Sociable

Back to Basics: Beginner tips for starting an urban garden

4/13/11 0 comments
I'm new to this organic/sustainable gardening thing and I'm still finding my own way but I thought it would be nice to post about a few basic and cheap things that anyone can do to start their own garden.

1. Start Composting!
    Compost is a super cheap and healthy alternative to commercial potting soil mixes. While at the advanced levels some farmers and gardeners prefer to add special nutrients to their soil, it really isn't necessary if you are just starting out. Some of the benefits of composting on your own includes always having a supply of potting soil for planting, reducing your impact on the planet by recycling organic waste and lastly, a cheap supply of good soil that you can use to repair your yard. Here are some instructions for starting a basic vermicomposting (composting using worms) bin of your own:
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Make Your Own Natural Cleaners

3/31/11 0 comments
I know absolutely nothing about making all natural cleaners although it is something I'd like to learn more about. A favorite room mate of mine from a few years would absolutely not let me use commercial cleansers of any kind within the house and insisted on using vinegar to clean things. The house was a bit of a wreck so I never saw that the natural route was perceivably better than just buying standard cleaners but I'm willing to give it another try. These recipes are quick, easy to make and cheaper than standard cleaning supplies. I plan to pick up the ingredients when I go shopping this weekend.

Check out the recipes here. Are you going to try them?
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The Cherry Tomatoes You Want to Grow This Season

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I have been looking for a sampler like this one for AGES: 
The sampler includes Snow White, Green Grape, Koralik, Black Cherry, Yellow Pear, and Red Fig. Check it out and tell me if they grow well for you and where you are. I will be buying this for my grandma to grow in the cool mountains of Puerto Rico.
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Food Dyes are Bad News? Who DIDN'T Know??

3/30/11 0 comments
So apparently the food and drug administration has finally caught up with... well, everyone and realized that food coloring in kids food is bad news, particularly for kids with ADHD. Check a link here and read about my own experience with dye after the jump.

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Free organic seeds

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Seeds of Change, the awesome people who are trying to stock pile organic seeds to ensure that we ALL have a healthy future, are giving away 100 million seeds in an effort to get more people growing organic. Individuals will receive 25 packets of varied fruits/veggies, herbs and flower seeds while non profits, schools and community groups will get 100 packets. You do have to pay shipping and handling but it's $5 (within the 50 states) which is less than the cost of 2 seed packets in most places. Even if you do consider the cost of shipping, it comes out to only 20 cents per pack of organic seeds. Click the link below ASAP to get in on this offer while you still can :)

http://www.seedsofchangefoods.com/sowingmillions/sowingmillions.aspx

You should also check out this article to find out more on why you should choose organic seeds over the kind you usually find in stores. One big reason is Monsanto and companies like it which now own the vast majority of seed companies. Another great reason to check out the article is for the instructions on saving tomato seeds. Now I know why only 3 of my small organic heirloom tomato seed collection actually started growing!
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Musings on constitutional rights

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Before I start I just want to let you readers know I will be messing around with the template today so it may be hard to read or access a few posts.


So today I was skimming through my Facebook and found an interesting link on my wall to a survivalist blog, not the sort of thing I read regularly. But I decided to skim it because it was supposedly written by a police officer who has been attending training given by the Department of Homeland Security.

What really caught my attention was the writers description of what police officers are now being told to look for: "These people grow their own food, raise livestock and plot attacks on commercial food production facilities" The "these people" the text refers to are supposedly "domestic terrorists." What do you think about this development, where knowing how to grow your own food is now a cause for suspicion? Do you think the original post is nonsense or is it troubling to you? Personally I am not in the least surprised. There have definitely been signs of this coming for a long time now. My question is, how do we combat this view that growing your own /"stockpiling" (canning) is scary/dangerous/threatening/possibly terrorist activity? How do we show people that it is simply common sense? Relying on food from other countries provided by big businesses is not in our best interests. Every earthquake, tsunami, drought causes ripples along the global food chain. Removing our selves from that chain is, in my opinion, the only safe way to ensure that we will always have what we need. This is also why I think farming and gardening should be a community endeavor. One person with a food garden is an anomaly. A neighborhood with a garden is a community.

What are your thoughts?
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Free permaculture/sustainable agriculture book downloads

3/21/11 0 comments
Hi readers! I don't have time for a long post at the moment but I stumbled upon this website and found it too awesome to not share. It's perfect for me because many of the books are specifically oriented to the tropical setting, but I'm sure there is information that can be used in other climates. The books are mostly in English with a few in French. Dont be confused by the 9 Euro symbol, click the pdf box and the download should start immediately. The 9 euro is for a hard copy.

http://www.agromisa.org/index.php

Enjoy! Let me know if you used the link and what other kinds of links you are interested in so I can try posting stuff specifically oriented to my readers. :)
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Useful green living sites

3/7/11 0 comments
Today I wanted to post a few useful sites that I think everyone interested in sustainability should check out. Besides gardening sites quite a few have to do with sustainable design and building (in no particular order of preference):

Daily Green focuses on green living trends but it has some pretty fun posts and useful information although it is not as in depth as it could be.  Check it out if you are interested in buying green products more than learning to make your own. Their blog roll also lists some of the best green living and sustainability sites I’ve heard of.

This blog has a little bit of everything: give aways, gardening, education and more. It is extremely in depth and also features some excellent interviews. Check it out if you want to learn more about permaculture.

Webecoist, a blog from the same folks who brought me my favorite design blog (dornob), is a sort of best of/list blog with pictures. It is a vast store house of images and links and should definitely be in your bookmarks.

The website of the Organic Farming and Research Foundation sponsors organic farming research, education & outreach projects.

This is one of my favorite sites and one of the few I check faithfully. The guy who writes this fun instructional blog originally started his first urban garden on a fire escape in the middle of New York. He has since moved but still lives in relatively small apartments and faithfully documents his adventures growing food in planters.

This is the green living related section of the discovery TV shows website. Pretty cool, mostly science related info like research, studies and more.

Basic gardening how-tos for the rest of us (ie: the ones with black thumbs or unwitting plant assassins). Easy to follow, clear instructions, general gardening info on everything from flowers to exotic decorative plants. Not a very good liking site though, if that matters to you.

This site is another gardening site, but strictly devoted to all things food-growing related. Very good info on safe/natural fertilizers and pesticides as well as recipes. Another one of my faves, particularly because of their focus on education and out reach.

This blog is NOT the original earthship site (you can find the original at earthship.net) but it does give readers a more in depth look at how an earth ship is designed, as well as having videos of the actual building process for those who want to learn.

Please tell me about any sites you like or think I should check out by leaving a comment below.
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15 foods that are safe to buy

3/4/11 0 comments
Check out the Daily Green’s post on 15 foods low in pesticides so you won’t need to buy organic. 
This sweet little list lets you know what is safe to buy at your local grocery if you can't afford organic produce (like me!). Ideally you are already growing them in your own garden but in case you aren’t, these plants are safer to buy:

While you're at it you should also check out the rest of the Daily Green. It's a pretty awesome site. And in the meantime, try picking up some of these seeds to grow. You never know when you can use the fruits in your kitchen, plus the plants are freezable and cannable as well as organic, and delicious! (My enthusiasm is cheesy, I know ;D)

       
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My Beginner organic farm plan

3/3/11 1 comments
Hi readers! I’m sorry it has been so long since I have updated here. First winter came and killed off my sweet peppers right on the vine, although my cherry tomatoes lasted a little longer…

Anyway, since the last time I updated here a great deal has changed in my life, most importantly that I am moving to China. I have given away all of my plants in Albuquerque and made a small kitchen garden for my brother with some of my seed stash. Currently I am visiting my family and friends in Puerto Rico before flying to Changchun, China.

This is all part of my new 5 year plan, the end result of which I hope will be to develop an organic farm here in Puerto Rico. My plan is relatively simple at this stage: Go to China, save mucho dinero, come back and buy a convenient chunk of land, build an Earthship style home and begin growing organic and heirloom foods.  The specifics are a bit more complex…

Puerto Rico simply does not have a sustainably minded culture yet. So little in fact that when my friend and I asked the bartender to reuse our plastic cups for the next drink, he looked at us as though we were mocking him and threw them out. My family is presently quite confused about this goal. They understand in theory that it can be done, they just do not believe it can be done HERE. I am inclined to agree with them. Puerto Rico does not have a barter culture either. To get around these problems my current plan is to resort to sites like couchsurfing.org. I plan to offer people a free place to stay here in lovely tropical PR in exchange for helping me do some predetermined project such as putting up solar panels or building a wall. My old roommate seemed pretty excited about this idea since she is studying architecture, so she will be able to go crazy with the design. As for building materials, I will probably use soda cans filled with local clay, glass bottle for interior walls and cement in place of adobe/cob since it is quite rainy here. I think I will be able to get the majority of the building supplies for free or very cheap by offering to haul trash for people. However I will still probably have to buy the interior building supplies like cabinetry.

I plan to visit some rice patties in Guillin, China to try and learn how they build the platforms since I think a modified version could work really well since I want to buy cheap, steep mountainside land. Instead of having water filled platforms I would have well drained platforms to avoid dengue mosquitoes and landslides (PR is a rain forest so water will be a problem). Then I plan to plant a variety of local plants and non invasive heirlooms; mostly organics. Local food I plan to have include green pigeon peas (gandules verdes), plantains,  ajies dulces,  bananas, various tubers and starchy tree fruit, coconut, papaya and pineapple as well as herbs such as recao and cilantro. The more standard stuff would be carrots, peppers, onions, various potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, mesclun, legumes, cantaloupe, watermelon and more along that line.

Besides all of this, I hope to have at least a few animals, like chickens, a pig and maybe a few goats. It would be really cool to learn to make goat cheese. My bro the cheese freak would really love that, especially if I could make blue cheese.

Anyway for now I estimate it will take me between 18-24 months for me to save enough money to do this, although if the US $ stays as low as it is or gets lower I may be able to come back sooner than planned.
What do you think of my ideas? Have any suggestions? Know anything I should consider? Tell me about it! And in the meantime check out these books:

   
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