Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This is why I don't use pesticides

Why would I kill the beneficial ones too when they are so darn cool looking?

Wohlgemuth's Organic Cherry Orchard

The Inland Empire AP yahoo group did a field trip to this orchard last week, but I wasnt able ot make it since my kids decided to be complete brats that day, so driving 45 minutes anywhere was out of the question. I managed to convince my husband that getting up bright and early Saturday to go as a family would be a nice family outing. At 7:30 am in the morning on saturday theres no traffic so it was a nice drive. It turned out great, the day ended hitting 108 degrees but we got there at 8 am when they opened and in about an hour of leisurly picking and eating we picked 12 pounds of bing cherries to take home.

Its a nice little place to go, you pay $1 per adult to get in and then they had lowered the price per pound from $4 to $2. It was very relaxing, it was a nice cool morning and quiet with the few other early pickers that were there. I loved being able to taste a cherry from the cluster before picking, I plan on making jam and its awesome to know all fruit was hand picked and tasted for quality. :)

If you're near Beaumont/Riverside you really should visit this place before the heat claims the rest of the crop.

For more info and picking conditions visit their website at http://www.pickcherry.com/

Fruit Fly issues...

My kitchen has been overun by fruit flies now that warm weather ( and ripe fruit) abound. I try to keep my fruit in the fridge since I like to eat it cold but I need ot sometimes leave some out at room temp to finish ripening. The flies go nutts over it as well as any dirty dishes in the sink. I try to keep up but even when theres 1 cereal bowl from the kids breakfast in there its just coated with those tiny red bugs. I was looking online to try and find some sort of non toxic trap, but I refuse to pay $10 each plus shipping. So instead I made DIY yeast traps using the instructions on this site:


so simple I dont know why I didnt think of something similar by using overripe fruit in a jar- if the yeast doesnt lure them I'll try that next.

Today's Harvest

I have a bin full of yellow crookneck squash, zuccini, brocolli, sweet peppers, bell peppers, and japanese eggplant.

My bush beans have tiny pods starting and my cucumbers vines have a few baby cukes. Hooray! Oh Lord am I going to have alot of tomatos...I can hardly wait!

Monday, June 23, 2008

2008 Master Gardening Certification

This is one of my goals in life: be a Master Gardener.

There site sums it up best so I'll just copy/paste it here to get you all hot and excited. Ok, so maybe just hot, but thats not cuz of me I'm sure.


Master Gardener Program
The trained volunteers of the UC Master Gardeners program extend the ability of local Cooperative Extension offices to provide practical scientific horticulture and gardening information to the citizens of California. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the master gardeners at (909)387-2182 or you can send them an email at mgsanber@ucdavis.edu. The office hours vary so please leave your name and phone number and we will be happy to return your call.
The Master Gardener program is a non-profit public service outreach program sponsored by University of California Cooperative Extension in which volunteers are trained to extend gardening information to the general public. Applicants accepted into the program receive 50 hours of classroom training and agree to provide a minimum of 50 volunteer hours by May 31, 2007 through approved Cooperative Extension educational activities (excludes manual labor). Daytime, evening, and weekend volunteer opportunities are available, including answering home gardening questions on an assigned office day in the Cooperative Extension office in San Bernardino or the satellite office in Chino, establishing school and community gardens, staffing booths at fairs and civic events, writing weekly newspaper articles, providing docent services, and serving as guest speakers at community-sponsored events. Master Gardeners in good standing may recertify each successive year after completing a minimum of 20 continuing education and 25 volunteer hours per year. There is a $90 fee due the first class period to defray expenses directly related to conducting the program. The fee includes the cost of the Master Gardener Handbook and additional handouts. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener but cannot afford this fee due to financial hardship, there are limited need-based scholarships available.

We are planning our next Master Gardener Certification Class series to begin in September 2008 through February 2009 on Monday evenings from 6:30-9:30 pm. Contact the Master Gardener Office at (909)387-2182 or by email at mgsanber@ucdavis.edu and leave your name and mailing address and email to be added to the mailing list.

OOO a Gardening class!

I had been stalking the Lyle center website for info on their upcoming workshops, but of course thier site still just says "Coming soon". By a stroke of luck, fate, or the sneeze of God another mama in the Pomona Valley chapter of Hollistic Moms Network asked if anyone wanted to carpool to this class. The SOlar living institute has their class list out already.

It sounds interesting to say the least. Lately my newest educational idea has been to pull over my credits from CSUN and finish my major in geology (environmental), go over to Cal Poly Pomona and get a 2nd major in biology/agriculture and get a minor from the Lyle Center in Regenerative studies. I mean the college has a garden for Christs sake, how could I not *heart* that?

But anyway, heres the class info:


PO 131: Ecological Urban Gardening Jul 19 2008, 9am-5pm

Learn to design and maintain your own garden space in the city! We will explore sustainable urban gardening options, such as planters, rooftop boxes, community/school gardens, and more.
Hands-on experience will cover:
• Site/soil analysis
• Composting
• Irrigation
• Planting
• Pruning
Incorporate such concepts as crop biodiversity, companion planting, nutrient recycling, and agro-forestry for use in urban, home-scale garden design.


The John T. Lyle Center For Regenerative Studies
4105 West University Drive
Pomona CA 91768


Doug Kent
Since starting at 14, Douglas Kent's passion and knowledge of plants, landscapes, and urban design has steadily grown. He has written four books, authored over fifty articles, received an M.S. from the Lyle Center of Regenerative Studies, and has created beneficial landscapes throughout California. Kent is a passionate, dynamic instructor.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gardening: the new economically friendly trend

My husband and I have a running gag: whatever I tend to get obsessed with will get odd looks at first, then after awhile become something huge and popular.

For example, in high school I had to read Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy the summer before sophomore year. As I delved into the world of hobbits I joined a then small but bustling little Tolkien fan website known as Tolkien Online. I happily discussed stuff from philosophy to elven language ( and all sorts of nerdy stuff), actively answered questions from "Tolkien Virgins", and role played via message board. All was well and nerdy as I stuck around in this little hub for years after it was required class reading, I enjoyed it. Then someone posted a rumor that there was a movie in the works. Immediately all was a bustle as we fans were both excited that our favorite literary masterpiece was going to be put on the big screen, and terrified Hollywood would rewrite, dismantle and otherwise add sex and drama in order to capitalize on it. As more details emerged the discussions got more heated and I was one of the thousands who signed a petition against having Liv Tyler's characterization of Arwen being so prominent ( since she isn't a major character in the trilogy). Of course the director didnt change his movies based on a few thousand passionate fans, but he did have one of his underlings keep us updated with how filming was progressing and throwing us tidbits. Finally the movies came out with much hoorah and now of course * everyone* knows the story of Frodo, Samwise, Gollem and Aragorn. My once quiet little hub of nerdyness has been rebuilt, moved to different sites, sued by the Tolkien trust over copyright infringement, all sorts of crap brought about by the sudden interest and millions of new fans. I ended up drifting away as I got annoyed by the constant server overloads leaving the site unusable and censorship nazis complaining about people feeling excluded on ongoing role playing stories and whatnot. Occasionally I drop by to say hello and see if any of us "old timers" still visit the boards.

After I got married my husband and I got into the addictive hobby of saltwater aquariums. We even joined the Marine Aquarium Society of Los Angeles County (MASLAC) and traded corals and fish and other interesting critters at meetings and quarterly " frag swaps". Its a kinda close knot and passionate group of people who really take alot of time and effort into taking good care of their critters and not treating them like replaceable goldfish. Corals are well cared for so the hobby as a whole can rely more and more on corals propagated here in our aquariums rather then fuel an already damaging business of taking corals and fish out of their native wilds. It really is a hobby whos ultimate goal is to have a piece of nature in our homes without raping the environment in the process. Anyhow, I got involved actively on Reefcentral, which is THE online hub for reef enthusiasts. One say someone mentioned that Disney was making a movie about a clownfish named Nemo. Oh how we all laughed. What a silly idea, how the heck can they make a story about a clownfish? Well make it they did, and make it and they shall watch...and shall buy. Suddenly everyone's kid wanted a "nemo", and every store from the responsible importers to the low end petco/wal-mart/petsmart (*shudder*) fish vendors could not stock enough clownfish to meet the demands. It was heartbreaking to see these fish all stressed and diseased and fresh from their native homes to be dumped in 2 gallon plastic critter keeper tanks filled with purple gravel and a scuba diver for the amusement of peoples children. Our message board was overrun with desperate parents and new aquarists who not only bought "nemo", but were suckered into spending thousands of dollars on equipment that sucked or was inappropriate for their setup and other sea creatures such as corals and anemones what are definatly not suited for the beginning aquarium keeper or a newly set up tank system. ( FYI, its a general rule that your tank needs to have been up and running smoothly and aged for about 2 YEARS before its stable enough to keep anemones and most corals thriving with the proper lighting). Once again, I guess what I thought was tool became the in thing.

What dies this have to do with gardening you may ask? Well I'm finally here to my point. I love gardening, and now lots of other people are getting into it too. *giggle*

With gas prices past $4, rising food prices, jobs being cut or at risk, and all this talk of impending economic doom everyone is trying to figure a way to cut costs. The first thing to be slashed is the monthly starbucks/coffee habit. 2nd to be cut is the rest of the grocery budget. Apparently not just people living in rural areas are realizing they can survive off their land. In the past month The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and ABC news have all run stories on how everyday people who could not keep a houseplant alive are now turning to gardening as a way of providing some of their family food needs. Vacant lots and neglected yards are being turned into community gardens. It really is wonderful to see gardening take off again as a fruitful ( sorry for the pun) endeavour and not a "busy habit" for seniors and baby boomers reviving their childhood on the farm. Makes perfect sense to me, use your available resources : dirt + water+ sunshine +love = food and fulfillment. It also goes hand in hand with more people wanting organic produce, and depending on where you live your only option for fresh pesticide free food really is to grow it yourself. Of course everyone knows about the recent tomato salmonella scare. You can't even get tomato on your burger right now, and even Mexican fast food salsas are sadly lacking in them.

Some of my friends who thought I was going overboard when I said I had 13 plants of 4 varieties of tomatoes ( and sad I don't have more space to plant more) are now eyeing my rows and asking when they will be ripe and if I'll have any to share. Godwilling I'll have a bumper crop like I did last year and have plenty to eat fresh, make sauce, make salsa and still have tons to give away. This year however I can't help but think of the story of the little hen who planted, tended, and harvested the wheat with no help form her friends till it was time to eat it. Money is tight for my family too, so I'm not going to start providing everyone's produce until I have my freezer and pantry stocked with sauces and dried tomatoes. I spend everyday checking, watering, weeding, and feeding those baby plants into the happy golliaths they are becoming now. I had alot of extra tomato seedlings this spring and no place to put them, but my efforts to give them away as a incentive for friends to start their own gardens didn't work as well as I had hoped. I did get 2 people to start gardens, and 2 more committed to start next spring. Sadly about 15 seedlings ended up being composted since I couldn't find new homes for them and in the 106 degree heat I couldn't keep them happy in their little containers.

Please don't think I'm going to be all righteous and say " You know what, I did the work, so these are all mine, now go grow your own". I'm not that selfish, for me sharing the bounty is one of my favorite gains of gardening. Its great karma, and if anything I believe it helps my garden thrive more. But my household does have to come first, followed by my close relatives who are also on tough times and don't have the money for much of any produce, organic or not. My aunt who had a major heart attack is slowly recovering but is going to have to adhere to a strict dietary regimen to control her diabetes and progressed kidney failure. I am so thankful to have my garden, since her family does not have the funds to buy fresh produce for every meal and I can help provide that. I also get to learn new recipes, try new techniques, and teach her family about using fresh produce as well. I am thankful to know so many people who could use anything I cannot consume, since I'd feel *awful* letting any of it go to waste.

Gardening takes space, dedication, and some money to get it all started. In this blog I have tried to show my yard's transformation from half assed lawn to my paradise in the making, but that took many hours of manual labor, sleepless nights planning, and trial and error. Next year I am planting less lettuce and chard, and more eggplant and tomatoes. I will sow my cool season veggies in fall, so they actually have the short SoCal cool season to grow in. I'll plant my cucumbers in ground rather then try to grow transplants. I would also stagger when I'd sow the greens, so I don't end up eating nothing but salad for weeks to salvage a bolting drop from a sudden heatwave in March.

I think its very overwhelming for people who have never tried it before and are weighing the benefits vs how much time and energy they have to put into yet another hobby. Not to mention money, not everyone has free compost or mulch available to them, I know I didn't so I had to try and be thrifty and clever about how I got what I needed, and I still wish I had access to more organic soil amendments. I spent a few hours every few weeks lugging bag after bag of used coffee grounds from all the local starbucks because they give it away for free. All is costs is my time and gas. I dont go every weekend like I used to because of gas costs.

Not everyone would be as crazy as me to do that. If you have jobs and/or children, your time is already precious. One New York Times blogger wrote an article on this very subject. Plus you have to sit back and decide what you can realistically handle. Do you have a large area thats not going to be disturbed by dogs or children, subject to HOA rules and has full sun? All Organic or miracle grow? Mixture of each? Or maybe just 1 fruit tree and a few herbs in pots. Theres the upkeep of weeding which for me is a few hours in the evenings when hubby is home to watch the kids. I got nutts yanking out every purslane and spurge plant I find because they use precious water and nutrients my vegetables need.

All in all I feel its worth it and take pride in keeping the weeds under control and eating the fruits of my labor, I'm also very sore and sunburned by Sunday afternoon.