Archive for June, 2011

Check out these great articles about organic farming and gardening:

This is a good overview of the development, principles, and future challenges of organic agriculture:  Organic Agriculture, a global perspective.  A bit slow, but you know, in case you were wondering.

An amazing, horrifying seven-part series about the dangers of synthetic fertilizers used in modern agriculture by Seattle’s Grist Magazine:  The Nitrogen dilemma- is America Fertilizing Disaster?

My new favorite book!  The New Organic Grower, by Elliot Coleman.  Great information about crop rotation, green manures, composting, and how to pick a good plot of land for your small organic farm.  Here are a couple of my favorite chapters:   Chapter 2 Land            Chapter 7 Crop Rotation

Renewing Husbandry   This is the 2005 article by Wendell Berry I mentioned previously- a stirring tale about the fall of soil husbandry.

Another fascinating book, this one entirely about soil, and how it is the key to a successful garden:  Start with the Soil, by Grace Gershuny.  Written in 1993, it’s a bit out of date with current USDA organic regulations, but still quite awesome.   The soil community       Hummus and Soil Health     Compost- gardener’s gold!

A shorter article from Mother Earth News in 2003 about building soil health and fertility using no-till gardening and farming methods.  Building Fertile Soil    I had heard about no-till, but some people advocate no digging whatsoever!  I announced to David last night that we were switching to no-till gardening.  “Huh?”  I repeated myself.  “I understand your words, but what the heck does that mean?”  I don’t know either quite yet…

More articles to come!

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Decided, after a long while of thinking, that it would be at very least, incredibly bold, and at most, a terrible idea, to start an internship of a farm in the months before i’m slated to take my general exam. David has advised me time and again that if i stick with my PhD, i need to do it well. And though it’s difficult to put in long hours of lab work during the Seattle paradise season, i agree with him- if i’m not going to quit, i should buck up and git ‘er done.

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My parents had chickens in Tuscon when they were in grad school, and have recounted hilarious tales to me for many years about their chicken adventures.  Ronaldo the hen was so tame, my dad took her to several halloween parties as an accessory to his costume.  Once they discovered thousands of ticks living in the plywood under the chicken coop and decided to torch the thing.  Another time they came home to find their german shepherd plucking the last few feathers out of a chicken- while it was still alive.  My parents have not kept chickens since we moved away from Tucson, but they seem to remember those days fondly, and were very supportive when David and I declared we would raise a flock of our own.

Discussing the possibility of pets has proven to be a slippery slope for David and I.  We thought quite a bit about whether we should move in together near the beginning of our relationship, but as soon as we did- Bam!- we had a dog a week later.  What’s a home without a dog?  A while later, while walking the dog in the park, David suggested we get a cat.  My answer was a definite “No.”   But there’s no unplanting the pet seed.  When we got home, we got in the car and went to the pound, and brought home the cat that jumped out of her cage onto David’s shoulders.

The chickens took us a while longer, perhaps because it was not yet chick season when we first started thinking about them.  Both of us oscillated back and forth, wondering if they would tie us down or bother the neighbors.  Would the eggs and manure be worth the trouble?  Finally the waves of indecision gained momentum, one of us pushing when the other had doubts, and once we started looking at which breeds would make good backyard chickens, there was no going back.  As it turned out, it was also impossible for us to get fewer chickens than the Seattle City ordinance limit of eight.  We picked a good mix of excellent layers and interesting breeds from the Portage Bay Grange, and brought them home in a box the size of a loaf of bread.

We’ve given away two that turned out to be roosters, and now one of their replacements is becoming rather roosterly too.  It’s quite sad giving them away, but the hens are noisy enough as it is.  We’d like to be giving the neighbors eggs graciously, not out of obligation.  So, as soon as my latest Craig’s list ad is answered by someone who has a nice big yard outside the city – big enough for Alberta’s big, soulful eyes – our flock will be seven.

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Though I’ve heard of Wendell Berry, I’ve never read anything he’s authored until this morning. I will commit myself to reading much more. Funny how the more you learn, the longer your reading list grows.

Here is a beautiful piece about “soil husbandry.”

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Who knows if i’ll be accepted, but i may be working one day a week with Seattle Tilth’s Farm Incubator Program this summer!  The program helps low-income and refugee families start up their organic farms by providing educational support and help acquiring land.  In addition to getting to work with refugees and on a farm, i’m hoping this will teach me a bit about the business side of organic farming.

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