A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More on "Chitting" Potatoes

If the potatoes you are "chitting" (exposing to sunlight before planting) already have extensive sprouts, and the sturdy central sprout has many small root-hairs coming off the sides, it's important that you remove those, otherwise you'll get many tiny potatoes instead of large ones. These smaller side-sprouts also hasten the dehydration of the potato and weaken its ability to thrive.

You can rub off the rootlets with your bare hands, they snap off easily. Ideally you will end up with a potato at least the size of a hen's egg with one or more strong sprouts growing out of it.
 
Potatoes on left have too many "sproutlets." On right they have been properly stripped of all but the central sprout.
Links to our other potato blogs, go to:
Sprouting Potatoes? What to do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On your mark...Get set...Grow!


Lettuce and kale at harvest time
We have exciting news! Chris and I are just days away from finishing our new greenhouse at the Monroe site. It's a moderate size, 12' x 40' but plenty big to grow enough starts for the garden and to share with others in need. It's our own design, made with bamboo held together by PVC fittings and a plywood skirting around the bottom. We've screwed it all together so, if we ever need to move it, it will come apart easily.

We'd love to show you a picture of it but that brings us to another topic...Our camera no longer "talks" to our computer. It still takes pictures and stores them on its memory chip but we can no longer upload them. Help! Does anyone have a digital camera they're no longer using, that they'd like to donate to the project?

Other news:
Saturday, March 31 - 9:00 to 2:00 is the springtime Giveaway at the Legion Hall in Monroe, organized by Christy Warden and her "Crafty Critters" 4-H group. This bi-annual event gives us all a chance to clean out our closets and pantries and make way for the new. You may make donations on Friday, March 30th between 10 and 2 at the Legion Hall in Monroe. Please bring: clothes, housewares, non-perishable foods and whatever else you are ready to let go of. The Sharing Gardens will have broccoli, cabbage, peas and sunflower starts to give away. The event is open to everyone, regardless of your income level. Leftovers will go to other charity groups (decided by the 4-H members).
4-H Giveaway - 2011
Wednesday, April 25 - 5:00 to 8:00 pm, Sharing Gardens is participating in the Health Fair at the Monroe High School. There are many other groups participating, offering free blood-pressure and other health checks and information on living a healthier lifestyle. We'll be demonstrating a simple and delicious way to grow your own winter-greens: sunflower sprouts.

Farm to Farm Century Ride: Last September, this 100-mile cycle event -- touring local farms -- was such a fun and successful way to raise money for the gardens (the organizers donated $2,000 to our project) that we're going to do it all over again. Save the date: Sept. 15, 2012. There will be a fifty-mile version, and a 100-mile version. We'll be looking for volunteers to join in the fun.

Volunteers at harvest time
Volunteering: We're starting to get inquiries from people who want to help out in the gardens. Here's how this works. During the spring months, we have to work with the challenges of the weather and the wetness of the land. It's difficult to establish consistent volunteer times. By June, things will start to fall into a rhythm and we will have regular times we'll be gathering in the garden to plant, weed, mulch and harvest. If you'd like to be informed of times you can help out in the greenhouse, or gardens; learn about growing food organically, and share in the harvest (and you're not already on our list) just send us an email to shareinjoy@gmail.com.

Gratitude: We have a big thank you to extend to Larry Winiarski. Not only did he hire us to help him set up his greenhouse for maximal functionality but he let us start a bunch of seeds while we speedily finished up our own new greenhouse in Monroe. If it weren't for Larry we wouldn't have been able to get broccoli, kale, cabbage, lettuce or spinach started in time.  John Kinsey has also been a huge help. He's started peas and onions in his own greenhouse, donated a considerable amount of salvaged lumber for use in building the greenhouse, and also helped us spread donated leaves in the gardens for mulch. We'll be doing a whole post on John at some point. He's developed quite an amazing set-up for growing red-wiggler (composting) worms and he's provided the gardens with dozens of bags of their pure castings for us to amend our soil and grow starts in. John Sundquist generously opened up his River's Bend Farm and let us harvest all the bamboo we needed to build the greenhouse (and more!). We also wish to thank the others in the community who have hired us to do pruning and other yard-work jobs. The income from this work is what is allowing us to keep doing the gardens as we are financing the project primarily out of our own savings at this point. Thank you all.

Barbara Standley donating nursery flats
Wish List:
  • A digital camera: preferably 8.3 mega-pixels (or better) as lower-resolution pictures don't work as well for our blogs.
  • Save those six-packs! If you buy starts commercially, save the six-packs and other pots they come in. We can use all sizes. We prefer square containers that fit into trays but bring us what you've got and we'll find homes for what we can't use.
  • Utility trailers: We've been talking to the landscaper at the grade school and, if we have a trailer that he can dump the grass clippings onto, it will be an easy matter to haul them to the gardens and use for mulch, or in our compost piles. We haven't talked to the high school landscapers but we suspect they'd be willing to work with us too.
  • Plastic tubs, 5-gallon buckets, kitty-litter tubs etc. (please no broken ones)
  • T-posts (slightly bent, OK). All lengths helpful.
  • Metal pipes: (like from a well) - we can cut them to size and build trellises from them.
  • Cedar fence boards - we use them to build bird houses and compost bins (among other things).
  • Cash donations always appreciated.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Growing Sunflower Sprouts

Winter is the time of the year when most of us are really craving some garden-fresh greens. Unless you have a greenhouse, or a cold-frame, it's probably been some time since you've had raw, fresh greens (unless you like raw kale or beet greens...). Enter the delicious and nutritious sunflower sprouts! These are available for a premium price in some stores but with a few supplies, and a sunny window, you can grow your own!

As with all things related to gardening, growing sprouts is a cyclical affair. We begin with growing the flowers themselves. Most gardeners can manage to find space for at least a few of these cheerful beauties. They grow quite effortlessly providing a stately and regal presence as their faces follow the sun's path through the day (heliotropic is the name for this phenomenon). They are a perfect example of Nature's economy--each seed capable of producing many hundreds more of itself. 



We always harvest our own sprout seeds from the previous year's garden but if you didn't do that, look at your local bulk-foods section. You need to find raw and unsalted seeds, still in their shell.



(1) Start with a flat nursery tray, or other tray with drainage.

(2) Place a layer of newspaper on the bottom (to keep soil from falling through).

(3) Fill to about half with good potting soil, or 'potting mix'. Make the soil as level as possible, then lightly tamp down.

(4) Distribute seeds relatively evenly over the soil. The seeds should be touching each other and very little soil should show through but you don't want them layered much on top of each other. Probably about three cups of seeds in this size tray.

(5) Evenly spread more soil over seeds till they're thoroughly covered. You don't want any seeds showing through but it makes it easier to rinse off excess soil later if you don't overdo it.



(6) Place in a warm, sunny spot: a south window or greenhouse. If days aren't too chilly you can even put them outside.

(7) Keep them moist with a plant mister or spray nozzle on your hose.

(8) Sprouts are ready when they look like this picture.


Harvest just as soon as the second set of leaves appears, other wise they get bitter and tough. Best to harvest them all at once.

(9) With your fingers, gently remove as many of the seed husks as possible. Using sharp scissors, hold a handful of sprouts with one hand and cut them off as close as possible to the roots.


(10) Place them in a large bowl and run cool water over them, gently swish them in the water to allow any remaining dirt to drop to the bottom. Lift the sprouts from the bowl and drain them in a colander or spin them in a salad spinner.

(11) Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Use them up in 3-4 days.

(12) Eat them alone, or with other salad greens. We like them with a little lemon, or salad dressing, or just plain as a garnish.

Stay tuned to future episodes where we discuss planting, harvesting and saving sunflower seeds for next year's sprouts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Designing For Generosity


We came across this video recently and are excited to share it. In this Tedx Talk, Nipun Mehta speaks simply and eloquently about the inherent goodness in people and the joyous feelings of satisfaction that come through giving generously without thought of receiving. Chris and I, through the Sharing Gardens, are offering the opportunity for this same kind of experience to our neighbors in Alpine and Monroe (and others, vicariously, around the world!)  it just plain feels good to give! When you watch this video, it is not so difficult to imagine a world transformed through simple acts of kindness. Pass it on! Love, Llyn

What would the world look like if we designed for generosity? Instead of assuming that people want to simply maximize self-interest, what if our institutions and organizations catered to our deeper motivations? This compelling TEDx talk explores this question and introduces the concept of Giftivism: the practice of radically generous acts that change the world. The video is charged with stories of such acts, ranging from: the largest peaceful transfer of land in human history, to a pay-it-forward restaurant, to a 10-year-old's unconventional birthday celebration, and the stunning interaction between a victim and his teenage mugger. With clarity and insight, it details the common threads that runs through all these gift manifestations, and invites us to participate through everyday acts of kindness -- in an uplifting global movement.

Thanks so much for the folks at KarmaTube and Nipun Mehta (the speaker in this video) for cultivating generosity and kindness in the world.