Wednesday, January 26, 2011

{Blue’Cow’-nties} & Red Counties

I recently discovered the podcast for Tim and Liz Young over at Nature’s Harmony Farm in Georgia.  They are raising 100% grass-fed pasture-raised beef (among other other livestock).  I have been so fascinated listening to the podcast and hearing the real everyday things farmers committed to sustainable practices have to deal with and consider.  I have been so jealous of the folks out in Georgia who can get beef from this farm and others like it (because they will not ship).  I don’t really have access to lots of farms raising grass fed pastured beef, especially if they hold to the same ‘no shipping’ policy.  So I started doing some research to see where is the closest farm to Orange County (where I live).  I found Eat Wild’s website.  They are somewhat of a clearinghouse for grass-fed food information in the US.   Bringing up the map for grass-fed farms in California I was startled at the glaring “bald spot” in southern California.  This area which was settled chiefly through the Spanish (and then Mexican) rancho system is now beef-free!  (I personally live on the old Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana)  BUT THEN, I thought I saw another pattern… so I took a few minutes to do a little look-see-ing to check it out.
beef mapCaliforniaPresidentialMap08
I hypothesized the overwhelming majority of sustainable grass-fed beef farms were located in traditionally “liberal” areas of the state; the so-called Blue Counties.  Why is this?  Or is it even a real correlation?  Am I guilty of cum hoc ergo propter hoc?  Is it because the people in the Blue Counties are philosophically inclined to value sustainable ranching and grass-fed beef?  This implies Republicans and/or conservatives aren’t.  I am a Christian and a Republican'ish and I value this method of food production, but perhaps I am sadly in the minority in my Red County island.  If I counted correctly, almost 75%(!) of these ranches are in Blue 'Cow'-nties.
The closest grass-fed pastured meat was Lindner’s Bison in Santa Clarita, which is like 65 miles away.  Worth it?  On my reduced salary? Hmmm…  I emailed them for their pricing info so we’ll see and I’ll let you know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I cannot tell a lie… I cut down the tree.


Parson Weems may have gotten his story wrong, but I sure didn’t.  Ever since I started my veggie garden I have been dealing with areas that don’t get the full sun I need.  This is chiefly due mainly to two main culprits: a good-sized juniper tree at the west end of my garden and my mortal enemy neighbor’s fifth-wheel trailer.  For years now, I have been cursing both of them but since I can’t (legally) chop down my neighbor’s trailer, I CAN cut down the tree, which I finally did this weekend.

I do not have a chainsaw, so I borrowed one from my friend Vance (who was currently borrowing it from a friend of his).  So he and the chainsaw came over on Saturday afternoon and we set to work.  The chain was really dull so it was taking quite a while, so when we came to the bigger parts, I decided to head on over and get a new chain.  MAN, that makes a big difference.  It cut like butter after that.

110_4769 110_4770 110_4772 110_4771

Viola!  One step closer to ‘full sun’ and now I have a good amount of fire wood for later in the year and I can add the wood ashes back into my compost pile!  Now, what will the future hold for the trailer?

Getting started in 2011

Well, I'm getting the garden in order and while I was at it I figured I'd try to resurrect my blogging efforts from last year.  I'm excited to expound on my garden thoughts and actions.  We'll see how it goes...

Over the fall and winter I never expect much from the garden, but this year I decided to sew a few things that were 'winter-friendly' and see what happened.  I planted some lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and green onions.  Not much of it really took, except the lettuce, until the week of rain we had just before Christmas last month.  So today we had a taco salad using a head of butter lettuce.

Also, over the fall and winter I started a compost area in one end of the garden where I loosened up the soil over an area of about 3 feet in diameter and would just toss in veggie scraps, shredded junkmail and cereal boxes, etc. forming a compost 'pit'.  Later, I started piling up the grass clippings in a compost 'pile'.  Its worked very well and the pile and pit are full of earthworms and Green Fruit Beetle grubs, which are breaking down the organic matter.  I also started adding some of the compost material into the beds to get ready for this spring's planting.


**Note: This was originally posted in February 2010 as part of an earlier attempt at blogging**
Now don't get me wrong, I like rain, I really like rain but this year I wanted to take advantage of living in Southern California and get my seeds started early this year.  However, ALL this rain has waterlogged my beds and I think most of my seeds have floated away.  It will be interesting to see where things start growing this spring...Carrots in the sidewalk cracks?

So when I got home today I re-planted some of the beds.  I actually started some seeds back in November last year so I do have a few things growing already.  Alot of things I planted in the fall didn't make it but the carrots and butter lettuce did so that's cool.

I am trying a new seed company this year -- Sustainable Seed Company.  Since I started the garden in 2004 I've used Burpee but I wanted to try a company that offered more organic and heirloom seeds (plus the prices are really nice).  So I am trying to do an all-heirloom vegetable garden this year.  I come from a long line of American farmers who worked their way from Virginia to Kentucky to Missouri to Colorado to California.  Perhaps some of these veggie varieties may have been the same that they ate sometime somewhere.

So here's what I got in the ground so far:
Broccoli (Green Sprouting Calabrese) - I've had trouble getting this started from seed
Carrots (Scarlet Nantes) - I have some of these growing and just filled in the bald spots with some more seeds.
Lettuce (Tom Thumb) - Got a little bit of this growing already and planted some more today.
Spinach (Bloomsdale Long-Standing)

 Scarlet Nantes Carrots
Tom Thumb Lettuce
This is my tiny little broccoli seedling.  We'll see if this one makes it.

Me and My Garden

**Note: This was originally posted in Feb. 2010 from an earlier attempt at blogging**
I always wanted to have my own vegetable garden but after we got married we spent almost three years in an upstairs apartment.  Yeah, I tried the whole "herbs on the balcony" planters and pots of tropical plants I bought at the fair, but everything eventually "past away".  If only I had an irrigation system out on the balcony (and sunshine).  Now that I think about it, I seemed destined to fail...=-(

So when we moved into our house in the summer of 2003 I was pumped up to have a garden!!! Now, my backyard is loaded with bougainvillea that blocks alot of sun and frankly, I'm scared of it so I try to stay away from the backyard was not looking good for a garden it was up to the front yard to fulfill my dreams (no pressure, front yard).

Well, there was a small area between my driveway and my neighbor's driveway that was choked with crabgrass and Lilies of the Nile (ugh!).  So I figured there was no rule about putting a vegetable garden in the front yard so I dove in and tore out the grass et al. and tilled up the dirt and in the spring of 2004 I put in my first veggies and every year since then, around February or March I get out there and get my seeds in the ground.

This is by no means a garden meant to save us money or get us through the winter like Barbara Kingsolver.  It is for us and our friends and I like it that way.