Leaving the MidEast Out of Your Yard

We've been sticking colored stakes in the ground lately, marking spots for new plants. They are very festive. A poor substitute for the real thing, but hey--it ain't really spring, yet. We've also dug out a rather large false cypress in the front yard in preparation for New Things.

Like last year, we are making efforts to get more food out of our own ground. We enjoy the towering tomato plants, the crisp cucumbers, the pots full of potatoes. Fun is, admittedly, part of the reason for devoting some yard space to produce.  It's not the only reason, however. If the nearly monthly news reports of some new unsafe food product weren't motivation enough, the fact that an awful lot of what ends up in our produce section has been trucked in from California really disturbs me. I don't have anything against California. It's a fabulous place, and Yosemite is one of the most spectacular places I've ever been. But I digress!

The trouble is that all that transport uses fuel. Moreover, what now passes as "traditional" agriculture uses huge quantities of chemical fertilizers, also derived from oil. And California isn't even the farthest that some of our produce gets shipped--Hawaii, Nicaragua, India, China... it makes you wonder, with the cost of fuel, how much the farmers are getting paid to produce the actual food.

I hadn't really intended to marinate my produce in petroleum.

Fortunately for us, Transylvania county (and much of Western North Carolina, for that matter) has an excellent Tailgate Market from which we can purchase much of the produce we can't or won't grow.  That gets rid of at least the oil that was used to ship the stuff from CA. It is NOT a guarantee that the grower didn't use chemical fertilizers or insecticides.

For that you need more control. Like growing your own.

Early on, we set up a compost bin. The first year our compost just sat there. Since beginning a regime of dump-stuff-in-and-stir-every-time, our compost has gotten quite fluffy.  Absolutely packed full of bug poop. (Hey--what did you think happened in there?)  We have learned not to plant tomatoes and potatoes directly under black walnut trees. And we have learned new recipes to deal with green tomatoes at the end of the season. 

We did buy a few tomatoes last year, early in the season. This year we are using resources like Sow True, Seeds of Change and Territorial Seed to find varieties that will ripen in waves, keeping us sowing over a longer period. We've tapped Miller Nurseries and Edible Landscaping to add fruiting trees and shrubs unavailable in our local nurseries. Seeds are the best thing, because they use so few resources to arrive at your doorstep (if you are unable to find what you want locally). Our big splurges this year are a self-fertile almond tree and an apple tree. Investments for the future.

So I imagine you are thinking this blog is supposed to be about "habitat," and where do crops fit in? Well that's precisely it, isn't it? If I create space within my own yard for things that sustain me, that reduces the amount of space that commercial agriculture needs. By a miniscule amount, of course. But I'm not the only one doing it, and all those drops in the bucket do add up. More power to us. 

Help Bees, Plant Trees

Just Hangin' Around

Just Hangin' Around