Saturday, June 26, 2010

How Far Did Your Meal Travel?

Can You Shorten The Trip?

The average American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to table. With so many recalls of food a Victory Garden, A Kitchen Garden or a few well-placed containers in an apartment window or on a balcony can help you take back control of what you eat. What you feed your family.

Organic gardening, foregoing the use of chemical pest controls, to preserve the nature-friendly atmosphere is a huge plus as well. There are many ways to feed yourself and your family and even your neighbors healthy fare.
Salad greens are one of the easiest to grow and supply fiber, calcium and vitamins such as A, C and K as the spicy lettuce-like Arugula (eruca sativa) does. This is a quick growing leaf (35 days) with many benefits. Cold and heat tolerant, it can be grown year around in zones7 and South from there. Its relatively short growing seed to maturity is ready when your radishes are making it an attractive salad choice.
All it needs is a fertile soil and full sun, although in the hottest part of mid-summer some shade is beneficial from the heat of the afternoon sun. Spinach, leaf lettuce, kale all seem to have similar needs.

Water plants deeply twice a week to keep the leaves from becoming too spicy-hot and so that the plant won’t bolt.

Since early plantings do bolt as the days lengthen, plant at 10 day intervals to ensure a lasting feast.

Recommended varieties are: Roquett̩ Рan extremely frost tolerant variety or
Sputnik – a more mild-flavored variety with a wide range of leaf shapes which will add interest to any salad.
The arugula leaves can be substituted in most any recipe that calls for spinach, mustard greens, or Swiss chard. A very versatile vegetable, indeed. So why not give it a try. You may find a new favorite.

To protect your Arugula from the flea beetle you may want to use a row cover/caps.
Billie A Williams, Best-selling, award-winning author of Writing Wider, More Exercises in Creative Writing

Friday, June 25, 2010

Birds of Every Color - Eye Candy

Birds and Pieces
By Billie A Williams

It's not only the garden that satisfies this woman's garden. A flash of red catches my eye as the Cardinal comes in for his turn at the mix of sunflower seeds, sesame and other seeds mixed especially for him. ( A rather expensive mix that I dilute further with black sunflower seed and wild finch seed because I have a universal feeder in my front yard). But the colorful display is enough reason to spend the extra for the entertainment of these beautiful creatures. The small brown to yellow female isn’t upstaged by her brilliant male counterpart. I begin to realize the tradition of men being the brilliantly dressed, wig coiffured specimen of years ago must be from seeing the male bird in his splendid plumage next to the often dull female markings. I’m tempted to say, she does all the work (bearing and rearing the children, etc.) He gets all the glory, brilliance of plumage. But I digress this is about the birds.

My bird feeder is alive with color from the brilliant yellow, black and white of the Evening Grosbeak to the muted tan, gray and off white with touches of black of the black capped chickadee, . I can understand the Cardinal color, from the fruits, rose hips and berries it consumes. I can understand the Grosbeak, gold finch and sparrow yellow, black and white from sunflower seeds.

I ponder the brilliant hues of the blue jay, the indigo bunting and the blue bird—what do they eat that turns their plumage blue? Is there something in their eating habits that mixes green and yellow and turns them blue? It would seem they eat the same varied menu as the rest do, yet they utilize the color in such a different way, Puzzlement!

A one legged blue jay visits our feeder regularly puffing himself up to get exclusive use of the feeder platform, where he can forget about balance and just eat. I am amazed as the nuthatches sneak in to grab a seed or two without disturbing the blue jay. The wood peckers in brilliant markings of black and white splashed with a red skull cap — males only have the red says my grandson.

A new kind of woodpecker calls us home this year a along with the usual Hairy, Downy, Yellow bellied Sap sucker we have a ladder-backed woodpecker the Red-Bellied one…too far north but who knows what the weather may have done with all the crazy storms and tornados hitting the Midwest this year.

So I will enjoy his color and inclusion. We’ve put a squirrel baffle over the suet to protect it from the black birds. You can start laughing now. Yes, that worked until the first one jumped up from the ground and found he could cling to the mesh bag regardless of the canopy of the squirrel baffle. And the added benefit he can eat while it’s raining or snowing without getting drenched. {grin} so much for my ingenuity.
We tried a new one just constructed by talented hubby. It's roofed, it securely holds the suet cubes available from a local hardware store where the woodpeckers can eat in peace - well, they could until the black birds --common grackles-- found out by watching the woodpeckers what they need to do. It didn't take but a couple days and they are happily emptying the feeder nearly as fast as we can fill it. Soon the babies will be on their own and then it will settle down. But that is another whole story.

Enjoy the beauty and entertainment of feeding the birds and yes, squirrels, rabbits and occasionally a deer or two visit our in town yard. You’ll reap a double harvest in your summer garden as they forge for food. Birds will be cleaning up snails, grubs, ants, potato beetles and other insect pests for you as a thank you for their winter feasting. And the bird bath - amazing antics--more on that later as well.

Billie A Williams
Accidental Sleuths Solve Crimes
With Wit, Wisdom and Chutzpah