Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Plant a Garden, Go to Jail

Mind you, I do believe in civil disobedience for the right reasons. I just never thought that a few veggies in the front yard might be what gets you cited, particularly in the days in which even the White House has a victory garden.

As this family in the Oak Park suburb of Detroit found out, I thought wrong. Please do take a moment to read, particularly if you also have edibles in your front landscape. And then think about how you might want to support these folks.

One would think the Detroit area might have more pressing things to worry about than a few veggies in the front yard. Perhaps it's time for an Edible Estates education there?

PS: I should be clear no one's going to jail over this - it's just a citation. But riffing on the old "Ride a Skateboard, Go to Jail" meme was too tempting . . .

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Limits of Scavenging

M. F. K. Fisher used to write about cooking with the wolf at the door, back in the days of war rationing. I used to read Fisher in my first year of college, in those very broke days in which I would eat homemade rice pilaf while reading stacks of cookbooks from the college library. Her stories of cooking in very small apartments resonated, as I cooked downstairs and washed up in the dormroom bathtub. By comparison, even Fisher's wartime rations and scavenging efforts seemed lavish, and I came away from her stories with a new sense of "can do" spirit, not to mention a life-long love of nasturtiums.

Perhaps it was reading Fisher at such a formative time, but I find myself falling back on my own style of rationing and creative cooking as I ride my own little periods of feast and famine. I am very prone to periods of stocking the pantry up, followed by periods of obsessively working the pantry back down, and back again. Living in a studio apartment intensifies my lifelong obsession with the perfect balance.

No surprise then, that I found this article on running out of cooking fat from Salon's resident scavenger absolutely hilarious. Mind you, I do live in the city and it's largely my reluctance to buy butter at convenience store prices which has allowed me to get down to my very last 2 tbsp this week. But after a week of "I'd make biscuits, but . . . " I found myself laughing out loud.

Things like butter do represent the limits of foraging, I'm afraid, even in this new land of limitless wild fennel and nasturtiums.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Small Spaces Work

Also, please check out this lovely post. I am delighted.

Small works!

And, small works because it is small, not despite it!

Change is Always Now

Dear readers:

Much has happened since I last wrote.

First, and most relevant to my recent lack of writing: my house was forcibly broken into. I couldn't wish this on anyone. While my relatively frugal lifestyle meant I didn't have much to lose, it shook my confidence in a big way. I also lost my computer on which I was blogging, which meant: no more blog.

Somewhat later, I received a job offer in a new city. Which I've subsequently accepted, and moved for.

Much has changed. My former land in central Texas is now tended by a lovely friend. And I now live in extremely urban San Francisco, yearning to garden.

The plan is to kick-start this blog again. For my part, I intend to talk more about adventures in urban foraging, and eventually community gardening. A dear friend intends to write about her small plot on the beach.

And so: gardening continues: no matter how small nor transient the space. In the meantime, I grow herbs on a windowsill, and am grateful for the times I am able to connect with wild spaces, and the times I inspire.

May the alliances with the green ones continue to inspire you. I will be back to aid you, and them -

The Gardenatrix

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fruit Trees for Warm Climates

Want to dabble in permaculture? I can't think of a better first step than adding a fruit trees into the landscape. Whether you only have room for a few potted citrus and peach trees on a porch, or want to create a living fence or edible arbor for a large space, fruit trees are an easy way to grow a bit of your own food with minimal long-term tending.

Here in the South, the challenge is often getting the right fruit trees for the climate. Many fruit trees require a certain number of "chill hours" to know that winter has passed and it's time to start blooming. There is a range for each time of fruit, but beyond that a particular fruit can have a wide variation. Take apples, for example. The Israeli varietal Ein Shemer requires only 350-400 chill hours each winter, while most others require upward of 750. If you live in a warm climate and buy a varietal that requires too many chill hours, you will probably have a healthy tree -- but will only get fruit on perhaps the coldest of years. If you are in a cold climate and buy a low chill hour tree, the problem gets worse: you're likely to get beautiful blooms far too early in the spring, which will be levelled by a killing frost. Ouch.

Thankfully, most nurseries tend to cater toward the middle of the road, and have the higher chill hour fruit that most of the country needs. The best solution for gardeners in warmer climates is to learn your chill hours and buy accordingly. And when I say local, I mean: your neighborhood. Here in Austin, chill hours vary by as much as +/- 100 depending on what part of town you're in.

Big box stores often insufficiently adjust their stock for local needs, and I've even had trouble getting the best varietals for my particular part of town at my beloved local nurseries here in Austin, so you may need to consider buying online. Desert dwellers may want to take a peek at the Phoenix Permaculture Guild's online fruit tree sale, which continues through the end of the week, and of course there are a number of commercial online resellers. The important thing is to do your research, find the best spot for the tree, dig the best hole for that tree you can, and actually plant it. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago. But the second best time is now.