Monday, December 27, 2010

expectations and disappointments

i haven't been to the garden in a few weeks...mostly because there isn't much to do ( and the campus is actually closed for the holidays...well...i was only there for about three minutes....put a quarter in the meter just to be legal anyway...i don't think anyone noticed me)...not alot going on...but i had the day off and i wanted to check on the mulching to make sure it was alright...the snow frustrated that also provides another layer of insulation so i will assume the asparagus and yams are fine ( i will never worry about the jerusalem artichokes...they are virtually indestructable and infinitly permanent...the gamagrass should be fine as well...both indigenous to the area...both adapted to the climate)...alas the larger apple tree is is in its final days i fear...don't know quite what happend...i kept them watered and kept them in a rotation of grow light and dark so i wouldn't overdrive them like i did the teosinte last spring ( we will be taking a much harsher approach to toesinte in the spring...working with northern annual...and planting it directly in the beds on campus and at home just before the last frost....more on that as it develops)...perhaps daisy ( the cat) stepped on it...maybe growing apple trees in december was an act of futile optimism...then again...since i pulled the errant grass out of the pot with the smaller tree it seems to be doing well...not as tall as the domed one but still with six leaves (leafs?) and brilliantly green...even if that doesn't come across that well in the photo....i am looking for apple tree answers and will save the one if i can...i refuse to give up hope...i have expectations to live up to with this project.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

water, ethanol, and corn

i've been reading again...."Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture" by wes jackson...the national corn grower's association action alerts and their propganda about ethanol production...u s weather service rainfall average reports and some information about groundwater use from the ogallala aquafier so lets see if i can make sense of some of the data...a corn crop generally needs 24 inches of mosture during its growing season....that's two acre feet per acre ( the ammount of water it would take to cover an acre to a depth of one foot is an acre foot ) those two acre feet represent 651,702 gallons of water for an acre of corn...a bunper harvest from that acre would be 220 bushels of corn and that corn would translate into 104.940 gallons of ethanol at a rate of 2.77 gallons of ethanol per bushel...that's about 6461 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol ( you have to wonder how much water goes in to hot pockets or mountain dew)...indiana's annual precipitation averages ( there are wetter and drier parts of all the states i'm listing) is 40 inches...illinois 38 inches...iowa 35 inches...nebraska 23.6 inches...kansas 27.84...obviously in bad years or even normal ones some states are going to have to irrigate...nebraska and kansas overlay the ogallala aquafier which this year has had 26.1 cubic kilometers of water removed from it...more than the discharge of the colorado river...a serious overdraft of a water source that will dry up with continued use at those level...kansas and nebraska may go out of the corn business over water...we could talk about g m crops...but then we'd be getting into energy use and petrochemical based inputs on the farm to protect crops that are more vulnerable than those created by old fashioned domestication and i'm not dealing with that right now...just the water use limits corn as a viable source of alternative energy...the corn hacks at the national corn growers will tell you different because they like the way ethanol drives corn prices up...but they are just as biased as i may be and i don't trust them...the figures i find tell me a different story...and as an afterthought, is this more water than is involved in the current production of petrolum based fuels? i know the bp/ammoco refinery in whiting dunps alot of benzine into lake michigan as part of the distilation much water passes through that plant per gallon? more rsearch...stay tuned.

Friday, December 24, 2010

storage eve tubers

happy christmas from the garden!!
it has been below freezing most of two weeks since i last dug out any tubers and i was concerned that it might not be possible...however the spading fork had no trouble getting through the five inches ( or so) of frozen fround above the tubers which are about twelve inches down in soil that is remarkably cold for not being frozen...i retrieved fifty tubers ( which gives me a total of two hundred and ten that i've taken out since i buried them) and made up a casserole with them, some yukon gold potatoes, some smoked sausage ( sorry captain but i live with meat eaters), and about a pound of medium sharp cheddar cheese...all swimming in campbell's cream of mushroom the organically grown tubers are utterly corrupted... all in about an hour and forty minutes...but the storage system still bad tubers today...i used them all and the peels are going on the compost pile to feed the asparagus or the jerusalem artichokes or the yams in the raised beds...the winter wheat out in the yard is under snow so no photos of that...i believer i will go to the garden on campus monday and have alook at the mulching there to make sure there are no issues since i haven't been in a while...there is rotten news on the apple tree front...but that will wait for the weekly update...enjoy your holiday and stay safe...peace.

Monday, December 20, 2010

four weeks of apples

four weeks under the grow light and things are coming along...i moved the grass growing with the runt tree to another pot to await a positive id because i just didn't think it was doing the tree any good having that much competition so early in its existence...that was last the last week neither tree has achieved anything noticable in the area of heigth...however the bigger tree has begun to develop its fifth and sixth leafs( whic is the proper plural...leaves or leafs? or are they interchangable?) and the runt has fully developed there has been growth, just not much in the vertical...i have been keeping them well watered and both seem robust when you consider the time of year...i shouldn't be surprised i can be fragile but it's also tenacious...and it seems to make the effort even when the odds are against it...i will do my best to provide their needs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

road trip

" in 1977 the cropland base was 413 million acres. according to the natural resource inventories nearly one-fourth if this acreage, 97 million acres, has eroded in excess of five tons per acre per year on average...globally nearly one-third of the land devoted to farming has been lost to erosion since 1960, and continues to be lost at a rate of some twenty-five million acres per year."
"consulting the genius of the place: an ecological approach to agriculture" by wes jackson. pp.129-30

the top photo is what the field in the second photo looked like this morning...last summer it was all green and it's stubble and was bare through most of november and it will be uncoverd and exposed to the wind and rain from sometime in march until late april or early may when the anhydrous amonia goes on and the monoculture of field corn or soy beans goes in and the field turns green again for a few months...but even that's's not like there's going to be masses of roots binding the soil fact probably more of the field will be bare than covered even at the height of the season because farmer brown is going to apply healthy doses of herbicides to keep the vegitation beyond the monoculture from taking between the rows will be bare and exposed to all the elements...and because whatever is planted will be an annual the roots won't go down to deep so even the residual abillity of the crop to bind the soil together after harvest will be minimal...another reason why the focus of the garden is perennials...i'll post some photos of root systems i took at harvest sometime to show the difference even in perennial root how renewable is the topsoil that millenia of perennial grasses produced?

deep river park is just down the road and around the corner from the field i have been using as a model of monoculture all year so i drove over and took a few shots of the river and the mill in winter... the only thing i lust after more than rustication is riparian rustication so i visit the river when i can...i like it.

and just as an odd note i notice that all the pioneer seed signs disappeared when the corn was harvested...not one to be seen...i suppose pioneer hods patent rights to their signs just like they do for their seeds.

Monday, December 13, 2010

the orchard's third week

into the third week in the peat pots and the apple trees are okay...he larger of the two ( and the one with no competitioin) has now produced four leaves and is early three inches tall...half an inch in a week...not bad for an arctic ( exaggeration...but the weather has been wintery in the week before quincey would be in his element...but that's a different blog
and an entirely different set of issues) december...the second tree has also produced four leaves...but it does not seem to have grown a bit...its pot companion had topped the phtographic scale and so must be at least seven inches tall...i see no signs of bunching or tillering so it is too early to make an exact identification beyond its pure grassiness ( too early for me anyway...someone more schooled in plant identifcation may hazard a guess but young grasses look an awfully lot alike to me )so i will wait a bit to determine if it is a species i want to cultivate or if it is a noxious weed screwing up my tree...patience is a virtue i am told...i hope i can aquire some someday...meantime we wait...but what will we do while waiting?

Friday, December 10, 2010

storage III

it's been at or below freezing for several days here, although today it is pleasantly warm, so i thought there might be some issue getting at the tubers in the backyard...not so...the ground is frozen to about five inches instead of the three or so that were solid last week, but i got the shovel in and the sunchokes out...i had to open a new trench today...seems my last two culinary experiments had pretty well depleted the original one...i got twenty jerusalem artichokes out of the first and took another forty out of the second to fill the sink again ( i will be taking a careful survey of the original trench in the spring...and possibly the next time i'm out there...don't want to leave any behind...that bed is has gamagrass in it already and will be home to spring wheat, some peppers, and, if i am fortunate, some northern tephuan teosinte...i don't need rouge jerusalem atichokes taking over)...i reprised the cheese casserole because any number of family members expressed a fondness for it and the sixty tubers made a much more satisfying ammount ( half of which is already gone less than an hour out of the oven)... since i opened another trench it was a two hour time frame from putting in the shovel to pulling the casserole out of the bad ones this time at all...firm and crisp and still a royal pain to peel...this is the third week in a row for a sunchoke cookoff and i think i'll wait a couple of weeks to see if there will be any real issue with frozen ground...i suspect there will be at some isn't even winter yet...somewhere along the way the weather will seal me out of my storage space...the apple trees and their grass buddy are doing fine incidently...enjoying the grow light...a photo update on them monday.

Monday, December 6, 2010

what the...

well...two weeks into the orchard and life hasn't stopped with surprises...the larger of the two trees is up to 2 1/2 inches and sprouting new growth...doing fine...the runt has reached 1 inch...a quarter inch in a week...not bad for an apple tree in december i suppose...but what is that growing with it? i don't recall that in last week's photos and it's over 6 inches...what's a grass and no mistake...i learned how to differentiate grasses from other plants this past season...and the apple tree is a grass as well so they're related, if only distantly...but what kind of grass? could be teosinte...there are alot of loose seeds laying around the basement and one could have been hiding in the soil mix in the bucket in the basement...or it could be barnyard grass...they both look strikingly similar as sprouts...i have had little good fortune with teosinte so far and will not get my hopes up...but i will look for tillering...that will tell the tale...barnyard grass is a bunch grass and will look like it's tillering, but that will turn into sperate shoots growing out of the ground...if its teosinte the tillering will break the soil surface and turn into it's barnyard grass i will pull it out to leave the peat pot to the runt tree...i don't need more barnyard will come about of its own volition...if it is teosinte the drama begins...what to do? teosinte i want...but i want the tree as well...let them develop and try to seperate them later...stay tuned...this project has never been dull...the surprises just keep rolling along.

Friday, December 3, 2010

jerusalem artichoke storage II

i was going to wait a few mare days before i tried to dig more sunchokes has been seasonably cool here but i wanted to give the ground more time to freeze to try and gauge the difficulty of recovering these tubers in of the reasons for growing them is to see how they might do as a staple food like potatoes and part of being a staple is storability ( if that's not a word it is now) and access...but it's supposed to snow tonight so i decided i'd get one more culinary experiment in just in case next weekend proves's been below freezing the last few nights but the ground is stil only frozen to adepth of about three inches...i dug out sixty tubers today...they filled the sink nicely after i washed them but once again peeling the little devils took its toll as you can see by what's in the collander...almost an hour of peeling...i clarified a stick of butter and added a cut up yellow onion and a clove of garlic with the coarsely cut artichokes, covered over a low heat and let them cook stirring occasionally for about half an hour...good stuff...i found only one bad sunchoke in sixty so, so far so good on the storage end...more on the subject as i continue to work at it.