Friday, March 29, 2013


the search for a new stock pot for the upcoming holiday took me out to the strip mall and so i paid a visit to the industrial field to see what was up...i found hundreds of small black birds ( starlings? ) out in the field...finally something natural there...the were busily cleaning up the grain left behind last autumn and there seemed to be enough to support a large populati )n both in this field and the one across sterling creek drive...still no sign of either development or a new crop but the season is very early yet...after the successful acquisition of the stock pot i drove over to campus to visit with a few people ( you are never there on fridays coach!) and have a look at the pgp and the iuncg...spring here has remained fairly cool ( although today is quite mild if you happen to be out of the breeze ) and even though they don't look it from a distance there is movement in both gardens...the intermediate wheat grass from kansas is greening up and the forage variety ids putting up shots next to the northern tepehuan teosinte...the gamagrass continues to "green up" and if the temperatures remain this warm for a few more weeks ( fifty degrees fahrenheit or so ) i will be unmulching the asparagus at the pgp in a couple of weeks and planting the same at the iuncg...part of me wants this to hurry along and another part wants a smoother transition than we had last year...patience will be a virtue either way...see the iuncg post for movement there...more as it comes up

iu northwest community garden

the iuncg may not look any more lively at a distance than the pgp but there's movement here as well...nothing much going on in the beds but the buds on the cherry tree are growing and there will be leaves soon was sunny and a bit warm out there when the breeze died down can smell the new season.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

building a community

i was out on campus checking on the pgp and strolled over to the community garden to do some thinking about plant the planning meeting last wednesday rebecca told me i could use to beds instead of one so i can expand my population somewhat...i plan to move the asparagus to the bed in the center row to give them fuller sun and i can fit twenty-one of the plants i have up and running into it...the other bed can be given over to the zea family...even if the teosinte doesn't come up i will be planting hopi blue maize and sweet corn, intercropped with some potatoes and, maybe some beans...i ordered more fall green manure to put in after the middle of july and purchased some pvc pipe to make a couple of worm towers for the red wigglers i intend to let loose in all i need is actual spring and we're in business...more as it comes up.

a little snow in the forecast...

...but there's still movement out there despite some lows well below freezing the the last week.. but .the garden looks pretty dead right now but the die-back from the last season's wheat grass has provided a protected niche that is harboring a number of new shoots, including a grass that looks an awfully lot like teosinte...beyond that the forage variety of wheat grass is itself greening for the new year as is the eastern is entirely to cold to unmulch anything and there are ( allegedly ) three to six inches of wet snow due here tomorrow...the recent spate of precipitation has lifted lake county out of a drought condition into neutral territory moisture surplus yet...the drought map for the area is white, not green, so there is always a possibility of a return to a i recall last spring was fine as far a precipitation went...summer is what dried us would be nice to return to some semblance of normalcy for a season but i don't think "normal" is going to continue as the already moved up a notch in hardiness zone terms and i'm afraid that trend toward a climate shift will continue...what will that do to the jerusalem artichokes? we're going to try to find out over the long haul...with their help and that of the ginseng, ramps, and lamb's quarters...we'll see how the natives get on.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

a year's worth of difference

i was out on campus today for the iuncg planning meeting...i will be doing two beds instead of the one i have already started which will allow me to devote one to asparagus alone and will provide homes for more then twelve of the forty-one plants i have up and running all over this house ( some under the grow light...some in natural light just to see if there's a difference in the way they develop...will keep an eye on that after they are in the ground as well )...the other bed will be devoted to maize and the tesointe ( if it germinates ) and a side of potatoes...both beds will be getting a dose of green manures as well...planning some hopi blue maize for sure but am thinking of perhaps some red dent and some blue and white speckled mandan if i can find seed...if not some sweet corn will do in a pinch just to give a contrast between heirloom and "improved" varieties...either way it falls i'm looking forward to it...last yer at this time temperatures were in the eighties ( fahrenheit ) today it is twenty-seven degrees...a somewhat more typical indiana spring...despite the cold the teosinte shoot continues to advance, showing signs of developing a second leaf while the wheat grass from kansas is still chugging along unperturbed by the cold...the eastern gamagrass continues to "green up" and will be up for another season directly...i have to wonder if it will indulge in another reproductive frenzy this year...waiting for the weather to break to do more work on bed preparation both on campus and at home...this entails a bit more work but only marginally so...i will be on campus all summer anyway and another sixty-four square feet of space is more to work with and all in a good's a transitional moment...between winter research and spring in the patience is wearing...more as it comes up.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

early start?

i went to campus to help set up the anthropology club book sale ( all books a buck's on all next week ) and, as usual, i was i went over to the pgp to poke around in the forage variety wheat grass to see if i could find any new growth...i did ( first and third photos )...a bit farther down the bed i pulled back the die-back from last season and i found something that wasn't wheat grass...look at the purplish stem on the sprout in the middle photo...looks a lot like tesointe to me...and in an area i seeded last autumn as i was's warm there in the garden... next to the black landscaping fabric covering the asparagus mulch and insulated by the wheat grass die-back...i recovered the sprout with the dead wheat grass since the temperature is still getting below freezing at's early and the sprout may not make it but i will be keeping a reasonably close watch on it...more trips to campus after's getting busy early.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

grasses are greener today

i went by campus to plant teosinte seeds and have a look around the garden and i found movement...the eastern gamagrass continues to "green" and the interiors of the plants are all showing signs of chlorophyll returning to the will be some time before it becomes obvious from looking at the outside of the plant but the middle, protected from the weather, has started the new season ( top three photos )...the forage variety if intermediate wheat grass ( fourth photo ) has begun to green as well...the grass is fairly well smashed down because ( i believe ) some critters have been sheltering there over the winter...the grass will recover and the leaves that have died back will both provide a mulch and rot back as nutrients for the new season of growth...the wheat grass domesticates from the land institute have never gone dormant and at least one has new growth in the form of tillers...i have hopes for a good season from them and plan to let them colonize a fair part of the center of the garden...still entirely too early to unmulch anything and my concerns over whatever it was that burrowed into the chinese yam bed still stand...those come out of dormancy rather late in spring so it will be something of a waiting game to see if there will be any...fortunately i have an ample amount of aerial bulbs form last season if there has been some poaching going on...the new perennial season is underway...more will be cropping up in the next few weeks...then it's the annuals' turn.

channeling chapman

i procured a quarter pound of northern tepehuam teosinte seeds this season intending to become the john chapman of least in lake county a part of this i went out to the pgp on campus this morning and planted both northern tepehuan and some zea diploperennis ( just in case the stand did not overwinter ) there will hopefully be two locations on campus with "wild and weedy ancestors" of maize on display...theh zea diploperennis seeds ( second photo ) have been consistently darker in color than those of the annual variety...some of the research i have read suggest that the darker the seed ( at least in the case of teosinte ) the more viable it is...empirically there may be something to this...i have had a much higher percentage of planted zea diploperennis seeds germinate compared with the lighter colored northern tepehuan teosinte ( top photo ) which are much more fickle ( which explains the quarter pound of seeds and the idea of planting in multiple back yard will have some seeds too ) after i was done planting at the pgp i strolled over behind lindenwood hall to the community garden and, with my green sharpie marker which i remembered to bring along, i tagged the seeds i planted yesterday...the snow that covered the beds last weekend has disappeared and this late in march i wouldn't expect to see them covered again ( a sure way to invite a blizzard, no? ) and inn a few weeks there will be asparagus and potatoes to keep the grass company...i can smell the new season

Friday, March 15, 2013

making the bed

in a day filled with activity i stopped off at the iu northwest community garden and started the season...the ground is thawed just enough to take care of what i wanted to do which was start the annual teosinte...mid-march is usually when i try to sow this particular plant ( although i did put some in at the pgp and in my back yard last autumn to see what would happen if i "naturalized" the cycle ) because it needs cycles of frost and thaw to break dormancy ( or you could soak them in a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide for twenty minutes...but that's cheating ) and now is the time for that...i started by turning in one hundred and twenty pounds of composted cow manure to enrich the soil...then i rummaged through my bag of seeds to find some dark ones which are more viable and i planted multiple seeds in a row about eighteen inches apart...they are notoriously fickle in germinating ( at least in my experience ) so if they all show up some thinning will be in order...if all goes well by later this summer they should resemble the plant on the right of the trio in the bottom photo ( from left to right northern tepehuan teosinte [annual], zea diploperennis [perennial teosinte which is heavily mulched at this time and which i hope puts in a return appearance in the garden ], and a stalk of hopi blue maize [annual] that was on its last legs ) i'm calling it a start to the 2013 season and about time too...i have been reading about local food, food sovereignty, the destruction of traditional agriculture, the value of small scale diverse organic farming, community gardens, and the evils of bio-fuels all winter...time to put some theory into practice and root around in the soil to see what comes up.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

march grasses

i went out to campus this morning to see how things were and get something of a handle on what to do there later in the month and, as usual, there were normalcies and surprises...the forage wheat grass is still completely dormant and the wheat grass from the land institute is still mostly green...nothing new is what has been going on all winter...the ground has thawed enough that i could remove the remains of the brussels sprouts which i brought home for the compost pile...they were clearly done and they needed to come out...the asparagus, teosinte, and yams ( if indeed there are any,,,still don't know what burrowed in there last autumn ) are still mulched and will be for some time to come barring a repeat of last march...but when i got to the gamagrass i had to look twice...are those leaves "greening" already or did the grass never go completely dormant? that stand is four years old now and you can bet the root system is massive and and the winter has not been one i would call i will be watching ( and writing about ) this over then next few weeks...late march early april was when this behavior started in the past so it's a might ( or would that be mite? ) early...then again we are hardiness zone six now so as ecosystems drift northward and upward in altitude it could be the new normal.

the iuncg and relentless asparagus

while i was on campus today i went to the iu northwest community garden to have a look at the bed i will be using for the coming season ( and , hopefully, more since i am putting in perennial food plants as well as few annuals )...looking it over i figure i can put ten plants around the perimeter ( twelve if i fudge a bit on the separation )...this leaves the central part of the bed for some inter-cropping...i hope to be out there next weekend putting in some compost and some northern tepehuan teosinte since it needs a cycle of cold to break dormancy...that will be down the center and in may i plan to put in some hopi blue maize to hopefully have an ancestor and a variety of its domesticate growing together ( still an anthropology student...still looking at domestication...trying to participate in it at the pgp with the wheat grass from kansas )...the potato introduction station in sturgeon bay wisconsin is sending me five strains of tubers to work with this year and i will be putting them in between the asparagus and the maize...those should be done by july ( and will be the basis for another attempt at a potato saving experiment to see if i can produce a second generation...the last one was destroyed by the fire )...when those come out i will be seeding the open space with a green manure inoculated with rhizobia bacteria to recharge the nitrogen level in the is a mix of annuals and perennials ( specifically winter rye ) and the rye will act as a reservoir for the nitrogen that can be turned under in the will be a busy bed if things go well...but a cyclically producing bed is what i'm after...future seasons may see a change in annual denizens but not in the overall plan,