Friday, July 23, 2010

So much prettier

A friend and neighbor is lending me her old camera until we can buy a new one, so I finally have pictures again. What a relief! It has been a sad month-long drought.

The very first thing I did was go around and take pictures of the house and gardens. We like being able to "go back" and see what things looked like and how they've changed. And my, how they've changed.

The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the garden along our front walk (a ramp because the lady who lived here in the 80's was paralyzed in a car accident). Essentially a dirt patch with a couple of overgrown clumps of iris when we moved in, when it rained, the dirt would splash up on the outside of the house, creating an entirely dingy and disgusting look.

Squeeze, who loves landscaping, has really worked it over in these past three years. It even has a little "pond", with a blue flag iris, water lily and a goldfish. He enjoys creating a more natural look, complete with moss-covered logs and well-placed rocks.

July 2007

July 2010

And it will only get better with each passing year
The mini-fence it to keep the chickens OUT --
They love to dig (and thus, destroy)

One of the things I really appreciate about Squeeze is his pleasure in landscaping and gardening. He even fills the planter boxes with gorgeousness. My main job is to admire his work and talk over ideas.

The other week, a lady who is part of our first-year experimental CSA came out to see the garden with a friend. As they left, I chuckled as I wondered if they thought that I was the one responsible for all the beautifully arranged potted plants and the front flower garden.

Because, honestly, I trim the plants now and then and pull a few weeds. But my main is to enjoy the beauty. I love that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The glorious sky

Southwestern Minnesota doesn't have mountains or beautiful trees, both components of landscapes that I hold dear and esteem highly. Sights that soothe me.

In fact, it doesn't have much in the way of natural landscapes at all, in the present age of commodity crops. This has bothered me a lot since we've moved here.

It did have beautiful grasslands, filled with an ever-changing array of prairie flowers; but those are gone, caged to small preserves that are scattered and obscure. Ultimately, that is what bothers me most about this area of the country -- true, native landscape is minimal. Shoot, even grass in the form of pastureland is minimal.

But what this area does have, and has grandly, is the most exquisite skyscapes. Magnificent summer storms whirl clouds into color, texture, and form that is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

An example from this weekend:


The land is seemingly flat because the rolling hills melt together: and because of that, one can see great distances. Storms almost always roll in from the west -- so it is entirely possible to see the gale coming a half-hour or more before it arrives, with billowing clouds of various shape and color that often look like enormous ships rolling in.

It is glorious.

I am so glad I am finding beauty I can appreciate here (aside from our small parcel of 15 acres, which I love). It is so refreshing. Call me dramatic, but the endless monoculture crops and scrubby trees have been hard on my soul these past few years.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Recolonizing the gut through fecal transplants

Yep, poop transplants.

This was local news throughout Minnesota a couple of years ago, but I just stumbled upon a New York Times article published on the subject this week.

Ultimately, I think this information can be synthesized to argue that the "progress" we've made over the last couple of generations can, uncontrolled, cause a lot of problems.

Living in a sterile, germ-free environment? Not a good idea. It's better to roll in the dirt than over-use hand sanitizer. The 32% nationwide c-section rate? A big problem. Administering antibiotics with such regularity? Yikes. Pumping our food animals with antibiotics? Triple-diple-doople-yikes. Eating easy, processed, denatured foods? A slow killer.

Scientists are not just finding new links between the microbiome and our health. They’re also finding that many diseases are accompanied by dramatic changes in the makeup of our inner ecosystems. The Imperial College team that discovered microbes in the lungs, for example, also discovered that people with asthma have a different collection of microbes than healthy people. Obese people also have a different set of species in their guts than people of normal weight.

In some cases, new microbes may simply move into our bodies when disease alters the landscape. In other cases, however, the microbes may help give rise to the disease. Some surveys suggest that babies delivered by Caesarian section are more likely to get skin infections from multiply-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It’s possible that they lack the defensive shield of microbes from their mother’s birth canal.

Caesarean sections have also been linked to an increase in asthma and allergies in children. So have the increased use of antibiotics in the United States and other developed countries. Children who live on farms — where they can get a healthy dose of microbes from the soil — are less prone to getting autoimmune disorders than children who grow up in cities.

Some scientists argue that these studies all point to the same conclusion: when children are deprived of their normal supply of microbes, their immune systems get a poor education. In some people, untutored immune cells become too eager to unleash a storm of inflammation. Instead of killing off invaders, they only damage the host’s own body.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweltering for the cause

We battled mosquitoes and heat and sweated like hogs this weekend and got a good chunk of the East Garden paper and strawed. What a relief!

Notice I say, "we". Squeeze thankfully didn't have to duke it out alone because I helped paper while Squeeze hauled the straw. It is so much more pleasant to work together vs. suffer alone. And just this week I've been feeling more like myself. My energy levels are stronger -- it feels so good.

Thursday will be (holy smokes!) 15 weeks.

We finished the entrance, a major path, and the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant -- a major feat and definitely the hardest piece of the garden. The rest of the job will be paths, all very straight, and minus the task of working around the garden plants. Cake. Yeah, right. Well, at least easier than what we did today.

We also found two sphinx moth caterpillars on some watermelon vines. Yesssss! We put them in a terrarium and will rear them until metamorphosis. It is going to be so interesting.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

How delightful!

I just went out and picked a cucumber for a snack.

Nummmmmm . . . I love that.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Nothing better

Honestly, is there anything tastier than a green bean just picked from the garden? Eating one always reminds me of my grandpa and his garden from my girlhood. Delish.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Feeling optimistic again

We've felt a little down about our garden this year, particularly Squeeze. Not because things aren't coming along nicely, because they are, but that we have been so swamped with everything (gardens, new gardens, orchard disappointments, outside chores, pregnancy, work, lack of sleep, exhaustion, etc.) that we weren't able to paper and straw either garden until last weekend.

Our West Garden, filled with squash, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, pole beans, potatoes, and new this year, looked like a lawn with small vines sticking out of it. Depressing.

Our East Garden, filled with "everything else", including 40 tomatoes (!!!) and 20-something peppers, (still) looks like a weed patch mixed in with large blocks of glorious garden vegetation. Not as hideous or overwhelming to look at, but an ENORMOUS task nonetheless.

The mosquitoes have been particularly bad this year, too, because of all the rain, which added to the anxiety about wanting/not wanting to finally bite the bullet and commit the 4-5 hours it would take to accomplish the task at hand.

Not to mention that I am basically a non-factor this year. With how much I need to eat just to maintain regular life, we didn't want me out in the garden, sweating and expending massive amounts of energy. I don't have much in the reserves this year.

So, that being said, Squeeze finally got out to the West Garden, our new garden, and paper-and-strawed the entire thing a week ago yesterday. He was woozy from the heat by the end, but what a relief it was.

So instead of looking at a grassy, baby vine patch, we are actually eyeing up a real garden.

It feels so good, particularly for Squeeze, who feels the 100% of the pressure to "get it done" squarely on his shoulders. It was starting to feel like too big of a job to even tackle - so overwhelming.

But it is gorgeous now, ladies, gorgeous. (I wish I had a picture, but our camera is kaput after Diego accidentally dropped it onto a cement floor a couple of weeks ago.) And the best part about it is that it is virtually work-free (aside from harvesting) for the rest of the season. Definitely worth the work.

And today we ate 3 cucumbers and saw several little zucchini that will be ready in a matter of days.


Now . . . the East Garden.