Tag Archives: gardening

Making A Living Out Of Living (Off the Grid In The Wilderness)

A glimpse into two households living off the grid in the American wilderness. (First published at PsychologyToday.com on 4/16/2013 by Brad Waters)

iStock_000006532086XSmall“When the sun sets on Charlie Larson’s cabin, he does not flip a light switch- his cabin doesn’t have electricity. It takes several moments longer to reach for his kerosene lamp, strike a match, and adjust the burning mantle to shed a dull light on the walls of the single-room cabin. A curl of smoke rolls inside the chimney of the lamp before the heat makes the fuel burn clean.

Living by lantern light – the nearest power line nearly three miles away – can be one person’s vision of paradise while another’s anxiety-provoking nightmare. No TV? No microwave? No Internet? Nobody lives like that anymore, right?” Read the rest of the article here…

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Chicago, Is It Safe To Plant Yet?

The 10-day forecast is looking pretty decent Chicago (zones 5-6), save for tomorrow’s night time temp in the mid-40s. Dare I risk making a predication that we’ll be in the safe planting zone starting the end of this week? I don’t foresee frost being an issue, but many varieties of warm weather veggies don’t like cold nighttime temps- unlike leafy greens which thrive under cooler conditions.  So if you’re thinking spinach and lettuce, the 80’s we’re receiving this week is not a good seeding climate. Everything else, however might just be in the clear. But don’t take my word for it, I don’t want anybody knocking on my door with shriveled or stunted seedlings if we have a midwest surprise! Start the conversation here… what are you planting and when?

Choose Heirloom or Choose Monsanto?

Without jumping too deeply into the political fray, I just want to share a few links that will help home gardeners choose their seed supplier this year. This is particularly timely, with a gigantic class-action lawsuit pending against Monsanto by a collective of farmers and the wild popularity of the movie Food, Inc.

If you want to avoid genetically modified seed varieties while supporting sustainable options like organics and heirlooms, then here is a link that lists which seed companies are owned by or sell Monsanto/Seminis seeds: http://www.garden-of-eatin.com/how-to-avoid-monsanto/. That link also shares alternative sources for non-Monsanto seeds.

[Note: Seminis is a child company of Monsanto and according to Wikipedia is “the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world.”]

In addition, the Council for Responsible Genetics lists seed companies that have signed the 2012 Safe Seed Pledge.

Make your own pledge to stay informed and make your vote (money) count when you make purchases this year. While it may be fun and nostalgic to thumb through the annual Burpee, Jung or Park Seed catalogs, just know that they are all supplied by Monsanto.

Now, hopefully nobody wearing a black suit knocks on my door this week…

[UPDATE] Not 5 hours after I published this post, did the New York federal court toss out the lawsuit against Monsanto. Back to the drawing board.

What To Plant When

This came across my Facebook feed this morning from Mother Earth News. It may not be precise, but it’s a good start for preparing which veggies to plant in which month. February in Chicago may have freezing temperatures but it’s still a good time to transplant your asparagus or sow your mache seeds outside, according to this chart.

To use the chart, pick your region and then choose the month on the following page.

Compare the Mother Earth News chart to your planting zone as indicated by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The zone map changes due to climactic variations; so if you’re in Chicago, for instance, your long-time zone of 5a may now be 5b. Do a zip code search here:

Keep in mind, both charts are only estimates and projections based on past data. Considering the strange weather the past two years, your guess is as good as mine on what to plant when. Happy growing!

Worldwide Permaculture Network

The Permaculture Institute defines permaculture as: “…an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.”

Permaculture is a way of life that can be adopted by virtually anyone, anywhere. In developed cultures we certainly have access to the knowledge and the means to implement these strategies, however big or small, from the smallest apartment patio or backyard garden up to the largest corporation rooftop or agricultural production. In developing nations, permaculture design can mean new or improved sustainable ways of living that are mutually beneficial with their environment.

There are many challenges and threats to our relationship with our environment, but I believe permaculturists are optimists. And despite the dismal headline news, there is a lot of good in the world. The goal of the Worldwide Permaculture Network to map the growing network of permaculture projects so we can all visualize just how much change is occurring. And of course to teach us all how we can adopt permaculture into our own lives. This new Network was just officially launched and anybody can sign up for free – make your place on the map.

Kokedama String Gardening at Design*Sponge

Here’s an intriguing project- Japanese “kokedama” string gardens. Aesthetic + function.

Check it out at Design*Sponge

Design*Sponge's Kokedama Hanging Garden