Something’s Eating My Broccoli – or the Big Swirley

Well, here we go.  Something is feasting mightily on my broccoli plants.  Now, mind you, the plants are getting big, but as of yet, no broccoli.  So, low and behold, Saturday morning I’m checking for signs of the green stuff when what to my wandering eyes should appear but a miniature worm and eight tiny reindeer ( oops, sorry, got carried away).   Not  just one caterpillar, but many, many little green squirmy things!    They are reating HUGE HOLES in my broccoli leaves. 

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This damage is mild compared to some other plants

This damage is mild compared to some other plants

 Some leaves have been eaten completely away!  I ran to my organic gardening resource material and yes, my friend, there are many caterpillars that love to feast on growing veggies – no surprise – but WHAT DO I DO!?!  Pick them off, is the answer in the book or use “an organic pesticide.”  So, being in a hurry to do I don’t remember what, I opt for the picking off method since I don’t have time to research the other option.  Out come the ice tongs and a cup and off they come, one at a time, leaving little threads of silk floating in the air.  About 10 of the little suckers.  And what punishment fits this heinous crime?  They deserve nothing less than the big swirley – or for you  novices,  flushing down the toilet. 

So, feeling vindicated at having saved the precious broccoli I go about my business.  Sunday morning arrives and NO, IT CAN’T BE TRUE!!!  Not just more of the awful creatures, but LOTS MORE!!!  This is what I found….

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This is a 1/4 cup measure.  You can see they are eager to slip over the edge and get back to the feast.  They got the same sentence as their other partners in crime.  But, I can’t stay outside all day and pick off the little suckers, so what can I try next?  My Mom suggested spraying soapy water on them and see what happens.  Oh, my!  You should have been there.  I almost felt guilty for making them suffer.  One or two sprays and they are raising their little heads as if gasping for breath, rolling over exposing their soft white underbellies.  I left them there and went back later to check and they were gone.  I had given all the plants a good spray with the mixture and saw no more interlopers that evening.  I will check them tonight and see what’s up.  We had a good rain last night and some today so the soap may have been washed off.    Wonder if this will work with the infamous squash bugs I have been told are rampant here in Oklahoma?   

On a lighter note, the cukes and dill are coming up!   Saw a lady bug on the lettuce. Now that’s my kind of bug!

Keep it simple.

Update on the great tomato experiment.  It failed.  The last of the seedlings withered away to nothingness, so I visited my locally owned farm store and bought six big lovely plants – 2 Better Boys, 2 Juliettes and 2 cherry.  So far so good.  They made it through the weekend :-).

The Great Tomato Experiment

Had a great weekend!  I shoveled dirt all day Saturday.  I got the third raised bed completed and planted cucumber and dill seeds.  I got a big planter ready for sweet potato slips coming in next month and planted tomato seedlings.  I’m calling this the Great Tomato Experiment of 2009.  Lets just say the first round did not go well.  I let the seedlings in the starter tray get very dry and droopy – big mistake.  I have never started tomatos (or anything else for that matter) in seedling trays and they got very leggy and droopy pretty quickly.  Guess that’s why people who actually know what they’re doing use grow lights and don’t just stick the tray on the kitchen table in front of the patio door and make the poor darlings stretch for every ounce of sunlight.  No wonder they got long and droopy.  Anyway, back to Saturday.  I planted them in 12″ pots and watered well.  They were pretty limp at this point.  Later in the evening a heavy thunderstorm with pea size hail came through.  The situation went from mere drooping to laying flat – not a good sign.  Yesterday they were not only laying down but seriously shriveled.  So out they went and in went the leftovers from the starter tray, watered and looking almost healthy! 🙂  I did not water them again and this morning they were still standing upright!  If this attempt fails I will break down and buy plants from the local nursery although I wanted to be sure and use heirloom varieties and I’m not sure they offer that sort of thing. 

So, before filling the third bed I went to the rock place and got half a ton of dirt.  Now keep in mind that the DH is off on a guy’s hiking day and this is all up to me.  Let’s just say a pickup full of dirt is a little harder to stop when applying the brakes.  I’m tooling along about 40 mph approaching a 4-way stop and apply brake pressure at the normal interval.  Just kept sailing on through the stop sign and finally came to a halt halfway into the intersection.  Its a good thing I was the only vehicle in sight!  So, I slowed down and made it home without wrecking the new/used truck.  Of course, after using up the dirt I had left in the backyard it became obvious I did not need to spend that $30 on new dirt after all, but  too late now and it had to be unloaded from the front of the house to the backyard one wheelbarrow load at a time.  Lucky for me the next door neighbor was replanting her flower beds and pulling out grass and clay.  So I gave her some dirt and irises that needed to be thinned.  I was moving a load of dirt, taking a break, sipping some wine, moving a load of dirt, taking another break, stopped sipping wine since it was causing major hot flashes, moved another load and then stopped completely.  Out of energy big time and anyway, my sister in law called and wanted to go out for Mexican food.  Hmm…let’s weigh the options here…shoveling dirt or eating fresh tortillas and guacamole…..you figure it out.   So, the dirt got rained on and turned to mud in the back of the truck, but the DH unloaded it for me Sunday and now all that expensive dirt is just sitting waiting for bed #4 – okra, lots and lots and lots of okra!!!

To plant in May: purple hull peas in the bed with the currently growing onions and broccoli; straight neck yellow squash in the bed with recently planted cukes and dill; sweet potatos in the big planter; okra and cantalope in their own beds.  Two more beds to buy lumber for and build.  This is an expensive venture but next year will be SO much easier!  I would like to plant some peanuts, too.  Maybe they can go in on one end of the okra bed.  At some point this has to stop :-).  The lettuce is growing nicely and the strawberries that are ripening are sweet and tasty.  Ah, the harvest ahead will be heavenly!  

Keep it simple.

Check Your Vinegar – Is It Made From Petroleum?!?

Good morning, friends.  Its been a while since I’ve posted.  A LOT has been going on in my corner of the world.  Ever since the Oklahoma Sustainability Conference, I have been immersed in peak oil and post carbon reading.  I’ve joined a couple of new groups that potentially will be very exciting to work with and hopefully will bring some good results for our local farmers and communities in general.

I’m on a steering committee to bring a Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter to Oklahoma City.  Our mission is to set up and disseminate a network of information and opportunities to bring local farmers and consumers, restaurants, farmers’ markets and stores together.  Farmers may join Buy Fresh Buy Local at no charge.  Farmers Markets, restaurants and stores will be charged small annual fees to be part of the program.  We will write, print and distribute a Buy Fresh Buy Local guide that will list all the participating members and will hopefully bring in more income for our farmers while providing everyday people like you and me fresh and healthy produce and other farm products. 

I also joined a local book group that focuses on environmental and local food issues.  They do a great job of bringing in local experts to lead discussion of the current topic.  For the next three months we’ll be reading The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience by Rob Hopkins.  This is a wonderful guide to bringing a community from consumerism to local sustainability.  Through this same group I attended my first meeting of Transition Town OKC.  This is a steering committee to bring the movement described in Hopkins’ book to local fruition. 

So, in this vein, my husband and I have been discussing peak oil.  Now, mind you, we have very separate hobbies.  I indulge him when he talks about galaxies and telescopes and he indulges me when I talk about local foods and sustainability.  So, he has asked me a couple of questions I couldn’t really answer and since I tend to get all flustered and sound stupid when I try to explain my stand on such issues as peak oil, I decided to do a little research.  He made the comment that most people make when I talk about running out of oil.  “Well, some other fuel will take its place.”  So, I started telling him that a LOT of other things, in fact, most of the everyday things in our homes, are made from petroleum in one way or another.  I found several lists of things that are made from petroleum online and then ran across a search result that talked about vinegar being made from petroleum!  Whoa!  I use vinegar A LOT in my household cleaning and this really threw me for a loop.  Vinegar is the new-old natural cleaning method and if it is made from oil – well,  hell (stomping of foot)!   So this is what I discovered:  some vinegars are, in fact, made from a petroleum derivative.  Here is the link to the entire article http://tinychoices.com/2008/05/07/is-vinegar-made-from-petroleum/.  

In summary, vinegar’s key ingredient is alcohol.  The transformation of wine or fruit juice to vinegar is a chemical process in which ethyl alcohol undergoes partial oxidation that results in the formation of acetaldehyde. The acetaldehyde is converted into acetic acid.  The global demand of acetic acid is around 6.5 million tons per year (Mt/a), of which approximately 1.5 Mt/a is met by recycling; the remainder is manufactured from petrochemical feedstocks or from biological sources.     And this from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, Internal Revenue Service :“Presently, we authorize the manufacture of vinegar from ethyl alcohol synthesized from natural gas or petroleum derivatives. It is our opinion that most of the distilled spirits used in the production of vinegar are derived from natural gas and petroleum…”   Now, don’t ask me why the ATF and IRS are involved in this whole thing.  I don’t think I really want to know, but the point is about 75% of the vinegar on the market is made from a petroleum derivitive.  BUT!!!!!  The author of the post at Tiny Changes (the link above) did some research and found that Heinz uses only fermented grains for its white vinegar and apples, of course, for its cider vinegar.  So, I guess I need to check the label on my cheap Walmart brand vinegar and if it is, indeed, made from petrochemicals, then I’ll be patronizing Heinz. 

This is a great alert from Tiny Choices.  I’m going to explore their site a bit more and if it proves to be a good resource for sustainable living I’ll add it to my links here.   

Its really an eye opener to see just how convoluted and tight the web of oil dependency is.  Its time to re-skill, people!  Its time to get our heads out of the sand and not just sit and wait for Jesus to yank us out of here while we continue to preach prosperity from the pulpit and drive our SUVs.  The next 10 to 20 years will see a slow but steady decrease in the availability of our lifeblood – oil – and we are going to have to teach our children and grandchildren how to live in a VERY different world even if we’re not here to live in it with them.  The old skills need to be rediscovered and reintroduced into daily life.  WAKE UP AND CHECK YOUR VINEGAR!!!!!

Keep it simple.

P.S. I know I promised a review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, but to be honest, I forgot and have mentally moved on.  I will get around to it one of these days.  In the meantime, read it for yourself!  Its a great inspiration to start a garden!

Transition Websites – Take a Look Please!

I have spent some time today listening to videos from Peak Moments TV.  I say listening rather than watching, because I have also been scanning endless amounts of artifact slides at the same time.  I simply cannot just sit and listen to the scanner whining and screeching through each slide, so I disobey state mandate for employees and tune into things on the internet.  I know, shame on me. 

The new book group I recently joined will be discussing The Transition Handbook this month and I am educating myself a little on the subject while I am waiting for my copy to come via Amazon.  I know, I should have bought it from a local bookseller, but could not find a copy anywhere in the city.  So, for the full price of the book – which would have to be ordered anyway – on Amazon I got my book plus another on emergency preparedness for the same price with free shipping. 

So, anyway, I ran across a video of Richard Heinberg on Peak Moments TV and from there went to his website.  He is with Post Carbon Institute.  I signed up for his newsletter and read the latest installment.  (Still scanning, still scanning……).  From there I clicked on the link to Transition United States.  Haven’t delved too deeply into it, but am impressed enough with just the home page to add their link and Heinberg’s to my website log on the menu to the right.  Please take a look. 

I am just about finished with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and will review it soon.  I hope to finish it this weekend in the car on the way to Texas to visit the family. 

Okay, back to scanning.

Keep it simple.