Ideas for a Maple Guild?

January 30, 2007

So I’ve got this Silver Maple tree standing by itself in the backyard.  It’s a baby, being maybe 14-16 feet tall at the most, and it was put in by the landscapers last spring.   Having read and bought into permaculture, I’d like to put a small guild of companion plants around it.  My pressing need is for soil improvement, so some nitrogen-fixers and soil miners are in order.

Does anyone have some suggestions?   I’ve got the books and will go digging through there for ideas, but I’ve been busy with other things and I’d hope this would start a conversation.

Defending Oil Assets…

January 30, 2007

 Even as the president’s Baghdad strategy goes forward, we need to plan for a potent redeployment of U.S. forces in the region to defend oil assets, target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran and provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict.


Sen. Richard Lugar ((R)-Ind.) in an op-ed column in today’s Washington Post.


Lugar ends his column talking about the need to defend our ‘vital interests’ in the Middle East.    What these ‘interests’ are is so blatantly obvious that it doesn’t require further elaboration.


January 29, 2007

In today’s society, marketing is king. The wikipedia entry for marketing includes the following description:

“taking actions to create, grow, maintain, defend and own markets”

While most people think of marketing in commercial terms, it also applies to politics, where the marketing is more commonly referred to as ‘spin.’ George Ure has an interesting graphic in this week’s news describing how spin works, with everyone buying into the left/right continuum when it’s really ‘haves’/’have nots’. The ‘haves’ are defending their markets quite well and are consolidating their position by slowly shunting the lower echelon of the ‘haves’ (i.e. the middle class) back into the realm of the ‘have nots’ where they have existed for most of recorded history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Pollan: Unhappy Meals

January 28, 2007

Author Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) has written a new essay on eating.  Worth a read.


January 28, 2007

I’ve picked up a new skill:


Regular reader and fellow GroovyGreen contributor Beo recommended the book “Bread Alone” in the comments section of my sustainable library post, and I picked it up a few weeks back. This is my first attempt at making bread of any sort, let alone from scratch. It’s the Country Hearth Loaf recipe from page 64.

I learned a fair bit while making the loaf:

  • I didn’t put enough flour in the dough before trying to knead it and ended up with a sticky mess until I wised up and added more flour.
  • I also figured out that for scoring the loaves, a regular kitchen knife just doesn’t do the trick. I’ll have to save one of my razor blades after it’s become too dull to shave with anymore and try that.
  • My oven has some hot spots, and the crust got a bit dark in certain spots. Next time I’ll bake it for less time before inspecting it and rotate the loaves more often.
  • Finally, I tried to move the loaves into the oven without the benefit of a peel, and thus excessive manhandling resulted in my nice round loaves turning into the deformed blobs you now see. I’ll look at either the silicone baking mats or perhaps getting an actual peel.

All in all, it was a great experience. The crust, as I mentioned before, got a little overdone, but the bread itself was nice and chewy with a great wheat/nut flavor. We had my wife’s parents over for a dinner of home-made turkey noodle soup and bread, and they loved both of them.

Cut Loaf

Thanks again, Beo!

Krauthammer – Energy Nonsense?

January 26, 2007

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer has a pretty interesting article today both skewering President Bush over his SOTU remarks about ethanol and outlining the US’s various options for “energy independence.”   Whether you agree or disagree with his ideas, he presents one truth that we all need to consider in the constant debate over how to keep the lights on without burning up the planet:

“There is no free lunch. Producing energy is going to produce waste. You pick your poison, and you find a way to manage it. Want to do something about global warming? How many global warming activists are willing to say the word nuclear?

So much easier to say ethanol. That it will do farcically little is beside the point. Our debates about oil consumption, energy dependence and global warming are not meant to be serious. They are meant for show.”

Going to See Will Steger this Weekend

January 26, 2007

Arctic explorer Will Steger is setting off on a new expedition this winter to Baffin Island, Canada to raise awareness of the impact global warming is having on the polar regions. I’ll be attending the kickoff event for Steger’s expedition at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival on Saturday.

It’s from noon to 1:30 or so at Harriet Island. I’ll be posting a story about the event to Groovy Green sometime next week.

Global Warming 101 Badge

State of the Union

January 23, 2007

Bush didn’t wow anyone including me.  Jim Webb’s Democratic response, though, was pretty good.  The gauntlet has been laid down with regards to Iraq, and he’s called BS on Bush’s repeatedly-stated but never acted on stance on energy independence.

Seed Catalogs are Starting to Arrive

January 23, 2007

It’s that time of year again, I’m starting to get my first seed catalogs in the mail.  I got one from Johnny’s Selected Seeds today, and one from Seeds of Change arrived a few weeks back.  I’ve also ordered catalogs from Stokes and Seed Savers.

My 2005 container garden was primarily from Seeds of Change, and I was happy with the quality of the seeds and the final product.  This year I think I’ll try some different suppliers just for the hell of it.  All of the companies I’ve listed above seem to have good reputations with the organic gardening crowd, so I’ll peruse all of their offerings and see what looks good.

My short list for things to grow includes:

  • Paste tomatoes (Roma or San Marzano most likely)
  • Peppers (Bell, Jalapeno and Habanero, maybe others)
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  •  Salad Greens  (probably in containers for this year)

I’m also going to plant a number of herbs that we (OK, mostly my wife) likes to use in the kitchen:  basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, etc.   Being a homebrewer, I’m going to get some hops cuttings from my favorite local homebrew shop.   While I like to brew lots of different kinds of beer, I’m looking to try and develop a recipe that relies on barley and hops that can be locally  grown (local as in a  100-mile diet sense).

Finally, I’m going to get some raspberry cuttings from my sister that were originally from my late grandmother’s homestead outside of Cokato, MN by way of her (grandma’s)  house here in the Twin Cities.   I have no idea what particular variety of raspberry they are, but the plants produce large numbers of tasty fruit.  I’ll eat them fresh, make jelly out of them, and even try a raspberry wine eventually.

The winter has been so warm and so short that we’ve only had real snow for a couple of weeks, and spring already seems close.

Thanks to everyone who’s added their $.02 to the garden bed discussion!

Garden Beds

January 20, 2007

I’ve pretty much decided on putting in slighty-raised beds in the backyard. The local DIY store sells ‘garden timbers’ that will make a nice & relatively inexpensive boundary around the garden, which will probably keep both my neighbors and the homeowner’s association landscaping police off my back.

The beds themselves will be a couple of inches higher than the surrounding lawn; enough to keep people from accidentally stepping in them (hopefully), while not being so high as to make raking, spading, weeding and other mundane chores too much of a pain in the butt. My plan is to buy enough timber to make a frame around the entire garden area, and then have 12-18 inch-wide paths inside there for moving around and working.  Does this sound like a good plan of attack, or are there some other ideas that you all have found work better?

I’m thinking about putting in fencing of some sort to keep both the local rodentia (rabbits and voles, mostly) out along with our dog, who is well-meaning but nosy, and has large enough paws to do some serious damage chasing balls or animals into the garden. How many of you put some sort of animal fencing around your beds?


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