Archive for July, 2009

Growth

It’s strange how quickly things change in the garden. The July garden was not the same as the June garden, and the August garden is not the same as the July garden. Even this Monday’s garden is not the same as last Friday’s garden.

Since we are out there nearly every day, the changes don’t seem so dramatic. It’s only when I sort through the pictures that I can see the difference.

Remember our little bean sprout? Thirty-five days later, it’s a bush bean proper.

And the tiny tomatillo plant from the blooms post? Now it’s one of the largest plants in the garden.

In the original (late June) pictures of our sign for the “about” page, you can see the freshly hoed and planted rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons. By late July, the vines were huge, and the flowers we planted to attract beneficial insects were in bloom as well.

Plants are magical.

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Melons on the vine

Crimson sweet

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Aphid Update

Dead Aphids

The soap spray (we used liquid Dr. Bronner’s organic castille soap after the first day) is quite effective, and doesn’t seem to bother the plants. Above you can see the blacked, dead remains of a once-thriving aphid colony on a brussel sprout leaf.

Unfortunately, the aphids were multiplying faster than we could spray them, which with a kitchen spray bottle and five long rows of brassicas to spray is very tedious and frustrating work.

(A friend recently informed me that aphids can be BORN PREGNANT, since they reproduce parthenogenically. They certainly do breed at an alarming rate)

The brussel sprout (left) and purple cabbage (right) below are lamentably completely overrun by aphids.

Infested Brussels Overrun Purple Cabbage

There was still hope, however.

Ladybugs for Sale Another organic method of pest control was still available to us. Natural predators. Rebecca picked up a plastic container of 1000 ladybugs for us at Zamzows. We released them after our first night at market.

Ladybugst

We were concerned about them all flying away, and while not all of them stuck around, I see four or five a day as I putter around the garden. I was particularly excited to find the ladybug larva in the image below on a brussels leaf.

Ladybug Larva on a Brussles Sprout

Between the ladybugs, the occasional spray with cold water from the hose, and a bi- to tri-weekly soap treatment (focusing mainly on the actual edible sprouts themselves, which bud off of the central stalk) the aphids are very nearly under control. While only three very large brussels plants made it through, we should get some sprouts off of them and are better equipped to deal with possible aphids on the new flat of brassicas Sarah picked up from Beth this week. (We planted some broccoli and cabbage this morning.)

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The Energy Fair

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Sara here, sustainability intern number two. I’ve gotta give major props to my amazing partner Kalee for starting up this blog. We are truly loving working in the garden, making our campus more sustainable, selling at the farmer’s market, and networking with local farmers. I am very passionate about sustainability and love that our campus & Bon Appetit place an emphasis on sustainable food, using ingredients from the garden and from local farmers. Food is our most fundamental connection to the Earth, so it’s important to know where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Another huge aspect of sustainability lies within energy: where it comes from and how we use it. The main reason our Earth is in the midst of an ecological crisis is because we don’t use energy efficiently. For thousands of years humans survived on the energy of the sun, a constant renewable source. However, people began using fossil fuels during the industrial revolution to maximize economic efficiency. The fossil fuel supplies then seemed limitless, and who would have predicted then that burning it could affect our planet’s climate? Today we power our society primarily with oil, coal, and natural gas. The combustion of these fossil fuels (ancient fossilized organisms, that absorbed energy from the sun millions of years ago) releases greenhouse gases which become trapped in our atmosphere, creating extremely high concentrations of carbon, thus creating climate change. At this point in time we’ve used half of the Earth’s supplies of oil. Do we really want to use up all the rest, when we can already see the effect it is having on the planet? Scientists say to avert catastrophic effects of global warming, we must reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. We are currently at 385 ppm and growing at a rate of 2 ppm per year. Yuck! And scary!

Thankfully there is always hope: hence my interest in renewable energy. Clean energy from the sun, wind, and from the Earth’s hot core will absolutely power the future, hopefully sooner than later.

Earlier this summer I called my uncle Scott Cramer in Minneapolis and he invited me to join him and his business at the 20th anniversary Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. My uncle owns a business based in Minneapolis, MN that sells socially and environmentally progressive themed merchandise (T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, etc.) This is his website: Northern Sun

They travel around the country to many events, the energy fair being one of the biggest. I was so lucky to attend this event, because I was able to help my uncle set up and sell in the booth, but mostly I got to walk around the fair all weekend and visit hundreds of renewable energy & sustainable living exhibitors and workshops.

The event is put on by the MREA, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. This year it was held June 19-21 and it featured 200 workshops, 270 exhibitors, 3 keynote speakers, inspiring music, and great sustainable food.
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Since I came with my uncle’s business I had free entrance to the fair all weekend, and had additional exhibitor perks, like delicious breakfasts provided by Organic Valley. Friday morning I went on a tour of the Energy Fair which is located at the MREA headquarters, called the Renew the Earth Institute. The whole fair is powered with renewable energy, including two large solar-photovoltaic panels, and a huuuuuge wind turbine.
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I learned that as wind speed increases, the energy produced by a wind generator increases exponentially. Pretty good incentive to get one if you live anywhere windy!

Stay tuned for more info about the Energy Fair!

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Caldwell Farmer’s Market (Our first two weeks)

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I am pleased to report that we have two successful visits to the farmer’s market under our belts! The picture above was taken by a helpful fellow vendor at our first farmer’s market. After some, challenges, with the canopy (Caldwell Farmer’s Market has very strict regulations regarding appearance. Canopies must be white or green, no blue, and unfortunately just a few days before the college had sold all of it’s green canopies at the yard sale and kept only the blue) (luckily after calling several rental companies and sporting goods stores we were able to borrow a green cover from the market administration) we were off.

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We were unprepared for exactly how much lettuce was in our three rows of lettuce mix. Once washed it filled well over thirty bags- seven or so are pictured above, the other 23+ spent market day in the cooler. We sold most of our produce that first day, and made a decent amount of profit, considering it was our first day. (Initial estimates were about twenty dollars or so after subtracting the cost of materials and the market fee. Later, when Amanda counted up the cashbox, she told us we made much more.)

Customers and sometimes other vendors approached us and told us some wonderful stories about their breakfasts, gardens, kitchens, families, whatever. (One gentleman told us in great detail about his morning smoothie, which contained among other things, highly nutritious but sometimes-difficult-to-love kale). A few people were curious to know what to do with or how to cook some of our produce- questions that despite working for a food service and a catering company I wasn’t fully prepared to answer. I did my research later on sorrel, a tangy leafy herb reminiscent of rhubarb, and found that is most associated with sorrel soup. (Which was delicious, by the way. Some of the leftovers from market found their way into my roommate’s newly purchased stew pot)

By the next Wednesday we were Farmer’s Market Experts and harvested, bundled, and priced much less produce with considerably less stress and set up in no time. This time we nearly sold out of everything (!) pushing our total market profits to over 100$, doubling our budget. (Which was no longer as desperately necessary thanks to the donation of a hoe by our beloved benefactor Beth and ten tomato cages by another friend and organic grower, Bart.)

Below are pictures of our second, streamlined booth, featuring our walla-walla sweet onions.

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The past two weeks we have been absent from the market, choosing to focus on and send our produce to the Idaho Green Expo, but we’re looking forward to a comeback next Wednesday.

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