Monday, November 29, 2010

apple tree update

a week in and they seem to be quite happy in the basement under the grow light...the runt ( unless it's only one there's always a runt...i have an asparagus plant oncampus that emerged late and never grew much...which is odd because the other seven did well and the asparasgus here at home went berserk...the one i am holding in my profile photo [well...what did you think that was?] is over five feet tall...or was before i cut them back this autumn) is about 3/4 of an inch tall and the other tops out at a bit over two the nacent orchard is doing fine so far...there may be a virtue in mealy apples after all.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

jerusalem artichokes: storage pit to table in 90 minutes

these jerusalem artichokes have been in the back yard pit for four weeks and i decided today was a good day to see how they were i got out a recepie for sunchokes gratin a friend sent me a while back and got to work....after i got past the first three or four inches of frozen ground i could easily dig around for tubers ( bloody cold soil though) ...i pulled out what i thought was enough, recovered the tubers, and went in to clean them up...the recepie called for peeled sunchokes and let me catagorically state that peeling these things is what took the most time and their irregular shape caused considerable waste, even with a sharp paring if your recepie calls for peeled jerusalem artichokes be prepared to buy or grow more than any recepie says you need...after i peeled them i boiled a pot of water and dumped the tubers in, cooking them about ten minutes after the water came back to a have to watch them carefully, they turn to mush if overcooked...i drained them and cut them into slices and put them in a bakingpan coated with butter...i dotted them with butter and tossed on a cup of fresh, grated parmesan cheese...into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes and they were far storing them in the ground seems to be working...they were crisp and fresh as i peeled them...nothing withered or rubbery about them...i'll keep trying new ideas until i can't get them out anymore and then do more in spring before i have to clean them out or suffer the is easy...access may be another story.

Monday, November 22, 2010

trees are perennials, right?

a soggy and unseasonably warm november evening in the garden ( what climate change? take your denial elsewhere)...not much going on...but i needed to look in anyway just to be sure not much was going on...stuff happening at home though...a couple of weeks ago i had a really mealy apple ( that i bought at the produce department at strack and van til's) for breakfast along with some sunflower seeds...when i got to the core i found a couple of seeds that looked alot like they were germinating so i put them in a damp paper towel in a baggie on my desk and left them until i remembered them today...that's them in the middle photo... i brought them home and put them in peat pots and they're under the grow light right now...perhaps i can nurse them through the winter and plant some perennial apple trees in my yard this coming spring...stay tuned on this one.

and i still miss kathy...she was the fire under the boiler

Friday, November 19, 2010


since this will actually be my house in a few years time i don't feel as compelled to concern myself with apperances as i am on campus...neatness counts i have been told even if nature is anything but neat at times...but that is there and their opinion matters there...this is i dispensed with the artificial neatness of landscaping fabric and mulched my beds with all the yard waste i could find and put down some compost to keep it in place...fits my personality and nature both more closely...the top photo is an asparagus bed i mulched wirh straw and composted manure...inelegant but effective for keeping the asparagus happy this winter and giving it more to feed on in the spring...all i have to do is dig down where the stakes are to allow the relatively weak asparagus shoots a way up ( unlike the elephant garlic or yams or jerualem artichokes which will defy most anything to stop them ) and backfill as they grow...the bottom photo is the bed with all the defiant ones in it...mulched with straw, dead jerusalem artichoke plants from campus ( neatness counts...i hauled all my waste that isn't waste home to use), the dead asparagus plants from here, old cowpeas, leaves, and compost...anything that came to hand that will feed the worms come i'm done ( pretty much) with the physical work of the season...the mental work goes on although the paper about all this is coming along okay...still a lot to read and try to make sense of...alot to try to make sense of ...can't help it and won't burden you further...there is still the jerusalem artichoke storage experiment to keep tabs's been almost two weeks since i buried the last ones and i think i'll make something for thanksgiving with some of them...found a recipe for sunchokes au gratin that looks interesting ( cheese only serves to make most things better) and the gang will all be getting together...time to get moving...who knows how long things will last.

Friday, November 12, 2010

the second mulching

it's been a tough week...but the garden doesn't know that...its awareness is focused on the fact of autumn...there were things to be done...and since, in an academic sense, this project is about the beginnings of agriculture, domestication, artificial selection...human intervention in the lives of was time for me to intervene...the yams and asparagus needed to be mulched for winter...which is what the series of photos covers...the straw and landscaping fabric process worked so well last year i decided to reprise it this time, along with the additon of some composted manure since the asparagus plants are heavy feeders and it won't hurt the yams at i hauled the materials out to campus, cut back the asparagus, and had at it...about nintey minutes of work ( it is a small garden on purpose) and the garden is ready for winter...except the winter wheat which will need water until it goes dormant...with the physical work of the season pretty much over i can map out next season's plant placement, finish the paper i'm writing about this year, and refelect a bit...try to find some answers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dr. Kathleen Forgey

i was on the planet fifty-four years before i met kathy forgey and i really regret that...she was my academic advisor on this project and while she was serious about it she made it fun...she gently but relentlessly moved me out of my comfort zone and proved to me that i could survive there and even learn...what more could you ask of an educator and a friend? if i had known her earlier i would have completed a degree by now...she wouldn't have had it any other way and i wouldn't have wanted to disappoint her...the first season of this garden is all but done and the second season is already planned...we kept busy while she was ill and she helped me to keep focused...the only way i can think of to repay that is to pass it on give the help she gave me to someone so it can move along and return to her wherever she is...the only way out is through...i will work the was a promise...but it will never be the same.


it has been a year since kathy's passing and i still regret the brevity of our friendship...wouldn't trade the friendship for anything...there's a third season and another paper on the garden in the works, so, in that sense at least, kathy is still on campus...and by her telling that's what she wanted...she told me often that she had a fondness for the place...loyalty the university and to her students...this was always as much her project as mine so i will keep my promise to do another four hours of independent study with it...loyalty is transcendent.________________________________________ 11-7-2012 two little years...seems longer...i still miss my friend most days but i have to admit the edge has worn off the loss a's like goes on and all sorts of stuff happens that demands your attention and distracts you...the garden is still on campus but its focus has shifted from where it started...its not so much about they why of agriculture as the how these days ...the wheat grass from kansas is an experiment in domesticating a perennial with an eye to no-till agriculture if not outright it is still acceptably within the confines of its anthropological roots as far as i can see...the neolithic revolution was about domestication after all...i'm not sure it is a change kathy would have wholly approved of...she would always whack me on the head (figuratively) when she felt i was going off on a tangent ("focus!focus! focus! i'm reigning you in for your own good!" was a common red bullet on drafts she emailed back to me ) and i'm inclined to think the word focus would come into play here as well...i can hear it now as a matter of fact...but i was always trying to make connections and find universals...she was skeptical... she was tolerant too...and she always got me back to where she wanted me to be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


not that this is a photo of the garden ( more like the bed on the south side of the house and the most vicious ferral rose bush this side of the mississippi even though it looks benign in this image )...but it gets across the point that the weather is not co-operating with what remains to be done in the garden...i harvested four more jerualem artichokes last wednesday after work...they produced two hundred and twelve tubers among them...the ones planted in the main row about a foot apart only yielded only an average of forty-four tubers compared with the seventy plus average of the outlying plants...a dearth of room to expand perhaps...i still have six sunchokes to harvest as well as yams and asparagus to mulch for winter and the rest of the cowpea plants to pull up for compost...and i'm writing a paper about the experience ( actualy the results) for an anthropology course...seems things never come to an has been really an enjoyable season for all that...i have already received the seeds for next season's annual root as soon as this season is put to bed there's that to plan for...the weather is supposed to clear up this coming week and be warm enough to finish the sunchoke harvest and get them in the ground in my backyard for the storage experiment...i think we'll be done by the end of the month...enough time to read up on some botany before next spring...more stuff as it is unearthed.