Friday, May 25

Lowcarb and Gardens

Well, there you go. Whine, kvetch, gripe, blog, and then throw yourself on your bed and cry your head off until you fall asleep. It worked for me. But finally that glorious time of the month arrived, and I quit feeling like alt.FatGirl.die.die.die and got on with my life.

Today I was reading the blog Weight of the Evidence, and she was talking about trying to successfully live, let alone lowcarb, on a pitifully small amount of money.

It got me thinking about gardens. You know, the last century's radical shift away from gardening is not just about free time. If anything people have more free time than they ever did, culturally -- they just have other priorities, of course. I suspect it's more about a trend of basically avoiding responsibility, in a way. I don't mean if you don't have a garden you're irresponsible (haha!), I mean that as a culture at large it seems like we grow more and more toward "paying someone to feed us or fix us."

Like to example the latter, my friend didn't want to do lowcarb because her doctor said it was unhealthy, so now she's on a drug to relieve acid reflux. Or another woman I met who said she had a gastric bypass not just for the weight issue but "to deal with major medical problems" like acid reflux. Holy cats on a pogo stick batman! Apparently the second one didn't know that 10 days on lowcarb (off gluten in particular) solved my major acid reflux problem instantly, bam, GONE -- and the first just didn't care. Don't bother me with facts. Don't expect me to eat well. Here's money. Give me a pill and shut up about it.

Well as much as so many folks wax on about "fresh fruits and vegetables," I'm led to think that they don't know much about the vegetables sitting in their walmart produce section. The carbs are often much higher, the nutrients vastly lower, in what you buy at the store, because those are genetic strains designed for single-point harvesting (not gradually like most plants), and to withstand shipment in a box over long distances without visible bruising or spoilage, and to taste as sweet as possible. In short, they are designed to be big sweet cardboard. Kind of like the breakfast cereal version of vegetables. Not to say they're bad!--they're not. Just to say that most the stuff in the grocery just doesn't compare to what you can grow at home.

(By the way. You can even grow mushrooms at home. We buy mushroom compost, from a local firm that sells the typical little white ones you get in the store. It's usually pretty hot (not really ready to be used IN the garden, needs some more biodegrading) but we dumped some in a bed we weren't using. Months later, we pulled out several groups of mushrooms, that were literally like 9" circumference. I'd never seen anything so gigantic. Apparently these little guys don't have a growth limit on them, they are simply harvested at that size consistently. You can get mushroom kits from most seed selling sources.)

My point is that it's close to free -- not quite but nearly so, moreso over time -- to grow your own vegetables, that are as fresh and nutritious as they can be.

If you have, anywhere on your property, a square of even occasional sunlight, even in short-day climates, of at least 2 foot by 2 foot in size (well you could do 12"x12" but that is really cutting it close! ;-)), you can grow a small garden.

I'm serious. Anybody who has not read the terrific book "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew, please do yourself a favor and read it. It is SO worth the read. It's simple, interesting, kinda humorous in spots, and lays out a garden plan that is actually fun, even for kids. You can sometimes find it in libraries or used. It shows you how you can grow the maximum yield (food) in the minimum amount of space, soil, water, and effort.

If you want to see my standing garden -- last year when it was in use! -- visit The 8-Cat Garden and browse through the maybe dozen posts there. Not much on that blog. I am not gardening this year because between getting my ex to move out, focusing on my diet, on my job, spending more time with my kid (and taking months off to eat high carb which made me feel exhausted and not inclined to plant when I should have!) I won't be gardening this year.

I might give in this weekend and throw a few seedlings for herbs and peppers and tomatoes in the ground but whether I feel like watering them during the summer heat for their survival is still up in the air I'm afraid. The new grape arbor however I'll find a way to get water too. The horrid re-re-re-freeze we had after it had already warmed up and bloomed into Spring this year, killed nearly all the vines dead it appeared, but some life is coming back near the ground on most of them and I want to help them survive.

But enough about me -- though I AM the center of the universe, if my ego is any indicator -- I was supposed to be talking about gardening.

Since the dawn of whatever time God, Aliens or Happy Chance taught man that sticking seeds or fruits in the ground would make something grow, mankind has been growing food. If you went back a century, in any country you may live in, you'd probably find a great majority of the population (outside the inner cities of course) who flat out could not have lived were it not for the serious gardening they did (and often other things, like raising chickens and goats, making butter, etc.).

Let me repeat that. People grew food because they could not afford to shop much, especially if they had lots of kids. So why does that never seem to occur to people today??

I used to do programming for my living and I don't know if it's related, but I was kinda worried about Y2K. No, I was not buying a gun and a fallout shelter in Montana. I was buying stored bulk food and medical supplies in case the apt. complex across the street, full of old women and single moms and kids, faced some bureaucratic no welfare checks today kind of problem.

I was pretty casual about it until the official meeting with the president and leaders of all major media sources resulted in a total blackout on the subject except for the occasional mocking of someone worried. Had they said, "Well it could be an issue, but we don't expect it. It's a good idea if y'all keep some water and food and TP around in case the just in time inventory system, computer driven as it and bulk product transportation and fuel often is, has any difficulties," then I would have done exactly that and not worried about it. But the mysterious silence instead -- I guess applying that "don't ask, don't tell" motto to leadership, as well as other controversial subjects -- completely freaked me out. I had a 2 year old at the time I first started thinking about it. As any mother knows, this is related, of course. The biological instinct to protect the child is overwhelming.

So I set out to educating myself. I read so much stuff via internet and via book that it was like cramming for a hard college final, but every single day for like 18 months. I know more about making a homemade brick wall from scratch, delivering babies, baking without an oven, and composting human waste, then you could ever want to know, as just a few examples.

Totally by accident, I came to realize that not only was I a city girl, but I was utterly ignorant, totally dependent, and would basically die left to my own devices. I really had no idea how ignorant I was until I really started studying everything. And one of the most astonishing, horrifying, yet interesting subjects I ended up reading a ton about was natural gardening.

Some people think that even as you read this, somewhere, some machiavellian evil overlord is conspiring to squash research for lowcarb and push carbs not just for product sales but to make the medical industry yet more money and humans yet more dependent on pharmaceutical.

Well, I don't know about that. Probably. Maybe?

But I do know that even as you read this, those sorts are conspiring and implementing every plan they can to make it so food seeds are unavailable to the public, so food is patented and licensed and seeds aren't even allowed to be kept or sold or traded, or if they are, they are designed to not work at all for a second season's growth.

I know, it sounds extreme. It is like an onion, if you study this subject, you just keep thinking it can't get any worse, and the more you learn, the more you're just completely lost for words on what a 'Grand Plan' it seems to be at some level and how well it is working thanks to the ignorance and unconcern of our population. When I started reading about seed saving and the whole situation of seeds in our world, I was stunned. Were it not for the amazing efforts of a small number of die-hard, ridiculously driven, overworked altruists over the last couple decades in particular, to found tons of seed saving organizations and share seeds and develop farms just to perpetuate and keep rare seed strains alive, and to gather seeds from all over the world -- the situation would be 100x worse today than it would have been without them.

I know most people think you just go to the store and buy a packet of seeds. Easy, right?

A few are the sort that will reproduce next year if you know how to save them properly, if you prevent cross contamination of the crop, if you store the seed well, if you have decent soil (which is generally built, not bought). Most of them aren't. Most of them will grow nifty oversized and over-sweetened (carby!) vegetables and fruits for you and if you want to grow anything next year, you'll need to go buy more seeds, or what you'll get may or may not look or taste anything like what you plan.

Now look again at how many options you have in that store. Do you realize that there are hundreds of types of peas alone? Who knew?? How many of those do you see available to you in the store? Probably one. Maybe two. How many different companies do you see on those seed packages -- and do you know if they actually share a parent company?

Most people have never given a second thought to the subject of gardening and seeds and the availability of seeds -- and seeds that will bear fruit you can collect seeds from to grow another season -- I certainly hadn't. Might be worth your time. Especially if you don't have much money.

It's a basic survival skill. It's the sort of thing we all should know a little about, just because we are human, just because we eat to survive.

And it's more fun and not as much work if you do it right. Even I at 482 lbs could garden -- you just plan it to fit what you can do. Even a small planter, near enough your door/traffic that you see it regularly so watering and care is easy and totally minor, can grow more 'stuff' than you might imagine! Yummy stuff. Green onions and a diced small roma tomato and a pinch of an herb can make a major difference in a morning's scrambled eggs.

And add a lot to your health. And save a lot for your pocketbook!


Niki said...

Hey PJ,
In that gardening book does it till you how to make a garden in I love in an apartment, but I have a balcony. I'd LOVE to have a little garden out there. I bought a tomato plant and yesterday I saw it has one little green tomato on it. I'm so excited :)

About PJ said...

Well, you could apply his ideas to anything.

Technically his idea 'is' a 'container garden' concept (it's not IN the ground, merely ON the ground -- or raised above it if one has some kind of container or bed with stilts).

His soil suggestion is ideal but course vermiculite is not easy to find, not sure if only needing a little, for a few pots, would be a lot easier.

I usually grow a lot of stuff in containers. I even have grown stuff in the 8"x6" holes in the bricks at the top of my standing beds. (Once a bell pepper plant, by accident. The roots were allowed to go about 32" deep, maybe that compensated. The plant was smaller than usual, the peppers were smaller than usual, but it was so adorable! Worked fine IMO.)

Probably best idea for a few containers though, is to skip the book (although it's still interesting reading AND could still be used, in "small" form, on a patio), and head over to GardenWeb's "Container Forum" -- they have a forum on every imaginable thing -- and talk to the people there. They are mostly folks who often live like on the 32nd story in a city with nothing but a tiny patio, but they are determined to garden! Let me find the link... Container Gardening

The dollar stores often have good sized plastic containers for cheap. Just drill some small holes in the bottom for drainage. Or in one case when that wasn't working I bought a $7 saudering iron at the hardware store and melted holes in it, worked fine. Put them on something (even a loose assortment of little rocks) so it can drain. If it's really hot out and you have to work so you're gone long hours, find a deep dish, tray (sometimes a big plastic container that used to hold meat in the store can work!) you can set the pot in (slightly off the bottom so the holes are decently exposed) and fill it with water. That helps a ton to prevent wilting and so on. If you can't afford to really invest in good soil -- I'm an organic gardener so I focus on that, but if you can't, then look for something advertised as natural organic plant food (often in liquid form) that you can add to every other watering.

Of course, I also spend a good deal of time talking to the nature spirits and plant devas about what I'm doing and what I'd like help with. This is something I would only mention to another displaced California girl HAHAHA. :-)

By the way there's another book called 'Carrots Love Tomatoes' that talks about what plants like to be planted together vs. don't. Before your tomato plant is really big, or if you have some unshaded soil in the pot based on its location, you can grow little salad veggies around the main plant.

Niki said...

Thanks for all the great info PJ!!!
I'm going to have to look into that :) Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!!!

Niki said...

"Of course, I also spend a good deal of time talking to the nature spirits and plant devas about what I'm doing and what I'd like help with. This is something I would only mention to another displaced California girl HAHAHA. :-) "

Bahahahahaha!!! I completley understand. You're so funny!!! lmao!!! :)

Big Daddy D said...

It's still not too late to plant this summer's garden. Hop to it everyone! I garden not so much to save money as because home grown tastes 10x better than store bought. My garden is small and humble, only about 15 x 20 feet. My back yard in the suburbs only has 3 inches of top soil. I had to buy a truck load of dirt and built a frame with landscape timbers. Even though it is so small, in another month, I'll have more zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes than I can find uses for. I've still not eaten everything that I canned form last year. Speaking of canning, that is another lost art... not many people know how to do it anymore.

Other space saving tips... I have planted grapes on trellises along the sides of my house. I'm using blueberry bushes as landscaping. One flowerbed has strawberries as ground cover. I have also planted an apple tree, pear tree, and plum tree all of which produce.

So, living in the city or suburbs is not much of an excuse. You'd be amazed what you can grow in a tight space.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving this. I slapped myself in the forehead when I read that same post over on Weight of the Evidence! I cannot believe it never occurred to me to plant some vegetables in pots on the patio. I went out that day and bought a couple of bell pepper plants and a big pot to plant them in as my first gardening experiment. I can't wait to eat home-grown peppers, free of pesticides! I have the SF Gardening book on hold at the library and will pick it up tomorrow. This may be my new obsession. Now I'm looking at all the ornamental landscaping I've spent so much money on over the last couple of years and wishing I'd planted blueberry bushes and things like that instead of just ornamentals. Live and learn!