Tag Archives: organic writer

Edible Flowers Great For Small Spaces

Edible Flowers for Small Spaces

May 18, 2012

Are you limited to an apartment windowsill or small balcony but still  want to grow organic food to liven up your diet? Try edible flowers.
Usually only seen in high-end gourmet restaurants to garnish  salads or brighten a plate, edible flowers are easy to grow, bloom all  summer long and come in a variety of colors, shapes and flavors.
Here are a few listed in the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog (johnnyseeds.com) and widely available elsewhere:
• Nasturtiums (Nasturtium officinale) are probably the best-known edible  flowers—you can eat the flowers when they are fully open and eat the  leaves, too. They come in yellows, oranges and reds.
• Calendulas (Calendula offinalis) are edible when the flowers are fully  open. They come in various shades of yellow, some with darker tinges on  the edges.
• Bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus) or classic cornflowers come in a  variety of colors that produce abundantly. They can make successive  sowings to bloom all summer.
• Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) has a nice nutty flavor. Hummingbirds love them, too.
• Hollyhocks (Alcea ficifolia) are large 3-inch to 4-inch flowers on  long stems that range in color from cream white to yellow to pink and  deep maroon.
• Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab) also make nice cut flowers and come in shades of purple.
• Ornamental, cutflower kales (Brassica oleracea) are cool-weather  plants that you can plant in the fall and grow into the cold weather.  These are colorful, leaf-type cabbages that are edible.
Of course, if your roses have not been treated with chemicals, they are  edible, too. My beautiful wife, Annette, puts rose petals in the teas  she makes. You can boil them in water and add lemon juice and sugar or  honey for a stand-alone tea, put them in an omelet, or use them as a  garnish (they are really pretty in yogurt!).
Clip this article out and take it to your local garden supply store.  Buy organic or heirloom seed varieties to ensure they aren’t genetically  modified “frankenseeds.”
Remember: You want to grow organically, so don’t use chemical  pesticides, etc. Pollinators like butterflies and honeybees like edible  flowers as well, so let’s help keep them healthy, too!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Consumer vs. Curator Society

Mindfulness & Awakening: Consumer v. Curator Society
May 9, 2012

Futurist William Gibson, in his book of essays, “Distrust That  Particular Flavor,” (Putnam, 2012, $26.95) says: “We are all curators in  the postmodern world, whether we want to be or not.”
It is this otaku (Japanese for a passive, obsessive need for  data), he says, that defines the emerging world and its generation. In  short, we are being defined as consumers. Curation—or our choices in  consumption—is mindless, or not, perhaps in degree.
It poses a challenge that an adoption of spiritual precepts can help  define.
Why not be mindful of this otaku, and acquire a “center” for it  within one’s being and, thus, urge it along with spiritual power?
It need not be confined within any specific religion or spiritual  discipline or modality, but only require the transcendence of want that  consumerism implies—toward choice, an informed mindfulness with  integrity.
The concepts are what’s important.
If there were a broad generational move to shift gears to a deeper  level, say from otaku to the Buddhist idea of vipassana (Sanscrit:  vipashyana), meaning a spiritual consciousness of seeing things as they  actually are, freeing the self from the emptiness of conditioned  phenomena, it could channel and propel the information age.
This internal recalibration of the inner compass could help people be  resistant to the delusional roller coaster of manipulation to which  consumers are prey. To be mindful in choices would be liberating on a  massive scale.
How to do this? Consider these questions, for the individual: What  makes us happy? What’s good for the planet? What provides wealth and  plenty for those we love?
This type of awakening for a path of consciousness, called “living in  right relationship,” is not new or confined to any one religion or way  or path, from Quakers to Buddhists to Native Americans. (Indeed, the  common method of vipassana retreat for meditation is similar to the  “vision quests” or “pipe fasts” practiced by native peoples.)
Bryan Welch, for example, in his book “Beautiful and Abundant: Building  the World We Want” (B&A Books, 2010, $9.99), offers Quaker-style  queries for readers as a guide for any course of action:
• Is it beautiful? (to engage human imagination);
• Does it create abundance? (to entice innovation);
• Is it fair? (so no one is marginalized, all can share);
• Is it contagious? (so it can “go viral” or create a “tipping point” for change).
Let us not be mere consumers, led by our desires and bedazzled by  what’s put before us from the outside. Let us practice mindfulness in  our choices and lead society, indeed the globe, through following a path  of right relationships, curating our lives and our world.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

What’s in a label?

What’s in a Label?
May 2, 2012

When food shopping, how do you know what you’re buying? You may be surprised at the misleading information on labels.
For example, The New York Times recently reported a dispute  between Fresh Del Monte and Del Monte Foods—two companies created out of  what was a single Del Monte in 1989. Fresh Del Monte is supposed to  sell “fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh produce” while Del Monte  Foods markets canned and preserved fruits, vegetables and produce. That  seems clear, right? But Fresh DM is suing DM Food because it is selling  processed fruit and fruit products in plastic tubs on refrigerated  shelves of grocery and convenience store produce sections.
Maybe that’s not fresh produce, huh?
Consumers must be savvy to what’s presented to them and not rely on  product positioning in the supermarket or even the labels, which, in  this case, carry
such appealing names as Fruit Naturals and SunFresh.
Labels on processed foods, or food “products,” tell very little. For  example, there is a nationwide movement to label foods containing GMO  ingredients, which are banned in U.S. organic foods and most of the  world.
If you want fresh produce, don’t buy it packaged. Then, look at the  label affixed to it. All produce (including fruit, veggies, nuts and  herbs) will have
either a four or five digit number, part of the PLU, or  Price Look Up Codes, established in 1949. Four digits means it’s  conventionally grown with
chemicals. If that number has a 9 in front  (making it five digits long), it’s certified organic; similarly if it  starts with an 8, it’s GMO. Every produce
variety has a code (see  plucodes.com for info).
Some labels, such as Fair Trade, are reliable because  independent  organizations stand behind them to ensure the label is accurate. Some  are not.
For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture only regulates  Free Range labeling for poultry (not other meat) and only requires that  the birds have
“access” to the outdoors, which could mean almost  anything.
The Earthwatch Institute, an international nonprofit organization  dedicated to scientific research for the good of the planet, has a list  of labels it has
rated for reliability at http://www.bit.ly/uKE4pP.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

It’s not too late to plant

It’s not too late to plant
May 2, 2012

For those who have been thinking “I’d like to start an organic garden  this year,” it’s not too late. Lots of folks plant during the first week  in May.
Traditionally in Mississippi, the old folks advise planting on  Good Friday, but that’s not a hard rule, and it mostly applies to seeds,  not “starts,” or plants
started in pots. Also, we generally experience a  frost around Easter in Mississippi, which can kill tender plants. So  it’s often wise to wait until the
week after Easter to plant.
That covers early planting, but what about on the other end? How late can you plant?
You can plant just about anytime in spring and summer and grow fresh,  wholesome fruits and vegetables. For organic gardens, the operative word  is “bugs.”
Because we don’t use chemical poisons—where one can plant  late and then spray and spray and spray to control ever more hatches of  insects—we want to get started early and allow both beneficial and  harmful insects to develop together, in balance.
At my little ShooFly farm, anyway, we plant early to harvest before it  gets really hot in August. Who wants to be out working in the hot sun  when it’s 100
degrees and the humidity is 98 percent? We don’t, for  sure!
It’s a balancing act; you don’t want to plant too early and endanger  the plants via frost or when the soil is so cold that seeds don’t  germinate and rot in the
ground. Plant too early and your plants may  become stunted, but you don’t want to wait so long that the bugs are  already established to eat up your plants.
To plan a timeline for your garden, just read the seed packet. It will  say how many days until maturity. For example, if you plant corn with 90  days maturity,
and you plant May 2, you can expect ripe corn August 2  or thereabouts.

Making a ‘Jim’s Plot’
I recommend  creating a “Jim’s Plot,” a 4-foot by 8-foot plot, either  raised bed or not,  to start your garden. If you like, you can always  expand it; but
that’s a good starting size.
Outline a 4-by-8 area and enclose it in nontoxic materials. You can buy  synthetic lumber, including stuff made from recycled plastics and  rubber, or
use materials you have at hand like concrete blocks, tin or  other materials. You could also simply mound up the soil as a natural  boundary or use cedar or
redwood lumber.
In the plot, use either bagged soil—Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden  Soil is widely available at garden stores and is OMRI (Organic Materials  Review
Institute) approved for certified organic use—or dig from areas  of your yard where leaves may have accumulated over the years to provide  loamy soil. Work the soil with a shovel to loosen it to the depth of  the shovel (about 8 inches), or use a garden tiller. Start keeping a  compost bin and add compost
periodically to build up the soil.
It should take you maybe a day to build and plant the plot. Use  certified organic seeds (available at local garden supply stores) or  heirloom plants. To
be all organic, don’t use hybrids or genetically  modified (GMO) plants.

Women and Their Gardens
“Women and Their Gardens” by Catherine Horwood (Ball Publishing, 2012,  $26.95) would make a terrific Mother’s Day gift idea. Subtitled “A  History from the Elizabethan Era to Today,” it’s a hefty tome at 431  pages, but it’s filled with interesting lore from the 18th-century  salons of Mayfair to the women gardeners of World War II. The book’s  focus is English gardens; it doesn’t delve into the modern  small-agriculture movement in America that is liberally composed of  young women. But if she’s into gardening, mom might like it.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Earth Day & The Future of the Organic Movement

Earth Day and the Organic Movement

April 18, 2012

Forty-two years ago, a new way of looking at our Earth arose in human consciousness.
It came about on Christmas Eve in 1968 when Astronaut William  Anders looked out the window of Apollo 8 and snapped a photo that he  dubbed “Earthrise.”
The photo was featured on the cover of the first “Whole Earth Catalog,”  which celebrated natural living and a back-to-the-earth credo in 1970.  It became the icon of a movement that saw the first Earth Day that same  year.
That holistic way of looking at the world—seeing us all as voyagers on a  tiny, bobbing blue and green vessel in the vastness of space—gave vigor  to another movement that came to be called organics.
On Earth Day this year, it’s time to review where that movement went, where it is likely go and maybe even where it should go.
For those deeply involved in the organics movement, this year could  prove transformative. Some of its pioneers believe that industrial  agriculture has
co-opted the movement since the U.S. Department of  Agriculture took over administration of organics, and that the movement  has lost its spirit. The USDA has even made it illegal for a farm to use  the word  unless it us USDA certified.
Most of the USDA Certified Organic produce you see in your local  grocery store is grown on huge factory farms using migrant laborers who  are often abused and exploited, paid pennies on the dollar, housed in  shanties and, because they are often undocumented, are afraid to  complain for fear of being deported. That’s if the produce is grown in  the United States.
Much of the produce marked USDA Certified Organic in your market is  imported from foreign countries where inspections to ensure harmful  synthetic chemicals, fertilizers and poisons aren’t used or may be lax.  Corporate ownership of organic brands is becoming the norm. (For a list  of corporations that own certified organic farms and their brands, see http://www.bit.ly/i6zF44.)

Beyond the Label
Eliot Coleman, author of “The Winter Harvest Handbook” (Chelsea Green  Publishing, 2009, $29.95) among other titles, grower, and owner of Four  Season Farm in Maine (fourseasonfarm.com), was a founder of the organics  movement in the 1960s and helped set up the original National Organic  Program guidelines.
Now, however, he rejects USDA certification.
Indian Line Farm in Egremont, Mass., one of the first Community  Supported Agriculture farms in the U.S. and a founder of the CSA  movement, also rejects USDA certification, choosing instead to be listed  with Certified Naturally Grown, a nonprofit alternative eco-labeling  program for small farms that grow using USDA organic methods but are not  part of the USDA program. (Disclosure: My ShooFly Farm in Lena is CNG  certified.)
The organics movement faces a dilemma, even from within: whether to  embrace “evil” Big Ag and all it entails, including greater corporatism  and devaluing of workers, or to reject the mainstreaming of organics and  its promise of a better planet.
This schism is playing out around the world. Countries in Europe and  elsewhere have rejected genetically modified, or GMO, seeds and food  because they believe these mutated strains are untested for human health  and safety and could pose a threat to the environment. However, under a  quirk of U.S. law, GMO doesn’t have to meet independent testing and  analysis to be proven safe. The foods are safe because companies that  genetically engineer them say they are safe, and they fund their own  studies to prove it. Hence, companies can market GMO food and seed to an  unsuspecting public even without labeling.
Organic growing practices do not allow GMO seeds or plants. But even  here, corporate agriculture is pushing to include GMOs in USDA organic  certification rules. (For more, see: OTA ‘Modified’ by GMO interests,  Organic Consumers Association, June 9, 2011: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bytes/ob280.htm.)
A real risk exists that, ultimately, the food and farming label of “USDA Organic” will be a distinction without a difference.

Organics’ Gordian Knot
This growing divide forces a dilemma for the consumer as well.  Certainly, Certified Organic is better than conventional chemical  farming. It’s healthier,
safer and more beneficial for the planet. But  it’s a Faustian bargain: In exchange for safe, healthy, pesticide-free  food under the guise of saving the
planet with environmentally friendly  farming methods, consumers may be dooming the planet to worse air  pollution, depletion of natural resources and
exploitation of workers,  while putting land ownership and food production into fewer hands.
Like the fabled Gordian knot that many said was impossible to unravel,  the answer for consumers is almost embarrassingly simple: Grow local,  buy local. In other words, cut through USDA and Big Ag-generated  confusion.
Here is the key to the future of organics if it is to continue in the  spirit in which it began: The organic movement must transition from an  idea of
sustainability using old growing methods to a new model that  embraces modern social change and science. In centuries past, growers  who used organic methods knew the practice worked, but they didn’t know  why. Now, with all the research into soil science that is broadening  horizons as to the vital role of fungi and microorganisms in the soil,  we know and can scientifically prove that organic methods can feed the  world for a safer, sustainable and nourished planet.
Consumers want safe food, and young people have embraced the idea. Many  have started small backyard and “boutique” farms to grow foods. This  small but growing postmodern organics movement embraces a worldwide  awareness under the moniker “ecoagriculture.” I believe this is the next  phase of organic growing.

The Power of Choice
In America, I suspect this movement will likely veer increasingly away  from pure crop production and toward a more holistic view of the  environment, such
as permaculture. Coined in 1959 by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren,  permaculture incorporates two concepts: “Permanent Culture” and  “Permanent Agriculture.” The practice eschews soil disruption, an  agricultural hallmark since its beginning 10,000 years ago.  To the  untrained eye, a permaculture food plot may appear to be a jungle.  However, if it is well crafted, it can serve as a continuing ecosystem  through the seasons, providing food with a minimum of human  intervention.
Consumers’ continued demand to label genetically engineered foods will  boost natural growing techniques and, perhaps, reverse the decline in  seed diversity. Demand can revive heritage foods and crops, while  shifting attention toward fruits and vegetables, lessening health  threats caused by high-fat, high-sugar, processed “food products.”
The future of organics is in our hands. We each can do our part in  keeping our precious Earth of Anders’ iconic photo blue, green and clean  by growing our own food — whether in our backyards or with our neighbors  in community gardens — and by buying organic, rejecting GMO, supporting  locally grown food and only voting for those who look out for the  consumer first.
This is the type of organic growing that those of us who  marveled at that little planet in the black void of space envisioned  some 42 years ago.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Count me as a ‘Treehugger,’ too!

Treehugger? Author Logsdon one of them and so am I

“We’re all treehuggers.”
So writes farmer, author and journalist Gene Logsdon.
With  his latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees (Chelsea Green, 2012), to be released April 27, Logsdon, who has published more than two dozen books,  has
truly outdone himself.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a  longtime fan. The only book I had some difficulty with was his Holy  Sh–t: Managing Manure To Save Mankind, and that
objection wasn’t due to  the subject matter, but the title: I don’t approve of using swear words  (if I can help it!).
To get the gist of the man, Wes Jackson  (founder of The Land Institute) is probably right in describing Logsdon,  as “one of only three people I know who
are able to make a living  exclusively out of writing what should be common sense.”
Presumably,  the other two are revered Kentucky farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry and  Virginia “grass farmer” Joel Salatin (author, among others, of The  Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer).
To say Logsdon is “down  to earth” is an understatement (with Sh-t!, who else writes a whole book  dedicated to the intricacies of manure?). Hence, the
singular impact of  his calling himself “a treehugger.” Often used in derision,  Logsdon turns it around – exercising that uncommon common sense, again.  How could someone who loves the outdoors, depends on the largess of  farming, and even on the grace of clean air that trees produce, not
be  an unabashed lover/hugger of trees?
Humans have always depended on  trees for food, shelter, livelihood and safety, he notes. But trees are  even more important now, in helping to halt climate change by  sequestering carbon.
A simple fact, he observes: “A tree in its  lifetime produces oxygen and consumes as much carbon dioxide as it will  release when it is burned. Fossil
fuel such as coal or oil releases  carbon dioxide and thermal energy withdrawn from circulation millions of  years ago.” That simple math has profound
implications.
It is his  gift of seeing old things anew and new things in new ways that makes  Logsdon’s books an evergreen delight. Count me in with Gene Logsdson;  I’m very happily a treehugger, too!

Check out Logsdon’s blog: http://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com.

Last column: This is my final column with The Clarion-Ledger.
I am among those longtime employees given a buyout.
Not near retirement age, I am eagerly investigating new projects and employment.
I have a contract with Findhorn Press for a book on organic food, farming and gardening. Look for it Sept. 1.
You can follow me on Facebook at http://bit.ly/cuxUdc – or on Twitter @edibleprayers.
Thank  you, dear readers, for 22 years with The Clarion-Ledger and before that  with the Jackson Daily News. I can’t thank you enough for all the kind  words and support over all these years.
It’s been fun!

(Note: I intend to continue this blog.)

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Make organic garden an ‘open space, sacred space’

April 6, 2012

Make organic garden an ‘open space, sacred space’

“Every neighborhood needs a Walden Pond in their backyard, a place where people can be in nature and reconnect to themselves, to the land, and to each other.”

So say Tom and Kitty Stoner, founders of the TKF Foundation, and its Open Spaces, Sacred Places program that supports having natural oases in cities, neighborhoods and businesses.
Today, Good Friday, is traditional planting time in central Mississippi. Given the oddly warm and even hot weather, it seems late to plant, but it’s not. The best time is just starting.
Planning your garden is part of the fun, as well. You, too, can make your organic garden a welcoming place for others, or for rejuvenating yourself. That’s what gardens are all about, in my view anyway. They feed the body and the soul.
Over next to our spring/fall garden plot, I have a reclining chair. During warm weather – even winter, if the sun is out – my beautiful wife Annette can frequently find me there, looking out over the rows and spirals of plants in the garden.
In sunny weather, I watch the bees buzz from flower to flower while laden with pollen like they’re wearing waders. I watch the butterflies in their arrays of yellows, oranges and blues, flit here and there. And the birds drop from the sky to alight, eying bugs in the soft soil. We are serenaded by their birdsong.
Sometimes, I take a book to read. Sometimes, I just hold the book in my lap, transfixed by nature’s unfolding tableau.
According to the Stoners’ website, http://www.opensacred.org, an Open Space, Sacred Space has four elements: portal, path, destination and surround. Each is self-explanatory, with the Stoners concluding: “The Sense of Surround ensures that the visitor is safe within the sacred space, until his or her return to everyday life, retracing steps on the path and moving back out through the portal.”
The wonder is that these oases can be built just about anywhere, or everywhere. Perhaps, wherever the heart yearns for peace and a place that helps reveal the joy that resides within.

Reader response: What liquid organic fertilizer do you recommend? How can it be applied?
I don’t recommend any brand, but to get transplants and seeds started we usually mix kelp and fish emulsion or blood meal.
You can take your seedlings and dip them in the mix and plant them, to give them a boost. Or dribble it around the roots for a topical dressing. Later, you can spray the kelp as foliar feeding.
Check local garden stores’ organic sections. If they’re OMRI approved (www.omri. org), they should be fine.
If you are vegan and don’t approve of using animal products, you can use mineral mixes with the same elements. Just read the labels or go online.
Bottles of fertilizer are pricey, but they also go a long way; you don’t have to apply very often.

Reader response: I heard someone say “plants can’t tell the difference between synthetic and organic fertilizer.” Is this true?
Well, if you believe what the chemical companies tell you, that’s true. But if you call yourself an organic grower, no way!
First: Synthetic fertilizers are banned in the National Organic Program. You cannot be certified organic and use them.
Second, using synthetic fertilizers also is an affront to the basic philosophy of organics. Organic growing is from the soil up, not the chemical applicator down.
Ammonia- based synthetic fertilizers kill microorganisms in the soil, kill earthworms that keep it aerated and fertilized by their natural processes,they burn plant roots and destroy humus.
They weaken plants’ resistance to disease; which works out great for chemical manufacturers because they then can also sell chemical insecticides, fungicides and other poisons.
That’s in the microcosm: your own backyard. In the macrocosm, they poison drinking water, kill lakes and cause waterways to choke with weeds; they even are responsible for the giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where there is no oxygen.
You can’t throw harsh chemicals on the soil and not expect consequences – in our food, yards or planet.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Planting by the ‘signs’ so old, it’s new again

March 30, 2012
Planting by ‘the signs’ so old, it’s new again – and timely!

Good Friday – April 6 – is traditional planting time. Some people go by the calendar when they plant, some by how the weather feels. Like now: It’s
(freakishly) warm, right?
But the old folks used to take into account the moon and stars.
Maria Thun, who lives in Germany and has been putting her guide together since the 1950s, is the internationally recognized expert on this, known in
biodynamic farming circles as the voice of planting by “the signs.” Thun’s guide is published in 18 languages.
Such calculations can also tell the best time to work with bees, Thun contends. As the bees live in darkness in their hives, their rhythms are along
the lines of root crops, which have their own cycles she calls “root days.”
The best time to plant flowering plants is on “flower days,” she says, when the ascending moon is in Libra, Gemini or Aquarius. Fruit plants grown from
seed such as beans and tomatoes are best planted or tended on “fruit days” when the ascending moon is in Leo, Sagittarius or Aries. Cabbages, lettuces and the like are best tended on “leaf days.”
Thun’s guide for 2012 shows this week to be a good time to plant, with leaf days Sunday and Monday; fruit days late Monday and all day Tuesday; and a
partial root day Thursday.
From April 8-14: Partial root and flower Sunday (Easter); partial flower and leaf Monday; leaf Tuesday; partial leaf and fruit Wednesday; fruit Thursday and Friday; and root Saturday.
The Best Southern U.S. transplanting time is April 11-25.
Her North American Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar 2012 (Floris Books, $13.95) is available from Steiner Books: P.O. Box 960; Herndon VA 20172-0960; (703) 661-1594; or http://www.steinerbooks.org.

Worms not so icky, huh: My column on earthworms was a big hit.
A caller said his late wife used to order worms through the mail and sprinkle them around her garden. It was less messy than raising worms, he said. You can buy red wigglers by the pound at bait shops, or order them online. (Here’s one place we have bought worms: http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/. You can buy 1,000 for $18.95 plus shipping.)
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has a web page devoted to vermi-composting: http://bit.ly/HmxboE .
The “Worm Woman” lives on: Although Mary “Worm Woman” Appelhof died in 2005, her writings live on: http://www.wormwoman. com.
World Wide Worm Web?: For all worms all the time, commentary, forums, etc., see: http://www.wormdigest.org.
The definitive book on worms: The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart – a New York Times best-selling author, no less – with 213 pages on worms, just reissued in
paperback: Algonquin Books; $12.95.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘Seed schools’ can nurture local heritage plants

March 23, 2012
‘Seed schools’ can help nurture local heirloom plants

A novel approach toward helping young people ensure biodiversity  in our world is studying seeds in the wild and planting them for food in  the garden.
Called “seed schools,” they should be in schools everywhere.
According  to Native Seeds SEARCH’s Seedhead News, Gary Paul Nabhan, sometimes  called “the father of the local foods movement,” was recently named to  an endowed chair at the University of Arizona’s Sustainable Food Systems  Program.
Nabhan helps seed school students name their own plant  (garden-bred or in the wild). “Once it’s in print and described,” he  says, “you can’t patent it. It
becomes public domain.”
Most  Americans probably aren’t aware of the pervasive practice of  corporations claiming ownership of common plants and seeds, giving them  exclusive use.
Seed School’s Bill McDorman, Native Seeds SEARCH’s  executive director, notes that land grant universities were in part  established to provide seeds for
farmers, but most of their research now  supports further privatization of what was once part of the public  trust.
In recent years, multinational corporations have bought up  many  seed companies, discontinuing production of many varieties and  substituting their
own patented genetically modified seeds (GMOs).
According to the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, 96 percent of food crops available in 1906 are no longer available.
The  American public has all but given away its ability to grow its own food  to profit-making corporations and the government. Once that ownership  is gone, we’re all serfs to those who own the seeds and plants that feed  us.

Local heirloom food explained: A wonderful book on  indigenous heirloom foods in Mississippi (Appalachia and the South, too)  is The Moving Feast by Allan Nation (Green Park Press; 2010; $ 25.60).
It’s called that because Native Americans would move their crops from field  to field, creating the parklike forests early settlers found. Food grew
abundantly without artificial chemicals. Such practices, Nation  explains, continued until the 1930s. Organic farming, Nation says, is  essentially another
name for those practices.
Nation, publisher of  The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine, is something of a hero across the  U.S. for his promotion of raising cattle naturally.
Such  luminaries as celebrity farmer/author Joel Salatin swear by his work,  extolling heirloom foods and natural processes (often called ecofarming)  with
his magazine in Ridgeland.
Nation’s book should be on every  organic farmer’s bookshelf as a reminder that although, as the teacher  says, there is no new thing under the sun, there is
plenty of old lore  worth remembering.
It’s available at www.stockmangrassfarmer.com, 1-800-748-9808 or P.O. Box 2300, Ridgeland MS 39158-9911.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Worms (in the garden) something to brag about!

Worms (in the garden) something to brag about!

March 16, 2012

Not long ago, I was attending a conference and overheard someone say, “Yeah, I’ve got worms.”

Now, most folks might find that a bit disconcerting. After all, having worms is something that one normally doesn’t brag about. Unless you’re an organic farmer!

Properly, raising worms is called vermiculture. It is the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material for a garden.

Turns out, vermicompost is not only some of the best fertilizer that can be produced – having the proper pH and essential nutrients for healthy plant growth – but it’s easy to produce.

You can grow worms without muss or fuss in your apartment, by using common plastic bins found at Walmart, Target and other discount stores. Gaining Ground – Mississippi Sustainability Institute has an article and video explaining how: http://www.ggsim.org/volunteer/projects/o-gardens-occupy-your-lawn/lesson-three.

Essentially, you start with your bin and add bedding material: shredded paper, peat moss, coconut fiber, wood chips or manure. Add a couple handfuls of soil to add “grit,” helping the worms break down food particles. Add one pound of worms (red wigglers preferred) that you obtain online or from a bait shop. Then, start feeding them food scraps (about one pound per day). Don’t feed them: garlic, onions, citrus, meat, dairy or bones.

After four to six months, collect the castings and fertilize your plants. If you end up with too many worms, you can give them away or release them in your garden. You can also keep your worm bin outside when it’s warm.

Worm science: For more on the science of vermicompost, see: http://www.news.cornell. edu/stories/Dec11/Vermicompost.html

Soil testing: If you haven’t already sent it off, now is a good time to get your soil tested. By testing soil fertility, pH, etc., you can determine exactly which amendments are needed to produce the food you want to grow.

For example, in our little farm, we have red clay soil at the top of the hill, rather compacted “played out” soil at the middle, and dense clay soil at the bottom of the hill. I take a sample from each. In response, we’ve calculated strategies for each: lots of mulch, compost and vegetative matter for the hill; growing soil building cover crops for the middle; allowing buffer areas to soak up moisture at the bottom.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory analyzes soil. It only costs $6 for a routine analysis. For more information, see http://msucares.com/crops/soils/testing.html, or visit your local extension service office or write: Soil Testing Laboratory, Box 9610, Mississippi State MS 39762; or call (662) 325-3313.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘American Way of Eating,’ ‘Abundance’ offer food for thought

March 9, 2012

Deceptive weather a gamble on growing organic food

This freakishly warm weather is prompting people to want to plant in the garden, but I would advise caution.
Historically, here, even avid gardeners don’t plant until Good Friday, which this year is April 6.
Normally, in central Mississippi, we often have a cold spell in April, and sometimes even heavy frost the week after Easter.
Lots of gardeners wait much later, until the first of May, so that the plants are assured of good growing in warm soils. However, as organic growers, we usually plant earlier rather than later so that we are toward the end of our growing season when bugs are at their height.
Bottom line: Now is a good time to “start” plants indoors, or your carport, or outside on a table or, as mentioned last week, in a wheelbarrow – so that you can pull plants indoors if cold weather comes.
But if you want to plant in the soil now, recognize that it’s a gamble. Unless the plants are cold weather plants, such as lettuces, kale, cabbages, chard, etc., cold soils and adverse weather can stunt plants or develop disease so they don’t produce well.
Now is a good time to read good books about food, farming and the like, and I’ve got a couple to recommend.

First is The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan (Scribner, 2010, $16).
McMillan, a journalist, went “undercover,” to so speak, to live off the wages and live the lifestyle of a farm worker, a grocery clerk and a restaurant server. Her report is mesmerizing, highly readable, at times heartwarming, sometimes horrifying, and often perplexing, leading to the question: Who came up with this system and isn’t there a better way?
American Way of Eating is a powerful piece of journalism about the behind-the-scenes reality of our food system.

Abundance, welcome! People concerned about the environment and the future of humanity are pounded by negative messages, but as Bryan Welch says in his book Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want (B&A Books, 2010) that may
work against finding solutions.
“Imagining a positive vision of the future strikes the alarmed mind as a trivial distraction,” he observers.
A Kansas rancher and publisher of Mother Earth News, Welch makes an analogy with the modern world as a motorcycle rider midway in an unexpected, ever-tightening curve. The natural inclination is to slow down, conserve, cut
back, but therein lies disaster.
“Motorcyclists, mountain bikers, skiers and steeplechasers all learn the same lesson: When you are moving forward with a lot of momentum you have to focus beyond the short term challenges. You need to be thinking ahead. You need to picture yourself past the coming obstacles. You have to visualize the successful outcome. Then your reflexes can take care of the short term.”
Is it possible for someone concerned about the future of the planet to have a positive outlook?
Welch doesn’t pull any punches. He readily admits the seemingly insurmountable problems facing humankind – resource depletion, population expansion, species loss, deforestation, global warming, economic malaise.
But he turns these issues on their head, saying that the way past them is to take a new perspective. He poses Quaker-style “queries” to lead the reader. He believes “if we ask the rights questions, they could guide us down a new path.”
To wit:
•Is it beautiful? (to engage human imagination);
•Does it create abundance? (to entice innovation);
•Is it fair? (so no one is marginalized, all can share);
•Is it contagious? (so it can “go viral” or create a “tipping point” for change).
I won’t give away any more of the book. I will say that it’s exceedingly rare to find someone with such business acumen and belief in the free enterprise system to be posing questions and seeking answers about the future of humankind in such a thoughtful, egalitarian way.
Perhaps that’s why this book out of the nation’s breadbasket by a prairie sheep-and-goat farmer/writer/publisher hasn’t vaulted to the top of environmental debate (it’s too sane!).
It’s not a book to skim, as the real cream rises in your own thoughts mulling it over.
Maybe I’m biased, but I believe the great heart, soul and conscience of America resides in rural areas. Too few books reflect that. This is one of them.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Getting started growing organic food easy as 1-2-3

March 2, 2012
Getting started with growing organic food easy as 1-2-3

Think growing organic food is difficult? If you have a wheelbarrow, garage and driveway, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Presumably, your garage doesn’t get below 32 degrees. If so, go to the garden store and buy a couple of bags of organic potting soil (Miracle-Gro makes OMRI-approved Organic Choice for certified organic gardening; it’s usually available at Walmart);

2) Put your bags of potting soil in your wheelbarrow; plant your organic or heirloom seeds by punching them through the plastic bag into the contained soil and lightly water (don’t overwater, or make soggy);

3) During the day, if temps are warm, lightly water or mist the soil and wheel the wheelbarrow to a sunny spot in the driveway; at night, wheel it back into the garage.

Within days, you will have plants sprouting, and in about 4-5 weeks, they will be ready to put into your 4-foot-by-8-foot organic “Jim’s plot.” Or, if you keep them pruned, they can produce right there in the wheelbarrow!

See, one, two, three. Who says organic gardening is hard to do?

Reader response on feeding bees: A woman called to question last week’s item about beekeepers needing to feed the bees. While not a “beek,” she wanted to know if she could help, too, adding that she had found where some bees had drowned in a container while apparently looking for water on her patio. Some observations:

First, bees require lots of water and if they don’t have a place to land (such as a leaf) in a pond or other water source, many can drown trying to obtain it. During drought, it’s a good idea to offer bees a water source, and it can be done by putting gravel in a baking pan (in shade) and filling it with water so that the bees can stand on the rocks and sip.

Similarly, one can pour a mixture of organic sugar and water in the pan to feed bees (mix sugar into warm, not hot, water until it won’t absorb any more to make the syrup). Beekeepers have specially designed feeders for their hives that release sugar water, as needed, by the bees. It’s important to keep the sugar water fresh, so it doesn’t spoil, just as you would do with hummingbird feeders.

Note: Do NOT give bees honey. While honey is safe for humans, each bee colony has its own viral load of diseases specific to that hive; bees, for example, in natural (or organic) hives without antibiotic treatments by the beekeeper could be killed off by being fed honey from treated bees. Even “raw” or organic honey can transmit diseases that the bees may not have.

Just give them sugar water.

Need bees? Smart beekeepers order their bees in November for spring delivery. There are still a few beekeepers with bees to sell; one “natural” beekeeper (without chemicals) is Beelicious Honey in Hattiesburg. I saw the owners recently and they have a few orders left. For details, visit http://www.beelicioushoney.com or write info@beelicioushoney.com or call (601) 447-4658. You will have to pick up the bees in person.

Aldo Leopold showing at Millsaps: On Tuesday, Millsaps is showing Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film made about the legendary conservationist.

Although probably best known as the author of the conservation classic A Sand County Almanac, Leopold is also renowned for his work as an educator, philosopher, forester, ecologist and wilderness advocate.

For tickets, call (601) 974-1130. Tickets are also available at the door. Admission is $10. For additional information, visit http://www.aldoleopold. org/greenfire.

Ag Day: National “Ag Day” will be observed Thursday at the Mississippi Farmers Market on High Street in Jackson, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Speeches and fresh, locally produced food will be the highlights.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘Naturescaping’ garden feeds body, soul

Feb. 24, 2012

‘Naturescaping’ backyard garden a way to feed body, soul

It’s time to consider which herbs you would like to plant in your organic garden for spring, or keep in little pots on your windowsill to add to foods you prepare.

When you put them in the ground, you can arrange them in a way that provides spice and flavor for food, as well as feeding your soul with inviting greenery.

A new book that can help give you ideas for shaping your yard is The Naturescaping Workbook by Beth O’Donnell Young and beautiful photographs by Karen Bussolini (Timber Press, $24.95).

One of the joys of backyard organic vegetable growing, whether for food or profit, is the variety of delights that can be discovered even in small spaces.

Naturescaping is an incredible guide for innovating in the garden, providing outlines for a variety of edible arrangements.

For example, it gives lists of edible trees, vines, shrubs, flowers and herbs, and shows photos of gardens in different arrays.

Another book that picks up where Naturescaping may leave off is Better Homes & Gardening’s new book: Herb Gardening (John Wiley & Sons, $19.99) and also just out in bookstores.

Herb Gardening gives astounding “plant by the number” garden plans that can provide any gardener with a spectacular display of herbs. It gives advice on herbs for different seasons, pairs that do well together, histories of where they come from and delicious-looking recipes.

Here is a Top Ten of grow-your-own culinary herbs for summer:

Basil

Thyme

Mint

Parsley

Hyssop

Bee Balm

Lavender

Sage

Dill

Coriander

I would add Stevia, a natural sugar substitute, and also warn that mint can take over your garden if you are not careful.

With these two books, a garden enthusiast could have a great deal of fun shaping, or reshaping, a diverse and edible garden that feeds body and soul.

Honeybee report: Speaking of bees, retired extension service apiculturist Harry Fulton warns beekeepers that the warm weather may be setting up their bees for hive failure.

He writes: “Bee colonies are consuming a lot of honey now because of the mild weather in January and early February, which resulted in early and unusual brood rearing. They gathered a lot of pollen then, which stimulated egg laying also.

“Consequently, please check to see if your bees have plenty of honey stores. They will not be gathering significant food stores until mid-March, unless you are in south Mississippi, where things will bloom earlier which produce nectar. There is some indication that fruit tree bloom will occur early, but do not let this fool you. Bees normally begin to ‘make a living’ by then, but this year is unusual. More cold weather could come, which will shut it all down.

“The general rule is that if bees have less than two full combs of honey, they should be fed immediately. They could need as much as 30 pounds (6 full deep combs) to get them through. For each full comb of brood emerging, it has been said that the bees need one full deep comb of honey/pollen stores. If they are not able to gather due to rainy weather or cold weather, then honey stores disappear quickly (one or two combs a week).”

Come see us: I’ll be speaking on Organic Backyard Market Gardening Saturday at the third annual Sustainable Living Conference by Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond. For more information, see: www.ggsim.org.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Foraging for ‘Farm-aceuticals’ a healthy pastime

Foraging for ‘farm-aceuticals’ provides a healthy pastime

With warm weather playing “hide and seek” with winter, lots of  “weeds” are popping up, but don’t be quick to pull them up from the  organic garden, as they can provide “farm-aceuticals.”
According  to renowned herbalist Susun Weed (Healing Wise, Ash Tree Publishing,  2003, $17.95), here are a few “weeds” with medicinal properties:
•Chickweed (Stellaria media) dissolves cysts, tonifies the thyroid and aids in weight loss.
•Daisy (Bellis perennis) relieves headaches, muscle pain and allergy symptoms.
•Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) relieves gas, heartburn and indigestion.
•Dock, also called yellow dock, curly dock and broad dock helps “all women’s problems.”
•Plantain, also called ribwort or pig’s ear, speeds healing, relieves pain, stops itching.
•St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) relieves muscle aches, is useful with shingles, sciatica, back pain and headaches.
For details, see: www.matrifocus.com/BEL07/wisewoman.htm.

Reader response: Are genetically modified foods really a problem?
I’ll answer with a couple of quotes from Food Inc. by Eric Schlosser:
•”Animal  genes and even human genes are randomly inserted into the chromosomes  of plants, fish and animals, creating heretofore unimaginable transgenic  lifeforms. For the first time in history, transnational biotechnology  corporations are becoming the architects and ‘owners’ of life.”
•”With  little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements or scientific  protocol, bioengineers have begun creating hundreds of new GE  ‘frankenfoods’ and crops. The research is done with little concern for  the human and environmental hazards.”
•”An increasing number of  scientists are warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude,  inexact and unpredictable – and therefore inherently dangerous.”
I  think that sums it up: It’s unregulated, possibly unsafe for humans,  certainly a danger to the environment, morally questionable, and likely  to make developing countries even more dependent on hand-outs or subject  to starvation.

California may vote on GMO: Polling shows  80 percent of California voters support labels on GMO  foods. And they  are starting a petition drive to put it on their Nov. 6 ballot.
Organic and food safety interests will be watching; it’s likely, as goes California, so goes the nation. For more, see: http://organicconsumersfund.org.

Come see me: I’ll be speaking Feb. 25 at the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute  of Mississippi conference at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond  on Organic Backyard Market Gardening. For more information, visit www.ggsim.org

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘Postmodern Organics’ can begin in your own backyard

‘Postmodern organics’ can begin in your own backyard

“The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
– William Gibson

Be prepared for postmodern organics.
As  the Gibson quote intimates, we often don’t realize we’re living “in”  the future because it’s not  understood, or seen for what it is. We’re  like frogs in slowly heated water; we don’t realize the “future” is here  until we’re
cooked.
We have grown so used to the factory farm  model of thousands of acres being planted by a handful of human beings  that we’ve forgotten that even a small plot (say 10 feet by 20 feet) can  amply supplement the diet of a family for three seasons of the year.
Even  a 4-by-8-foot “Jim’s plot” can stretch a food dollar and add greatly to  the health of a family by providing, safe, fresh, nutritious, wholesome  veggies.
As I told attendees to the Mississippi Urban Forest  Council conference this week, if neighbors, families, churches or civic  organizations joined to grow food, they could “feed the world” (or those  who matter to them), too.
Two issues will decide the “future” now:
•Whether  genetically modified organisms, seeds, crops (GMO) must be labeled, so
consumers have their own health in their own hands through their own  choices;
• Whether the budding small organic (boutique, backyard or  urban) farm movement continues to accelerate with ever more markets  opening for them.
How will this effect the future?
The labeling debate could well decide the future of GMO – if people don’t buy it, farmers won’t plant it, ergo : NO MO’ GMO.
The  small farm movement is what will save rural communities by eradicating  “food deserts,” employing local people in the production and  distribution of “real” food. That will also better people’s health by  fighting obesity,
hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and the like  caused by high-fat, high-sugar, processed “food products.”
That  insistence on local, organic food will reduce the giant factory farm  dependence (if the government reduced its subsidies propping it up,  putting small organic on an even playing field or gave equal amounts to  small startups).
That’s postmodern organics:
•Adoption of proven methods for crop production over the unsustainable so-called “conventional” chemical methods;
•Locally  produced jobs and an emphasis on health, sounding the death knell for  the agri/biz conglomerates that produce the nonfood that is killing us.
We  each can do our part in this by growing our own organic food – which we  can do in our backyards – or by buying organic, rejecting GMO,  supporting locally grown food and only voting for those who look out for  the consumer first.

Sign GMO petition: GMO foods in the  U.S. should be labeled. Sign the Environmental Working Group’s petition  telling the FDA to Just Label It! bit.ly/yar75l

Local plants & shrubs.  Clinton is having a big sale of native plants – perennials, trees and  shrubs – in honor of Arbor Day (which is today in Mississippi).
The  Clinton Community Nature Center Arbor Day Native Plant and Antique Rose  sale is Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.,  617 Dunton Road, Clinton. For  more, see: www.clintonnaturecenter.org.

Great book: I finally got around to reading Robin Mather’s book: The Feast Nearby:  How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping  chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on  $40 a week), which came out last year (Ten Speed Press, $24). And I  couldn’t put it down.
You may remember, Robin at one time was The Clarion-Ledger food editor. Now,
she’s at Mother Earth News.
I  bought the book on my Kindle. But it has really great-looking recipes  in it, so I turned around and ordered a hardback to give to my beautiful  wife Annette.
If you buy a book twice and tell everybody to read it, is that an endorsement squared!?

Come see me: I’ll be speaking Feb. 25 at the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute  of Mississippi conference at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond  on Organic Backyard Market Gardening. For more, see: www.ggsim.org.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘Edible forest’ can supplement organic garden

Feb. 3, 2012

‘Edible forest’ can supplement veggies for organic produce
When we think of “organic” or growing food, we naturally think of veggies. But with February tree planting time, what about “edible” forests?
Next Friday is Arbor Day in Mississippi (each state selects its own date to coincide with the best planting time).
Why not plant a fruit or nut tree?
Why not incorporate your plantings as an “edible arbor” alongside, around and through garden plots?
Mississippi farmers and homeowners have been growing blueberries for years. But edible forests may include apples, pears and other fruit-bearing trees. Some are adaptable to Mississippi’s hot, humid climate.
Some fruit trees don’t do well in the South because they require a certain number of “chill hours” or temps below 45 degrees. For example, apples are best suited for the northern third of the state, but some root stocks can be planted statewide.
For additional information on preferred fruit varieties in Mississippi, see Fruit and Nut Recommendations by the state Extension Plant and Soil Sciences Department, online, at http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p0966.pdf.

Plant chestnuts: There’s something of a movement under way to replant chestnuts across America, too.
There probably aren’t too many people who remember when chestnut trees lined many boulevards in the United States – before they were virtually wiped out by an Asian fungus called chestnut blight.
But they may be coming back.
The American Chestnut Foundation is promoting the planting of new trees.
According to Paul Franklin, TACF director of communications in Asheville, N.C., at one time, the American chestnut stretched from Georgia to Maine. An estimated four billion trees were lost to the disease during the first half of the 20th century.
“We will need to plant a lot of trees if we are to eventually restore the American chestnut to its former range,” TACF President and CEO Bryan J. Burhans said recently.
The American chestnut grows quite large – up to 100 feet tall – with a wide canopy. It’s good for meadows, Franklin says, and excellent for wildlife, including deer, turkey and bear. There are also Asian-American hybrids that are smaller.
For more, see the TACF website, http://www.acf.org, or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (www.sfiprogram.org), or read the chestnut planting guide:
http://www.acf.org/pdfs/resources/GrowingChestnuts_BMP.pdf
Or write The American Chestnut Foundation, 160 Zillicoa St., Suite D, Asheville, NC 28801; Phone: (828) 281-0047.

“Edible Forest” in Jackson: The Mississippi Urban Forest Council is a state leader in promoting “edible forests.” An example of an edible forest in Jackson is at Wells United Methodist Church, see:
http://www.msurbanforest.com/edible_forest.html.

Fruit and Vegetable Growers: I was recently elected president of the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, the statewide nonprofit for commercial growers.
While most of the state’s produce farmers are not organic, I think it reflects a commitment by the state’s growers for environmental stewardship and recognizes organics as a viable option.
It’s a great honor, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve small farmers, the backbone of the state’s agricultural community.

Note: I’ll be speaking on community-supported agriculture at the Urban Forest Council’s Conference Tuesday at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. For additional information, see: http://www.msurbanforest.com.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘Little sprouts’ might like kit for first organic garden

Jan. 27, 2012
‘Little Sprouts’ might like a kit for first organic garden

A lot of us older folks often forget that kids like to see things grow, too. Why not start an organic garden for little sprouts.
I saw a really cute seed starter kit for kids, for example, in the Seeds of Change catalog.
It includes:
•Two biodegradable planting pots
•Certified organic seeds
•Organic planting mix
•100 percent recyclable windowsill protector tray
•1 – 2 – 3 easy grow guide
It sells for $5.99.
For more, see: http://bit.ly/wwcanD – or write P.O. Box 4908 Rancho Dominguez CA 90224, or call 1-888-762-7333.
Of course, you can assemble these items yourself and probably get more for your money, but it makes it easy if you want to order some of these little kits and give or send them as gifts.
Better yet, create a 4×8-foot Jim’s plot, and dedicate that space for kids and grandkids. Make it their own food plot (maybe with a little help from Dad, Mom and grandparents).
That’s a gift that gives for a lifetime.

These high temperatures – 77 degrees last Friday! – are unusual and causing my greens to bolt and go to seed, but trust me, there’s more cold weather on the way.
The temptation may be there to start thinking about planting with highs now for two weeks in the 60s and 70s, but February is usually a bone-chilling month.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t start preparing now by planning what you plan to plant, ordering seeds, and in a couple of weeks, getting seeds started.
To figure out when you will want to plant, count back from the last frost date.
Here in central Mississippi, the old folks used to plant seeds on Good Friday, which this year is April 6.
To be cautious, in the past, I’ve planted a week after Easter, as we sometimes have a frost that week. Easter this year is April 8; so, that would be April 15. That’s a bit early.
We’ll probably set out some plants the first week in March, relying on Agribon to protect them from frost. According to the U.S. temperature tables, last frost date for central Mississippi is March 20-31; there’s a 50 percent chance of 28 degree weather where we are (Lena) on March 9, and warms thereafter. So that’s a pretty safe bet.
Of course, seeds won’t germinate until the soil reaches a certain sustained temperature. So, we usually start plants indoors in containers and set them out when the weather starts to warm.
You can start your plants from seed two to three weeks before you intend to plant them, by putting them in little cups filled with organic potting soil in the windowsill. (You can actually use a type of Miracle Gro that’s OMRI approved for organic growing: Miracle-Gro¨ Organic Choice¨ Potting Mix.)
Before planting, make sure and put them outside where they are protected but still get some sun for a couple of days to “harden” them for outdoors growing.
For optimum growing (to continue to grow crops throughout the year, or to finish up before August, which we prefer, so as to avoid the hottest part of summer), you want to calculate the earliest you can plant after the threat of frost is past.
•Here’s a frost chart for Miss.: http://msucares. com/lawn/garden/vegetables/planting/map.html
•Here’s a listing by state: http://www.victoryseeds.com/frost

Climate change reflected in USDA plant hardiness map?: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a new plant hardiness map that reflects a general 5-degree higher reading than the 1990 map. No posters of the new map have been printed, but it can be viewed and downloaded online: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb

Farmers Market: The Jackson Farmers Market off High Street resumes Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For additional information, see:
http://www.mdac.state.ms.us/departments/ms_farmers_market/index.html

Food Safety: Acres USA reports that in response to Monsanto releasing the first genetically modified (GMO) sweet corn for human consumption, a coalition of food safety groups has started a petition drive to keep it off the dinner plates of an unsuspecting public. It has collected more than 264,000 signatures from consumers who refuse to buy or eat the corn asking retailers and food processors to reject it, since the United States – unlike Europe – does not reject GMO foods, nor does it require food containing it to be labeled.
For more information, see: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org Or, to sign a petition: http://bit.ly/ulPlGe

Mark your calendar:
•I’ll be speaking on Community Supported Agriculture at the 21st Annual Urban Forest Council Conference Feb. 7 at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. Details: http://www.msurbanforest.com
•I’ll be speaking on Organic Backyard Market Gardening Feb. 25 at the third annual Sustainable Living Conference by Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi at Eagle Ridge Conference Center at Raymond. For additional information, visit www. ggsim.org

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Don’t have much space for organic garden? Grow up!

Jan. 21, 2010
Don’t have much space for organic garden? Grow up!

Folks who live in urban areas or apartments may sometimes feel left out of the grow-your-own organic food movement.
Don’t! In addition to community supported agriculture, where churches, civic groups, neighbors and/or farmer/entrepreneurs often offer urban gardens, it may only take a little ingenuity to be growing wholesome, nutritious food.
For example, pots or buckets on apartment balconies (even on high rises) can offer great spots for winter greens or summer tomatoes.
For those with no yard to speak of, like a town house, if you have a garage, you can plant in a wheelbarrow and simply roll it out during the day and back in at night.
But one of the most creative compendiums of ideas for the garden challenged is a new book: Vertical Vegetables and Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces by Rhonda Massingham Hart (Storey Publishing, $16.95).
Although the book is mostly devoted to small plots, that is, people who have a few feet of actual ground to work with, it also gives ample instructions on other ways to grow in small spaces, such as using hanging pots, buckets and pruning techniques.
It also gives good tips for varieties of plants, seeds and soil requirements.
Primarily, though, it emphasizes a fact that many folks may have overlooked: “Every square foot of garden space comes with a bonus 6 cubic feet or more of usable growing space above it.”
Maybe for some folks in urban or cramped quarters now is a good time to start planning for spring with a new outlook.
In other words, it’s time to get vertical and grow up!

Paula Deen’s larding it on: I’m disappointed that Paula Deen, who has made a fortune showing people how to cook fried foods, didn’t take the opportunity of announcing her Type 2 diabetes this week with a change of lifestyle.
She could have made an impact in diabetes prevention.
Instead she announced her illness saying that she’s actually had it for three years – and was unapologetic about her role in promoting unhealthy diets, saying that people should eat what they want. The point seemed to be her having inked a contract with a pharmaceutical company for an insulin alterative drug.
But why not eat a healthy diet to help prevent diabetes to begin with?
Taking her at her word, Deen achieved fame promoting unhealthy diets and now indeed must bear personal responsibility for her choice. She now will also be an example of what not to eat.
Mississippians, listed as having the most obese people of any state and suffering all the ills of poor diet – diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, joint problems and reduced physical mobility – should take note.
A balanced diet and moderate exercise can do wonders.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Join seed-saving ‘revolution’ for planet’s biodiversity

Jan. 13, 2012
Join seed-saving ‘revolution’ to foster planet’s biodiversity

Are you keeping your seeds from your garden? If not, you might want to make a New Year’s resolution in that regard.
Each year, with organic, heirloom and nonhybrid, open pollinated seeds, your garden is adapting to your unique growing.
The plants that thrive, if you keep the seeds, will provide proven winners in our climate.
Hard drought? Keep the seeds of those plants that survived, and they’ll likely pass that drought resistance to their offspring.
Blights hitting some plants? Keep the seeds of those that are unaffected, and they also are likely to produce blight-resistant offspring.
Some people swear by hybrids because they are uniquely tailored to certain traits. But the reason heirlooms are heirlooms is because they have enough genetic diversity within them to survive a range of adverse conditions. Keeping those seeds merely emphasizes certain characteristics.
Besides, if you keep seeds, native seeds or unique varieties, you are doing your part for the biodiversity of the planet.
According to Stephen Thomas, seed collection assistant with Native Seeds SEARCH, growing indigenous foodstuffs and keeping the seeds is an invaluable activity.
In the fall issue of Seedhead News, he writes that heirloom crops have all but disappeared.
“Genetic diversity in our food plants has been winnowed down over the last 100 years to a handful of commodity crops, often represented by a few scant varieties. Of all the types of commercial veggies grown at the turn of the century, only about 4 percent still exist today. Just three grain crops – rice, wheat and corn – make up more than half of all the food consumed globally. Contrast this figure with the 3,000 to 5,000 different species of food plants once used by North American Indians, and the biodiversity crisis comes into jarring focus.”
Why not start your own seed library? Share your seeds with friends, family? Doing so ensures a future for rare, homegrown and cherished plants in the future.

Seed library: The January issue of Acres USA magazine (www.acresusa.com) has a wonderful article on creating your own seed library, “Sowing Revolution: Seed Libraries Offer Hope for Freedom of Food.” For details, visit http://www.richmondgrows.org/create-a-library.html. Some libraries:
•Hudson Valley Seed Library – Accord, N.Y. – http://www.seedlibrary.org
•Native Seeds SEARCH – Tucson, Ariz. – http://www.nativeseeds.org
•SLoLA – Seed Library of Los Angeles – Los Angeles, Calif. – http://www.slola.org
Also, for a look at a small, Southern organic and heirloom seed company that started from scratch only four years ago, see Sow True Seed at Asheville, N.C., http://sowtrueseed.com.

Food deserts: Mississippi counties that are “food deserts,” that is, where fresh vegetables are not available, may receive some help from the U.S. government under a mega funding bill passed last month. See: The Healthy Foods Financing Initiative by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: http://bit.ly/uemAx1.

GMO: The Jan. 9 issue of The Atlantic has an astounding article titled “The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods.” It claims Chinese research could lead to the conclusion that eating GMO foods may actually alter human DNA. True? Don’t know. Scary? Yes. See: http://bit.ly/yS2SRW.

Slow Food: There’s a great article in Grist on the Slow Food movement in America seemingly having lost its focus and gone adrift, see: http://bit.ly/wSNUk3.
For a list of 10 issues that some believe it should adhere to for it to remain “a broad ‘big tent’ organization dedicated to ‘taste education’ through preserving and promoting food that’s ‘good, clean and fair’ and the farmers, fishers and others who produce it,” see: http://bit.ly/zipXyS.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Occupy Your Lawn with an Organic Sustainable ‘Yarden’

Jan. 6, 2012
Occupy your lawn with an organic, sustainable ‘yarden’

Now’s a good time to map your organic, sustainable “yarden,” while the cold winds blow.
What do I mean by “yarden?” By that, I mean a place in your yard for a garden that you may not have considered before.
Not too long ago, a neighbor told me: “I’d love to grow some greens, but I just don’t have anyplace to put a garden.”
It just so happened that I drive by this person’s house every day, so I pointed out that he had some plots set aside for flowers next to his house, next to his garage and even out front next to the road.
I suggested he transition one of those into a garden.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.
That’s a yard + garden = yarden.
It’s easy to create 4-foot-by-8-foot “Jim’s plot” garden, as regular readers know. But it’s even easier to transition a flower garden into a food yarden.
Usually, flower gardens have a tremendous amount of organic matter already in them from years of the flowers’ leaves composting themselves or successive years of added mulches, making them perfect for food production.
It’s sustainable because from here on out, you can continue to build up the soil with compost and alternating crops to replace minerals lost in vegetable production, and organic because you will no longer be using chemicals.
I will give a caveat: If you have sprayed poisons such as herbicides and insecticides on it, you will have to wait longer to transition the space into a food plot to ensure all harmful chemicals have broken down.
This is quite common on a larger scale in transitioning from “conventional” farming, and it’s officially three years’ wait before a plot can be certified organic.
If such a transition is needed, consider the plot a “wild area.” Let varieties of plants do double duty by enriching the soil and attracting pollinators, such as planting clover or buckwheat to entice bees and butterflies.
That way, you will be beautifying the neighborhood, feeding the soil with nitrogen, and helping other gardens and wildlife while you wait to plant food.
Otherwise, if you haven’t been using harsh chemicals, you’re ready to go! Just figure out what veggies you want to grow.
Now is the perfect time to consider spring planting, as the new seed catalogs start arriving.
With the rising interest in homesteading and food security (ensuring there is food on the table), it’s smart as well as fun to provide or supplement one’s own food.
The Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi actually has a program called “O Gardens! Occupy Your Yard” to guide people how to produce one square meter of food for a family.
See:www.ggsim.org/volunteer /projects/o-gardens-occupy-your-lawn.

Cold weather tip: Half fill a few empty plastic two-liter cola or gallon milk bottles and toss them between the rows of your plants during freezing weather. Especially if painted black, they will absorb the sun’s heat during the day, and
release it at night, raising the bed’s temperature.

Food Safety Sellout: While Americans were celebrating the holidays the FDA quietly dealt food safety a blow by declining to clamp down on antibiotics for farm animals.
The need is there. As Tom Philpott reported in Mother Jones magazine, last spring researchers tested beef, chicken, pork and turkey from supermarkets in five cities. They found staph aureus, a food-poisoning bacteria that can cause serious diseases, in 47 percent of the samples. Half were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.
The FDA on Wednesday took a more timid step of limiting some livestock uses of cephalosporins, like Keflex, which consumer advocates called “a first step.” The goal should be to stop routine and indiscriminate bulk feeding of antibiotics to
livestock to reduce the production of disease resistant strains that endanger humans.
The New York Times’ Mark Bittman blames funding cuts by Congress.
Read more by Bittman: http://nyti.ms/v29WxU
And Philpott: http://bit.ly/suc3Us

Mark your calendar:
•I’ll be speaking on Community Supported Agriculture at the 21st annual Urban Forest Council Conference Feb. 7 and 8 at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. The conference is titled Green Communities – Good Health.
Keynote speaker is Dr. Kathleen Wolf of the College of Environment, University of Washington. Details: http://www.msurbanforest.com.
•I’ll also be speaking on Organic Backyard Market Gardening Feb. 25 at the third annual Sustainable Living Conference by Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi. The conference is titled: Saving Dollars, Making Sense, to be held at Eagle Ridge Conference Center at Raymond. Details: http://www.ggsim.org or (662) 694-0124.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.