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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Orchid's Lecture at Eaton Canyon Nature Center

The next program meeting of the California Native Plant Society - San Gabriel Mountains Chapter will be this Thursday, May 27, 2010.

The program will be Easy Natives for Your Garden, with our own Orchid Black: Why grow native cultivars — the named varieties? Because in many cases these have been selected for their reliability and consistent bloom in the garden. This talk will discuss the easiest cultivars and other selected natives that grow reliably in a wide range of gardens.

As always, our meeting will be at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. We will gather for conversation, refreshments and informal plant ID at 7:00 p.m. The program will begin at 7:30.

Eaton Canyon Nature Center
is located at 1750 N. Altadena Dr., Pasadena, CA 91107. Directions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Native Plant Resources

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden  1500 College Ave, Claremont 909-625-8767
84 acres of native plants. Spring and Fall plant sales feature RSABG hybrids and selections. Extensive educational programs.
Native Plant Garden Hotline at at RSA
Ph: (909)624-0838 or email:
10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley 818-768 –1802 
Education, Seed, Nursery and bookstore. The only LA area nursery devoted to the retail customer, with over 500 species. Sale days feature many activities. Educational workshops. Knowledgeable staff. Open Tue-Sat 8:30-4:30, reduced hours in summer. Spring garden tour.

Tree of Life Nursery 33201 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano (949) 728-0685
Oldest native nursery in Southern California. Website has much useful plant info. Limited Retail days and hours. Their catalog is used as a reference by designers and architects.

CNPS Local Chapters  is the website for the LA Chapter.  Many field trips. Fall plant sale. Meetings, which feature informative lectures and discussions, and field trips are open to non-members.

Nursery website with detailed information on hundreds of plants. Includes, a feature that allows searches by zipcode, watering preference, shade and drainage. Online ordering of many species. Nurseries in Escondido and Santa Margarita.

Gardening With California Native Plants,Bornstein, Carol et al ©2005 Cachuma Press, Of all the books here, this is the one that illustrates a drought tolerant beautiful garden. Not only does it show the plants in their glory, but there are suggestions on how to use them with authority. The lists at the back of the book are worth the price of admission alone. "The Bible," says a local native plant expert.

Gardening with a Wild Heart:  Restoring California's Native Landscapes, Lowry,Judith Larner ©2007, Philosophy of native gardening, with much specific wildflower and plant info. Judith Larner Lowry is the founder and proprietor of Larner Seeds - one of California's best seed resources as well as a good source for books on propagation of these plants. Well written and inspiring.

Landscape Plants for California Gardens, Perry, Robert C. ©2010 Perry, an instructor at Cal Poly Pomona, has written several expensive tombs on water saving plants in our climate.  His books are rich with color photographs, hence the hefty price tag of $78.75.  If you want to work with this palette, you will eventually need this book.

The Landscaping Revolution: Garden With Mother Nature Not Against Her, Wasowski and Wasowski, ©2002, More philosophy of native gardening.  

The Forgotten Pollinators, Buchmann, Stephen ©1997; with Gary Paul Nabham, a favorite writer for both Orchid and I, this book fills the gap where most environmental books fail:  the pollinators we all depend on for our plants to fruit and bear seeds.  Without them, there are only wind pollinated plants and life gets boring with just grains to eat!  Good and important reading.

Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens, Keator, Glenn ©2007, UC Press, Glenn is a well-established writer on California native plants and a respected authority. This is his latest offering containing some 300 photographs, easily understood and used; a practical book you’ll return to again and again.

david for Orchid

Yet Another Bibliography

The following books address permaculture and the natural farming methods of Fukuoka.  Though starting from opposite philosophies (permaculture is enthralled with the brilliance of human logic, Fukuoka tried to distance himself from human logic and rely on nature to show the way), both came to strikingly similar results. 

Gaia's Garden, A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture, Hemenway, Toby, © 2000, Chelsea Green Publishing Probably no finer introductory book on permaculture is available. More easily digested than the others in this list, this is still a comprehensive guide and is easily one of the more readable books on permaculture.

Introduction to Permaculture, Mollison, Bill © 1991 Tagari Publications IF you can find it for less than $149 (its current asking price for a used copy on Amazon) this is a lovely book that lives up to its name, an introduction to permaculture. Mollison, along with Holmgren, founded the concepts of permaculture. Because it is so old, it is somewhat dated, but Mollison writes in a way that is readable, digestible and it is well illustrated with drawings. Check it out from the library?

Permaculture, A Designers' Manual, Mollison, Bill © 1988 Tagari Publications, Dense. Out of Print. The most exhaustive text on the subject ever written. Will likely never be attempted again. If you can find it, and if permaculture, is your bag: Indispensable. (I borrowed my copy.) But indispensable as historical data – we know a lot more now than Mollison knew then. This book works best as background – to REALLY use permaculture, look at other books.

Permaculture, Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren, David © 2002 A more cerebral take on the permaculture 'revolution' who looks beyond the horticulture and agriculture beginnings of permaculture with the intent of applying the concepts to other aspects of human society. Probably your book if you think you'd like to design a permaculture career.

The Basics of Permaculture Design, Mars, Ross © 2005 Chelsea Green Publishing This is a dense manual. The upside is that it contains all the basic design ideas and principles and is wonderfully illustrated. The down side is that there is more data on one page than in a chapter in other books. This density makes for tough reading, but that isn't all bad. It is the most current in this list.

Fukuoka Farming Bibliography

One Straw Revolution, An Introduction to Natural Farming, Fukuoka, Masanobu ©2009, a reissue of his 1978 classic, Fukuoka's first book on his extensive work in Japan. Decidedly with a Japanese bent (his main crop is rice and barley), he still presents a lovely description of his farming efforts that began as a reaction to the Western idea of agriculture and more that began to infiltrate Japanese society in the 1930's. His work continued until his death in 2008 (at 95).  His grain raising techniques became THE grain raising techniques in permaculture.

The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy, Fukuoka, Masanobu © 1985 Also out of print. And expensive. ($61, used on Amazon) Can be downloaded as a PDF, I had success at this site, but I do not warranty it to be 100% safe from commercial interests. 

The Road Back to Nature, Fukuoka, Masanobu © 1988 Out of print, but you can find copies reasonably priced on eBay, used copies are almost $70 from Amazon. From the back cover: Fukuoka's reflections on his trips to Europe and to America, his sense of shock at seeing the destruction wreaked in the name of agriculture. A collection of his lectures, articles and essays which outline his thinking on nature, God and man and his underlying optimism that good sense can still prevail and we can still turn it all around. This is a collection of articles, lectures and essays recording his impressions as he travels the world talking about his revolutionary 'do-nothing' agricultural methods. There is a spiritual side to a lot of his thoughts and an optimism that a change in lifestyles and farming methods could yet heal the Earth's wounds.

Fundamental Realities, an article by Hazelip, Emilia was found at the Fukuoka Farming Website – but as of this writing that website is no longer in existence.  However, You Tube has several videos with Hazelip describing how she has adapted Fukuoka's principles to a Western market garden.

While permaculture has played a role in my thinking about gardening, Fukuoka has spoken to my heart and the Hazelip videos have informed a lot of my decisions in the past four or five years.  The video quality is not the best, but it and three others on You Tube are worth the effort to find and watch; I think you will find them inspiring and very enlightening. 


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Field Trips: Saturday, May 22, 11 a.m. and 1p.m.

The second field trip for the Greener Gardens sustainability class will be this Saturday, May 22. We will convene at 11:00 a.m. at the home/urban farm of classmate Dave Keitel, then move on to the Casting Pond at Arroyo Seco at 1:00 p.m. (map links and directions below).
Dave will show you what he has done over the past 1-2 years on a relatively small and challenging site, including:
400+ sf of planted edibles (winter and summer crops + herbs)
Multiple system composting operation
20+ fruit trees
3 laying hens
Lawn and ivy replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping
A real world lab to consider options/issues for additional sustainable features (eg: rainwater recovery system)
A few logistics and practicalities:
1) Bring sensible shoes and sun protection (part of Dave's site has many steps)
2) Parking is relatively easy - anywhere on the sides of Micheltorena St. or Lucile Ave. that do not have "No Parking Anytime" signs)
3) Carpool if you can!
3) Call Orchid or Dave if lost or late. Dave's home: 323/669-0704 Dave's cell: 213/247-4065
4) Please RSVP to Dave at so he can better plan to provide some light refreshments (beverages and garden fresh salad)

Mapquest for Dave's house:

Some driving tips for Dave's house:
If you are approaching from the west side or the valley, exit the 101 (Hollywood) freeway at Silver Lake Blvd. - which is just a few miles north of downtown.
Take Silver Lake Blvd. north to Parkman, where you'll make a left at the signal. Take Parkman one block to Sunset Blvd, where you'll take another left.
Take Sunset west to Micheltorena, where you'll make a right at the signal. Take Micheltorena all the way up and just over the hill to 1975, which is on the corner of Lucile Ave.
If you are approaching from the north/northeast (eg: Pasadena), exit the 5 (Golden State) freeway at Los Feliz Blvd. - which is roughly between Glendale and Dodger Stadium. Take Los Feliz Blvd. west less than a mile to Griffith Park Blvd., where you will make a left at the signal. Take Griffith Park Blvd. about a mile to Angus, which is just past the signal at Hyperion Ave. Make a left on Angus and go up the hill to Micheltorena (your first stop sign). Make a right on Micheltorena and travel about a mile to 1975, which is at the corner of Lucile Ave.
If you have additional or specific questions, please call Dave at the numbers above.

We will leave Dave's at approximately 12:30, to meet at the Casting Pond at 1 p.m. A map showing the casting pond is here:

It is just north of the Lower Arroyo Seco Main Entrance, and can be reached by exiting the 110 N at Orange Grove and going north (left), turning left at California Blvd and right at California Ter., then left at Norwood. Turn right once you are down in the park. There is parking near the casting pond.

If you will be coming from the 134/ 210, exit the 134 at Orange Grove, turn right on California Blvd., then follow directions above.

NEW: Map from Dave's to Arroyo Seco S. Entrance (Use City of Pasadena Map as well).*i3e5bnVmZ


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Habitat Information

The National Wildlife Foundation has a page on how to certify a habitat with the Foundation, that has lots of information about creating habitats and how to certify yours.


Monday, May 10, 2010

You Got Bugs?

From an absolutely delightful book, Trowel and Error, by Sharon Lovejoy, these suggestions are helpful substitutes for more violent means of pest control.  This is only a small sampling of good things I've learned from Sharon's book, the only thing I have against it is that she is as clever as any one I know and got published first!

Some common materials that can do double duty as non-toxic pesticides:

  • uncoated aspirin to fight mildew, black spot and more. Dissolved in water.

  • baking soda (really useful!) prevents fungus spores from invading plants.

  • boric acid or borax wipes out ants, roaches and more.

  • canola oil works to smother insects and as a surfactant* but any vegetable oil that isn’t too heavy will work – I like Trader Joe’s grape seed oil

  • chili powder is used as a pesticide and a repellant

  • cinnamon powder is useful as a an anti-fungal and anti-ant

  • corn gluten meal inhibits seed germination (or at least it has in studies)

  • Epsom salts provide a shot of magnesium and help promote growth of flowers and foliage

  • essential oils, when mixed with water, help defer feeding and work to eliminate pests

  • fish emulsion & kelp wonderful organic fertilizers that promote healthy plants

  • flour, white but not self-rising, can be sprinkled on plants plagued by grasshoppers

  • honey is a sure-fire lure for ants

  • isopropyl rubbing alcohol, the 70% stuff, desiccates and destroys insects – if a bit tedious to apply

  • molasses, good ol’ blackstrap or horticultural grade, jumpstarts microbial action and feeds beneficial insects – can be used to attract harmful insects into traps

  • petroleum jelly can be used as a sticky barrier (around a tree trunk for example) to prevent access for undesirable insects

  • liquid soap – NOT detergent! (almost all “dish soaps” today are really dish “detergents” and they are more harmful to plants and not as effective as insecticides – you will have to seek out Dr. Bronner’s or any other pure castile soap) can be used as a surfactant or as the active ingredient against many pests, insects and fungi alike; liquid soap is the basis of many home-made pesticides because it works to allow other ingredients to blend together (emulsify). You can have a bucket of soapy water in the garden in which to dump insects and help them die in the cleanest of ways.

  • Tabasco sauce can be used as a pesticide and repellent (I like to tell about the time Grandpa used a syringe to inject Tabasco sauce into the watermelon closest to the road, it works to repel even human pests!)

  • vegetable or mineral oil destroys insects and can also double as a barrier

  • vinegar, either apple or white, buy whatever is less expensive, fights fungus gnats, can be used to kill some weeds and destroys pests – I use a solution 50% vinegar with water to kill ants when they invade my home or the greenhouse, as they often do.

  • white glue is very useful to seal pruning cuts – especially roses against the rose borer which is a significant pest around here

GENERAL NOTES ON HOME-MADE PESTICIDE APPLICATION (also valuable for commercial sprays)

  • Test your spray first on a small portion of the plant before applying it to the entire plant. I mean, it should go without saying that you’d rather knock the pests off and not kill the plant.

  • Always, always, always use soap not detergent – you may not know the difference but your plants will.

  • Spray early in the morning, on a foggy day or, if you’re not an early riser, later in the day. (Early morning IS the best, but if you, like me, just can’t seem to get around early enough, late evening might be your only opportunity.) Do not spray when the temperature is at, or soon will be at, 85 or higher.

  • Wear rubber gloves when spraying – especially those sprays containing peppers, alcohol, citrus concentrates, mint oils or any other material that could irritate skin.

  • Do not spray when the wind will not allow you to control the destination of your spray.

  • Thoroughly examine the plant to be sprayed right before spraying it, specifically looking for beneficial insects or their eggs.

  • Most mixtures will require consistent agitation to keep the ingredients evenly mixed, so shake as you go. So to speak.

  • Make sure all of your solutions get on to the leaf undersides as well as the tops.

1 t Tabasco sauce
*1 t liquid soap
Shake mixture well and decant into sprayer.
Tabasco, straight, can be used to prevent rabbits and other omnivores from chowing down on tender shoots. Test to make sure the tender shoots won’t themselves be

1 hand full fresh basil leaves and
1 large glass jar – at least ½
gallon – with water
Put the basil in the jar of water and set in the sun for a few days; strain out solids and store (out of the sun) in a capped container until you need it. When using it, decant into a sprayer and add *1teaspoon liquid soap and shake well before using. A poor use for basil in my book but offered in the name of science here.

2 T red pepper
6 drops of liquid soap
1 gallon water
Allow the mixture to brew overnight, or should we say 'ferment?'  
Stir thoroughly before spraying. Repeat about weekly to protect the Crucifers – cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower - from destructive critters.

¼ cup buttermilk
2 cups wheat flour
2 ½ gallons water
Shake the ingredients all together thoroughly and spray on plants infested with spider mites.

2 garlic cloves
1 quart water
*1 t liquid soap
For plants with fungal or bacterial disease and rash outbreaks of vampires in your garden, puree the garlic in a blender on high for a minute. Slowly add the water and continue blending for about six more minutes. Strain, into a storage container adding the soap (adding the soap while blending is NOT recommended) and cover tightly.

To use, mix one part garlic soup concoction with ten parts water in a sprayer. I have read that scientists have discovered that garlic leaves can be used in place of the garlic bulbs and do the same duty; so you can use two handfuls of leaves and keep your bulbs for eating.  Now THAT is useful information!

1 ½ t baking soda
1 T canola or other light oil
½ t liquid soap
½ cup white vinegar
1 gallon water
While this says “hollyhock” it is useful to spray on any rust-prone plant – and in our area that includes roses. Blend the ingredients and decant into a sprayer. Shake thoroughly before and during applications, applying weekly to the whole leaf on susceptible plants. If you have diseased foliage, remove it and send it away – do not compost unless your are certain your compost is hot enough to kill the spores.

2 uncoated aspirins dissolved in one quart of water can be used as a foliar spray to deal with fungus infections, which include black spot, mildew and rust – all popular in our climate. 
1 T canola, mineral or other light oil
1 t baking soda
1 gallon water
Cornell published this as a remedy for fungal blights on tomatoes and potatoes. Shake thoroughly before using.

2 t baking soda
2 quarts water
½ t liquid soap
Keep handy in sprayer and shake before using – this is especially useful with powdery mildew or black spot – two fungal infections almost all roses get in Southern California.

*a surfactant is a material used in a spray that helps “hold” the material to the plant, allowing it to spread over the surface.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sustainable Water Strategies Resource List

Mulch Suppliers
Soil and Sod, Pacoima, 818-686-6445
Foothill Soils, Sylmar, 661-254-0867

Choose tanks that ship from CA. Also sells first flush systems. Etanks is another option.

Native plants that can be used as lawn:
Carex praegracilis: Meadow Sedge, more runner, turf-forming
Carex pansa: Dune Sedge, possibly sturdier/less water use (according to Greenlee Nursery)
I use both interchangeably, retail source is Tree Of Life Nursery, plug 6-12” centers. Also available from Greenlee Nursery.
Festuca rubra: Red Fescue, the lumpy lawn, requires more water than above, but easily available.
Bouteloua gracilis: Blue gramma grass is also very lumpy, looks like a bluer Bermuda, great for desert/hi-elevation applications.

Books and other resources:

Eric D. Stein, Shawna Dark et al, Historical Wetlands of the San Gabriel River
You can buy books, plumbing supplies, etc. from this website. Reading the articles on the website is an education in water storage and reuse. The only source of salt-free dish and laundry that I am aware of.

Ludwig, Builder's Grey Water Guide, Oasis Design

Another excellent resource for water use.
Lancaster, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Vol 1 & 2, Rainsource Press
Vol. 1 is overview, Vol. 2 is earthworks

Mollison, Mia Slay, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, Tagari Publications

Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden, Chelsea Green


garden/garden Field Trip This Saturday

garden/garden is a demonstration landscape project of the City of Santa Monica and the Metropolitan Water District at Santa Monica College, compares two landscape strategies, sustainable vs. traditional "mow and blow," side-by-side. garden/garden is located at 1724 & 1718 Pearl St., Santa Monica, CA 90405, this links to a Google map for your convenience.  Both Orchid and I will have our phones on that morning - if you are having trouble finding us, give a call. (Our numbers are on the syllabus...) 

The field trip is from 9 to 12.  Do go to the website and look at some of the comparisons.  If we get done early, perhaps we can get a cup of coffee together nearby and look over some of the data available from their website.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Sharon Astyk: Independence Days

  It was a post awhile back on Sharon Astyk's blog, but I saved it to my hard drive because I liked the idea so much.  Here is her introduction to the idea of Independence Days - I believe you'll like the way she thinks.  This sentence is a link to her most recent Independence Day post. 

Independence Days Challenge, Year Two!

Sharon April 28th, 2009

Returning to your regularly scheduled program, time to really get started on the second year of the Independence Days project.  For those of you who participated before, the goal is to see if you can do even more than last year.  For those of you who are new to this, the goal is make sure that you make a little progress every day (or week, or whatever) towards your goals, and that you get to see and record that progress.  I think a lot of us have in our heads the idea that putting up food, or getting into the garden has to wait until we have time.  But of course, that time rarely arrives.  Thus, I’ve found it tremendously helpful to simply do a little bit each day.  It is also enormously useful to my morale to know that I got a little ahead in my goals that day - even when it is hard to believe it.

I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea, but I stole the idea, the name and a lot of good other things from Carla Emery, author of the absolutely necessary _Encyclopedia of Country Living_ now in its 10th Edition.  Carla died a few years ago, and I was lucky enough to know her.  In the “all hands on deck” situation we’re in, I think her ideas and words are still desperately needed, even if she can’t be here herself:

“All spring I try to plant something every day - from late February, when the early peas and spinach and garlic can go in, on up to midsummer, when the main potato crop and the late beans and lettuce go in.  Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day.  That lastas until the pumpkins and sunflowers and late squash and green tomatoes are in.  Then comes the struggle to get the most out of the stored food - all winter long.  It has to be checked regularly, and you’ll need to add to that day’s menu anything that’s on the verge of spoiling, wilting or otherwise becoming useless. 
People have to choose what they are going to struggle for.  Life is always a struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile.  Independence days are worth struggling for.  They’re good for me, good for the country and good for growing children.”

When you do it piece by piece, a little at a time, when you start building in the time and space into your life, it turns out that the big struggle - for Independence Days - isn’t really such a day-to-day struggle at all.

In _Independence Days_ (which will actually be out in July, earlier than I expected!), I wrote on this point,

All of us need to devote some energy to fighting battles that will probably be lost, simply because we have an obligation to fight the good fight.  But most of us can’t live on a steady diet of tilting at windmills.  We also need to do work where we know we can accomplish something and where we know we matter.  That’s why I think food preservation and storage matter so much.  Ultimately, we are talking not only about the fairly manageable question of what to have for dinner, about about transforming our society, our use of energy, our food culture, and, of course, all of these things are a large part of our culture as a whole.”

It is easy to forget how important this “little stuff” is - easy to think that your little garden doesn’t matter very much, or that your preparations won’t be enough.  But we should also remember the exponential power of saying “no” and doing for ourselves.  The corrollary of the fact that every calorie of food takes 10 of fossil fuels is that every stir fry or salad you eat from your garden saves 10 times the oil as the calories contained within it.  The fact that almost every packaged ingredient uses 7 times as much energy to create that packaging means that your choice to buy bulk oatmeal just saved 7 times as much energy as the package contains.

In 1944, American Victory Gardens grew as much produce as did every vegetable farm in the country - fully half US produce came from home gardens. And while no one was sufficient, all together were something big.  Every bite of food you grow, every bite you preserve, every bit of waste you reduce is a contribution to a larger project - keeping everyone fed.  Every bit of compost you add to your soil, every bit of organic matter, every tree you plant is a contributor to a larger project - storing some of our emissions in soil, so we can have a future.  Small things are the roots of vast and powerful ones.

Every kid who tastes a cherry tomato or a strawberry from your garden comes away with something that they take back to their homes and forward to the future.  Every neighbor who stops to chat as grow on your lawn or water the peppers in containers on your stoop is a new connection in your community, and a potential future gardener.  Every seed you plant multiplies and produces a hundred, or a thousand more seeds for next year (not to mention the food).  Every dollar you save you save on groceries that goes to the food pantry means your plot feeds not just you, but others.  Every time you point out that you are storing food and preparing for a different future, even if people don’t get it, a seed is planted somewhere in the back of their heads, where they realize…people kind of like me think about this stuff.  The future depends on a whole lot of little things.

I’ve quoted this poem from Marge Piercy before, but I think it bears repeating:

….Alone you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.
But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousands, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no, it starts
when you say “We”
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
-Marge Piercy “The Low Road”

As Carla says, you have to decide what you are going to struggle for.  This is where I’m putting my struggles - and my pleasures, because there’s nothing better than food you grow or preserve yourself, the sense of security and the ability to be generous that accompany a full pantry, the pleasure of serving others a good meal.

Ok, on to practicalities.  How do you sign up?  Post a message in comments!  When do you report?  I’m going to try and go back to weekly reports, but you should do it when you want to.  I’m deeming Monday as my official reporting day, because it means that I can tell you what you did on the weekend, and make it look good, but you should do it when you want.  Where do you report?  In comments here, or link to your blog!  Do I have to do every category every day/week?  Yes, absolutely, and if not, I will send my personal thugs over to your house to break your kneecaps ;-) (note the smiley - the real answer is - No, of course not, do what you can when you can!)

Is there a cool graphic?  There was last year - La Crunch made it for me (thank you Crunchy!) and I’m sure someone here can post in comments and tell you how to find it and put it up (I’m a techno-moron, so I’m not very helpful.)   What if I can’t do it one week?  So, you get up and do it the next week.  Should I tell you what I didn’t do, how I failed?  
Absolutely not - this all about what you *did* accomplish - so even if it is one thing (and remember, btw, I’m a part-time professional farmer, so if you look at my list and think “oh, Sharon did this and all I did…”  you are doing it wrong - remember, until the International Olympic Committee makes gardening and food preservation a sport, you are officially forbidden to treat it like one ;-))

Ok, overwhelmingly, people liked the categories, but a small minority felt (and I agree) that there were too many of them, and that they weren’t clear.  So I’ve decided to consolidate them somewhat, but keep them.  If you hate the categories, well, since I’m a lazy dictator, you can just go ahead and not use them.  So here they are:

1. Plant something - I doubt this one needs a lot of explanation.  Obviously, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are doing a lot of this right now, but it should be a reminder that gardening isn’t “put in the garden on memorial day and that’s it” - most of us can grow over a longer season than we do, and even if you live in an apartment, you can sprout seeds.  So keep on planting!
2. Harvest something - some people are full swing here, but even if you just picked the first dandelion from your yard, it counts if you ate it or saved it.  Don’t forget to include food you forage - whether from wild marginal areas, or even just from the neighbor’s trees that he never harvests (ask, obviously).
3. Preserve something - this starts around now for me, as asparagus, nettles and rhubarb are up.  Canning looks like a big scary project if you have to can a truckload of green beans on a hot day in July.  Dehydrating seems overwhelming if you have to pick the pits out of 4 bushels of plums in a single afternoon when you’d rather be doing something else.  And yes, sometimes everything comes ripe at once, some big jobs can’t be avoided, and you just put on the loud rock and roll and go at it.  But a little at a time is possible, you can be canning corn relish while you are washing up from dinner, or stick the strawberries in the sun to dry on your way out the door.
4. Reduce waste - This category covers both the old “Reduce Waste” and “Manage Reserves” group.  Once you’ve got food, whether purchased or home preserved, you have to keep an eye on it.  In this category goes making sure you use what you buy or grow, cutting down on garbage production by minimizing packaging and purchasing, composting, reducing community waste by composting or feeding scraps to your animals, and taking care of your food storage - everything from keeping records and writing dates on jars to checking the apples and making sauce when they start getting soft.  BTW, reduce waste also refers to money and energy - stretching out your trips to the store and not “spending” gas on your food, cutting your grocery budget and reducing cooking energy.
5. Preparation and Storage - This is the category where you report the stuff you’ve done to get ready that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food.  That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path.  Did you get a good deal at goodwill? Scavenge some cinder blocks for your raised bed building project? Find a grain mill on Craigslist? Buy some more rice and put it away?  Inventory the medicine cabinet? Pick up a new book that will be helpful?  Tell us!
6. Build Community Food Systems - Great, we’re all doing this stuff at home.  But what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important.  Did you talk about your victory garden at your kid’s school?  Offer to share space with a neighbor in your sunny yard?  Bring a casserole over to the family that lost their job or moved in?  Donate to your food pantry?  Teach the neighbor kids to make yogurt?  Offer to teach a canning class?  Show someone else where the nettles are growing wild?  Talk about your food storage or gardening plans?  Share a plant division or seeds?
7. Eat the Food - Sometimes I think people have more trouble actually eating their garden produce or CSA shares than they do growing or buying them.  Ultimately, eaters have more power over our agricultural future than they know - farmers can’t necessarily lead the way - they have to sell what eaters want.  So cooking and eating are the way we will change the food system.  This is where you tell us about the new recipes you tried, or the old ones you adapted to new ingredients, about how you are actually eating what you store and store what you eat, or getting your kids to try the kale.

I’ve taken out most of the other categories, particularly “learn a skill” because I’ve got another challenge coming up later on that one.  I think seven is the maximum number I can manage personally.

Ok, come Monday, I’m going to want to hear what you’ve been doing.  Welcome to Year 2 of the Independence Days Challenge!



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