Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some Stats

I usually don't take as long to update my blog and when I wait this long, I feel obligated to provide some sort of excuse. The excuse: Laziness. There, I'm glad I got it out, I feel much better. In defense of myself though, some of the delay can be attributed to The Doghouse 3's recent increase in popularity; we've been playin local pubs and other venues most every weekend.

Yesterday afternoon I listened in on a Web seminar hosted by The Garden Writers Association Foundation (GWAF) and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. The topic: "The Impact of Home and Community Gardening in America." Here's a few interesting stats:
  • 19% increase in food gardening
  • 34% increase in spending on fruits and vegetables
  • 32% increase in purchase of vegetable plants
It sounds to me like what we've all been hearing about an increased interest in growing your own food is definitely a happening. Y'all will probably be hearing more about this in the coming months as a new growing season gets underway.

How 'bout the 2009 perennial plant of the year? At the time I posted about ornamental grasses I had no clue the Perennial Plant Association had selected an ornamental grass, Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' (Golden hakone grass) as their Perennial of the Year. I have almost made up my mind to start using more ornamental grasses in my landscape. I have the luxury (only if I don't mow all of it) of having a huge yard so I'm not limited by space concerns when deciding on larger varieties of ornamental grasses.

I'd like to use golden hakone grass as an edging because of its size; a foot or so tall, and a couple of feet wide make it nice for what I have in mind. If you visit PPA's Web site you can download a PDF of 'Aureola' and if you look at the picture at the bottom of page 2 you'll see what I mean. For me, the appeal is its draping effect more so than the coloring on the blades. It doesn't need to do anything but flop and droop in order to look stunning.

I'm still workin on the new blog template and hope to have it implemented sometime this weekend. I expect lots of input. Another kind and gracious blogger, Ms. Kylee, has also offered her expert advice on the transition. Thanks again, Ms. Kylee, Dave, and Ms. Jennifer for all your help. Please keep Jennifer's daughter in your thoughts as she recovers from surgery. Although considered minor surgery, the procedure required putting the youngster under general anesthesia, and to a Mom and Dad, and little girl, that can be mighty scary.

I snapped this during a recent snowfall. Thanks to my son for alerting me to its presence, I was able to get a few nice pictures from about 25 yards, with my Sony DSC-H1, 12x optical zoom. This has been a really good camera, but it's beginning to show some wear and tear.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Scary move

Once a year Martha Stewart publishes her finest issue of Living. Before you start ridiculing me for saying that (I was lambasted some time ago when I posted about Felder Rushing because someone thought I was promoting him) go pick up a copy of this year’s gardening issue (March, 2009) and see for yourself. On Page 128 is Douglas Brenner’s article “a new hampshire haven” with photos by Eric Piasecki. I was immediately impressed and longed to be in the beautiful garden of Marney Bean, who is featured in this piece. As most of us know, gardening is a work in progress and Bean’s garden is one that has developed over a 30-year span.

My garden is nowhere near as beautiful as Bean’s, nor is it as beautiful as ones I see on most of the garden blogs I visit. I look back on the time when after we first moved here, we cleared a junkyard to put in our very first vegetable and flower garden. Had I looked further ahead back then, the garden today would probably encompass most of our 4 acre lot. Our garden is still quite a ways from being complete, and that’s okay because as I said, gardens are a work in progress, a never ending work in progress, and I doubt our garden will ever be complete (at least not in the sense of something being finished or done).

And perhaps I might say the same thing about my blog. I seem to be constantly working on it, trying to fertilize (even, heaven forbid, using chemicals), cultivate, propagate, and instigate new growth, hoping to impart a little terroir when it's all said and done. I’m looking at a possible repotting, i.e., new template, at the present time. I’m still learning, and as I go, new and old friends Dave and Jennifer have been kind enough to offer their help. Jen is a Web developer, and Dave knows more than I do about blog templates and what not. But it's goin to be a scary move. I uploaded and previewed a new three column template and was alerted to the fact that I would lose all of my widgets, including Google's AdSense (adding it was a little bit more involved than others). But Dave says "it helps to trim out the stuff you don't want anymore." I'm still workin up the courage to make the switch, so it'll not happen yet. (But it won't be long.)

I'm thinkin it was about five or six years ago when I first noticed what we're all seein taking place within our food system right now. Folks have begun to wise up about what they eat, where it comes from, and a lot of us are growing our own. Community supported agriculture seems to be pickin up speed across the nation, and that's a good thing. Here's what a local farm charges for their weekly produce baskets and a description of their program.

Basic Share: Cost $490; Weekly Pickup
Half Share: Cost $295; Semi-weekly Pickup

The Half Share gets the Basic Share amount of produce, but only every other week. The weeks that the half share subscribers come for produce are based upon starting either the first or second week of the season. The subscriber comes every other week. The first pickup is assigned by Meadow Rock Farm.

Our average season is about 21 weeks so for a full share it averages out to $23.00/week.
Payment Terms: ($50 deposit is required to reserve your membership)
1) Pay in full, cash or check, by May 1, 2009. ($10 savings discount off total)
2) Two payments, May 1st and June 1st. (No savings discount)

Leo Hickman, Guardian reporter, interviewed Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini who said, "We're all full of gastronomy, recipes etc. Turn on a TV anywhere in the world and you will see an idiot with a spoon. And every newspaper and magazine has recipes and a photo of the dish taken from above like a cadaver. It's a form of onanism and is masturbatory. We must normalise food rather than put it on a pedestal far out of reach."

And I’m hearing from pundits that the middle class is disappearing; is it any coincidence then that I feel very very transparent in the garden?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fun decisions

Some of you might know that I write a weekly gardening column for a small town newspaper. I was told its readership is around 5,000 but I'm not really sure if that means 5,000 total, or 5,000 who receive the paper in the mail, plus those that buy the paper at stands throughout the county. Sometimes when I'm talkin across the garden gate I'll ask the other person if they read my column in the paper and more times than I care to admit they'll say something like, "No, I only get the [insert name of bigger city paper(s) here], or "What paper do you write for?" or "No, but is it online?" And on and on. Over the years I've come to accept such answers, reluctantly, but I suppose it's part of what's happening with reading the printed word vs. reading online, vs. reading period.

I have to decide on a week to week basis what I'll write about, and rarely will I turn to past articles I've written for topic ideas. I assume that my choice of material will be interesting to my audience and I also assume that it has been interesting or else I'd probably be receiving negative feedback. I've been doing this going on six years now and surely by now someone would've said something to me if I were writing boring stuff.

This week's topic is ornamental grasses, and there couldn't be a much more easier thing for you to grow in your garden. They don't require much more than a once a year trimming once they're established, are rarely, if ever, bothered by pests or diseases, and the best part - look marvelous in the landscape. I'd tell you more but that might cause those of you locals reading this not to buy the paper! One thing I will do though is post a couple of interesting pictures that I'll be using alongside my article in the paper.

They're kind of like before and after shots, but I will be trimming back to six inches or so above the ground, some folks trim all the way to ground level, and that's okay too.

Can it survive?

I think so.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The cost of things

I'm considering allowing ads. Especially after hearing from a friend who pockets a hundred bucks every now and then from the ads on her site. I visit other blogs with ads, most are not the flashy animated ones like you see on popular retail Web sites so I'm not put off. A couple of y'all have ads on your blogs and if what you're sayin is holdin my interest, the ads are invisible. Since I'm not workin full time, any and all extra income helps.

In order to save a little, we've cut back on a few things. I was reluctant to reduce my internet service from high speed down to 55 mph, but it's not that much of a difference. And we canceled our home phone and are now using strictly cell phones. I've also canceled plans to attend the Granddaddy of all Flower Shows this year, which was a tough decision, but necessary we think.

I hope y'all don't think I'm whining, but some of you might. I think a few of my in-laws have changed their view of me since before the election when they found out that I was voting for Obama. Some seem to believe that no one is worse off than they are, and if you think you've got it bad, just walk a mile or two in their shoes and you'll see otherwise. Do you know someone who thinks your problems or worries or financial difficulties are not legitimate because they don't match the level of struggling that they go through? I do.

I've not made the decision to allow ads just yet. I'll read up on it some and make my decision soon. Just be forewarned and please don't stop visiting, that'd really hurt my feelins.

Having said all that, I've also been doin some contemplating about a few other things regarding ... oh ... I don't know what to call it without it sounding cliche. Everyone's heard all the terms and most of y'all are fed up with them. So I'll try to explain it the best I can without using those other words. Here goes:

I'm on a steering committee for a commercial kitchen incubator project development plan. And we've just began distributing surveys (which are a type of feasibility study) to see if local farmers or market gardeners might be interested in using such a facility. Just click Regional Food Venture at Munnell Run Farm to read more about the kitchen incubator. I've had interest in this project for about the past five years or so and now I'd like to try and integrate its use into other areas besides farms and food entrepreneurs. I think our local schools and their lunch programs need revamped and I know this is a concern on the national level as well.

What will it take for such a facility to become viable in an economically depressed area of rural Pennsylvania? How might the President's stimulus package have sway with local conservative politicians who're seeing the small farms of their constituents being auctioned off left and right?

How does talk of growing your own food measure up against talk of a trillion dollar national deficit? I might not be able to answer questions like that, but I do know this: we all have to eat!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Say Nothin' Saturday (With one exception)

Sonnet for Spring

New growth in spring brings to my heart a song,
of birds and bees, of trees and every plant.
I listen as it sings that winter's gone.
Aromas waft like Gregorian chant.

A seedling poking through to bright sunshine
is stretching forth with two new leaves of green.
I conclude that this new life is sublime,
transcending what I know of earthly schemes.

A gentle rain is washing memories
From the backroads of my mind into view.
I see early blooming lords-and-ladies
Covered with a blanket of morning dew.
A robin chatters from the arbor gate,
Flying down to devour slender ground bait.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Old is new again

Someone recently told me to "put a new blog up today - the snow pics are old!" Which caused me to do some rethinking of my priorities. And then after I rethunk things, it hit me...and became almost as clear as the sunlight in that photo: I must write! Not only about gardening, but about other stuff. And not only do I need to write about things, I also need to get out and become more active in the community gardening realm. When I say community gardening, I'm not specifically referring to a community plot where folks rent a section of dirt and do their thing there, I'm also talkin about the backyard and frontyard gardens of friends and neighbors. So, I'd like to thank Shawna for the jolt of realism at a time when I needed it.

Who knows, I might even take a trip out west to Renee's Garden. I get a media packet about this time each year and I don't think I've ever seen a more informational seed packet than what Renee does her seeds up in. Each is printed with all the information about the plant that you'd find in a full size catalog. They're too lovely to toss so I laminate them use them as plant markers. And even though we've still got at least a foot of snow, I can dream about sunny California and how Renee might like havin an old Kentucky boy visit her garden.

These seed packets have all the info you need printed right on the packet itself. There's not a more attractive way of doing this, at least not one that I've seen.

It might be a little early to blog about Valentines Day, but I'm going to anyway. I have a favorite picture of my two youngest kids taken when they were little. My sister arranged them on a stump that's along the edge of her yard in Kentucky. I'm guessin my little sweetie pie was five, and her brother was seven. I want you to pay particular attention to her curly hair. Mine was very much like that when I was her age, I've seen the photo and if I don't forget, I'll ask Mom for it when we visit in April. April is nice in Kentucky, my wife says it's great seeing spring at a time when you expect it, instead of like here when spring shows up only when it's damn sure winter is through! Pardon my French, but sometimes we don't get spring weather till late June. My son, AJ, and his sister Meghan look like two valentines in the photo. And they both are the sweetest of sweethearts who've given me more joy than they'll ever realize.