Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Organic Gardening: Lesson One - You Can Do This!

This blog has become something like the old slumber party game Truth or Dare for me. By choosing to live in an ecovillage that is open to the public and deliberately demonstrating sustainbility my life has become an open book. By having a blog I am taking this book, previously read by a few dozen people each year, and broadcasting it on the internet for the whole wide world to see.
I find this a bit daunting.

But I believe in truth in advertising, and it only seems fair that if I am promoting Organic Gardening and encouraging you all to have, if not a proper garden then at least a pot with a tomato plant, the least I can do is show you what I am doing here at Dancing Rabbit.

So I am posting photos of my "garden." I am hoping that rather than being appalled you will find it inspriational, and think "heck, if she can turn that into a garden, I can do anything!" Dear readers, I live to serve.

The photo above is of our "front yard." February is indeed bleak - the snow has melted, the soil is very muddy, and we have yet to glimpse the little green nubbins poking their heads out to signal the beginning of spring.

Our strawbale house is to the left, out of camera range. The upright posts in cement footings at the left of the shot hold up our solar water heating panel, which provides hot water for our tub, shower, and sinks (kitchen & bathroom). In the center of the shot is our compost bin, which one day will be painted and have climbing clematis all over it. To the right of the bins is our wood shed. Built entirely out of reclaimed materials, it too will someday be painted and covered with flowers. The shingles on the roof and sides, by the way, are scraps from the local pallet mill that Kurt cut to size.

But back to the garden itself. There are two beds, marked by sticks and covered with straw. While they look suspicously like graves (don't mess with the Rabbits!) they are, actually, my asparagus beds. Planted two summers ago, we finally get to harvest the stalks this year. I have melted butter waiting already.

Around these two beds I'll be prepping additional beds and planting other veggies and flowers.

Moving on the the other side of the yard:

In front of the solar panels is a now-invisible bed where I grew tomatoes, peppers and a few flowers last summer. I'll be expanding the bed, and planting the tomatoes and peppers elsewhere this year. To the right, out of camera range, is the Milkweed Mercantile. While it is hard to believe now, by the end of the summer this entire space will be green and filled with blooms and vegetables.

Your assignment this week:

1. Make a list of three vegetables you like - Fresh-from-the-garden-baby lettuce? Tomatoes? Sweet bell or hot anaheim peppers? Zucchini or delicata or spaghetti squash? spinach? Okra? Cucumbers? Carrots?

2. Now add a couple of herbs you'd like to try. Consider basil, cilantro, dill, peppermint, sage, oregano, thyme... If you need inspriation, check out a vegetarian cookbook. Two of my favorites are:

From Asparagus to Zucchini

The Gardener's Community Cookbook

3. Take a photo of where your garden will be. Is it covered in weeds? Fabulous. The "before" photos make your accomplishments all the more spectacular. And sometimes when you're in the middle of a project is is difficult to remember just how far you've come. So take a few photos. The uglier the better!

With your dream list and your garden area decided upon, we can start serious planning next week. See you then! (and if you still need seeds, check out our offerings here.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In Support of Gay Marriage - To Our Friends, With Love

"We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it."

Sign the petition (text printed below) by clicking here. Do it NOW. And pass it on!

Tell the Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr's case, and let loving, committed couples marry. DEADLINE: Valentine's Day

"We, the undersigned, share President Barack Obama's view that "for too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect."

Yet, on December 19, 2008, Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund filed legal briefs defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and seeking to nullify the marriages of 18,000 devoted same-sex couples solemnized before Prop 8 passed.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case on March 5, with a decision expected within 90 days. We, the undersigned, ask that the Court enforce the equality promised to each of us by our constitution and invalidate Prop 8. So doing will protect all loving, committed couples in California -– including the 18,000 who said "I do" last year –- and prevent the initiative process from being a tool for stripping vulnerable minorities of precious constitutional rights.
As Americans who believe in the rule of law and fundamental civil rights, we know that Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund's shameful attempt to nullify equal protection and all these bonded unions will be condemned in the eyes of history.

We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it."


Alline and Kurt, aka "The Milkweeds"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Etsy - Affordable Hand-Made Artisan Wares

It's no secret that I love Etsy, or at least it shouldn't be.
"What's Etsy?" Oh, man, are YOU in for a treat!
Thousands of artisans list their wares for sale. Some are, well, still need a little work. But many
(so many!) of the items are absolutely beautiful, inventive, creative, and just plain fabulous. There is a group of Etsians called Team Eco Etsy - when you go to the site, do a search for "teamecoetsy", and you'll be rewarded with items made with sustainability and general eco-grooviness in mind.

Some of my favorite Milkweed Mercantile items come straight from the crafty hands of Etsy artisans. We have soft sweater balls from Handmade Pretties,

Soft Sweater Balls $20 (baby not included)

...gorgeous letterpress cards (on recycled paper) with quotes from authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson from Letterary Press,

From the American Thinkers Collection, set of 8 cards for $17.00

...inspirational pendants made with recycled Scrabble tiles from Home Studios,

Live Simply Pendant, $11 (including chain)

Flower Rattle, $16

...and Wally Ware, hand-made pottery from Tom Edwards in Colorado .

Wally Goes Vegetarian Plate, $28

The American crafts movement is alive and well. What a nice change from plastic junk made in China! When you need a gift, for yourself or for others, please consider handmade!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Organic Gardening Season - Beginners Welcome!

Soon, you too will be sprouting seeds that will turn into spectacular vegetables! Photo Credit: jade19721 on Flickr

The seed catalogs are here! Whoooeeee!

I never knew how much fun looking at photos of tomatoes and reading descriptions about types called things like "Mortgage Lifter/Radiator Charlie’s” could be. Yes, it’s true, we don’t have television (at least one that’s hooked up to anything besides the DVD player). But it is currently a bone-chilling 19 degrees outside – I’m inside, by the warm and cozy fire. The cat is at my side, purring, and I am surrounded by a dozen delicious seed catalogs.

Amish Paste Tomatoes - one of THE best types to make your own pasta sauce and catsup.

Snow is on the ground but summer grows in my heart as they arrive by the armful, filled with gorgeous photos and irresistible descriptions. How is a mere mortal to choose?

Jalapeno peppers. Imagine them diced into your own fresh salsa, or stuffed with cream cheese. Yum!

The Milkweed Mercantile is proud, happy and excited (well, let’s just say that I am proud, happy and excited) to be carrying seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Located in Virginia at Acorn, another intentional community, SESE is a marvelous operation. By purchasing SESE seeds you support organic farmers, keep heirloom and open-pollinated species in production, and have the opportunity to grow some of the most delicious vegetables and herbs around. What’s not to like?

Chioggia Beet - have you ever seen anything so gorgeous? (Besides Hugh Jackman in "Australia," of course...)

We’ve carefully selected the seed varieties that we like the best and have had good luck with. But that’s not all. No, we’re not giving away ginzu knives, but we are including our favorite recipes with many of the seeds. And every Wednesday we’ll be walking you through the gardening season, step by step right here on A Passion for Green Business, the official blog for the Milkweed Mercantile. We’ll start with the basics – soil preparation and germination, and move to preparing the garden beds, transplanting the seedlings, dealing with pests organically, harvesting, and then canning/preserving and cooking. Yum!

Success is practically guaranteed. You can SO do this!

Click here to take a look at our selection of seeds.

We are humbled by and grateful for your business - every single pack of seeds that you buy helps us craft a sustainable life here at Dancing Rabbit. In return, we will do everything we can do to support you through the gardening season and in your own sustainable life!