Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why meat is wasteful...

I became a mostly vegetarian--I choose not to eat meat, but I am willing to do so--one morning a year or two ago, when I woke up and decided, simply and without a lot of qualifications, not to eat meat. I walked downstairs and, over coffee, told my wife: I'm not eating meat any longer. And that was that.

Though I wasn't particularly aware of this question turning in my head, it must have been doing so for some time.

Pressed every once and a while (I'm not the sort of person people press often) to explain why I don't eat meat, I usually respond:

1. We don't need to eat meat.
"One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with"; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown. "

2. In any case, we American eat far too much of it. (The average American eat nearly half a pound of meat a day!)

3. It is deleterious of our health; of this there can simply be no doubt. I distrust all of modern nutrition, but I can point to the indubitable fact that every culture that has gone from eating a vegetable, grain, oil and fish diet to a diet that resembles our own American "diet" has grown steadily less healthy, more obese, and stupider.

4. Furthermore, you can have a varied--even more interesting--diet without meat."

In fact, I really like meat. You name it, I like it. Even offal and liver and sweetmeats. Beef. Chicken. Birds of all sorts. Horses (yes). Lamb. Wild beast. Pork. I used to eat--and occasionally, I still do--all of this with quite a lot of relish. And sometimes ketchup.

Notice that I have no compunctions about eating meat on the usual moral grounds. I like animals well enough, but I don't think they have souls and I have no guilt issues involved in their slaughter, so long as it is done well and as painlessly as possible. (That said, I don't like the idea of anything suffering needlessly, and so in particular I avoid meat the provenance of which I do not know.) In fact, if you know my story, you'll know that I have slaughtered plenty of animals, and I don't feel any guilt whatsoever.

I am an avid fisherman and really love to eat any fish. That said, I mostly only eat the fish that I catch. Our seas have been roundly abused, and I want as little part in it as possible. Moreover, I will not eat frozen fish of any kind, nor farmed fish--they taste like shit, and life is too short to eat shit. (I will eat frozen squid!) I am fortunate to live in Florida, a state that has some of the best, most progressive, laws around regarding commercial fishing. I only eat locally sourced fish that I know is taken from grounds that are not overfished. (Like I said, I don't eat much fish!) I imagine if I did not live in Florida, I would not eat fish at all.

In the end, for me the most compelling reason not to eat meat, or to eat much less of it, is the incredible waste involved. If you do any reading, you will be astonished by the amount of water, grain, labor, oil, fertilizer, concrete, wood, wire, electricity, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, legislation, oversight and carbon dioxide involved in manufacturing (and that's the correct word) a pound of meat.

Four-hundred gallons of water, lord knows how much fossil fuel (but lots of it), seven pounds of corn and all the concomitant fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide... to produce a pound of beef, much of which goes into eating that shitty shit people wolf down in fast-food restaurant. Shameful.

And then you have to deal with the enormous impact of fantastic amounts of shit. A hundred-fifty pounds of shit A DAY for a cow!

(Many will rightly point out that grass-fed, pastured cattle are far less resource-intensive, which is true. But the amount of "free-range" beef produced out there is a fraction of what's consumed.)

Yes, resources are used to produce a pound of vegetables and grain, but a small fraction compared to meat of any sort. And a pound of veg and grain is far tastier and more varied than your chunk of beef, and probably lots cheaper. (I try not to think of food as nutrition (for reasons too complex to explain here), but, there can be no doubt, that pile of veg, fruit and grain is of far greater healthfulness than the beef.)

The world is getting smaller, flatter, hotter, drier, more unpredictable.

Choosing not to eat meat makes sense.

Plus, I have a kick-ass garden.

Food security...

A thoughtful video from Japan. Their situation isn't terribly different from our own, with the important caveats that 1) they deal with far less arable land per person than in the USA; and 2) they have traditional food-ways to fall back upon.

I'm not an adamant vegetarian, but I am very careful to limit the animal flesh that I eat. One of the many reasons that I have chosen this diet is that eating meat is prodigiously wasteful.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another bell to try

Gator Belle Hybrid #9029 (30 seeds) $2.45
A very productive large bell pepper especially well suited to the Southeast. Uniform, bright green fruit is 3 to 4-lobed, thick-walled, and matures to red. Tobacco mosaic virus resistant and sets continuously. Medium-tall plants. 75 days.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Determinant tomatoes...

While I'm recommending seeds, I'll add Bella Rosa determinant tomato (TGS) to the list... Produced over a long time. For indeterminant, full-sized, the prizes go to Cabernet and Tiffany. Both of these are "hot house" tomatoes... Solid, medium-sized, good disease resistance. You can keep your open-pollinated "heirloom" tomatoes... I'll go with vigor, taste and disease-resistance any day. (OK, if you want an heirloom that does well in FLA, that would be Goose Creek, a southern tomato with good resistance and vigor...)

added...TGS=Tomato Growers Supply.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


And, while I'm on the subject of seeds, Burgundy Okra from ECHO. I let the pods get to nine inches and they were still tender.

Added.... Ooops... I think I got the Burgundy Okra from Southern Exposure... Anyway, it's a fairly common variety. I like it because 1) it's a REALLY beautiful plant; 2) no spines! no toughness! no goo!



A strong recommendation for California Wonder Fat and Sassy (oops!) bell peppers (TGS carries them). Even at the height of the doldrums in in Central FLA, this pepper is setting tons of new fruit and ripening thick-walled, squarish but otherwise classic bells. First time I've ever had luck with traditional bells. So far the only drawback is that it's such a heavy producer that I've had several plants break from the weight of the fruit during heavy rains.

This one gets added to the short list of sweet peppers I grow that includes Trinidad seasoning pepper and Sweet Spot X3R (and plenty of open-pollinated hot peppers)...
Sweet Spot X3R Hybrid #9660 (30 seeds) $3.35 Click Here for Large Quantity Pricing.
This high-yielding banana type pepper produces an incredible harvest of mild, sweet peppers about 8 in. long and 2 in. wide with much better size and thicker walls than open-pollinated banana types. Peppers may be enjoyed at any color stage-yellow, orange, or bright red. Tall plants resist 3 races of Bacterial Spot. 70 days. (More Sweet Peppers)
I'm trying out Flexum from TGS this year, too. It's a very interesting plant--the leaves are much broader and darker than most peppers, and it sets fruit that points upward (tips to the sky, base to the ground) from axils (where the petioles meets the main stem). The fruit is pale cream, almost white. Exotic looking--when I first saw the fruit, I thought I'd mislabled it as a pepper. Haven't picked one yet (got it in very late), but it looks to be full of potential, though not particularly vigorous. We'll see how the flavor comes out.

Mount Mulch

Is defeated. Thirty cubic yards. Two large dump trucks full. Spread, generously, throughout the yard. Easily two-hundred trips made between front and back yards. Ack. Sweat.

Late Blight Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic -

One of the scores of reasons NOT to buy plants from bigbox retailers like Lowes. Not only do they sell the unhealthy specimens of the wrong varieties and at the wrong time of the year, their plants often introduce new diseases and insects into the garden. I have seen Lowes sell rose bushes covered in anthracnose and fruit trees with fungus evident on the stems. Every once and a while, I'll buy, say, onion sets or a hibiscus from a retailer, but if it can be grown from seed or cutting, I'll take the time and save the money by doing it myself.
Late Blight Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic - "Professor Fry, who is genetically tracking the blight, said the outbreak spread in part from the hundreds of thousands of tomato plants bought by home gardeners at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Kmart stores starting in April. The wholesale gardening company Bonnie Plants, based in Alabama, had supplied most of the seedlings and recalled all remaining plants starting on June 26. Dennis Thomas, Bonnie Plants’ general manager, said five of the recalled plants showed signs of late blight.

“This pathogen did not come from our plants,” Mr. Thomas said on Wednesday. “This is something that has been around forever.”

Mr. Draper said the diseased seedlings, found in stores as far west as Ohio, were at least one source of the illness, but, he added, “It’s possible that we are looking at multiple epidemics.”

Mr. Mishanec said agricultural pathogens can easily spread when plants are distributed regionally and sold by big-box retailers.

“Farms are inspected, greenhouses are inspected,” he said, “but garden centers aren’t, and the people who work there aren’t trained to spot disease.”"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Half-way done...

I think I've reached the halfway point in the mulch pile. About 125 loads of mulch so far dragged into the backyard. My wife is doing the smaller beds in the front. I vacillate between thinking "there's not nearly enough mulch here to do all I want" to thinking "HOLY COW what am I going to do with ALL THIS MULCH!" Likely the endgame will be somewhere in-between.

Let's see... Broccoli is already up. I went out this morning to check the tomatoes and peppers and there was nada. Then I came back an hour later and two Nepal tomatoes had popped out of the soil. Kinda cool.

It's hiatus time in the garden. Nothing's producing much, except the peppers, eggplants and okra. Everything's just growing and storing energy. I think I'll have a smashing year for batatas and maybe malanga. My Mississippi Silver cowpeas haven't started producing yet, but when they do, I'm going to make my traditional pea and macaroni salad... Mmmmm.

Oh, and, finally, a new crop in my garden: Culinary ginger. I planted some corms yesterday. I've taken to making this recipe of ginger-ale. Yum. Very easy, very tasty. My sources tell me that culinary ginger grows well in partial shade, well-drained. I'll keep the blog posted.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

End of the tomato season...

I ended the tomato season (a disappointing one) yesterday by ripping out the full-sized tomatoes that were still in my garden. This being Florida, the day before I started four cool-season tomatoes (Nepal, Black Plum, Yellow Submarine and Tiffany). They'll go in the ground sometime during August, maybe at the beginning of September. It'll be a battle to keep them disease- and pest-free, but if it works, I'll have tomatoes from October until the frosts... Let's see, what else. I'm still moving mulch. Easily a hundred loads so far dragged into the back yard and spread throughout the garden. When I'm done, it my garden will be a grass-free zone. (Right now, the only grass is on the paths.) It's a lot of work, especially inasmuch as the mulch is very wet. In zones where I don't have anything growing, I'm piling it very deep so that when the dry season arrives, I'll have some nice soil to work with.

I noticed yesterday how many worms I have--every handful of dirt has one or two in it. I found a little worm nursery that was seething with scores of tiny red wrigglers. Very good sign, and another indication that minimal spraying leads to a healthy garden.

Oh, yeah, I also planted some "Premium Crop" broccoli. It can go in sometime in late August, maybe earlier. I just need to keep it on life support until the heat abates a bit.

Nesbit grapes are slowly ripening. A poor fig season, but my trees are still quite small. Lots of citrus on my super-dwarfed trees (Flying Dragon! Love it!). Peppers are still setting fruit, which is nice--both my bell and banana peppers are full of fruit, which is the first time that's every happened for me in July.