Friday, February 27, 2009

More about Mulch - Living Mulch

I found some video's about "living mulch" which I find extremely interesting. I've heard of this technique before but, these video's by Helen Atthowe illustrate the process beautifully. If you watch them you can see how fertile her soil has become evidenced by the healthy and abundant crops she is producing.

The logistics of the entire process is still a little hazy to me but, it seems like it must be fairly simple based on the fact that she has designed her system around working by herself.

If you like these video's you can go to eOrganic to see many more of the same quality and content.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alan Keyes presents scathing indictment against Obama

Saturday, February 21, 2009

ixquick "the worlds most private search engine"

The other day I was listening to Radio Liberty on my MP3 player while out doing chores. Dr. Stan was interviewing Katherine Albrecht and she was talking about RFID chips and privacy concerns. She expressed her apprehensions of how Google keeps track of everything you do on the web when you use that search engine. I share her concerns. Like most people I have nothing to hide but, it is the principle of the matter, the idea that they keep everything you do on record for ever.

During the conversation Katherine Albrecht told about a search engine called
ixquick that
she found that does not keep track of everything and in fact advertises that as a selling point for people to use their services. Their slogan is "the world's most private search engine" And they have a new feature that says "no IP address stored".

If this is true I'm all for it. In fact I got rid of my Google tool bar and replaced it with
ixquick. I'm happy with it so far. I haven't done any in depth searches on it yet but, it seems very user friendly.

Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised, if it goes over big Google will probably try to buy them out, but until then, I'll search the web feeling a little less like someone is watching over my shoulder.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The perfect solution to the financial AND energy crisis

I came across this article; Farmers Relax (a Little) After Cow Tax Scare
By Kate Galbraith
,of how the scare about taxing cattle has abated, at least for now. We don't currently have any cattle but, I suppose if they proposed such an absurd thing for cattle, sheep would have to be included as well.

According to this article,
Farmers Panic About a ‘Cow Tax’ it sounds like there was quite an uproar coming from farmers and rightfully so. The idea of taxing cows for the methane they produce is one of the stupidest things I've heard. Pretty much just as dumb as the whole NAIS (National Animal Identifiation System) thing. See and Only the NAIS is actually being implemented. That's a whole different subject!

When I first saw the story about the "cow tax". I was outraged. It seems the government is bound and determined to run every small farmer out of business. I saw a comment below one of the articles that said something like this, "they should put a hot air tax on all the politicians". I thought, "YES, that is exactly what they should do!!!"

But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea! Especially with all this financial crisis currently going on. This is the perfect solution! Tax all the hot air that comes from every state capital and from D.C. (don't forget to include the U.N. headquarters in New York) then America's and the worlds financial problems will be over!

BUT, don't stop there! The next step is to HARNESS all that hot air. Yes, harness it! Then ALL of our energy needs will be met, as well. Surely there is way more GHG's (green house gases) coming from law makers and politicians than from COWS anyway! We'd kill two birds with one stone. We'd save the planet and solve the energy crisis all at once!

Until Next Time

Friday, February 13, 2009


One thing we found out last year was that in growing on a larger scale we quickly got over run with weeds. It finally reached a point to where we should have been doing more planting, but keeping up with weeds was taking all our time. I do find pulling weeds kind of relaxing and even a little addicting. I don't know how many times I'd say to myself "ok, I'm going to quit after this bunch over here". Well then you see all those over there and 20 minutes later you're still weeding. However, when you are concerned about time management, eradicating weeds isn't exactly time best spent, especially when you need to be at a certain level of production by a certain time.

Now, I'm not a person who cares a whole lot about the looks of a garden. A few weeds here and there don't bother me very much. Some people are fanatics when it comes to weeds and become almost obsessed with eradicating them and then keeping them out. But, the way I see it really keeping them out is next to impossible. We have neighbors, an old couple, who always have nice flower gardens and a small vegetable plot. They attack weeds with an almost religious fervor and even they can't keep them out. No wonder the use of products like Roundup became so widely used. People resorted to chemical warfare in their battle against weeds and bugs. But, we won't go there, as I'm sure you know by now we prefer to use a more natural approach. Yet, when it gets to where you can hardly tell between the crops and the weeds something has to be done.

I've long been an advocate of using mulch for weed control after we discovered how well it works. And I think we started mulching our second or third season of gardening here. I've heard that slugs can be a problem living under mulch but, it doesn't seem to be a problem here. At least not yet anyway.

I personally prefer to use some kind of organic material as mulch. I like the idea that as it breaks down it is adding nutrients to the soil. Kind of multipurpose. The down side is it takes so much volume. The size gardens we had when we were just growing for ourselves was easy to mulch. Now that we are expanding our gardens we need to look at some alternatives.

At the class Kelli attended as mentioned in the past couple posts, the folks teaching the class related how they ran into the exact same obstacle as we did of trying to keep up with the weeds. So in addition to row covers they also use synthetic mulch.
Click here for a few examples.

In the past we tried using black plastic as mulch. Since it was not porous, in order to keep the soil moist we watered from underneath with spray hoses. I can't think off hand what they call them. Soaker hose, maybe? It was black hose with a gazillion holes in it and water came out in a mist or little pin hole streams the whole length of it. Anyway, we didn't care for that approach. It wasn't easy telling how well the bed was watered. We had dry spots and drenched spots. I personally, just didn't like it.

One of the farms represented at the class uses biodegradable mulch which is made with cornstarch as a base. I have two issues with that. The first being that you are hooked on that cost every year. With the synthetic mulch it's a one time purchase and it lasts a long time. Secondly, I might just be crazy but, I wonder about the cornstarch. I'm developing a real aversion to commercially grown corn products. With all the freakish things they do to corn these days it just doesn't seem safe. We currently buy corn for all our birds and I don't want to be doing it but, right now we don't have much choice. I'd rather raise all our animal feed right here, so that is something we are aiming for eventually. That way we will know what's in it. But, our soil is another matter. We have great soil here and I don't want to do anything to poison our ground. In other words I'm concerned that if that corn based biodegradable mulch was produced with chemicals and or GMO's, what are the residual effects of that? If any. I don't know but, I don't think I want to take the chance.

On the other hand, are long lasting synthetic mulches any better? Again I don't know, I don't know the answer to that. I do know that organically certified farms are using it. At least with the fabric mulch you can roll it up and take it away. The biodegradable stuff is there forever. So I'd want to do some serious research before I'd consider using that. I did find a product called
EcoCover a biodegradable paper mulch. They say that their product does not emit anything that is toxic and that they are organically certified. But, again even on this I'd want to do more research.

Right now, as I'm sure you can tell, I'm leaning towards trying out the
synthetic mulch. From Johnny's Selected Seeds it's called "Solar Mulch" and is good for warm loving crops like melons, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and eggplants. Johnny's also has a mulch that is white on one side and black on the other. For cool weather crops you turn the white side up. Here's what they say about it: "Apply this mulch with the white side up to keep the soil cool, and the black side down to suppress weeds. Great for cold-loving crops such as brassicas and some flowers. Roll comes with the black side to the outside. "
To the right are a couple examples of heavily mulched beds. Every spring we have a pretty good load of wasted hay from the sheep. It makes really good mulch. Now, I know some folks would be squeamish about using hay of any kind in the garden. "But, what about all those weed seeds" they say. They would use straw but, not hay. To me I say what's the difference, weeds and weed seeds are going to find there way in there no matter what you do. For us, old hay works fine if you make it thick enough. We had very few weeds that came through either of these beds last year. The only thing is, I wish we had 20 dump truck loads of it. That's the down side to using organic material as mulch, you need tons and tons of it.
I forgot to mention that the synthetic mulch I want to try is porous so you don't have to irrigate from underneath. You can water from the top and rain will go through too, unlike the black plastic we tried that one year. That was another reason why I didn't like black plastic as mulch, you had to water whether it rained or not. In my book non-porous plastic as mulch is not feasible. Yuk, I just don't like it!
Well, I guess that's about all I was going to say about mulch. If I think of anything else I'll talk about it later.
Until Next Time

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Row Covers

I never really new what "floating row covers" were before Kelli went to the "Beginning Market Growers" class. The folks who taught the class all use it as an organic means of insect protection and also for protecting crops from frost.

In the past for some reason every time I heard about row covers I would picture clear plastic. For example, last year I learned about a sweet corn grower in our region who uses row covers for his corn. I had a hard time understanding how someone could possibly cover that much ground with plastic. In my mind the whole logistics of it all, would make it a nearly impossible task. Using plastic for something like that would be a disaster. This particular fellow who grows sweet corn must use quite alot of row cover as well. He sells loads and loads of corn in Rhinelander from the back of his truck.

After learning what
row covers really are, it all finally makes sense. The recommended brand at the class was a product called Reemay .

Territorial Seed Company sells it in 67" x 250' rolls for $77.95 . One description of Reemay says "Floating row cover protects your plants from frost, birds, and insects. So light that plants will lift it as they grow - allows light and water but no bugs through. Lasts many seasons. Great for Cabbage Moths, etc.. No more worms on your vegetables! Excellent frost cover in the fall. Helps extend your growing and ripening season."

At the class they talked about buying it in 4000' rolls which is what we would need this year but, I haven't found a source yet for that large amount. The larger it is the cheaper per foot. For the serious back yard gardener however, 250' should be more than enough I would think. Obviously there are smaller quantities too, if all you have is a couple small beds. They use rocks, dirt or re bar to hold it down so that the wind doesn't pick it up. There's another brand called Agribon described at this site: Also they share their experience in using it as well. Some good things to know.

Next time I'll talk about mulch.

Until Next Time