Saturday, September 22, 2007

Food Revolutionary Alive and Kicking

Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and an activist who helped revolutionize the culinary landscape in the United States through her books and The Edible Schoolyard Project, makes lunch with Kim Severson from the New York Times in the article entitled, Lunch with Alice Waters, Food Revolutionary.

Alice's new book: The Art of Simple Food--focused on locally produced, seasonal foods--is due out October 2, 2007. At the age of 63, Alice continues to fight the good fight because, as the article says, "True, radical change — a country full of people who eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the earth — is simply not coming fast enough."

I've got the book on pre-order, but I'm crossing my fingers that it holds true to its word: Simple. I'm a little skeptical of trying to replicate the recipes of top chefs, but at least my money will be going to a good cause.

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Desiccation and Desecration

Laura Ingalls Wilder once asked: "Did you ever think how a bit of land shows the character of the owner?"

It's a question I prefer to ignore.

What does my desiccated, desecrated garden say about me? Perhaps it says Matt and I moved to Colorado in June, unpacked our entire lives and built a garden in a week, spent all day every day in Montessori training through June, July, and August, moved into and organized our classrooms, and started our first year of teaching in a Montessori classroom.

Excuses, excuses. At least my quasi-valiant attempt inspired one person to start a garden. And she actually followed-through on her attempt. That makes me feel a little better.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's a Miracle

After many batches of guacamole, too many toothpicks, and an abundance of stained plastic cups, Matt and I have succeeded in hatching our very own avocado plant. Maybe I shouldn't speak too soon. I don't want to jinx it.

It's pushing through the ground. Yes, Matt did prematurely dig it up a little, but now it is legitimately sprouting on its own. Hooray!

[I'm ignoring the fact that avocados don't grow well in Colorado]

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Get your mind out of the manure. That's P for Plant. My colleague, Sara Hill, brought me freshly picked vegetables from her garden today. Three tomatoes and a yellow squash. Why didn't Mel (of All New Square Foot Gardening Fame) mention that gardens grow very slowly?

Impatiently yours,


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Friday, July 13, 2007

Carrot Genocide

Aw shucks.

Remember how excited I was about purging the extra seedlings? I loved that feeling of plucking and trimming. It felt so nice to get it done while the plants were young. It was easy to see what I was doing, since nothing is very bushy yet.

Well, it turns out that Mel (of All New Square-Foot Gardening Fame) was right. I should've snipped the extra seedlings' stems with scissors. He warned that the roots might be entangled.

Shucks. I should've trusted him. I killed a lot of carrots. One more point for Mel.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Aloof Carrots


You know the feeling you get when you clean out your closet? Like really purge it?

That's what it feels like to thin and weed 66-square feet of garden.

[insert blissful sigh]

I wonder if I should really call it "thinning and weeding." The square-foot method of gardening (a la Mel Bartholomew fame) is all about minimizing the thinning and weeding. It's gardening for dummies. It's gardening for lazy dummies.

Of course I'm not really all that lazy, but I am a little skeptical about this whole "plant it and they will sprout" thing. That's why I planted 10-12 seeds in every hole, as opposed to the 2-3 that Mel recommended. He said 2-3 was enough to ensure at least one sprout per hole.

It turns out he is a wise, old sage.

It's a little late to admit his brilliance. Now I have a veritable bush growing from each little hole. Mel recommends cutting the extra sprout with scissors (note the singular use of the word sprout, since I'm not supposed to have 9-11 extra in every hole). I started to do this (especially since I'm really trying to learn to follow his advice). However, the scissoring felt tedious and slow. I finally resorted to plucking the extra sprouts, like in-grown hairs. How satisfying!

It feels so good to have one sprout per hole. Remember, with the square-foot method, I strategically spaced the holes out, according to the recommended thinning distance. That way, I won't have to ever thin, assuming I only let one sprout grow per hole.

The whole experience reminded me of working on an organic farm in Ecuador (run by a white American). I told him he needed to thin his carrots. He insisted that it was fine for them to touch and that they would simply grow out to the sides. He wondered why his carrots were so malformed and stunted.

Then one day he asked me to pick some carrots for the lunch salad. I asked whether he wanted me to pick the worst ones, so we could save the best ones for market. He granted me permission to find the best ones.

I made my way to the only patch of garden that actually allotted enough space for the carrots to grow in their preferred state of aloofness. Of course they were long and thick. He regretted giving me permission to find the best ones.

I think maybe now he thins those carrots.

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From the Dirt to the Table

Ah. To pick something from the garden and eat it. Indescribable.

Let me include a recipe instead:

Tomato (these aren't ready yet), Basil, and Mozzarella Sandwiches

  • Bread from a bakery (The best bread you can get your hands on! Seriously, the bread makes this meal. The Whole Foods on Kirby in Houston has a wonderful bread--kind of hidden in the deli section--ciabatta soaked in olive oil and sprinkled with dried rosemary. At the very least, please make sure the bread doesn't have high fructose corn-syrup, okay?)
  • Basil (preferably out of the garden)
  • Tomatoes (also, preferably out of the garden)
  • Real mozzarella (the balls that come in a plastic tub and soaks in water)
  • Salt

Directions: (I promise this is a very quick meal)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350-ish
  2. Cut the bread so it's ready to be a sandwich
  3. Put the sandwich pieces face-down on a cookie sheet and put in the oven while you work on the other stuff
  4. Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella balls
  5. Chop the basil into small pieces (you want enough basil to have one small piece with each bite)
  6. Assemble the sandwich by putting the mozzarella on first
  7. Salt the mozzarella (really, it has very little taste; this is a helpful step!)
  8. Add the tomatoes and basil
  9. Serve immediately!
P.S. If you have extra bread left over, fill a small dish with extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt and dry rosemary. Dip away!

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Battle of the Gardeners

So perhaps I should keep track of all the ways in which I deviate from Mel's recommendations (of All New Square Foot Gardening fame). He is, after all, a gardening guru, and I should pretty much follow his advice to a tee. But that is oh-so hard for me to do. Stubborn Sara.

By keeping track of the deviations, we'll be able to wax more empirical as things start to work and other things don't. Come to think of it, we should also keep track of all the ways in which we go against the advice of the Plant Doctor. She sits at her own desk, surrounded by reference books, at our local, rock-star gardening center, Echter's. She really does answer the phone with the moniker of Plant Doctor.

Deviation from Mel's Advice #1:
The whole point of square-foot gardening is that you calculate (fairly precisely) how many plants can grow in one square foot, depending on what the thinning recommendation is on the seed package. (Interesting aside: Mel was a military guy, and his penchant for precision is pretty apparent throughout his whole approach.) For example, carrots need to be thinned to 3" apart, so you can plant 16 in one square foot. This process prevents the gardener from wasting 1) seeds and 2) time thinning the plants. One you make the 16 holes, you're only supposed to plant 2-3 seeds in each hole. Once the strongest one emerges, you simply snip the other ones (whereas pulling out the extras could actually damage the roots of the strong sprout).

Well, seeing as I have never had a particularly green thumb (or any shade of green, for that matter), I didn't exactly have enough faith to plant 2-3 seeds in each hole. I went for approximately 10-12. Yes, your prediction is right. We now have 10-12 sprouts growing from each hole. Who knew this gardening thing would actually work?

One point for Mel.

Deviation from Plant Doctor's Advice #1:
Matt and I had heard about the possibility of growing tomatoes upside-down. The benefit is that you don't have to trellis them, and there's little possibility of rot, since they aren't touching the ground. Because we used up all of our trellis spots with the pumpkin, watermelon, and cantaloupe (we're growing them vertically instead of horizontally), we didn't want to go through the rigmarole of setting up more support systems. The Plant Doctor informed us that the gardening center had considered systems for upside-down tomato growing but ultimately decided against offering any of the supplies in the store. I delineated the benefits of the upside-down approach, but she argued that rot is not an issue in Colorado because of the dryness and that the soil will dry out too quickly if it's up off the ground in a pot. I laid out a few a morerguments but quickly realized that she wasn't going to budge. I capitulated, and Matt and I graciously followed her to the tomato support system section.

After she returned to her post, Matt and I quietly agreed that we, indeed, wanted to try the upside-down method. We also agreed that we would have to purchase the supplies stealthily, so as not to tip off the Plant Doctor to our insubordination.

After using a box cutter to cut out a 2-3" hole in the bottom of a hanging plastic pot, carefully threading the plants' leaves through the hole in the bottom (while leaving the compacted soil of the tomato seedling in tack so it would prevent the plant from slipping through the hole), filling up the pot with extra soil from our garden, and watering the pot until water ran out of the hole, we are well on our way to having healthy, hassle-free tomatoes.

One point for the newbie gardeners.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Solstice Stealth

Our first seeds sprouted today. My paternal feelings are a little odd. Even Matt is suffering from an acute case of anthropomorphism. During dinner, he was silent for few minutes, scrunched his nose and said, "If we go out to a concert tomorrow night, we won't get home in time to water our plants at their usual time."

Matt was the first to notice them. One pumpkin sprout. One watermelon sprout. One cantaloupe sprout. Awed by the fact that the three sprouts appeared on the exact same day, I asked, "Matt, did you dig the plants out of the ground or something?" He confirmed that he did not. Then he added, "Well, one of the plants did have a chunk of peat moss on it, so I moved the chunk to the side."

Later, I pressed further, "So, you didn't brush off any of the dirt from around the sprouts?"

One of Matt's most endearing qualities is that he cannot tell lie. Well, it's endearing unless you're returning a Penske truck to the rental place with a giant scrape on its side and you're almost home free because the inspection paper made a vague reference to a scrape in the exact spot but then he says, "You know if they ask me about it I'm going to have to tell the truth."

So Matt said, "Well, I did kind of take some dirt off the top. Just like a little."

There you have it. Matt unearthed our first sprouts. But today is the summer solstice. So maybe rituals like that are acceptable?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In It for the Long Haul

So the garden is up and running. Phew.

I'm too tired to even type about it. Really.

There was a point last month when I was debating about whether to follow the easy gardening path (i.e., the square-foot gardening method). I didn't realize that the "easy" gardening path would be so damn hard.

Matt and I pretty much devoted an entire day to constructing those boxes. Yes, power tools are fun, but they are more fun if you actually know how to use them. Fortunately for us, our super-friendly landlord was hanging out on the premises, fixing a few odds and ends. He was able to solve major conundrums in an instant: "Um, Sara and Matt, the reason you can't get the drill to work is because you're using the wrong drill bit."

Who knew that the deck screws we used to build the raised beds would actually come with their own drill bit? Why aren't these things taught in school?

And, stupid me, I followed my typical pattern of ignoring advice from experts. He recommended that we pre-drill holes in the wood before drilling in the screws. That's exactly what Mel said in the All New Square-Foot Gardening book. But the deck screw package said that no pre-drilling was required!

Alas, pre-drilling prevents cheap wood from splitting.

And, if you do try this at home, please wear protective foot ware (e.g., no flip flops). Matt managed to drop one of those cumbersome beams right on my toe.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

$180 Later

In the square-foot gardening book, Mel advises to start out small. Matt and I shirked his advice and decided that we wanted to have enough vegetables for a salad and dinner (for each of us!) every day for the entire growing season. That amounts to 65 square feet. We broke out the graph paper and decided to arrange our 65 square feet as follows:

(1) 2ft x 6ft bed for vertical gardening (cantaloupe, watermelons, and pumpkins)
(1) 2ft x 3ft bed
(5) 2ft x 4ft beds (with plywood bottoms, so they can be easily moved, since we're not sure how much sun stuff will need)
(1) 2ft x 2ft bed (again with plywood)
(3) 1ft x 1ft beds (for carrots!) (more plywood here)

Of course 65 square feet of raised beds (most of them with plywood bottoms) calls for quite a bit of wood. Oi vey!

Enter Home Depot.

Home Depot is an entirely different place during the week. No more DIYers. It's serious business with contractors and other polo-shirted men scurrying here and there. No wandering in the aisles. They have the sections memorized.

Matt and I, however, had to pop a squat smack dab in the center of the aisle (on top of our parked flat bed shopping cart) to do more calculations (I had my graph paper on a clipboard). Since the plywood was 4ft x 8ft, we had to reconfigure our original plans (which involved 2ft x 5ft beds) so we could use one sheet of plywood for four boxes.

Then we had to draw out each piece of wood and divided it into sections (i.e., we needed 12-1ft pieces, 18-2ft pieces, 2-3ft pieces, 2-6ft pieces, and 10-4ft pieces) to make sure we had bought enough 16ft pieces of pine wood (the cheapest we could find). But then it turned out that we had been reading the signs incorrectly and had stacked the wrong sized wood onto our flatbed. Twice.

Splinters abounded. Matt and I bickered about how to do the calculations on the graph paper. We were each wrong at least half a dozen times. We stopped and kissed.

The hours passed.

We realized that the raised beds would actually be two inches wider than we originally calculated because you rotate the corners to make a box. For example, the piece on the left side of the square gets screwed to the outside of the piece that goes across the top. Then that piece gets screwed to the top of the piece going down the other side. Then that piece gets screwed to the outside of the last piece. Since each piece of wood is two inches wide, the end results is a box that is two inches wider than the length of the wood.

This realization (a la Matt) affected our plywood estimate. The 4 x 8 plywood would no longer fit our boxes. That is, of course, unless we decreased the length of each piece of wood by two inches. So instead of getting 18-2ft pieces of wood, we would need to get 18-1'10" pieces of wood. Aack!

The saga continued. Really, I could on and on about the wood situation. I cursed myself for my arrogant commitment to 65 square feet. Then the Home Depot wood cutters gave us a hard time. They asked us if we were positive that we wanted them to cut the wood (at $1 per cut after the first two free ones). While I was looking for wood screws, they convinced Matt to buy a saw instead. If we were going to spend $67 on cuts, then we should surely buy a $40 saw. Matt was perfectly commited to the idea until I asked, "And how, pray tell, do you plan to get 6-16ft pieces of wood plus 2-10ft pieces of wood plust two pieces of particle board plus 13-6ft wood laths into your car?"

He replied, "I'll tie it to the bike rack."

I raised my eyebrows.

We went back to the wood cutters and informed them that we did, in fact, want to spend $67 to cut the damn wood. It's a lot cheaper and faster than a trip to the emergency room.

So, long story short:

1) Do draw out your garden on graph paper first. If you aren't sure about the sun and shade situation, plan to cover the bottom with plywood so you can move them around the garden once you get things figured out (our boxes are big, so we bought plywood that is 5/8 inches thick).
2) Purchase wood that is 2in x 6 in. If you want carrots or other things with deep roots, plan to buy 2in x 12in wood.
3) Buy outdoor deck screws that are 3.5 inches long. You'll need three in every corner. Do the calculations before you get to Home Depot!
4) Don't forget the wood laths. They are really cheap. Mel says a garden isn't a square-foot garden unless it has the grids on top. Yes, I do follow his advice sometimes.
5) Plan to spend several hours procuring supplies, unless you follow Mel's advice and start simple.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Survey Says

We decided what to plant in our garden. In order to reach consensus about the decision, Matt and I implemented a new process. 1) We brainstormed all the possible ideas. During this time, we did not comment on each other’s ideas. I know, I know, that’s the actual definition of a brainstorm, but I’m not good at holding myself to this kind openness. The judgmentalness that my grandmother bequeathed to me forces me to critique and question every idea. It’s an annoying habit. And because of it I am not much fun to collaborate with.

2) Once we brainstormed all the ideas, we agreed upon the criteria for decided which options to go with. In this case, we decided that we should consider two things: first, does it grow in the summer and second, do we already eat it frequently? We decided not to experiment too much in year one. We’re keepin’ it simple.

3) We then applied our two criteria to each of the items on our brainstormed lists. It was refreshingly simple! We reached consensus immediately. Our 2007-2008 garden will consist of the following:

Tomatoes (of course)
Red and green bell peppers
Carrots (lots of them)
Pumpkin (to be ready for Halloween)

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ah Ha Is Not My Favorite Palindrome

So, remember the avocado seed that was doing well and then wasn't? Rumor has it that we had it growing upside down.

The Moral of the Story: Put the avocado seed in water, wide-side down.

Very interesting. And here I am, blogging away, trying to inspire others to follow my gardening lead.

It reminds me of my first job. Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, FL. I was a 16 year-old, and I rotated every thirty minutes to a different part of the museum: I ran the hurricane machine, I presented liquid nitrogen shows (yes, they even had me pour it down my arm), and I staffed the butterfly garden. I would delight in showing people the tiny, white butterfly eggs hidden snugly under the leaves. People would exclaim, "Oh. I'm so glad you pointed them out to me; I would've mistaken those for aphids and sprayed them."

A few months passed. Amber, the resident entomologist, stopped by to check on the garden. She poked around for a while and said, "Oh. Looks like we've got to get rid of these aphids."

So, for your own sake and the sake of your garden, please double-check any advice I give you in Google.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Verdict Is In

Is it really a surprise that Practicality won the debate with Purity? Well, maybe it is surprising, if we're talking about it in the context of my own life.

Last week I was debating between the old and new versions of the square-foot gardening method. The new version seem so simplified and so yuppified; I worried I would be selling out. Process matters. Our society's over-emphasis on product has left us in quite a few conundrums.

Actually, I'm not trying to say that process matters more than product (even though I do love Annie Dillard's idea that "how we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives"--the idea that our processes end up equaling the product.). It's just that our when we end up compromising the integrity of our process in order to attain a specific product (i.e., the ends justify the means), we end up creating an unintended bi-product. And that's one of the problems plaguing our world today.

Wow. I'm already seeing how gardening holds so many enduring and essential understandings about Life. Cool beans.

This Sunday morning, reading in bed for an hour or so as I productively coped with my resistance to getting out of bed, I confirmed my choice to go with the new edition rather than the old.

Yes, the new version is simplified and yuppified, but it does it in a way that doesn't compromise my integrity. The newest modification is that I will build my garden entirely above ground, using a soil mix that I create myself from three different things purchased at a gardening center or home improvement center (i.e., 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 blended compost). I will build it in a box constructed with 4 x 4 wood planks (which I should be able to procure for free at a construction site, as long as a supply my best smile).

I will then divide this into 1 x 1 sections with a grid. This construction will allow me to plant a few seeds into each one hole in each section. I will abort (using scissors) all but one of the sprouts, so I save myself countless hours of thinning later down the line.

I'm quite fine with the idea that I will not have to battle with soil pH. Bleh! Besides, gardening cannot be my only hobby (I'm also considering taking up jazzercise, seriously). And, in fact, my primary reason for gardening is to produce food for my table. So it really has to be easy and productive.

I nearly cried (with joy), when I read this neat and tidy statistic: "One 4 x 4 square food garden box (equal to 16 square feet) will supply enough produce to make a salad for one person every day of the growing season." One more box will supply the daily supper vegetables. One more box will supply enough vegetables for preserving or sharing. I mean, come on people, it doesn't get much better than that!

So I think Matt and I will plant exactly 5 of these boxes for year one. Well, I may have to grow some extra carrots for snacks.

Mel, the author, advices against starting so big in one year, but, as the Dalai Lama says, "I am optimistic, but not without effort." I know I can do it. Hooray!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Avocado Omens

I'm in denial. Like an obese person who indulges in a week-long, junk-food blitz and then refuses to step on the scale.

My avocado seed was doing so well. With "was" being the operative word. Matt went to a student's home, and the mom taught him how to grow an avocado seed. Take the seed from a delectable avocado. Let it dry out. When it's completely dry, peel away most of the dark brown exterior. Poke with toothpicks and immerse half-way in water (heavy-side up).

I've taken to making guacamole. For birthday parties, community picnics, dinner at home. Really, it's just an opportunity to grow avocado trees. The more guacamole I make, the more seeds I get to grow, er, attempt to grow.

Unfortunately, not a single seed has sprouted. They crack. They split. But they do not grow. [see photo, which looks promising, but it never progresses beyond that point]

My inability to get a single seed to sprout (okay, okay, it's actually more like 54 seeds; 6 guacamoles x 9 different parties) does not bode well for an entire garden. At least I've perfected my guacamole recipe:


  1. 6 ripe avocados of the perfect consistency* (*not too firm and not too soft; if they are too firm, you will not be able to mash them easily with a fork; too soft = icky brown mush)

  2. 1 red, red tomato* (*go for the ones that are still on the vine and pick the reddest one you can find)

  3. 1 jalapeno pepper* (*when I looked up the spelling on google, I read that jalapenos should be "firm, smooth-skinned and have solid green coloring." I concur.)

  4. 1 medium purple onion (aren't they called "red" onions? For the life of me, I can't figure out why.)

  5. Fresh cilantro (yes, it must be fresh)

  6. 2 lemons

  7. Kosher sea salt (okay, it can be any kind of salt, but this is my favorite)

  1. Slice off the end of the avocados. Then do what the Whole Foods sandwich makers do: Start at the sliced-off end and slice around the avocado. It's fun to see if you can get your cut to match up once you've gone all the way back to your starting point.
  2. Then whack the knife into the side of the seed and twist. Voila! The seed should pop out (if you've managed to procure avocados that are ripe enough). Oh. Maybe this is why my seeds aren't growing? They're suffering from a blow to their bodies? Oi vey.
  3. Scrape the inside of the avocados into a bowl. It's better to overestimate bowl size rather than underestimate. You don't want to have to do unnecessary dishes.

  4. Mash the avocados with a fork. Don't mash them to your preferred ultimate consistency. There's still more stirring and mashing to come! I would say get them to about 75% of your preferred consistency.
  5. Chop the jalapeno into tiny bits. And wash your hands afterwards! The juice is unforgiving. And your eyes will never forgive you if you touch them during this process.

  6. Pull off a fistful of the cilantro and chop it into small pieces. This part is a pain, but you probably don't want massive chunks of cilantro.
  7. Add the cilantro and jalapeno to the guacamole. Stir.

  8. Look at your guacamole and think about what it will be like to eat it. Will most bites have a tad bit of cilantro but not too many tad bits? If you need more, add it now.
  9. Chop the tomato into small bits and add to guacamole. Do not stir again.
  10. Squeeze half a lemon into the guacamole. Be careful not to let any seeds slide in. As Julia Roberts used to say, they are "slippery little suckers."
  11. Now stir everything together. Really well.
  12. Taste. Then add salt. If it needs a little more taste, add salt.
  13. If it needs a little more kick, add more lemon juice. But not too much at a time. There is no ctrl-Z in real life, friends.

  14. Serve! (with chips that aren't too flimsy)

  15. Store in tupperware (if there's any left). It will be gross and brown tomorrow. Just stir. It's a miracle.
This process is actually much easier than 15 steps will make it seem. I promise. If only growing seeds were this easy...

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Foraging at the Bookstore

I hate when I'm attracted to the "New in Hardcover" table at the bookstore. Just like a moth to the light. I can't help it. The table is right in front of the door (of course). I'm a classic consumer. The books cost so much more than soft covers, and I don't like the pretentious feel of hardcover books in my hands. But I could not resist purchasing Plenty: One man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. In fact, I was surprised by the number of titles related to food production. Eating locally and organically is on the up-and-up. Mark my words.


Unfortunately, the gardening section was quite pithy. Alas. I'm still waiting for my square-foot gardening books to arrive at the local library through inter-library loan. I can't decide between the old or new edition. The newer edition seems even more wannabe-gardener-proofed than the first one. On the one hand, that's probably good for me (given my inability to nurture even the most hardy of house plants). On the other hand, it feels really lame to take so many short cuts.

Actually, I probably will sacrifice my principles. Making it harder on myself is not likely to yield the desired end. As Stephen Covey said in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you've got to start with the end in mind. Then again, in contrast to what Machiavelli says, the ends do not justify the means.

I feel okay going with the newer edition. I'll still be using real dirt and real seeds and stuff.

Hey, get this. Here's the dedication to the new book I'm reading: "To maverick farmers, fishermen, gardeners, foragers, and others feeding the future."

That's me! (er, that's about to be me!)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Let the [Gardening] Games Begin

So, I hit adulthood at last. In other words, I'm finally ready to start a garden. I honestly haven't lived anywhere that explicitly permits gardening. I do currently live in a house that's been converted into four apartments, and I somehow manage to have a composter. It's of the plastic variety, and it mingles quite inconspicuously with the trashcans. Since I'm moving in three weeks (to a place that won't require me to compost my organic waste in stealth), I cleaned out the composter a few weekends ago. Now an amazing vine-ish type thing is proliferating in the black circle of rich soil.

In an attempt to make real gardening that easy, I've looked into a book called Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work. The author, Mel Bartholomew, talks about the woes of trying to lead a community garden. He talks about the cycle that the average person goes through: 1) super-enthusiastic, over-zealous new gardener with all the new tools 2) increasingly busy parent/student/wife/daughter 3) shopper who gets fresh fruits and vegetables from the produce aisle at the local grocery store.

To combat this natural cycle of life, he developed an ultra-convenient yet ultimately satisfying gardening method. Since I've really only read about it on the "See Inside" pages offered by Amazon as an enticement, I'll refrain from going into too much depth. It involves gardening in square-foot plots in order to be more strategic about how many seeds get planted at once (to avoid thinning, which is apparently very tedious) and to avoid an over-abundance of one particular type of harvest. He also advocates planting in cycles, so that the harvest supplies a steady supply for the dinner table.

Ah, the dinner table. And thus emerges my ultimate reason for gardening. Can you imagine plucking your own organic vegetables from the ground and then eating them in a lasagna or on a pizza an hour later? Sheer bliss.

I suppose I shouldn't count my vegetables before they sprout. I'm the girl who "cooks" for herself by opening a box and heating a cardboard tray in the oven for 50 minutes. At least it's an Amy's organic meal. And I'm cooking it in an oven rather than a microwave.

Leave me alone.

That's just what I do for lunch. For dinner, Matt and I primarily cycle through our favorite restaurants: Madras Pavillion for Indian, the Hobbit for hippy food, Black Walnut for cheesy, oozing things, Star Pizza for cheese that is tempered with a healthy dose of vegetables. After all, Houston is the fattest city in the U.S. (down with Detroit!). But we've been cooking at home more. Black bean and yam quesadillas with curry powder, fried tofu with garam masala and peas, tomato/mozzarella/basil on ciabatta sandwiches. I like it. I feel physically and environmentally more healthy.

After two weeks of cooking at home consistently, I think I'm ready to take up gardening.

Did I just say that?

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