Michelle Obama Makes the Founding Fathers Proud

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Children from the Bancroft school help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

There are many reasons I admire First Lady Michelle Obama—her intelligence and grace, her strong command of shade, and her commitment to food security just to name a few. Both praised and criticized for her commitment to encouraging kids to eat healthier, she led the initiative to have a proper veggie garden planted at the White House, a move that surely made our Founding Fathers, who were in fact “founding gardeners,” smile.

She’s upped the ante, making the garden a bit more permanent by adding hardscaped features—concrete, stone and steel—to the garden. And, after the Obamas leave office, the National Park Service will continue to maintain it with the help of a $2.5 million private fund.

From Politico:

“I take great pride in knowing that this little garden will live on as a symbol of the hopes and dreams we all hold of growing a healthier nation for our children,” Obama said in an emotional speech Wednesday afternoon as she dedicated the garden before an audience of advocates, food industry leaders and others who have helped with Let’s Move!, her signature childhood obesity campaign.

I have no doubt that the conservative right will see this as a slight; as some part of communist/socialist/fascist (because to them, they’re all the same right?) move. While the next administration could tear it up, the hardscape elements would make it more of a challenge. However, if anyone attempts to bulldoze the garden, it would be an un-American act.

You see, our Founding Fathers were avid gardeners. In the book, Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, America’s first leaders were all about gardening. Jefferson and Adams would visit gardens and share knowledge and tips with botanists while they were in Europe on State business. Adams and I seem to share the same sentiment when dealing with long meetings an work obligations—F*** this, where’s the nearest garden?

Both Washington and Adams tried to bring agriculture to the forefront of the young country’s political agenda. When Hamilton proposed the country follow an industrial path, with commerce and trade at the forefront of the economy, Madison strongly resisted, arguing (along with Jefferson) that America should be an agrarian republic. Jefferson was highly suspicious of those who gained wealth through speculation, seeing agriculture as far more useful.

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison all sought refuge in their natural environments—their gardens—when the pressures of running a country became too much. This is what we should remember when the right wing attacks Mrs. Obama—and they will, just watch—for taking this step to preserve the garden. Rather than a “commie pinko” idea, continuing the legacy of the garden is the most American thing one can do. In addition to showing people how to feed themselves and encouraging them to eat better, it brings us back to the original ideals of the Founders we praise. They fought for freedom from tyranny, and part of fighting that tyranny is being able to feed yourself from your own garden, whether you have a plot in the yard or a spot in a community garden.

One day, when the kids are a bit older and can appreciate the trip, I’d like to see the White House Garden myself, so I can get some gardening tips and inspiration to take back to my own garden. After all, it’s what the Founding Fathers would have done.

 

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Cider Time!

20160905_174117One of the best things about having property with fruit trees is the option to make wine and cider. Sure, I can also make jam and fruit butters, which make for lovely holiday gifts. I do use a portion of the haul to make yummy jams.

However, the majority of the harvest this year went to making wine and cider. Now, I’ve never made fruit wine before so I can’t account for how well the wine will turn out. It’s tasted fine, albeit yeasty, when I bottled it, but I’m hoping a year of ‘resting’ will help the taste improve. When we made plum wine last year, we didn’t give it enough time to rest so it was a bit…lively.

Last year we made plum cider, which was pretty good. This year we made an apple cider, sweetened with honey, a holiday-themed cider, sweetened with maple syrup and spiced up with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg; and a blackberry cider, sweetened with honey.

How will they taste? Unfortunately we’ll have to wait a few months to find out (a whole year for the wine). And that is the downside of making booze with your fruit—you have to wait and wait and wait to sample the goods.

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

It’s Time to Get Planting for Fall

As I sit back and enjoy the literal fruits of my labor in the garden, I’ve turned my attention to the fall plantings. I live in an area that is relatively mild all year long (although the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a wet and cold winter this year), so cool-weather crops thrive in the garden.

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This year, I’m planting kale, cauliflower, two types of broccoli and Brussels sprouts and I’m starting some of my onions and garlic from seed. The seeds are nestled in potting mix in starter trays on my deck.

 

Once they sprout, I’ll plant them in the garden. I’ve been enhancing the soil with finished chicken and horse manure and covered the area with old carpet to smother weeds.

 

Traditionally, we don’t get our first frost here until November (although if the Almanac is correct, it may be sooner), so I won’t plant this outdoors until November. To protect them from frost and bugs, I’ll cover them. However, I may reuse our old shower doors to create a cold frame.

 

Of course, fall is also the time to plant garlic and your spring flower bulbs. Buy your bulbs now and get planting!

 

What will you plant this fall?

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

 

It’s Time to Plant Your Seeds

 

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New growth!

So you dream of having a luscious summer garden, filled with tomatoes, squash, carrots, basil and more. You might think the time to plant your seeds is in May. Wrong! If you want to enjoy the fruits of you labor this summer (pun intended), now is the time to get cracking.

  1. Select your seeds. Spend an evening or two looking through the pages of each seed catalog you receive or go online. Dog-ear any varieties that catch your eye.
  2. Get ordering. Once you’ve picked out your seeds, go thorough again and mark the ones you know will grow. It’s okay if you want to order a few new seed varieties but make sure they’ll grow in your climate or microclimate.
  3. Consider seedlings. Some plants are just easier to grow from seedlings. For example you can grow lavender from seed but it’s much less of a headache, in my experience, to order seedlings. This is especially true if your not so good at differentiating a weed seedling in the garden from a seedling that you want.

 

Want to know more about planting, especially planting indoors? Sign up for my class on Skillshare: Create a Small Space Edible Garden. http://skl.sh/1kDd65o

 

 

 

And the garlic was snuggled tight in its bed…

Second year zinfandel grapes.

Second year zinfandel grapes.

Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean that it’s time to put away the garden tools, retire your gloves and sit back and dream of seed catalogs (like the Baker Creek Seed catalog with its beautiful photos that make you want to order one of everything, regardless of whether you have the space for it or not). No siree! It’s time to get your ass outside and plant garlic, onions, spring flower bulbs and even some spring seeds, sweet cheeks.What you plant now, you’ll be able to enjoy next spring and summer.

Onions and hay-covered garlic.

Onions and hay-covered garlic.

A rose is a rose is a rose?
I’ve always wanted an impressive rose garden. When I visited Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, last year, I was inspired by the whole garden, particularly the rose garden. Roses tend to be pretty hardy and look nice in any yard. However the major selling point is their intoxicating smell. A quick Google search led me to HeirloomRoses.com, which features every variety of rose you could ever want, it seems. I’ve already planted a Rugosa rose, a drought-tolerant native of Japan that develops huge hips. Next up, the William Morris rose–how can you go wrong with a rose named for England’s celebrated textile designer, socialist and native of East London?

Rugs cover parts of the garden to kill leftover weeds, improve the soil and prevent weeds from growing.

Rugs cover parts of the garden to kill leftover weeds, improve the soil and prevent weeds from growing.

Feed Yo’Self…with Your Own Small Space Garden

Create a Small Space Edible GardenDon’t let a lack of yard prevent you from growing your own tasty and nutritious veggies this summer! It’s possible to grow most, if not all, of your favorites in containers that you set on your deck, patio or even a sunny window.

I’m teaching a small space gardening class through Skillshare to pass along what I’ve learned over my years of apartment living. Before I had the luxury of a huge garden, I grew everything in pots on the patio, both because I didn’t have a yard and because I moved so much (it’s nice to take your hard work with you!).

If you’re interested in learning more about small space gardening, then take the class!

 

The end of the season

Everything is dead in the garden. Well, not everything. The sunflowers are having their last hurrah. Since I planted them late, they didn’t grow quite as tall, but are still enjoying the last warm days nonetheless. The last of the cilantro is flowering and going to seed, and I finally dug up the one single garlic bulb that managed to grow this year.

The garden in more verdant times.

The garden in more verdant times.

At this point, I’ve pulled up the bird netting and let the chickens have at the garden scraps (although they got a bit aggressive with one of my strawberry plants, those jerks!). They’ve cleared away most of the scraps.

New garlic bulbs are in the ground, covered in straw for the winter. Kale, lettuce and chives are in the ground under a makeshift cold frame made from a glass shower door we found on the property. In the vegetable garden, the waiting begins.

Now is the lull between the harvest and when the first seed catalogues come in the mail. It’s the time to dream about next year’s garden, assess what crops worked this year, and plan what to grow next year.

While the plants and organic matter are breaking down, it’s the soil’s time to rebuild. Although it doesn’t seem like much is going on, in reality a ton of stuff is happening beneath the soil, all of which is important for the health of the soil and the health of the plants that will grow in it next year.

The Homespun Movement: The ‘Buy Local’ of its Day

women spinning

Up here in Humboldt, there are pins and bumper stickers that urge people to buy local products. While the sentiment has gained popularity over the past decade, it’s one that played a big role in the founding of our nation. This fact that was brought to my attention in the newsletter for the online retailer, Zady, which featured the article Original Fashion Activists: Women of the American Revolution by Sabrina Rojas Weiss.

According to the article, and to other articles on the topic, women during the Revolution spun their own cloth and yarn to protest the taxes imposed by the British (much of which went to support King George III’s whoring son’s debts). Women had spinning bees and pledged their support the Homespun Movement.

The story strikes a chord for me, not just because I’ve recently become a member of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, but also because some of my English ancestors were cloth manufacturers in Yorkshire, a trade which they brought with them when they came to the New World in the 1600s. I’d like to think that my 5th great-grandmother—whose father was a lieutenant in the militia in Vermont and her husband who served in the Massachusetts militia—took part in this protest, though I haven’t found proof to support it.

Martha Tells You How to Be More Sustainable

I love Martha Stewart. She’s just the best! Her recipe for All-American Potato Salad (complete with homemade mayo) is amazeballs!

Get your ass into the garden, sweet cheeks!

Get your ass into the garden, sweet cheeks!

Check out this article on her website written by Victoria Spencer (what Posh Spice’s name would be if she had married the brother of Princess Diana) with tips to eat, shop and cook more sustainably. The only thing she doesn’t mention, which I would, is to start a garden, even if it’s just a bunch of pots on your patio.

What You Can Do to Shop, Cook, and Eat More Sustainably 

Chicago’s Bringing Urban Orchards Back…Wait, What’s an Urban Orchard?

In news that gives me hope for the future, the city of Chicago—led by a rag-tag group of urban farmers—will break ground on an urban orchard later this year. The Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (CROP), which is the brainchild of Dave Snyder, will feature rare varieties of apples, cherries, plum and paw paws. The trees will grow together on a plot of land in the Logan Square neighborhood that’s been vacant for the past 65 years.

Plans for the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project, CROP. From The Architects Newspaper

Plans for the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project, CROP. From The Architects Newspaper

According to an article in The Architects Newspaper:

CROP started as a group of volunteers, but soon got the attention of Chicago’s department of Housing and Economic Development by teaming up with local urban farming and open space nonprofit NeighborSpace. In 2002, the Logan Square Open Space Project had called for the neighborhood farmers market to take over a lot surrounding the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line, right where the train dives below ground between the California and Logan Square stations. The farmers market had become too big for that space, however, so the city bought the land from the CTA and transferred it to CROP.

 

 

Three cheers for teamwork, community spirit and urban farmers!