Sunday, December 04, 2011

Organic Agriculture Loans at Kiva

I just wrote the good folks at Kiva an email about the dearth of organic and green projects available to loan money to.
I've been a member for a few months but have only made two loans because I've only found two where the borrower promised to use organic methods on the small farm. In each case, it was organic fertilizer, which is great, but only part of the picture.
I realize that these small farmers cannot afford organic certification. But they also cannot afford the petrochemicals used in industrial agriculture, and are therefore, probably, de facto organic.
I would like to see you work with your field partners to increase the organic projects, and green projects in general, available on your site. There are currently no green projects at all, and that is a shame.
Anyone who can afford to make a few microloans (current repayment rate is 98.93%) should check it out and maybe we can get Kiva to put more emphasis on green projects. You won't make any money on these loans, but you'll most likely get all your money back, and then you can make more loans to people who really need them!

Here's the guy I'm hoping will get funded next.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hugelkultur - creating fertile soil with composting wood


John Robb of Global Guerrillas has an interesting post on Reclaiming Dead Soil through Hugelkultur which is a process of composting wood into a raised bed. Best to start with already rotting wood, as fresh wood consumes nitrogen early in the rotting process, so if your wood has not really started to rot, you should throw a lot of grass clippings in the process.

Personally, I throw everything (including, occasionally, sawdust and wood scraps) into my compost pile, and then layer the compost with composted horse manure on the raised beds in the spring before planting. Next year I'm going to break down and roto-till, because I need to get better control of the overall weed situation, and after tilling, I can lay out some material to keep the weeds down (I'm disabled and lazy and weeding is just too much work). I'm thinking that this Hugelkultur idea might be good for around the border, creating a barrier and a nice way to grow clover, which provides nitrogen and something for the rabbits to eat before they find their way into the garden.

Hugelkultur beds do take years to mature, so get started soon!

This all reminds me of Mort Mather's old saying that the soil is a bank, and you can't make withdrawals until you've made deposits.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Awful Year for the Garden

We had a very late and heavy show melt this year, which gave me an excuse to not get out there in the mud in the spring, so the garden got a late start. And then it rained like hell for a while, so it stayed soaking wet out there until we had about three weeks of no rain at all, at which point the whole garden dried up. I should have watered more, but we were busy with other things, like a little vacation we really needed, so only some things (tomatoes and peppers) really got enough water. Silly me--plants need water!

Then, of course, we had a hurricane followed by a tropical storm and upstate NY saw more water than it had in a hundred years (the new normal with global warming), so the garden was literally underwater and only the things in the high raised beds actually survived to tell the tale. The squash--especially the pumpkins and zuchini--fared especially poorly, while the tomatoes did OK, we got some peppers (the Thai peppers did well), and the radicchio is beautiful! And there's a section where I let some Jerusalem Artichokes take over--they seem to love all this water. Can't wait to dig up those roots!

Fortunately, not everyone is as lazy as I am when it comes to growing food. Yesterday at the Cooperstown farmer's market, I bought some baby bok choy and some mizuna greens from the nice man from Gaia's Breath Farm who said it was a funny year for them. Some things did well, and others did not. His mizuna greens certainly did well; they're delicious! Our friends Dave and Sonia at Nectar Hills Farm had a very good year, as their veggie farm land is high up and well drained. Of course, their organic land is mostly covered in grass, which their cows eat, making for some very delicious New York grass-fed beef.

And Ellen White Weir's place over in Cooperstown is doing great. She grows all her own flowers which she uses in her natural skin care products like lavender skin care treatment and calendula flower salves. Ellen also runs a New York Nature Camp for Kids that no amount of water could disrupt!

Meanwhile, it's time to plant next year's garlic here at the Supak place (my family thinks it's great that I'm growing garlic, as my Great Grampa Supak was a garlic farmer in Ontario, California way back in the day. I'm adding manure to the raised garlic bed (very important to grow garlic in a raised bed because it keeps the bulb up out of the floodwaters) today, and I'll be planting the garlic soon. You know, because I'm really lazy...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Organic Weed Control - Best Tip Ever

My long time gardening friend Mort Mather has the best organic weed control tip ever in his blog today. Long time readers who know this technique should go ahead and read anyway, as he's updated it a bit. For those of you unfamiliar with Mort, don't miss The Garden Spot, a long time feature at

Meanwhile, it's still wet and muddy here, which has set me back a few weeks. I did manage to get peas, arugula,  and lettuce in before this latest stretch of never ending clouds and rain, so it's not awful yet (a lot of locals up here say to wait till Memorial Day to plant any frost-sensitive plants anyway). And I've put out the two-inch layer of composted horse manure on the tomato spot, so the rain is helping fertilize that area, and I can use the Mort method of weed control there.

So, not all is lost yet. Still, I hope this isn't a glimpse of the summer to come, in which long stretches of wet, cool weather bring on another epidemic of tomato blight.

Friday, April 08, 2011

New York Natural Skin Care Products

The mud is almost dry enough to get out there and start working some horse manure into the soil. We used to go to Nectar Hills Farm to bag our own manure, but I'm a lazy gardener and have found an honor wagon selling bags of nice, dry horse manure for $2 a bag. Big bags. It's great! So, we'll be doing that manure thing soon. I'm late on getting the peas in, but I've learned to be leary of that late freeze, so...

Got a new web site client from down the road in Cooperstown, NY. Ellen White Weir runs a natural skin care products company called Goldpetals (picture of the Goldpetals barn, right). She makes salves, creams, sprays and botanical oils infused with golden calendula flowers. She also runs the Goldpetals Nature Camp for Kids, Plant Walks & Talks, Art Shows, and other events for nature lovers. The whole operation is ultra organic: check it out!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I bet this happens all the time

How much organic fraud goes undetected? Considering the premium on the price of organic food, I'm really surprised we don't hear more of this going on, and not just from China.

in reference to:

"After years of ringing the alarm bell about fraudulent Chinese organic production, the nation’s preeminent organic farming watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, applauded the federal government’s current approach to enforcement and its transparency. On February 11, The Department of Agriculture (USDA) publicly released evidence of attempted fraud by a Chinese organic agricultural marketer."
- USDA Uncovers Plot to Import Fake Chinese Organic Food | Cornucopia Institute (view on Google Sidewiki)