Stacking Functions Garden


What I’m reading right now

A couple things that I read today:

10 simple truths about raising healthy eaters
And one of the ten is give them raw milk!  Alas that I have no access to it.  Does anyone know a source of raw milk in the Twin Cities metro area?  The rest of the nine “truths” are mostly very simple ones, such as: kids will eventually eat their vegetables — if they see you eating your vegetables.

Gardening is EXPLODING in popularity
New research from the National Gardening Association shows that:

“Seven million more households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs, or berries in 2009 than in 2008 — a 19 percent increase in participation.”

The full report is a pdf; click here to download it.

Coming soon: spray-on liquid glass
I have no idea what to make of this.  I’ll pull the same quote that Jason Kottke did:

The liquid glass spray produces a water-resistant coating only around 100 nanometers (15-30 molecules) thick. On this nanoscale the glass is highly flexible and breathable. The coating is environmentally harmless and non-toxic, and easy to clean using only water or a simple wipe with a damp cloth. It repels bacteria, water and dirt, and resists heat, UV light and even acids. UK project manager with Nanopool, Neil McClelland, said soon almost every product you purchase will be coated with liquid glass.

Here’s the rest.  One of the things I love about glass is how endlessly and easily recyclable it is (unlike plastic).  I’m sure there’s a horrible downside to this that I’m not thinking of, though?


Garden plan 2010: letting go of rows

My “big idea” with the vegetable garden this year is that I am finally going to let ye olde row system die.  It’s fine for people with acres, but for small spaces, you’re just wasting valuable growing space by putting a walkway between each single line of plants.  So here’s my tentative layout for 2010 (click to enlarge):

As you can see, I have four areas, and plants will be scattered throughout each area to maximize numbers.  I plan to make each area slightly “raised” by scooping a good inch or two off of each aisle, and also by adding extra compost.

So, here are my big plans, from left to right:

1. Bush beans and peas. This irregular-shaped area has had heavy feeders for a few years now (tomatoes in 2008, parsnips in 2009) so it deserves a little legume-love.  Added bonus: the peas will [theoretically] climb on the chain-link fence.  And then they will die, before my tomatoes get big enough to want that area’s light.

2. Celeriac/Cabbage/mint. We tried celeriac for the first time last year and loved it, so this year I am planting it.  It was not easy to find the seed.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’ve never grown cabbage, either.  I’ve been reading my Companion Planting book again and it talks about the benefits of planting various herbs near cabbage, so I might actually spread the celeriac out to several different locations to make room for a little mint in here, which apparently repels white cabbage moths.

3. Banana Peppers/herbs/celeriac (?).  I want to grow a few more banana peppers this year, so we can pickle them.  We have become a pickled pepper addicts.  I am going to mix in some oregano and maybe another herb or two.  Oregano is a very beneficial herb to have in your garden, according to the book.  (It doesn’t really say why, though?!)

4. Radishes/parsnips.  Doing the same combination that I did last year, but this year I’m not doing them in rows.  I will “broadcast plant” this area with the seed, crossing my fingers all the while.  This is the spot where I grew beans in 2009, so I’m hoping that extra N in the soil will give me a better parsnip harvest this year.

What’s new and different this year?
1. No more rows
2. I’m starting both tomatoes and peppers from seed, which I’ve never done before.  My seed-starting experiments of a year ago had mixed results, so I’m going to need to improve my set-up a bit this year.
3. I’m growing determinate tomatoes for the first time ever (determinate means all the fruit is ripe at the same time).  We canned 25 lbs of tomatoes last August and we just ran out about a week ago.  This year I want to can 50 lbs.  I don’t want to have to buy them all, so I’m growing some of my own to can as well.
4.  All of my planning has been done with CSA in mind.  We’ll be getting a CSA box again this year, so I am planting things that we do not get enough of in our box (such as green beans), and things that I can preserve/pickle (such as cabbage, banana peppers, dried beans).
5. Fresh from my Master Gardener training, I tried to choose mostly varieties of vegetables that are recommended by the University of Minnesota because of their known resistance to various diseases.
6. I ordered seeds from Victory Seed Company, who I’ve never used before.  It’s still very early so if they don’t work out I should still have time to get what I need locally.

Are you as nerdy as I am and want to read a whole list of the varieties I’m planting?  I thought so.  Here you go!

Seeds I ordered last night from Victory Seeds:
– Tomato, Roma VF
– Pepper, Hungarian Sweet
– Celeriac, Giant Prague
– Pea, Oregon Sugar Pod
– Bush Bean, Contender
– Parsnip, All American
– Radish, French Breakfast
– Cabbage, Glory of Enkhuizen (A Dutch cabbage!  Be still my beating heart.)

Still need:
– Another pole bean for dried beans
– Cucumbers?  (not sure where I’d put them)
– Mint
– Basil

Seeds I have on hand or am ordering that I’m not sure where I’m going to put them:
– English Sorrel
– Fennel (Florence)
– Dill
– Kale
– Beet
– Parsley
– Chives
– Thyme
– Oregano

Seeds I have that I will likely not use:
– Mesclun lettuce salad  (relatives/friends: holler if you want these)

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Makin’ stock

I’m back!  Master Gardener Core Course is over, and I’m kinda relieved.  Sorry things have been a little slow around here lately.  Here’s a quickie link to an article about making what sounds like a delicious stock from shrimp shells.  Never thought of this, and the soup looks great!  I love the way the writer describes her parents: thrifty epicureans.  My kind of people, precisely.

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Book Review: Simplicity Parenting

Simplicity Parenting
Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and more Secure Kids
by Kim John Payne
& Lisa M. Ross

Here’s another book that is not overtly related to home economics at first glance.  But I found a lot to chew on here.

The premise of the book is this: by simplifying our childrens’ environment, we slow down their childhood to allow for the “essential unfolding of self… of identity, well-being, and resiliency.”

How to do this?  Payne recommends four areas of our modern lives that need to be examined: Environment, Rhythm, Schedules, and Filtering out the Adult World. Let’s look at each one individually.

Providing children with endless choices, endless sensory stimulation, is actually harming them by making them feel [sometimes] overwhelmed and [sometimes] entitled.  The fix?  Reduce the number of toys in your house.  Not just by half.  Most families, Payne asserts, can reduce their numbers by at least 75% before the kids will even notice.  He also provides a 10-step-guide to you, the parent, in deciding which toys to keep.

But he also recommends simplifying their wardrobes, and even simplifying your home.  I bet you can see where this is going, but he saves “screen-time” issues for part four.

Creating predictable rhythms and routines that kids can count on increases their sense of security and well-being.  One example of this is creating rhythms around simple, healthy foods.  He gives a creative reason for avoiding junk food: aside from the obvious health implications, giving a child “big-hit” flavors such as Doritoes, on a daily basis, can skew their perspective on what normal food ought to taste like.

My favorite idea from this section was creating one or two predictable food nights per week, for example, Friday Night Pizza, or Wednesday Night Soup.  If you’re a person who feels anxiety around meal-planning, you might even extend it to five nights a week.   Adam grew up with Sunday Night Tacos at his house.  It’s  something simple for the whole family to plan on.

Here’s another thing we all know is out of control: too many scheduled activities.  In his private practice, Payne likes to write a prescription for parents who overschedule their kids: “Boredom.  To be allowed three times a day, preferably before meals.”

Payne calls boredom a gift, and not just because it forces kids to come up with creative ways to entertain themselves.  In the short term, yes, this is a benefit.  But over the long term (and this was where, for me, the book started getting really interesting), boredom gives us another gift that he feels is missing from many kids’ lives: anticipation.

“When we open up our child’s schedules we make room for anticipation. Just as it’s hard to cherish a toy that’s buried in the middle of a pile, it is hard to anticipate something when we’re always busy, or when we’re trying to do everything now … Anticipating gratification, rather than expecting or demanding it, strengthens a child’s will.  Impulsivity, wanting everything now, leaves the will weak….”

He even goes so far as to say that too much activity — too much planned, scheduled, directed activity — can create a reliance on outer stimulation, a culture of compulsion and instant gratification; i.e. addictive behaviors.

Whoa.  Hold on there.  So signing my kid up for soccer after school means they’re going to grow up to be some kind of addict?  Nah.  He is making a point:  downtime is good for a kid.  And frankly, it’s good for parents too.  Frees up more time for you to bake bread!

He also talks a bit about how youth sports have changed, and admonishes parents who want their kid to be the next Tiger Woods: emotional intelligence should top our list of hopes and dreams for our children.

Filtering Out the Adult World
You knew this was coming, right?  Payne’s final section revolves around limiting a child’s screen time.  But he wants parents to cut back too, and for good reason: worry is now defining daily life for many parents, driving them to helicopter around their kids in fear of both real and perceived dangers.  And kids feed off those emotions.

He also warns against “too much information” — for example, maybe your small children don’t need to know many details about global warming.  Payne asks, “do you love the times you live in?”  For me, honestly, the answer is often no.  Do I need to complain about politics or other adult concerns incessantly in front of my kids?  Definitely not.

My favorite bit of advice in the entire book was this:

“When your children are young, let the world of doing be their domain.”

We already follow a good bit of the advice in this book with our own kids — to me it just makes sense.  It was also how both Adam and I were raised, at least to some extent.  Here’s the thing though:  it’s super easy to do this now, when they haven’t gone off to school yet, or even daycare (we have a nanny when Adam is at work).  Outside influences are limited in our lives right now.

All of these suggestions are probably much harder when you have school-age children.  But I don’t think that Payne is suggesting that everyone follow all of this perfectly, step-by-step.  In his private practice, he does some radical transformations with families who are having lots of problems (I picture a minimalist version of SuperNanny).  Some of the anecdotes in the book are pretty powerful.  But for most of us, we can pick and choose which areas of our family life need the most help, and concentrate on them.

If this stuff interests you, there are some excerpts from the book and other information on Payne’s website,

So I guess I’ll have to think twice before I enroll the kids in the Junior Master Gardener program