies planting guides ) aren't...the hopi blue i planted the other day remains quiet and i suspect it will do nothing more ...time reinvest in a heat mat and grow light so i can start plants early next year.

Monday, November 12, 2012

hot-wired nature

"in agriculture, we hot-wire the landscape, bypassing nature's control is...fruitless to argue whether the beltsville hog with the human growth hormone gene spliced inshould exist, or if we should be using biotechnology to develop herbicide resistance in soybeans. what makes us think we can adequately assess these proposed projects? only our cartesian assumptions that we know enough to run the world..."- wes jackson from "nature as measure"_________________________________________________ my little hot-wired slice of nature is growing nicely with a second set of leaves developing in the diminished november sunlight under the acacia tree...but why? the average soybean planting date in indiana falls between mid-may and mid-june depending on can be cool then but i am willing to bet this drafty house we're in right now is am i so off base in wondering why this bean germinated in a field after harvest in october? especially since my first experiment with asparagus seed ( and asparagus is a cool weather crop ) hasn't budged? i've been wrong before so just to see what might happen i took a kernel of hopi blue maize off one of the ears that are hanging in the living room ( and will provide some of the seed for next spring's maize ) and planted it in a container under the very same plants around the same time as round up ready soy beans ( i planted the maize that grew on campus last season on may 25th which was also the iuncg's planting day ) and i am curious to see if it germinates or if it knows what time of year it is...certainly either the bean plant is confused or i am...more if and when it comes up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

batten down the hatches

i noticed some damage to the landscaping fabric i am using to cover the mulch on campus during yesterday's visit and since there is a wind advisory on tap today ( sustained winds of 25-35 mph with gusts of up to 50...the sky this morning was dropping hints to a change in the weather as well ) i thought i should contain the damage before it got i put down another layer of landscaping fabric over the damage ( and used up the last of my fabric staples... always a surprise at how many i can run through ) and then put down some compost around the edges just so the wind wouldn't have anything to get under and lift...the plants won't complain about the extra organic matter in the spring so it's ( i hope ) a win/win...gardening is an all weather sport and there always seems to be something to's scheduled to get a bit cooler here in the near future so things may slow down...but they never stop...more as it comes up.