Woke up this morning and found two flat tires on the bike I’m borrowing for the conference. The tires had been losing air slowly, but after last night’s goat head attack, the situation was grim. I pumped up the tires got dressed, shaved, called the family, responded to some emails, loaded my computer, bike pump, and books into my back pack, and strapped on my helmet. When I grabbed the bike, I immediately discovered that both tires were miserably soft.
My younger son goes to a cool school called Little Earth. Tonight they had me as the first speaker in their series of practical talks for parents and educators. I called my presentation “Garden Design with Children in Mind,” and I focused on five garden components that students of all ages love.
1) The Bean Tipi, an edible playhouse made out of scarlet runner beans and five-to-ten long sticks, posts, or poles.
2) The Sunflower House, a playhouse (or tunnel) made out of mostly giant sunflowers, that teaches kids of all ages about microclimates and makes for a nice afternoon snack in the fall.
3) Edible Plants, these are very important in a children’s garden for a wide variety of reasons.
4) Sheet Mulch, an easy way to build soil, suppress weeds, and harvest rain in the soil, it uses cardboard, manure, and straw as its main ingredients,
5) Worm making, no kids garden is complete without a compost pile, and no compost pile is complete without worms.
I plan to elaborate on each of these in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned.
Late yesterday, as the sun was beginning to hide behind some tall trees, I became a beekeeper again. I grabbed my box of apicultural supplies, climbed into my bee suit, and fired up the smoker. I would be moving a bee colony from a two-foot long top-bar bee hive into my four-foot long top bar. According to instructions my friend Paul Cooley gave me when I picked up the colony the night before, I was to leave the full hive on top of the empty hive overnight. “Just make sure you move the bees at some point tomorrow,” he cautioned.
When I was my kids’ age (5 and 7), every child had goals. Highest among them was being on TV. One time my sister and I got on “Wonderama,” a show where kids were picked out of a large audience to be contestants in a quasi game-show. I wasn’t chosen, but I sure relished the one glimpse of my madly waving arms in an ecstatically joyful sea of madly waving arms.
Golden currant berries are not golden. They’re a deep, dark purple-blue bordering on black. I suppose we call them “golden” because of the bright yellow flower that if boasts in the the spring, but maybe it’s the golden-red hue that some of the bushes get when they head toward bed in autumn. This year, when I bite into the ones in our backyard that are nice and plump thanks to all of the rain that we have caught in our cistern system, they taste like something exquisitely powerful, like gold. A little on the sour side of the spectrum, golden currants are not the favorite of mega-store food buyers, but they can be a surprising favorite in in any year’s crop of fruit. Ripening well after the strawberries and just ahead of the pears and apples, this rare gem is one of the most drought tolerant of all fruit-bearing bushes. Truly, currants are an element of our backyard that we cherish much like Wall Street portfolio managers cherish gold. It’s not the snazziest of investments, but it’s an old stand by that can come in handy when times are tough and resources are not flowing as much as they once did.
Just had a wonderful surprise visit from my friends Greg and Patty, the owners of Camino de Paz School and Farm. They had to drop something off on their way to dinner, but next thing we knew we were all making dinner right out of the garden. Ironically, I start at their booth every Saturday at the farmers’ market. As a member of the Montessori-based school’s board, it’s the least I can do. Feeding these farmer friends from my own garden was a total treat—I need a happier version of the word “surreal” to describe it…(Anyone?)
Yesterday, my 10 minutes of gradual greening occurred when I walked down to New Mexico Bike and Sport to pick up my new “xtracycle.” A simple bike extension, called the “FreeRadical(TM),” hooks onto the back of almost any bike to quickly create what Xtracycle, Inc., calls “the world’s first S.U.B.” That’s right, friends, I’m now the proud owner of a “Sport Utility Bicycle.” And why shouldn’t I be proud? According to company literature, my xtracycle can haul 200 pounds, and the manual shows an illustration of an xtracycle handling what looks like an 8’ or 10’ ladder. With the help of an accessory called an “H-rack,” long loads like “ladders, flagpoles, kayaks, or lumber,” can be delivered.
One of my many plans is to haul 50 lbs. bags of lay pellets for our six backyard chickens. Coincidentally, having run out of food, I had to drive my truck down to the feed store on Saturday for what I hope was my last time wasting gas to buy lay pellets for our hens who are now, quite wisely, fast asleep.
Thanks to my old friend Michael Kramer, Melissa and I had the pleasure of having Woody Tasch, the author of the relatively new book “Slow Money,” over for dinner last night. The slow-money concept is based on the slow-food movement’s idea that local food is much better for people and the planet than fast food (imported from far-off places). With this in mind, it was fitting that nearly everything on the menu came either from our backyard (kale, chard, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, chives, and other herbs) or the farmers’ market (burger, mushrooms, and pecan pie).
By shrinking the Moon to the size of a grapefruit, Gru, the evil-but-lovable protagonist in the new movie Despicable Me, wants to be the greatest villain ever. In the plot, as in gardening, timing is essential. Today, even though the Moon is in its fourth-quarter “resting phase,” I plan to spend 10 minutes sowing a few fall crops: carrots (Chantenay, 70 days, and Lady Finger, 60 days), radishes (24 days), and a mix of micro greens (25 days).
At the outset of the Industrial Revolution, the protagonist of Voltaire’s Candide travels extensively in an attempt to discover “the best of all possible worlds.” In the end, Candide realizes that he and his party would have been better off if they’d never gone on tour in the first place. “What’s necessary,” the tired traveler declares in the last sentence of the novella, “is that we cultivate our garden.” Thanks to the slow-food movement made popular by Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingslover, and many others, 250 years later people are finally starting to get this message. From backyard gardens to downtown farmers’ markets, people are realizing the rewards of becoming truly productive human beings.