Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homegrown Sustainability - Some Ideas That Make Cents!

Dear Folks,

I am always on the lookout for ways to get more out of my efforts, garden, cooking, and life in general.  I like to recycle, not just in the current meaning, like turning in cans to metal recyclers (I do that), but in real - use-as-much-of-it-as-you-can ways, or maybe a better way to say it would be to waste as little as possible. I compost kitchen scrapes, feed stale bread to the birds (along with the birdseed we dole out), share extra food with neighbors, calculate my driving route to make as many stops with as few miles as possible, recycle using community bins, give things I can't use anymore to Goodwill, and share my ideas, experience, and knowledge with you.

And I worry, about everything - drives Deane nuts - but it is also what gets me looking into "how" to do things better or easier.

What if, I say to myself, everyone who could garden, did so, and then shared some with the folks next door?  What if you made a decision to waste as little as possible?  What if you got as involved in concepts like sustainability, local-focused purchasing, or really making every cent you spent worth more than the value you purchased - you know the old expression - "got my money's worth" - I look for "more than my money's worth" in many of my purchases.  But I'm not cheap - I don't try to get a good value for a poor price and put a neighbor out of business.  The built-in obsolence so prevalent today really makes me sad.  What if you got creative to achieve those goals?

Don't have a 'yard' to garden in?  A florescent light fixture, windows, plastic 2 liter soda or water bottles, some organic fertilizer and you have a "window garden" producing edibles -- some people have even made them with wine bottles.

Hydroponics and Aquaponics and really neat ways to grow food with as little waste as possible. 

Check our "WindowFarms" for a really creative way to garden in your home.  A couple of points about these ideas - the 'elaborate' farms are truly inspirational, but also require more investment in pumps and tubing, etc.  I am going to try to get around to setting up a simple version by just positioning bottles in a vertical pattern, where one drains into the next lower one and the bottom bottle catches the nutrient dense liquid and then I can take and pour it back through the top once a day.

SIDE TIP:  If you have an aquarium, you quick start your seed sprouting for sowing in the garden, by tying up the seeds (best with larger seeds) in a bit of cheese cloth and placing them in the tank or filter compartment.  The constantly circulating water speeds up germination time and rate (the amount of seeds which actually sprout).

Some very impressive systems have been set up to circulate water through fish tanks raising fish like tilapia for food and growing edible plants hydroponically.

Check out this Mesa family's big project to turn their pool into producing most of their food.  Besides their website they have also written a book about it called "Year of Plenty."

On a smaller but highly motivated scale - one cook who shares tips and recipes on started a blog on their decision to home-grow at least some of their food weekly.  Begged, Borrowed and Homegrown    "When I became unemployed last winter, I had to rethink how I cook, and what I eat, so that I could fit it in my budget. "

Ideas, these kinds of experiences give me lots of ideas.

One I looked into several years ago, but have not yet implemented is growing rice and crayfish in a kiddie pool.  Before you send me a note that it is illegal in Az to raise crayfish (they are an invasive species), I checked in with some officials at the UofA about it and "contained' and not accessible to rivers and streams etc. is permissible.  The idea is based on the Louisiana practice of farming rice and crayfish together, which began in the 18th century. "The concurrent culture of rice and crayfish makes use of land, resources, equipment, and infrastructure already being used for rice production."  I have not tried the concept yet because I am still trying to get my mind around actually eating the crayfish, that I raised (had a "pet" crayfish when I was a child).  But I like the idea of raising them on vegetation as opposed to the wild alternative.

Chickens - there is just something about raising a few hens for eggs and having them help you - in a supervised way - with the garden:  they fertilize it, eat the bugs, turn the soil and generally rotate any plants you want them working.  And if you need something spread around in the garden (like mulch), put it in a pile in the garden and let the chickens have at it - they can spread it faster and wider than you can!

And of course, there is the just plain simple idea of gardening in the soil or large containers here in the desert which is easy, economical, rewarding, peaceful, and you get to eat the results!

Hope these impressive ideas give you ideas!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


nlper999 said...

Always remember not a lot of traffic out of AJ, but some. HEre in the Twin Cities, I've been able to get rid of old text books and computer stuff. And also scored a great Lowry elecric organ for my brother's band, and a cool older American flag.

Anonymous said...

thanks Catherine. Homegrown is definitely in now.