Monday, July 11, 2011

Have you Heard the Good News?

I just read the article in the current print edition of the Portland Tribune "Cultivating a New Urban Trend", and was delighted and heartened to see such a program exists in my area. It's only a shame it's not more extensive.
It would be delightful if there were victory-garden growing classes too, for urban-dwelling wannabe food producers like me. I can read a bazillion books on gardening in the pacific Northwest and still not have any real idea what that icky looking fungus is or how to combat it, or why my potatoes all died, or how much sun, really, do peas need to produce. What can I do with my shady spots? How does one prune a grapevine, exactly? What's the best way to attract pollinators without planting invasive species? How will/ might climate change affect our garden crops? Etc etc etc.

Sharon Astyk talks a lot about redefining the word "farmer" to include serious home gardeners, too- not just people whose livelihoods depend on their farms. It is an excellent idea, because after all, there are many small time farmers whose family members (or even themselves) have to work in the formal economy to help support their homes- does that mean they're not farmers, too?

Basically, I think the whole concept of bringing farming back to being a profession that *everyone* does or contributes to to some degree, even if it's just growing herbs in the windowsill of your apartment, is what we need to be working towards.
I myself am a bumbling and inept gardener, just beginning to have any real grasp of the complexity involved in food production from an urban plot. My container garden is an uncontested failure, and I can only hope that my new plans for permaculture-oid fruit cultivation won't fall on it's face quite as hard.
But as difficult as it is, the rewards are so, so very sweet that I can't possibly stop Additionally, if everyone in my city would replace their beautiful, but impractical, flower beds with herb gardens or vegetable patches- we'd be in a much better position to face the coming shortages.
I would, personally, love to learn how to use every square inch of my property to help me in the quest for food security, but I know it's going to take a lot of hard work and not a few mistakes before I get it right.

In any event, it's a little uplifting news in a field of sometimes grim facts.

I've put up a number of links to my favorite blogs today, as well as a page called "essential basics", which is still under construction but that currently has a bunch of great stuff on it.

Pictured above, my fig tree and tiny front yard filled with lavender and rosemary

some  cool stuff after the jump

 An awesome and very recent speech by Richard Heinberg on the pressing need to address peak oil:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Wow, I just listened to these awesome australian broadcasts- they're very recent- May, to be exact--- there's no video, so you can open a new pane and bid on those groovy socks on ebay or play freecell or whatever- but they're very interesting.


  1. "Basically, I think the whole concept of bringing farming back to being a profession that *everyone* does or contributes to to some degree, even if it's just growing herbs in the windowsill of your apartment, is what we need to be working towards."

    I agree. Regardless of the turmoil that's going on with climate change and peak oil, I've always felt that it was really horrible that American farming was getting fucked over in favor of factories and other businesses the government felt was more important. I watched a horribly depressing documentary a few years back that talked about this, and how farmers were getting fucked over and in turn, being forced to close down their farms. My aunt and uncle had a dairy farm in rural Oregon for years, and I knew of their stuggles firsthand.

    My parents have always had a garden—my dad has an incredible green thumb. Actually, my dad is handy in so many ways (probably from growing up poor). He can fix anything and grow anything, and I really should learn as much as I can from him before his time on this planet is up. As someone who has had amazing success in growing food in the PNW for over thirty years, I'm sure my dad would be happy to answer any questions you have about fungus, dying potatoes, etc! So if you want, send me a list of questions, and I'll forward them to him :)


  2. @flappergirlcreations
    I actually think I figured out what it was- As it turns out, big containers are great for three things: Growing plants, napping kitties, and POOPING kitties. So basically the parasites and bacteria and protozoa from the cat poop (because everywhere is our litter box!) turned the soil to poison. mad bummer.
    But I got some blueberry bushes this weekend! Three, to be exact- all different varieties. One lowbush- a wild variant with tiny, flavorsome berries, one mid season with big berries that gets quite tall that I'm especially fond of called "Polaris", and one heavy bearing plant I can't recall the name of, but that's HUGE.
    Commercial agri-biz is going to be in all kinds of trouble as petrolium prices soar- there have already been food riots in parts of the world- which is why going back to a local, sustainable agriculture is not just cool and healthy, it's neccesarry- we simply are going to run out of options as a planet- no more Mexican apples or sweet potatoes from Peru or wherever.
    Just putting a basil plant in your window does tons of good- the amount of money and energy we expend in shipping food is unacceptable and unsustainable- I mean that literally- we won't be able to do it for much longer at a price we can afford.
    It sounds like your dad is in a very good position to face some of the challenges that lie ahead. If I were you I'd think about mining his brain for knowledge about how to fix stuff and garden-
    I do have one big question for him:

    I inherited a grapevine that had been uprooted and left to bake in the sun for almost a month- with all it's roots exposed. I was deeply upset my dad had pulled it up because it was my moms- so I took it and planted it not expecting anything. After a year, it actually started sending out little vines. I have been prunign it (I read on the osu extention site how to prune grape vines) and I'm letting it grow in one of the sunniest spots and trying to give it what it needs- but it's been about three years and it has not produced any fruit. It is quite old already (5-10yrs?)and was producing before it got pulled up.
    My questions are:
    Do you think it will it ever fruit again?
    Is there anything I should be doing to encourage it to fruit? What kind of mulching or fertilizer should I be giving it?
    (btw, It's a table grape, not a wine grape- a niagara type thick skinned one)

    I don't know if he has any experience with these kinds of grapes, but it's worth a shot!!!

    thanks a million Christine!