Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change - New York Times

Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change - New York Times: "The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.

Some backlash against this position is inevitable, the groups acknowledge, but they do have scientific ammunition. In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

When that report came out, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups expected their environmental counterparts to immediately hop on the “Go Veggie!” bandwagon, but that did not happen. “Environmentalists are still pointing their fingers at Hummers and S.U.V.’s when they should be pointing at the dinner plate,” said Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

These Giant Swallowtails are so large I sometimes think they must be birds. They're finicky insects, and easily spooked -- thus difficult to photograph, as evidenced by my weak pictures.

Late-summer is far and away the best time for butterflies in Central Florida: My garden is full of Giant Sulfurs (drawn by a cassia), Zebra Longwings, a few Monarchs, and lots of Swallowtails of different sorts. Mid-mornings I usually have a dozen or more flitting about.

This one was drawn to the Russelia (Russelia rotundifolia) I got from Biosphere Nursery last summer. I really dislike the deeply-cut Russelia most people grow (Firecracker Plant, Coral Plant), but I like this species well enough. It blooms late in the season, and last year continued to bloom until January. I should try to start some cuttings...

An update: This Russelia has really started to bloom, and I've never seen a plant that attracts more butterflies. This morning it had three Zebra Longwings, a Monarch, a Swallowtail of some sort (I think a Black Swallowtail, but I didn't get a good look). And a few Sulfurs, who were there I think for the Cassia. They were all there at the same time. Fighting over a sip from the Russelia.

Local U-Pick farms..

A list of East-Central Florida You-Pick farms.

Cucumbers, tomatoes & figs

More typical late-August weather has returned to our area -- hot and humid with rain promised this afternoon. (Cross my fingers...)

I spent the morning sweating out in the garden, continuing my cleanup, getting ready for the transition to fall. I trimmed back some roses, weeded, mulched some beds. My glads are finally starting to bloom. I've been patient with the snapdragons that I planted back in December. They bloomed wonderfully all spring. Usually I pull them out and replace them with something that can take the heat and wet conditions. Since I was gone for so much of the summer, though, I decided to see whether they would make it through the summer. They did, it seems, but it wasn't pretty. They never quite stopped blooming all summer, but the display was weak. I hope they put on a display again this fall, and maybe even again in the spring.

I transplanted some cucumbers ('Bush Crop' (55 days) and 'Miniature White' (49 days), both from Pinetree) and some tomatoes ('Black Plum' and 'Jetsetter'). I continue to play around with my micro-sprinkler system. By next spring, I hope to have the whole garden under this highly-efficient, low-tech system.

My old neighbor, who has a huge fig tree planted between her sidewalk and the street, let me pick a bag of figs this afternoon. My wife makes a fabulous fig tart... My own fig has put on a burst of growth this month, and has set a bunch of figs which may or may not ripen in time to pick before the end of summer...

An update: It poured the day after I planted the tomatoes. More than an inch. Washed the little seedlings away. Oh, well, that's why you always plant more than you need.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A garden update in pictures...

'Our Lady of Guadalupe'. I understand why it was the favorite rose in a survey of Central FLA rosarians... Amazing blooms, almost hybrid-tea in form, but on a vigorous and well-shaped bush. And apparently pretty disease-resistance, since I don't see a spot of black-spot.
First day back to school...
My garden, ready for fall planting.
New micro-spray sprinkler in action... love it!

Silver Queen Corn growing amongst some Mississippi Silver Crowder peas.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Veg Garden Cleanup

I spent the morning ripping out virtually everything from my veg garden, excepting some peppers, crowder peas, one cherry tomato, an eggplant ('Little Fingers'), a patch of okra, and my sweet potatoes...

Well, I know that sounds like a lot is left, but the garden looks empty. (I'll try to remember to post a picture of it tomorrow.) I laid down about one-hundred pounds of well-aged compost from my bins, a thick layer of newspaper of that compost, and then a thick layer of pine needles (the needles are more aesthetic than functional). In a patch of crowders that I started a few weeks ago, I transplanted the corn I started in jiffy-cups a couple of weeks ago. (Kind of an abbreviated version of the 'three sisters' approach to growing corn.) Next week, I'll plant out the cukes and tomatoes.

It's very dry here, but I've been irrigating and the growing conditions are otherwise perfect. My new 'Lady of Guadalupe' roses are just amazing -- the form of hybrid-teas on a floribunda bush. The cuttings I started last month are coming along well, too. Everything but the agastache rooted.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gardens in Russia

These photos were taken while I was on a business trip to Russia in late-August 2007. The market pictures were taken at the Vykhino Market, located outside Vykhino metro station. It's widely considered the best and cheapest market in Moscow. Many fruits, veg, meat and preserves make it up from the south of Russia and the Caucasus this time of year, belying the notion that all food in Moscow is drab old meat and taters. The prices in a market like this, though expensive for many Muscovites, are much lower than you'll find in the many Western-style supermarkets that have sprung up in Moscow and other European-Russian large cities over the past decade.

The country pictures were taken in a tiny village called Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula region, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) due south of Moscow. Yasnaya Polyana is Leo Tolstoy's ancestral estate, and is also the name of the village that sits alongside his estate. (Such was the common practice in pre-Bolshevik Russia -- most villages in Russia are named after the nearest estate.)

For a full-screen slide show, click here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sweet potatoes...

Note to self: I planted sweet potato slips on May 7, which means I need to harvest sometime after September 7. That gives me six weeks to solarize my bed, if I decide it's necessary, before the fall crop goes in.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fall 2007 tomatoes...

I started, in paper cups with plastic cup liners, the following tomatoes for my fall crop:
  • Nepal
(OP) 80 days
A high quality, intensely flavored, meaty, deep red 12-ounce beefsteak. This Himalayan heirloom produces well even under cool growing conditions. Indeterminate vines.
  • Black Plum
(OP) 70 days
Tall indeterminate vines produce sweet, deep mahogany morsels perfect for backyard grazing. No other tomato quite like it--we are pleased to offer this rare and very special variety.
  • Jetsetter
64 days. Lycopersicon esculentum. (F1) Plant produces good yields of very flavorful 8 oz tomatoes. Tomatoes turn red when mature and have a very rich tomato taste. This variety matures very early offering those in the South a great early harvest. Excellent in salads or sandwiches. Disease Resistant: VFFNTA. Indeterminate.
These varietals were recommended on GardenWeb. The 'Nepal' and 'Black Plum' seeds are from Swallowtail, the Jetsetter I got off of eBay.

I have also started various Torenia from seed (they germinated very quickly -- maybe five days, though the seed packet warns of slow germination) & a bunch of sunflowers for my daughter's flower garden.

Florida Counties Try to Contain Phosphate Mines - New York Times

Your corrupt, corporatist and inept federal government, looking out for the best interests of the highest bidder. If this kind of thing doesn't rile you, then WAKE UP.

Florida Counties Try to Contain Phosphate Mines - New York Times: "Two large companies, Mosaic Fertilizer and CF Industry Holdings, operate most of the open pit phosphate mines in Hardee and Polk Counties... The mines pump on average more than 100,000 gallons of water a minute, according to the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, an industry-financed organization.

The Environmental Protection Department regulates the mines. The counties say that state officials have granted too many mine permits and that many permits do not meet federal standards.

Mining companies have been allowed to destroy streams and wetlands, according to the counties, and areas they have reclaimed remain damaged and scarred.

“We found out through consultants that none of the permits complied with the environmental regulations on the books,” the natural resources planner for Charlotte County, Bill Byle, said. “We thought all these agencies were protecting us.”

A study by the Environmental Protection Department found that the forestland in the Peace River Basin had declined, to 17 percent from 60 percent in 1940. Wetlands declined to 16 percent from 25 percent

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Asexual propagation...

In addition to starting a bunch of seeds for my fall flower & veg beds, I'm propagating a lot of plant cuttings: pentas, agastache, basils of all sorts, roses, ice plants (sunroses), torenia, Okinawan spinach, firespike, scented geraniums, zinnias... With high humidity, warm temperatures, and daily showers, starting plants this time of the year is very easy here in FLA. My torenia, for instance, rooted in three days.