A few years ago, when I first started gardening seriously, I read 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From by William Woys Weaver. It is a remarkable book filled with page-after-page of vegetable building blocks for numerous culinary masterpieces. I was so inspired I tried to grow about half of the varieties mentioned. As a new gardener, this probably wasn’t the best way for me to have spent my time.
Here are a few words of advice that hopefully can help you avoid the same mistake.
First, focus on what you and your family actually enjoy eating. Do you really eat lots of celeriac? How about daikon radishes? If you do, that is great, but more likely you eat a lot of squash, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, etc. Think carefully about how you allocate your space.
Second, find seeds/varieties that are adapted to growing well in your area! It is fun to look at seed catalogs from far-away places; however the vegetables may not do well for you. Purchase seeds from companies that are in your region or perhaps swap seeds with local gardening pals. You can also get good information from the growers at your local farmers market about what and where to buy.
As I enter my seventh year of gardening in my current location, the number of vegetable varieties I will grow this year has decreased by 75%. Instead of 20 individual varieties of lettuce, I now purchase a single (large) packet of lettuce mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Instead of 15 varieties of soup beans, I now plant zero (we just don’t eat very many dried beans).
My intent isn’t to dissuade you from planting what you have been inspired to plant. Just remember to focus the majority of your time and growing space on the vegetables you enjoy and source your seeds locally.
Good luck with your gardens. If you have questions I will be happy to help if I can.
Regular readers (especially non-local ones), please excuse the interlude. This post is a copy of a letter I have submitted to The Chapel Hill News opinion page.
On Saturday, February 26 Carrboro leaders plan an all day design workshop to look at “commercial land uses and additional residential density on selected tracts of the Northern Study Area.”
Now, I am sure that we can all agree that Carrboro needs to expand its tax base and shift from a residential property tax model to one that is supported by local business. But how is racing northward to rezone property in the Northern Transition Area along Old NC 86 going to help that effort? Will creating more shopping experiences away from downtown Carrboro help downtown businesses grow and prosper? Not likely!
Every week last fall and winter I drove to downtown Durham to advise fledgling high-tech companies on how to grow their businesses and create high-paying jobs. Given the huge daily outflow of talent from Chapel Hill/Carrboro to RTP, doesn’t it make more sense for us to find ways to encourage more of these folks to build their businesses locally? It would not be hard to create an environment that was attractive to these businesses, but it would take imagination.
In my opinion, Carrboro and its elected leaders would be wise to pursue a strategy of bringing in a more diverse business community rather than following the suburban-sprawl model of Cary (unless that is your vision of Carrboro’s future).
Update: The Chapel Hills News published my letter.
Cognitive Dissonance: “an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.”
When faced with facts that are hard to explain or inconvenient, many of our leading health experts take an approach of willfully sticking their fingers into their ears or repeating their pet theory over-and-over, as if that will make it true. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t advance our knowledge and understanding and limits our ability to deal with many modern day health problems.
Below are a few examples where conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to match all of the facts. Continue reading
Under natural conditions (no artificial light), chickens recharge themselves each year for a couple of months in December and January. During this period, they shed most of their old feathers in a process called molting, and they shut down egg production. There is no polite way to say it, but the hens become down-right ugly. I’m not judging, just stating a fact.
Luckily the girls emerge from the molt, with magnificent plumage, ready to lay eggs again. Here is what egg production at our farm has looked like over the past 3 years. We have seen a consistent peak in April, followed by a steady decline during summer until winter.
Here’s to farm-fresh eggs every day for the next 10 months.
This past weekend, I planted about 100 tomato seeds indoors in trays, about 1/2 of what I will end up planting for the season. I typically divide the planting into two groups, the first group I will set out around the last predicted frost date of mid-April and the second group one month later. Honestly, setting out 100 tomato plants on or about the last frost date is a gamble, but I want to get a head start on the harvest. One technique I will use to give the plants a few degrees of protection is to wrap my cages in a special row cover material. Continue reading
Great news! After a quick peek inside my bee colonies a few days ago, 19 out of 20 hives made it through the winter (so far). But just like a Vegas gambler on a winning streak, each surviving colony is in the process of going “all in,” betting on new food being available within a few weeks. Honestly this is a bet that each hive must make if they are to survive and grow new bees to replace the withered ones that lasted through the winter. Continue reading
Here are a few items that caught my eye during the past week:
For a bit of inspiration, take a look at Dave Parsons’ story
at Mark’s Daily Apple. Below are his before and after photos (16 months apart).
Unbelievable! What a waste of an opportunity to eat something nutritious.
- The USDA has updated its dietary guidelines again (amazing what a room full of bureaucrats can dream up).
- For a thorough but simple overview of the changes, check out this post by Stephan Guyenet.
- For the geeked-out, uber-detailed, smack down version, check out Denise Minger’s post.
- Finally, if you would like to make progress like Dave Parsons, don’t emulate these folks who ran in the annual Krispy Kreme Challenge (over 5000 people entered).
Regarded by many as the godfather of fitness, Jack LaLanne passed away last week at 96. I have never seen any of the 3000 episodes of his television show, and before last week I didn’t know much about the man. However, after a quick scan of the internet, I am pretty sure the “godfather of fitness” label is absolutely correct.
At 42 he set the world record for pushups: 1033 in 23 minutes (on television). At 45 he completed 1000 pushups and 1000 chin-ups in 1 hour 22 minutes. At 54 he challenged the 21 year old Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwartzenegger, to a chin-up competition and terminated the Terminator!
The picture above is Mr. LaLanne at age 90, an inspiration for us all.
As I mentioned in this previous post, I have been running sprints every week with my family. I knew I hadn’t set any records, but I was happy with my improving times. Curiosity got the best of me, so I looked up the USA Masters Track and Field Rankings for 2010. Let’s just say the men’s 400 meter champ (age 80-84) has me beat, as does the women’s champ (age 70-74). Ouch. And Wow!
How do you stack up?
||400 Meter Men
||400 Meter Women
||100 Meter Men
||100 Meter Women
I find it humbling that Jack LaLanne did more than 50x the number of pushups that I can do. Equally humbling is the fact that several 80 year old men and 70 year old women can beat me in a lap around the track. In spite of that, I am inspired by their accomplishments and even more motivated to keep improving.