just some quick photos from today's campus visit...top is an eastern gamagrass flower in bloom ( probably the last of a remarkable [re]productive season )...keeping it in the grass family the next one is a mature hopi blue maize flower...there is a late flowering asparagus plant out there which will not have time to come to fruition but it has been poking along all season...you can tell the jerusalem artichokes are part of the sunflower family just at a glance...and the last photo is of the spiffy new sign out at the iu northwest community garden...neat.
the bbc world service comes on at 4 am on the local npr station and i usually listen to it on the way to work...this morning they were doing a broadcast form the north of england on the trials and tribulations of agriculture in a time of climate change...they discussed the drought here and then went on to talk to an english farmer about the overabundance of rain england has experienced this summer...he was unhappy about the amount of fungicide he had to use to keep the mold down on his wheat crop ( an issue my wheat did not have ) he said he didn't like to be "splashing round" a lot of chemical inputs but was forced to by conditions, even so he said that he experimented with some of the crop by only dosing it with half the recommended amount...the commentator (dan daymon )pressed by asking the farmer if, even though he was having some difficulties, the rising prices of grain futures wouldn't mean he'd get more for his crop...he replied that farmers were "market takers" they don't set prices but rather take what the market offers and that yes he did stand to make a bit more this season...then he said something telling...he added that even though he stood to make some gains it always seemed that when he made more money the price of the inputs he had to use ( he is farming wheat and barley on 600 acres...arable crops that can be harvested by machine so he's talking the full boat of industrial inputs, fuel, herbicide, fungicide, pesticide, and fertilizer ) went up a comparable amount...capital extracting more form a highly extractive industry ( you can tell i've been reading wes jackson )...another thread of evidence indicating the food issues we will be facing as the century wears on are a global issue and finding ways to cope locally is a first principle in the garden...i was on campus yesterday trying to find a couple of people ( found neither...but then it was the first day of the fall semester and i probably could have timed my search to fall on a better day...i will try again ) but was too wiped out by the time i got home to write much about it......in the top photo you can see the northern tepehuan teosinte has reached just about the same height as the hopi blue maize...hope it flowers soon...the second photo is of the rare brussels sprouts ( for me this season anyway ) and the third is of some chinese yam aerial bulbs up close...i wandered over to the iu northwest community garden after a bit to see what was what there...it looks fine and the fourth photo is of the potato bed with marigolds, geraniums, and some lamb's quarters intercropped ( actually the lamb's quarters are probably an interloper...but they're native and edible and since i am mostly an observer here i let them be ) they make a nice group even though the potato's season is about over...finally there's a shot of the garden from just south of the picnic table...it really is a pleasant place to spend some time if you're on campus and have a bit of time on your hands.
i was at the iu northwest community garden this morning and there doesn't seem to be much of anything anomalous there at all...the eggplants are still producing and there are nascent ones as well as some that are well on the road to maturity...the green peppers are no slouches either...there are multiple peppers on a number of plants and one that has produced quadruplets...i didn't include any photos of the tomato bed but that will be churning out fruit well into october if the weather holds ( and, frankly, i think november could still see tomatoes...why not? think back to march )...the potato plants have begun to die back...just within the 90-120 day parameter and can be harvested pretty much any time now ( they'll keep in the ground perfectly well like the tubers jerusalem artichokes produce...no rush )tubers are always a surprise...like growing peanuts...you never know what's going to be turned up...the bottom photo is a wider shot of the community garden around ten this morning...dead on schedule and verdant at the end of august.
the isla caucahua plant was pretty much done so i took the spading fork to it and found potatoes no bigger than the ones i harvested from the half barrel here at home...this plant wasn't much more than eight or nine inches tall and it was in full sun its entire life so i am going to conclude that either this landrace produces small tubers or there were some daylength issues at work...the potatoes i planted in the spring weren't all that much bigger than the ones i have harvested...i was thinking the potato introduction station was saving the taxpayers money at first...but now i am not so sure...the third photo is of the zea family ( i have adopted it ) and the fourth one is of a ladybug on the hopi blue maize...the second one i have found this season and this is a much better photo since i'm becoming more accustomed to my new camera...the last photo is the perennial garden project on the morning of the last sunday in august 2012...breezy and not as hot as yesterday...the fall semester starts tomorrow so i tidied up...did some weeding and hoeing...dead headed the jerusalem artichokes...and then i watered...have to impress the freshmen.
went out to procure a flash drive to share some photos with and my route conveniently took me past an industrial field i have been photographing all season and i thought a look was in order...the palmer drought indices say that short term we are in a a neutral area regarding precipitation but long term we are still in a moderate drought...it hasn't rained in a while and the rows are bone dry and the leaves are curling in protest...the field is still chock full of weeds that seem to be all doing so well that they've gone to seed...not good news for farmer brown ( unless he can unload the field to a developer...there are "improvements" such as storm sewers, curbs, and paved streets all around this field so there may not be another crop if the economy ever really picks up...but that's another blog ) who will be dealing with them later...threw in a photo that shows that thirty inch rows actually leave a lot of bare ground in a field...something you don't get to see from your car as you drive by...you might think that a verdant corn field is well covered and that there's not a lot of erosion going on...but a dry windy day probably does as much , if not more, damage than water
perennials have been the real focus of this garden for the last three years and they are doing well...some of them unexpectedly so...for how long this will last is an unanswered question...but that's part of the point of it all... just how resilient are they? especially the immigrants...the plant/replant perennial jerusalem artichokes are plant/replant only if you're trying to control them...let them alone and they will colonize an area to its limits..i am concerned about the small stature of this year's crop...there will either be a preponderance of tubers or very few...won't know until next month...the second photo is of a two year old stand of zea diploperennis whose continued existence i can only attribute to a mild winter...i will be mulching it heavily this autumn in hopes of preserving it for a third...a second season of root system building may give it a better chance of wintering over...if not it was a gift and a remembrance in one and i will keep the photos prominent...the exuberant gamagrass is in its third season...tough to germinate and seemingly tougher still to eliminate...it will be a relentless fixture for some time...especially if i can find an heir to the garden, if not the project...the chinese yams have been in the ground since the fall of 2009 and are reproducing as extravagantly as the gamagrass...hundreds of bulbs will mean a culling of yams in the spring...i am curious to see what i find at harvest...the asparagus is in its third season as well...properly cared for it has about twenty-two left...that would put me in my eighties and the garden well into the century...i'm game to try to be as perennial as the plants...if things fall out as planned this autumn will see a sea change in the direction of the garden and the disappearance of jerusalem artichokes ( from campus...not from home...i still like to eat them ) and annuals altogether...rootstock perennials will pretty much have the garden to themselves and there will be a shift towards permaculture...at least that's the plan as it stands...we will know the answers in september.
eighty-nine days and everything looks dead on schedule at the community garden...the potato plants are beginning to die back and the plant/replant perennial tubers will be ready for the spading fork soon...the eggplants continue to defy predation and produce more...lots of blooms left to come to fruition as well...the tomatoes are coming along and a few are ripening..a spate of late summer warm weather will help that along...they'll still be cooking along when the frost hits ( who knows when that will be...given last march's conditions it could be a bit late...or unseasonably early...i don't know...part of the adventure )...the green peppers are coming in in increasing numbers...lots of blooms in that bed too...good stuff.
a last minute call before i left work had an errand attached to it that took me to the supermarket which has the bean field next to it...i had been surmising about industrial corn being genetically modified to lose viability after one season to deter seed saving and make farmers toe the line on the one crop licensing automatically and this seemed like a good time to see how the volunteers in the bean field were doing...i can see hybrid seeds losing viability after a few generations but this is fairly extreme to me...long, stringy husks with no ears..warped, distorted stems...cobs with tassels but no husks or kernels...none of it was ever going to be edible straight out of the field but this is something else...pretty much science ( or, at least, science driven technology ) in the service of the input providers...a perversion of food...the more i look at this stuff the more it creeps me out.
just as i think the perennials are throttling back on production and planning to focus on feeding the roots for the rest of the season they assert their prerogatives and carry on...the eastern gamagrass has thrown up a new proaxe and terminal spear with an impressive floral display...more seeds on the way...and three asparagus plants throw up new spears in a late season burst of energy...the plant at the southwest corner of the garden did this last year...but it has always produced the greatest number of spears ( and it is one of the three late bloomers this season as well ) but the other two have habitually stuck to one or two spears...something in the air? the brussels sprouts are chugging along and i believe i see the beginnings of a rudimentary stalk...they are a fall harvest vegetable and i hope to see them producing up to the first hard frost.
an industrial worker and university student (everyone needs a hobby...my hobbies have evolved and, to keep things straight, i have left my formal student career behind for reasons that are too detailed to delve into here...continuing to be a student of life however and not adverse to learning...stasis is death ) sliding down the back side of middle age...a social loner with collectivist leanings...explain that.