Friday, March 19, 2010
This dark purple beauty is the Negro Boy crocus. Note that the rabbits got to these guys too, but, fortunately for me, the flower buds were still buried deep in the crown when the leaves got so thoroughly trimmed. These beauties are quite large for crocus blooms, larger even than my modern mixed crocuses.
Monday, March 08, 2010
I know that we (as in Prairiewolf and myself) waste a ridiculous amount of food and I have felt bad about that for years, but I've felt bad in a budgetary sort of way, not in a "what am I doing to the Earth?" sort of way. This article caused an internal shift, though, in how I see this supposedly personal problem of ours.
The USDA estimates that 30% of all edible food in this country is wasted. Two other recent studies (one from the National Institute of Health and one from the University of Arizona) estimate at least 40% of all edible food is wasted. That's the equivalent of 1400 calories/day/person, or about 2 full meals.
That means that 25% of all freshwater and 4% of all oil consumed in this country is being used to produce food that we simply throw away!
Each year the municipal waste stream in the U.S. contains enough food thrown out by restaurants and homes to feed all of Canada. (And we have starving people in this country?!)
When foood rots, it produces methane, which has 20 times the global warming potency of carbon dioxide. Rotting food, according to the EPA, may be responsible for about 10% of the human-caused methane.
In thinking about all of this, my mind keeps going to a scene in Anne's House of Dreams from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. In the scene, Marilla (Anne's stepmother) is looking into Anne's scrap jar to make sure that there's nothing in there that shouldn't be. She's basically grading the new housewife on how well she's doing, because a lack of unnecessarily wasted food was one of the most important signs that a woman knew how to run the house well. When I read this passage, all those years ago, I remember thinking how old-fashioned an idea that was. These statistics, however, make me think that the old fashioned housewives were right. At this point, I'd have to give myself a D for my ability to avoid wasting food (and we simply won't go into my other housekeeping skills at all!).
So I've got a new goal for myself: waste not, want not...and save money and the planet while doing it. Maybe making proper food preparation, use and storage a more "noble" goal will help me put a higher priority on it and thus help me get better about doing it well. As my self-inflicted grade shows, I don't think I could get a lot worse!
Sunday, March 07, 2010
You see, late last summer I got swept away by heirloom bulb frenzy. The catalog was full of gorgeous pictures and even more seductive descriptions. To make it even more irresistable, all of the varieties offered were antiques - varieties that had been brought into the trade as early as the late 1500's. I made myself a list of all the ones that sounded too good to pass up, gulped when the tentative total was well over $800, and proceeded to rigorously scratch off the ones that seemed just great rather than totally and utterly awesome.
I still ended up with an order that was embarrassingly large. I'm not going to cop to the total dollar amount (although it WAS less than $800!), but when I was done, I'd ordered 45 crocus bulbs (of 4 different varieties), 31 daffodil bulbs (of 6 different varieties), 50 grape hyacinth bulbs (of 2 different varieties), 23 hyacinth bulbs (of 7 different varieties), and 26 tulip bulbs (of 6 different varieties). A grand total of 175 bulbs. I knew I was pushing it a bit, but my fall wasn't looking all that busy.
I placed the order. Before. Before we had made definite plans to visit our son in Germany for a week at the end of September. Before I had agreed to help with the spring garden tour write-ups that had to be done by January or, preferably, earlier. Before I found out that a friend really needed help wrapping up her mother's estate because the house had sold. Before I realized my folks were going away for 3 weeks and I needed to drive up daily to care for their ancient cat. Before we signed the contract to have a front walkway and steps put in. Before...before...before....
You get the idea. Of course, the bulbs arrived the day before we left for Germany, complete with admonitions to get them in the ground RIGHT AWAY. Yeah, like THAT was going to happen!
When we got back from Germany, I religiously put "Plant spring bulbs" at the top of my To-Do List every day. I got the grape hyacinths in. I got the crocuses in. I got the tulips in. I got about half of the daffodils in...and then I stalled. It didn't matter how much I promised myself I'd get those bulbs in the ground, something more pressing always seemed to come up.
Finally, about Christmas time, I gave up and moved the box of unplanted bulbs from the "I-can't-overlook-them-here" position on the kitchen counter to the "at-least-they'll-get-some-chill-hours" spot in the garage, where they've remained for the last 2+ months.
Truthfully, I did kind of forget about them. Until Friday. As I was pulling together my "show & tell" items for a talk at the Lawn & Garden Show, I stumbled across the half empty box of bulbs, sitting patiently in the cool dark. With the talk that afternoon and a virus threatening to make my life miserable, I still couldn't do anything about them that day.
On Saturday, the threatening virus hit with a vengeance and I spent the entire day dozing in the recliner, despite temperatures in the 60's. ("Bulbs? What bulbs? By the time this virus kills me off and anyone realizes the bulbs are there, they won't have a clue how long they've been sitting there. Meanwhile, I'm doing well just to reach over to the end table and grab another tissue to cough into....")
Needless to say, I survived the virus despite myself and my personal pity-party. I'm still feeling ragged, but this afternoon I suddenly realized that it's due to rain tomorrow. And it's spring, which means the rain may come at inconveniently frequent intervals that make planting bulbs impossible. So I hauled myself outside and started looking for places to drop the remaining bulbs in.
Rereading the instructions, I realized one reason why it had taken so long to plant them last fall - all of the remaining bulbs were supposed to be planted at a depth of 6-8", which meant they each needed a fairly significant hole. Plus they needed spots where I could "guarantee" they wouldn't sit in water for too long...or dry out too thoroughly, either. I planted the first group of 3 hyacinths in a flower bed and then I just said, "Screw it."
Rather than scouring my flower beds for other perfect spots, I went into the vegetable garden, pulled up a couple of last year's tomato plants, and stuck the rest of the bulbs in the ground. I should have done that last fall - the beds are raised, so the bulbs won't be sitting in soil that's too wet, and I can transplant them later this spring when I see where I need some extra color.
Now I'm keeping my (sadly greedy) fingers crossed. I'll be surprised if a couple of the hyacinth varieties come up at all, as the bulbs weren't looking or feeling too healthy, but the rest didn't look as bad as I expected them to look.
As I planted, I recited a mantra to myself, "This is the LAST time I'm going to buy more than I can plant. This is the LAST time I'm going to buy more than I can plant. This is the LAST time I'm going to buy more than I can plant."
And if you believe THAT, I have a bridge.....
Thursday, March 04, 2010
"Oga-leeee!!! Oga-leeee!!!!" says one in the remnants of last year's cattails.
"Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!" grumbles another one from a little farther down the draw, before he too breaks out into a celebratory, "Oga-leeee!!!! Oga-leeee!!!!"
From a nearby tree-top, I hear a third male throw his verbal hat into the ring, "Oga-leeeee!!!! Oga-leeee!!!!" Really, there are too many joining the verbal joust to figure out where each call is coming from.
I'm starting to hear a few other birds chorus too, like the killdeer I heard overhead early this morning when I went to pick up the paper, or the eastern meadowlark that was half-heartedly whistling his "Spring of the year!" melody when I walked in the back prairie about an hour ago, but the main soundtrack from dawn until dusk these days is provided by the red-winged blackbirds.
"Oga-leeee!!! Oga-leeee!!!!"...."Wake up!!!!! Wake up!!!! It's still gray, but Spring's here!!!! Spring's here!!!!"
If a single aphid lived her full lifespan, including 21 birth-giving days, and all of her offspring lived and reproduced at full capacity too, when the original aphid died at the end of those 21 reproductive days, she would leave behind 1,099,511,627,775 descendants. That's over 1 trillion aphids!
Sure makes me glad that I don't kill off my aphid-eating armies of predator insects by using bug spray!