Friday, May 29, 2009

Hair - it's Way More Than Just Head Cover

It seems that hair is on my mind a lot recently. You know, the stuff that covers your head. Well, not doing that so well these days, but it's one of those things that I just kinda take for granted. For some reason, tho, I seem to keep bumping into new considerations, like these:

Hair as Mulch - I am not making this up. A few days ago I heard a piece on NPR about using hair as mulch. Seems a retired hair dresser - guess that's an old fashioned term, but I am an old fashioned kind of girl - decided that he was throwing away something valuable and found a way to make mats of hair that one can use as a fertilizing mulch. If you don't want to purchase someone else's hair as mulch for your garden, you could use your own - save it, or perhaps put it in your compose and let the nutrients go there.

To Clean up Oil Spills - About 10 years ago NASA experimented with using human hair to clean up oil spills. They were apparently interested in oil spills at sea, but I didn't know that we had to worry about oil spills from space craft... maybe it was interagency cooperation. Since we haven't heard much about this, I guess it didn't work out.

Make Clothing - A designer in Australia has actually done this in 2007. It takes a lot of hair to make this little number, but I think it's pretty - not my style, mind you, but great for the right person. Wonder how if feels. More importantly, do you use conditioner when you wash it?

Build Furniture
- Apparently you can make chairs out of hair - at least one inventor in London has done it. Should I sit in my hair chair in my hair dress?

Art (and maybe Crafts) - Dartmouth displayed a huge wall hanging made of hair. I actually think it's attractive, altho I don't have a wall long enough so won't be making a bid for it. This one actually makes sense to me. I've always liked fiber art, altho the fiber normally comes from sheep and llamas. Guess is you can spin sheep hair, it's not a big step to spinning human hair. We once met a woman who collected dog hair, spun it and knitted sweaters. Dogs are like family members for most folks. You know, our ancestors kept hair from loved ones. I've seen it rolled into scroll-like designs and kept in a locket. Perhaps this is not such a new idea after all.

Hair! Flow it, show it; long as I can grow it, my hair!

Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;
Long as God can grow it, My Hair!

Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;
Long as God can grow it, My Hair!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kudos to NCDot

Driving thru North Carolina - even on the Interstate - is a pleasure this time of year. For more than 20 years the great state of NC has planted acres - and acres - of wildflowers along the right-of-ways. Two weeks ago it was just beginning to bloom, but today it is glorious! At many intersections there are poppies and dame's rocket and other festive florals growing in apparently wild abandon. The daylilies are just starting to open and everywhere one looks are red, pink, white, blue, purple and yellow blooms - it's just lovely. Almost makes one happy to be driving a long distance.

Bank accounts are slim this year - even for states - but this long term investment by NCDot continues to reinvest itself and produce an income of blooms anew each spring to make life a little prettier.

Way to go, North Carolina!

Monday, May 25, 2009

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009 - a day to remember those who have fallen to protect our freedoms and our way of life. A day to thank those who have had the courage to serve this Nation in its times of need.

If we have learned anything from the current War in Iraq, it is how to love the warrior while hating the war - a lesson that we did not understand 35 years ago when our brothers and sisters were returning from southeast Asia. For them there was little "home coming" because most of us at home did not know how to separate their service from the cause. We may have welcomed our own soldier or sailor, but we failed miserably in finding a way to welcome them as a group.

We also failed them medically and emotionally. We see the open wounds of the Vietnam War even today - veterans who are a huge part of our homeless population, whose emotional wounds have not been treated and who have never returned to the American way of life that they gave their souls for so many years ago. Our veterans' medical system is over burdened and struggling to accommodate the young men returning from today's battles while the warriors of yesterday are reaching the point of needing more care in their declining years - often in antiquated, over-crowded facilities. As a nation we need to do better. As individuals we need to start doing more.

At the very least we need to say thank you to those who have done so much for us. Thank you to Lew Puller. Thank you to Les Smith, Jake Smith, John Bane, and Ray Whiteman. Thank you to John Connell, to Ron Stewart, to Keith Hammock, and to Bob Kenney. Thank you to the 58,159 men and women who gave their lives in the jungles of southeast Asia and to their families.
Thank you to the 153,000 plus who were wounded there and to the families of the 2,500 still missing in action. For my generation Vietnam will always be the "big war" and the way we failed to understand it or resolve our feelings about it may mark us forever.

But today is a day to remember; a day to say thanks. "And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, o're the land of the free and [especially] the home of the brave."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

CSA - Is it for You?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one of the growing trends in eating these days. There are several ways you can participate in CSA, including local farm markets, pick your own farms, purchasing a farm "share", and in some places volunteering to pick in return for a part of the harvest.

Local farm markets seems to be cropping up everywhere. Once perched on roadsides in the semi-country and then moved into more permanent quarters in some places these have been around for years. There is one in our area that is more than 25 years old - we've shopped there that long. Clearly they grow much of what they sell, but it appears that they also bring in produce from surrounding states when it is not in season here - like tomatoes in May. Recently the farmers' market downtown has been renovated and improved and four or five local markets have cropped up in neighborhoods - including mine. Ours is open two mornings a week from May to November and apparently most of the others have similar schedules. I see that some of the same farmers participate in several of these, so apparently a good farmer also has to find competent folks to staff his/her booths at the markets every week.

Pick Your Own has been big in our area for years, especially for strawberries. There are at least two major nurseries that have specialized in PYO for years - one going right thru PYO pumpkins in October. I think this is probably a big hit with the children's crowd, and less popular with older citizens. I have picked strawberries a couple of times and it's hard, bent-over work!

Buy a Share is fairly new to me. We started hearing our young friends talking about this two years ago. This year we joined in splitting a share with another couple. I found 16 farms in our area who sell CSA shares and deliver to various places on various days - one specializes in berries and fruit, while the rest provide mostly vegetables with some berries. The produce is not only fresh, but fully ripe which is a big plus for me. The strawberries are a great example. For the past two weeks we have gotten three quarts of fully ripe, fresh berries. I have not thrown away a single over-ripe berry, and have not found a single under-ripe berry. We have literally eaten every one. We have also gotten plenty of good green vegetables - some that are unfamiliar, but eating new things is part of the experience. So far we have eaten everything within the week, but our partners in this share tell us that the time will come when that is impossible. They froze a lot last year and enjoyed it all winter, so I am looking forward to that, too.

Work for harvest also sounds like fun for a slightly younger crowd. It would be a good way for a farmer to get his/her crop in and sell it at the same time. Apparently in the earlier days of CSA as farms were looking for a good business model, this was a way to share the risk with the clients.

What do you get? I've mentioned fresher produce, which for me is the big deal. But there are also other reasons to join a CSA. Supporting local producers and small family farmers is a goal for many in today's economy and global economy. Would you rather eat local strawberries or berries from Costa Rica? Certainly if the latter all are that's available, they will do. If local are available tho, it's a harder question to answer. Well, not for me! Our farmer calls it being a "locavore". Almost makes you want one of those bumper stickers that say "Eat Locally, Think Globally" doesn't it! Many of the farms are certified organic. This is not a big concern for me, but for our partners who have small children it is a big deal. I saw many farms who said they are not certified, but follow all the practices required of certified farms, so if use of pesticides is a concern for you this may be an answer. Our partners say that the organic produce may be a bit less expensive thru the CSA than at the store.

What does it cost? That's hard to answer because the cost varies from farm to farm and from plan to plan. Our half comes out to about $25 a week for both fruit and berries. At the moment we are buying additional things - like lettuce and pineapple - to fill out the week, and I think we will probably do that all summer for variety and exotic fruit. But as a part of my weekly food budget, I feel like it is well spent and reasonable.

How do you join? The easiest way is probably to go to Local Harvest and see what you can find in your area. They have a lot of information and can provide information about and contact information for the farms in your area. Many will have links to their applications or sites right at Local Harvest. Is it for you? I don't know. I do know it's worth considering. Most of all, it's fun to have someone else do the choosing for you!

Let There be Xeri!

Well, it's done. After two weekends of hard - and I do mean difficult and heavy duty - work, I have my xeri-garden. As you can see, it doesn't look like much ... yet. I have been telling you not to get too excited, because now the plants need to grow. I hope I have given them a good start. So, here's the last step, which I finished this morning.

Fortunately, it was a pretty day with very overcast skies. Altho the temperature was already 70 degrees at 6:15, the cloud cover kept it cool to work. Last night I laid out the bed on paper. This is always a good idea when you are working either with lots of different kinds of plants, or when you are working with a big bed. I had both. I had 22 pots including nine varieties, plus ground cover to fill a space that is 64 square feet. To lay out the space I used graph paper and the tags from the plants. The way I do it is to make a list of the plants including their height, width and color [from the tags]. Obviously, you want the shorter plants in the front - duh - but the width determines how close together or far apart you want to put them. A plant that is 8 inches tall x 10 inches "wide" will fill a circle with a 10-inch diameter. So, if you want your plants to fill in the space fairly tightly when they are mature, you need to figure out how far apart to put them. I like about two inches of "overlap", so for those 8 x 10 plants I would put them 8 inches apart instead of ten (10 - 2 = 8). And, of course, you want to consider color. My bed is primarily blue, violet and pink, but with white and a soft yellow to break up the pastels.

I started by setting the pots out according to the plan. You will always want to move a few around when you see how they look. Then I started at the left end at the back and moved left to right and back to front digging and planting. It is very easy with a new bed like this. All the dirt is soft and easy to dig. I waited until they were all in place before watering the bed. I watered twice and will do it again this evening. In addition to the plants I have bought, I pulled a Sedum telephium 'Autum Joy' out of my existing garden and divided it into four clumps for this garden, as well as six or seven clumps of Sedum spurium 'John Creech'. The latter came from Garland's garden nearly 10 years ago and is all over my garden. It's probably my favorite sedum.

If you look at my plan (at the bottom of the post) you might notice that there is about a third of the bed that is mysteriously "blank". That's because I over-built! Truth be told I really didn't realize how big this bed would be. The part that is now filled is about what I had in mind, but I built it much larger, so what to do? Eventually I know that there will be plenty of volunteers and other plants to add, but for now I have filled it with annual plants for color. I may use it next year for a cutting garden, or let Mitchell use it to augment his vegetables.

So, what did I plant? I keep saying this is a xeri-garden, but it is also a hummingbird and butterfly magnet as well. All of the plants can get by just fine on small amounts of water and none of them like to stand in water - hence all the sand and gravel in the bottom of the box to help the water run thru and off down the slope of the yard. Working from the tallest in the back to the front, here's what you will find:

Agastache x 'Ava' - Ava Hummingbird Mint. This grows up to 4 feet tall (so it's next to the fence for support if it needs it). It's a rose pink and will be covered with blossoms from mid-summer until fall.

Penstemon barbatus 'Elfin Pink'. Two feet tall and a bright pink, this is reportedly one of the easiest beardtongues to grow and a hummingbird favorite, and it's next to:

Penstemon smallii 'Violet Dusk', which is also two feet tall and pale purple. It is already in bloom.

Oenothera fremontii 'Shimmer' and Penstemon 'Blue Lips' are at the front. The former is a pale yellow and the latter is ..... pale blue. They are only 10-12 inches tall, so nice for the front. Blue Lips should bloom in June and Shimmer much of the summer.

Thymus serpyllum 'Coccineum', Red Mother-of-Thyme is the ground cover for the left front corner. It will form a carpet and trail over the edge of the box.

Salvia 'Snowhill' fills in behind the Elfin Pink. It is a little taller and white. This, too, is already in bloom, so I get some more instant color from it. The white looks good against the grey fence.

Sedum 'Autum Joy'. I put two clumps in the back left corner. The greyish color will be nice with all these pastel flowers, and the bloom is a bright, bright pink that fades to a pretty brown in the late fall. These plants look terrible at the moment. They would have done better to have been transplanted in the early spring - like early April - when they were short. I think they will eventually make it, but they will not be much to look at this year. There are two more at the far right end of the planting.

Nepeta Walkers Low - Catmint. There is one plant tucked in between the Violet Dark and the sedum at the far right end. This is a clear violet with a slightly grey foliage, so another nice combination with my pinks and purples. It is already 15 inches tall.

Sedum 'John Creech'. As an after thought I added this groundcover along the front of the bed. It forms a lovely two-inch tall mat and will trail over the front of the box.

The last plant that went in was gift from my next door neighbor - a passalong plant. It's an annual or biennial that grows "wild" in her yard, and before weed killer grew wild in my yard. Remember that many "flowers" are simply domesticated weeds! It's in the lamb's ear family and has a lovely deep cerise flower. It will self seed, so will make a good filler in this bed and help with the wild look that I hope to have in a couple of years. When I remember it's name I will tell you!

So, that's the Big Project - all done, except the growing. I feel happy to be finished, but a little let down not to have something on the horizon. Unfortunately, the next project is more in the keeping-up-the-house variety. I'll take some pictures in a few weeks to see if we are making any progress. Happy Gardening!