Friday, December 12, 2008

Organic Garden of Fruit on Maui Hawaii

The organic garden at the Hale Hookipa Inn Maui Bed and BreakfastWhen it's cold and snowy here in upstate NY, I like to think about Hawaii to stay warm. I make a nice cup of organic Kona coffee, and I pull up all my Hawaiian friends' blogs, and cozy up around the warm pictures.

In this latest post by my friend Cherie, who runs a Hawaiian Bed and Breakfast on Maui, she mentions feeding her guests from Alaska fresh organic fruit from the garden surrounding her historic Hawaii accommodations.Cherie on Maui with her organic papayas If you book before Christmas, Cherie is offering a snow bird special of 8% off her already inexpensive Maui lodging.

Mmmmm. Snow bird special. Ahhhgggghhhh. (/homer)

Here's a picture of Cherie with her papayas. She also grows organic cherimoyas and lilikoi, or passion fruit. I first met Cherie when we were living on Maui, in the late 90's. Every time I see a picture of her place, I'm amazed at the results of her years of hard work! Can't wait to visit again someday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Soil Conditioners Could Pose Asbestos Hazard

When we hear the word "asbestos" we often think back on the controversy of the late 1970’s when it became common knowledge that asbestos was indeed a human health hazard. Asbestos however, is still a relevant hazard today in a number of different capacities. While most asbestos containing products were banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, unfortunately it still exists in hundreds of older products as well as in trace amounts in newly manufactured products. Among new products that may still contain asbestos are soil retention enhancers, particularly vermiculite.

Vermiculite is mined from natural deposits across the globe and has a myriad of uses not only for commercial and private gardening, but also as an insulation compound. Vermiculite forms over millions of years due to the weathering of the mineral, biotite. Unfortunately, former biotite deposits are often in close proximity to deposits of diopside, which upon being subjected to the same weathering and age conditions becomes asbestos.

In Libby, MT one particularly mine shipped hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite across the country. However, they were not the only manufacturers of vermiculite to ship asbestos with their products. Many other manufacturers were doing the same thing before EPA testing and regulations finally forced them to limit the amount of residual asbestos dust in the vermiculite.

Today, most vermiculite is safe. However, that is not to say it cannot contain asbestos. Vermiculite which is accompanied by a great deal of dust likely has residual asbestos in its contents and should be used with caution. Current EPA regulations ban products which contain 1% or more asbestos. Unfortunately even products containing less that 1% asbestos are still extremely hazardous, particularly when in loose dust form as vermiculite often is manufactured.

It is no surprise then that hundreds of the Libby mine’s employees and residents of the town were diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that is known only to be caused by asbestos exposure. Options for mesothelioma treatment are limited, so many of these residents were able to secure financial compensation for their families through litigation. Mesothelioma incidence is also known to be high in commercial gardeners and other occupations which deal with large amounts of loose vermiculite.

Fortunately, exposure to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite can be avoided if consumers follow simple precautions. Note the appearance of the vermiculite. If it seems to carry a great deal of residual dust, dispose of it outdoors. Most manufacturers of vermiculite mark their products packaging with "Non Dusty" labels. These refined granules are often slightly more expensive but they are certainly the safest.

Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Asbestos Materials Ban.1989
Consumer Product Safety Commission. Asbestos Consumer Products.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Organic Coffee from Kona Hawaii

Back in 1998, when we were living on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, I was contacted by an organic Kona coffee farmer about helping him sell his coffee beans. I helped him with his web sites (he also sells organic fertilizer) and sold his coffee for years, until he sold the farm and retired to Oregon a few years ago.

Last month, I got an email from Mike, who bought Dr. Faust's farm and rehabilitated it into a sustainable and USDA certified organic Kona coffee farm. One of the things I did to help Mike get higher search engine rankings for his sites was encourage him to publish his journal from the two year ordeal of rejuvenating an organic Hawaiian coffee farm, which he has done at his Organic Kona Coffee Farming Blog. Going back through the posts, it was fun and exhausting to see how much work it was to restore the coffee trees, establish organic weed controls, install all the processing, drying, sorting, and roasting equipment for the coffee beans. Anyone interested in sustainable and organic agriculture should check it out.

And don't forget to purchase organic Kona coffee beans. Mark Twain said it was the best coffee on earth, and it's hard to disagree with him! I'm just finishing a cup now! It's the only coffee I don't have to put sugar in!

Oh, and be sure to Digg the site, and Digg the Blog too!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grey Water and Sustainable Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is a holistic approach to growing plants that takes all aspects of the ecosystem into consideration. Though the phenomenon of using grey water is just starting to catch on with organic gardeners, it use can create even more sustainability through its implementation and regular use.

Organic gardening is an activity that more and more people are getting involved in each year. For some gardeners it is a passion that stretches far beyond just growing fruits and vegetables. Imagine being able to get more out of the water that you use on a daily basis in your kitchen, for instance, and being able to use that water to support your organic growing.

This kind of sustainability is at the core level of the rationale behind organic gardening, so it behooves organic gardeners and growers to consider using gray water in the irrigation of organic gardens.

What is grey water?

Grey water is water that is used in sinks and showers that does not contain solid waste. Although the water has been used once, collection of grey water can be very beneficial and helps to ensure that water is not being wasted. If collected and used properly, grey water can help to conserve water and save money for the organic gardener.

Is it safe for plants?

Grey water can be very beneficial to plants, as long as there are no harsh soaps or chemicals being used in the sinks or bathtubs where the water is being collected. Using natural, biodegradable and organic soaps and cleaners will ensure that you don’t contaminate your produce.

The use of grey water in gardens can be great for plants, as many of the body’s natural oils and dead skin cells help to add more organic material to the water itself, helping to provide additional benefits to the plants without additional work.

How is grey water collected?

Collecting grey water can be done with some minor adjustments to your current plumbing. The water that drains from your sinks or bathtubs is rerouted to a collection tank outside of your home. Generally speaking, sinks are the easiest sources from which you can collect grey water; rerouting the plumbing is far easier from sinks than bath tubs and showers.

The water is moved through pipes to a collection tank, from which you can use the water in your gardening applications. Over time, you will collect a good amount of water that’s full of extra organic material that will benefit your produce and help contribute to the sustainability of your gardening in general.


This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of Customized Girl discount coupons. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Organic Gardening Guru is Taking Questions

My friend Mort Mather is taking organic gardening questions, at least for the winter, over at his Happy Blog. Mort was president of the Maine Organic Gardening Association, and grows an awesome garden that supplies his son's southern Maine restaurant.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Foot of Snow in One Day!

What the hell was that? A little "welcome to upstate New York" snowstorm caught all but the old-timers off guard up here in the "snow pocket" as I now hear it's called. I was out there in the pouring snow, the wettest snow I ever saw, building a make-shift cold frame around half the garden with what I had laying around (green maple branches are very flexible).

And everything lived! Seriously, this cold frame gardening is a great way to extend the season! I couldn't believe it got down to 22 degrees, stayed below freezing for hours, and yet the spinach, arugula, lettuce, collards, miner's lettuce, and even a few of the peas are still showing signs of life. And it's all so delicious. Obviously, when I've read that cold weather makes these vegies taste better, they weren't kidding!

We went three days with no power. The first night we could sure tell why, when we first thought we heard gun shots in the woods, and we realized it was limbs breaking under the weight of all that snow. I don't envy those power workers out there clearing all those miles of electric lines.

Now that the snow has mostly melted, even the late planted side with only baby kale, spinach and collards still shows signs of life, albeit stunted.

Friday, October 24, 2008

28 Degrees and There's Still Lettuce

All you old snowbirds will have to forgive my wonder at growing food through frost. We felt a little like we were stealing from mother nature, planting a fall garden on Aug. 15 in zone five. We started having light frosts in September, with each frost getting a little worse. We'd just stretch plastic over the garden as they started to get heavier and lasting longer.

Last night it dropped below freezing before midnight, and it was below freezing until 9 am. We covered, but when I uncovered just before 9, everything was pretty crispy under there.

And yet, here it is at 2 pm, 64 degrees out there, and even a few of the peas (which dont get covered) are hanging in there, though none are showing signs of blooming, and their growth is obviously stunted.

But the lettuce (black seeded simpson) is going crazy, as is the spinach, collards (which could probably live through a blizzard), miner's lettuce, and a few other cold hardy greens. I don't even see many locals with anything growing now, although I'm sure you're out there, sneaking in those last few treats before the tundra takes over!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

4 frosts now and everything's fine!

This morning was the fourth frost we had up here (zone 5, near Cooperstown NY), and all of these cold weather vegies did just fine. The low was 29 degrees, so it wasn't really a hard freeze. Looks like it was only below freezing for a few hours.

The spinach actually seems to like the frosts. It positively glows as it melts away. The collards definitely love the cold. What's left of the peas (that the deer didn't eat) are doing well as well.

So, we're really impressed with the quality of the plants. We got the seed from Johnny's Selected Seeds, an employee owned company in Maine. They have an excellent selection of organic seeds.

I forgot how much I love fall gardens! Every frosty morning I feel like I'm stealing something from nature by not losing any of these plants!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall Garden Deer Delicasies

It is so nice to have a vegetable garden again. After years of living in the concrete jungle of the LA Suburbs, with very little soil, we moved to upstate NY this summer just in time to get this little fall garden in.

The snow peas are a real treat for the deer, who ate half of them before I admitted I was way out of practice on this, and asked the Wizard of Wells, organic gardening writer Mort Mather, what to do. His special deer spray recipie is one gallon of water, two tablespoons of hot sauce, and one tablespoon of biodegradeable soap. Sprayed them on the peas, lost a few more the next night, but that was it. I have a funny image of a little deer running to the nearest water hole with his stinging tongue hanging out!

I'd been sprinkling cayenne pepper on the spinach to keep the rabbits away, and as you can see from the picture, that's been working fine. Also found some stuff called liquid fence, which has petrified eggs--stinks to high heaven--and works well. A little expensive, though (the owners left a bottle), and I don't know if I want to develop a home-made recipe for that!

We also scatter our hair around the perimeter. I urinate around the yard occasionally, and I've hung chimes all around the place. Any other suggestions for keepin' the critters out?

Friday, October 03, 2008

I have ignored this poor little blog for too long! Until last year, I was working full time as a stage technician in Los Angeles, living in the suburbs with very little land for gardening, and even less time.

A diagnosis of osteoarthritis has put an end my days of heavy lifting, and so, I'm no longer a stage technician. I have to get a lot help with the gardening, but it's good easy exercise, and it helps me to get out and stretch a little.

We moved to the east coast to live more cheaply, and to be near family. I planted a fall garden in the middle of August up here in zone 5, and it's coming along nicely. We'll be eating spinach and lettuce soon, and if we don't get too hard of a frost, we'll be eating collards and snow peas in a few weeks.

My old buddy Mort Mather, an organic gardener and philosopher, has a new web site and blog. My friend Cherie Attix, owner and operator of the Hale Hookipa Inn Maui Bed and Breakfast (which features an awesome organic garden) has started writing a blog as well. She calls it Ho'okipa Aikane, or "home sharing friend." I'm looking forward to reading both of their posts!

Much more to come, including pictures!