Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some of my fellow county agents were discussing a landscape that heavily features Gold Mop Chamaecyparis. Here is one example. Since the Gold Mop is growing faster, there are angles where it looks like Gold Mop is the only plant. I think the other rounded plant is barberry and I can't identify the pyrimidal one from the street. It is an interesting design, but not one I would create.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fascination with fasciation

Sweet potato with abnormal growth. This is the second sweet potato I have seen with faciation. Someway the apical meristem gets deformed and results in plant growth like this. (Scroll back to my very first post to see something similar in wild mullein. )

Be Prepared

I happened to get a look in the trunk of somebody working in the financial sector recently. Wonder if they know something I don't? This guy has plenty of calories at least for this winter. There is a little bit of protein in the beans although it isn't a complete protein. The part where he is really short is in fat. There isn't a good fat that will store at room temperature for a long period of time. Maybe he will find a possom to run over. On a similar note, people in Cabarrus County bought every canning jar and every canning lid available in the stores. Not sure how widespread that phenomena was. Must have been the year to stock up.

Food Availablility at the Goforth House

I have been very busy with a project for work and haven't had a chance to touch base lately. Here are a few notes on the end of the harvest season. The fresh whole China Pearl peaches lasted until Oct in the refrigerator but commercially it would have been an unacceptable loss by that time. It wasn't brown rot but something more like Botrytis that took them out. The sliced tutti frutti style china pearl peaches lasted a little longer but they are gone now. I pulled the last of the fresh blueberries out of the refrigerator so my little boy could make a smoothie this morning. I rate them as still marketable if I had done a little sorting. The last of the outdoor blueberries were picked on October 17th. Figs played out about the same date in Oct. I still have muscadines unless the freeze last night destroyed them (and I don't expect it did.) I started picking muscadines on August 8th so I am close to having 3 months of fresh muscadines this year. I have gotten several oriental persimmons already and need to check the tree again. In fact, I have enough that I ought to try drying some this year. Also I still have apples. The Yates, Arkansas Black and limbertwig apples have just started. Changing the subject a little, I picked my first "foot round" apple this year. This is the only variety I have on its own roots. It may not be as outstanding as a few of the other selections but it is still a true heirloom (obtained from Mr Sid Hartsell of Concord, now deceased but actually planted by his father from a source in Southern Cabarrus county.) I really ought to try to propagate it this winter since 3 nearby apple trees were killed by either voles or cotton rats.
In the burned over area, a number of wild cressy greens came up. Now that they have matured, I will try to harvest some. I'm glad they are available because the vast majority of my turnip and kale seeds washed down stream in the heavy flooding we had some time back.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hunt Shack

The lower picture is the first picture I have of the shack where my uncle used to live. When he died, everybody expected the cabin to fall down. After about 10 years, I noticed it hasn't fallen down. After a closer look, I noticed that it was made from oak boards and had some fairly good bones. My brother and I replaced some of the foundation, hauled off a dumpster load of trash, replaced the porch, installed some salvaged windows and have started adding pine siding. For the last 15 years, I have been backpacking and deer hunting out of primitive campsites during muzzleloading season. Eventually, I plan to hunt out of this shack instead of hunting out of primative campsites way back in boonies.

The Story of the 3 little piggies

The first little piggy planted invasive plants. They eventually overwhelmed his entire landscape.

The second little piggy had a traditional landscape. She didn't know the names of the plants or their uses. The third little piggy planted a landscape that provided food and shelter for wildlife and humans.

Friday, September 5, 2008

County Fair Ribbons

I had quite a bit more loss in my refrigerated China Pearl Peaches this year than I did two years ago. Still I was able to pull out peaches which were good enough to win a ribbon at the county fair. These were put in the refrigerator on August 1 and removed on September 3. I still have some peaches left in there.
I also won a ribbon with apples, muscadines and a specialty melon.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fair booth features landscaping by the 3 little piggies

Visit our booth at the county fair. It features landscaping by the three little piggies. The first little piggy used invasive plants. The second little piggy had a typical landscape with high energy cost and plants of limited value. The third little piggy created a landscape that feed and sheltered humans and wildlife.

The biggest brush pile I have ever burnt

The road up to this old house had logging debris piled head high on both sides. I cut last year's fire wood from it. This summer I had a fireline bulldozed around the brush and lit it up. Flames were 40 feet high at times. The wind was just a little off from the forecast but still close enough that I didn't burn anything I didn't want to burn. The smoke was visible in Concord 12 miles away. This was a large enough site that by lighting a fire in the middle first, I was able to pull the fire in from each side which made it safer. This site will be replanted in loblolly pines. I have mentioned this old house before. It was abandoned before electricity came to this area. I just wish I could have bought it 20 years ago.

Banana Peppers and Farmers Market Customers

I tried a banana pepper variety this time around. Can't remember the variety off the top of my head but it tasted great. Two other vendor I respect had banana peppers on their table so I decided to test them. Mine were beautiful. Some of them were a foot long. People stop by the table to admire them and tell us how beautiful they are. They were a little tough to grow early on. Required lots of water and I had some blossom end rot on then during the mid season but recently they have been making up for it. The trouble is that nobody buys them after they admire them. I had them priced at 25 cents each but I don't think the price mattered. Doubt anybody would have bought them for a nickel. Reminds me of the Biblical quote "Why encumber the ground?" I have learned that any farmers market item needs to be tried more than one year so I will grow a few banana peppers next year. But if they don't sell next year that will be their last strike. Can't think of an innovative way to display them. I tried cherry tomatoes for several years and the only way I ever sold them was with yellow and red tomatoes in pint baskets alternating in a checkerboard pattern. You could sell lots of reds this way and had to keep putting them back into the pattern. Gradually over the course of the day you would sell yellow ones until you lost the pattern. Then you have to take the rest of the yellow ones home. Another incident was with sunflowers several years ago. I grew some dwarf ones in pots. The first year I tried it, I really didn't do that good of a job with them but when I took them to market, I sold every one of them include one that lost some petals at the market. I had put it back on the truck when a few of the petals fell off. A lady came by and begged me to sell it to her. I explained that it would not bloom again but she wanted it anyway. I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that people wanted plants bad enough to buy a bloomed out sunflower. The next year I grew 4 times as many and did a quality job. I only sold 3 plants and that was at a drastic discount. I have come to the conclusion that you can't figure out the customers in one year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sometimes I wonder how any business can get started these days

Cabarrus County is exploring different ideas to improve our local food system. We have a 7 million dollar beef industry here in the county and a good market for people who want grass feed beef. But right now every cow that gets into commercial channels has to leave the county to die. Put everything together and it is fairly obvious that we could use a kill floor. The county commissioners are okay with the idea, the neighbors are okay with the idea and there is a local family interested in operating such a facility on their property. So the first step is to determine if there is enough ground water available to operate the facility. This study is going to cost $10,000. They didn’t offer me the $10,000 but I decided I would just figure it out for fun.
The facility would need about 2500 gallons of water a day five days a week. Of this amount about 2475 is returned to the ground for treatment. The rest evaporates. Subtracting gives me 25 gallons per day which I multiply by the 210 days they would operate per year for a total of 5250 gallons per year.
The underground aquifer is a shallow surface aquifer that is recharged by at least 10 acres that runs from a nearby fire department north to Barrier Rd and about 500 feet both sides of the proposed facility. (For $10,000 I would actually look up the contour lines and get a precise measurement and subtract out the paved area, but I have no doubt a 10 acre estimate is very conservative.) The area receives about 42 inches of rain per year. On the flat ridge top around this site, about 7 inches of this will go into the ground per year. Multiplying out 7 inches times 27,500 gallons per acre inch times 10 acres equals 1,925,000 gallons of recharge annually.
So the question is can you take 5250 gallons out of 1.9 million gallons. Well, since the recharge is mostly during the winter and the withdrawal is year around, plus there is some flucuation from year to year, I also need to check the amount of ground water to make sure it will budget out on a daily basis. The static water level is currently 20 feet. The depth of casing is 70 feet. Therefore the amount of water saturated soil is 50 feet. The amount of water held in a clay soil like this is roughly 10 percent. So that translates to 5 feet of water. Multiply times the 27,500 per acre inch times the 10 acres of surface recharge times 12 inches per foot equals a little more than 4 million gallons.
YES. There will be no problem taking out 5000 gallons from 4 million gallon aquifer being recharged at the rate of 1.9 million gallons annually.
I can be so definite about this because I use more water than this from a smaller aquifer than this to irrigate my garden.
When you get to thinking about this, the amount they intend to use is roughly equivalent to 40 houses on wells. If that caused a problem there would be lots of places in the county that would be hurting.
There it is. Roughly $10,000 worth of consulting at no charge.
By the way step 4 is to determine what it would take to treat the waste water. That will be a $5000 consulting fee. I don’t know the answer on that one, but for a $500 finders fee I could get them in touch with David Troutman who could give them the answer for half that price.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I expect to eat fresh peaches in October

The primary method I use to save peaches for a later date is to freeze them. Contender is probably my favorite one to freeze. When dead ripe, it has a beautiful flesh color and keeps the color very well. Of the varieties I have frozen, Sun Prince does a poor job, while Intrepid and Challenger does a good job. I have pickled a few peaches but not enough to figure out a variety difference. I have only pickled them whole and a cling peach might be the best choice for that. I don’t grow any cling peaches. I could try pickling them in slices but I have never got around to doing that. Some years I make peach jam. With jam, I just use whatever peach is available when I get some time to make the jam.
So how do I intend to eat fresh peaches in October? By refrigerating China Pearl. In 2006, I put a few China Pearl in the refrigerator on August 1. I pulled two or three out at the county fair and shared it with the volunteers. The quality was very good at that time. I continued to check on them and ate the last one on Oct 15th. Honestly, it had gone downhill by that point but I think part of the problem was low humidity in the refrigerator. I only had a few peaches in the refrigerator and they were drying out. This year I placed a half bushel of china pearl peaches in the crisper section. I figure to go through them every couple of weeks and pull out anything fixing to go to the bad. Peaches are not supposed to do this. In fact, when I mentioned that I had done this to the guy who selected China Pear (Dr Denny Werner) he was surprised that it could be done.
If this can be reliably done, there should be a point in the United States where China Pearl gets ripe around September and can be saved until November when you should get a premium on fresh white peaches.
I also save some peaches in the refrigerator using another process, again with China Pearl variety, but I won’t share that because I am not totally sure it is safe. You can find a similar process by searching the internet for recipes for brandied peaches that create the alcohol instead of pouring it over the peaches. Carla Emery in her book The Encyclopedia of Country Living also mentions a similar process.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A business risk

Last year Lisa decided to give up a career in real estate and become an herb grower and farmers market vendor. Lisa and I decided it would be beneficial to work together. My wife Rene doesn’t like to sell at the markets so Lisa could sell fruit and vegetables I grow on the weekday markets and then Lisa and I share a booth on Saturday. Working with Lisa has allowed me to keep my inside space at the farmers market. Otherwise, I would have lost my inside space this year. To some degree the herbs Lisa grows and the produce I grow are complimentary. We have never put our business association in writing since we have agreed to quit as soon as it doesn’t work for one or the other of us.
When we first started, I figured the safest thing would be if Lisa and Rene never met. Lisa caught onto this first and asked if Rene thought I had an imaginary friend.
I ignored that and kept them apart last year. This year I had to go out of town during the peak of peach season and the only logical way to get my peaches on the market was for my wife and Lisa to meet. It was quite a risk. I could have come back and found one dead and the other in jail. Turns out they got along very well. Now I guess I am more worried about them ganging up on me and tag team nagging or something.
I never did sell any tomatillos for WIC vouchers to get my tax money back. There were far fewer Mexican immigrants at the market this year. I suspect there are fewer around. For one thing, there are less job opportunities right now and I have heard more about enforcement against illegal immigrants. I am going to grow the tomatillos again. Sold enough to make it worthwhile although I doubt it will every be a major profit generator.
I did get some tax dollars back. Mostly sold the WIC people peaches and tomatoes. I did sell green tomatoes to several WIC customers. I have never considered fried green tomatoes to be a food for poor people. If it is, the rich people are really missing out on that one. Still the only people who bought them certainly gave the impression of being poor.
My first WIC customer (who bought some top of the line tomatoes) really aggravated Lisa. I asked Lisa if she didn’t like getting her tax dollars back. She started complaining about the $200 dollar stroller and the $100 dollar tennis shoes the lady was wearing. I explained that you couldn’t expect somebody who made those types of decisions to have any money left for food. If Lisa was in charge of the world, that lady would have gone hungry.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gardening update

Finishing up peach harvesting. Well not really, but I can see the end of the row. I picked a few China Pearls today and the Sweet Sue should get ripe in another week. Intrepid and Challenger were the best tasting peaches so far this year beating out even the Norman and Windblow. China Pearl might taste better once it comes on board. When I first planted the peaches I tried to plant them in order of when they ripened. I couldn’t find a date for Carolina Belle so it is way out of order. The information on Intrepid and Challenger was readily available, but somehow I managed to switch them around.
Within a couple of years, I am going to have to make a decision about replanting the peach orchard. My wife says we are not planting any more peach trees but I think she will change her mind about that.
Evaluating it by dollars over the lifetime of the orchard, the Contenders and China Pearl have been the best peaches. These are the least likely to have problems with late frost. Even the Intrepid and Challenger haven’t been as reliable. I attribute most of this years' crop other than the Contenders to the burn barrels I had going in the orchard. The radiant heat is what keeps blooms alive. I have considered planted only Contender and China Pearl in my next orchard. This would trade the production problem caused by late frost with a marketing problem with everything getting ripe at once. With the internet it may be possible to solve the marketing problem easier than the production problem.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Homegrown Tomatoes, No S***.

(*** salmonella )
Because of the food scare, tomatoes have sold real well this spring. It was a good year to start the high tunnel. I take the following steps to ensure safe food. First I grow high quality stuff. Second, I wash my hands before I pick it. I visually inspect containers to make sure they are clean. If they are not clean, I wash them. The irrigation and wash water come from the same well I drink out of. The only way I have used animal manure around my tomatoes is to compost it a year before it is used. I would prefer to apply it one year and grow a covercrop. Maybe I can get that done when I retire.
The reason we are having a salomonella scare is probably either human manure use in Mexico or poultry dust from a large confinement operation in some washwater at a huge packing house. Another potential food problem is human waste in the field when field hands are pushed so hard they fell like they can't afford to walk to the bathroom, or they don't feel comfortable going to the bathroom. Well, I can easily walk back to my bathroom and there are currently no chickens on my farm.
The only thing I know that would make my operation safer is to include chlorox in the wash water. I have used it. It takes roughly a cup per 50 gallons of water. The trouble is getting rid of the chlorinated waste water. Plus I can no longer tell people the tomatoes are pesticide free.

Gardening Failure

First total failure of this gardening season is the Gold Nugget tomato. Highly recommended but I don’t like it. It all got ripe at once and didn’t have very much taste. I am not even picking it for market. It has a beautiful color. I remember Ivory or Snow White as being a better option. Don’t really get much out of the different colored cherry tomatoes but they help sell the red cherry tomatoes. I have some partial failures. Peppers are not doing worth anything. They must need more water than I am willing to pump on them. In places where I can’t water them regularly, they really look bad. Tomatillos are doing okay. I have eaten several of them. I cooked them the same way I do fried green tomatoes. I haven’t used them in any other recipes. So far I have sold all them to gringos. So I haven’t directly got my tax dollars back. I think this happened because I sold out of everything by 10 am last Saturday and the WIC people tend to not get moving by that time. May be one of the reasons my tax dollars are going to them and not vice versa.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Carbon Footprint

Many of the vegetables I sell at the farmers market have a fairly low carbon footprint for the following reasons. Any early transplants are produced in a greenhouse completely heated by solar heat. (See article on solar greenhouse below). Some items are direct seeded. I am reusing pots that I originally bought in 1975. The raised beds require very limited tillage. In fact, what tillage is done is done by hand or a trowel. No gas powered equipment is used. The other handtools I use are a shovel or pitchfork to dig compost, a bucket to haul compost, and a tire tool on certain weeds. The majority of my fertility comes from site produced compost. I seldom use insecticides and never use fungicides or herbicides on this area. Post harvest is another place the carbon footprint is fairly low. I carry them out by hand, wash them and load them in the pickup. Since I sell at the market 3 days a week, there is very little energy intensive storage. And most of the packaging is washed and reused. The plastic landscape fabric had a high carbon cost initially but some of it has been down for 18 years which should put me far ahead of anybody using plastic mulch on an annual system. Another high carbon cost is traveling the 18 miles to the local farmers market. Even though my truck gets 28 miles to the gallon, the carbon cost per pound of produce is still fairly high.

Raised beds

I see and hear about people going to a lot of trouble or expense to make raised beds. Browse the internet and you can find suggestions from plastic to wood to concrete block. You can alsso find instructions on splitting tires. Here is a better option. These are my raised beds. The center two are about 15 years old in this picture. 2008 will be their 18th season. The closest ones were developed in 1994 while the far side was put down around 2002. I formed the first ones with a shovel but the latter ones were formed with a bottom plow. Drip irrigation is laid down the center. Then the bed is covered by a ground cloth. It takes a high quality woven ground cover to prevent weeds. I use a propane torch to burn a small hole about the size of my hand in the bed. Turn the irrigation on so you know where it is at and don't drip melted ground cover on it. I used 8 mil T tape which is designed for annual use although I got more than 10 years use out of the oldest ones. Each year I put compost through the holes and then seed or transplant into the holes. The only tools I use are a shovel to load compost, a bucket to transport compost and tire tool to dig out a few of the tougher weeds. I generally use gloves when putting in the compost.

Cherry Harvest

The loose cherries are my second picking of Stella sweet cherry. This is about 7 lbs. My first picking was 20 lbs. I didn't weigh myself but I'm sure I gained weight as I picked. We canned some, ate a bunch fresh, sold some. I sold the pint clam shells for $3 each which was close to $4 a lb. Might should have asked for more, but local food stores were advertising 2 lbs for $3 at the time. The quality of some of these were better than anything I have ever bought in the store. We had frost damage this year although I am not sure how much that hurt my harvest. I suspect the frost thinned out the cherries and improved the quality.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Status on Garden

I have planted the largest garden I have ever planted and things are looking great. I have an excellent crop of peaches and anticipate them getting ripe the week of July 14th. I have finished the asparagus and I am picking strawberries along with English peas and kale now. I have never tried kale in the spring but somebody gave me the plants so I stuck them in. I picked the first set of leaves and fried them like you would cabbage. (No boiling ahead of time like we do on many greens.) Wonderful method of cooking them. During the first dry spell I had some of the tomatillos to die because they were not established plus the fact they were such large transplants. Most are growing very well.

Fruit Class at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

List of species and varieties recommended for planting
Home Orchard Spray Guide
List of links.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Native Pink Dogwoods

I have only seen two pink dogwoods in nature. Neither one is very good but the best one happens to be along the edge of my driveway. I didn't see the other one this spring so it may not have survived recent years. Years ago there was a naturally pink dogwood visible from Hwy 49 near Asheboro. Rick Hamiliton mentioned it to me but I never saw it. This is a great year for tis one. It isn't in the best of locations with a full canopy on the south side.

Friday, April 25, 2008


It has been a busy winter with Greater Charlotte Home and Garden Show, Southern Spring Show, 3rd Annual Herb Festival, Ideal Home Show, pesticide classes, Country Living Seminar and Master Gardener Training along with all the other TV shows, news articles and phone calls that are part of my Extension Job. I have a talk scheduled for Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden and also at the Research Campus in May.
My garden looks great. I have planted more than I ever have and the tomatoes in my high tunnel cold frame are close to waist high with my first tomato set on the same day we had our last frost.
This winter I put up more maple syrup than I ever have. That only amounts to about ½ gallon but I have used it on pancakes and oatmeal. Then I found the best morel I have ever found. Morel hunting is my least profitable activity and I have only found them 3 times. With the same effort, a person in Ohio could have filled up several bushel baskets. Then I have harvested some shitake mushrooms for the first time in several years. I hope things continue as the best. Of course there are some things less than rosy. The cherry and plum trees have a very poor crop with the late freezes and my tomatillo plants went to the garden very overgrown. I think March 1 would be a better seeding date on them. In fact, I might wait until March 10 or so next year. Some peaches lost all their blooms in the freeze but overall I still have a good crop. Maybe it will be like the maple syrup and the morel.
By the way, I have bees on my property for the first time since my last hive died out in January of 2000. I have them on welfare right now (about a quart of sugar water a day) but hope they build up strong enough to take some persimmon honey from them. (My wife doesn't like that terminology and thinks talking abou them that way may be the reason I lost the last hive.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hardinesss Zones

I read an article in the Mother Earth News about how hardiness zones have changed. The referenced a map from the National Arbor Day Foundation. http://www.arborday.org/media/map_change.cfm
While it is mathematically possible to have that much change with the 2 degrees or so of actual global warming we have had, I wouldn’t expect it. So I did some checking I noticed that the new hardiness map says Raleigh NC is zone 8. So Raleigh should have a low temperature between 10 and 20 degrees at least every five years. Yet Raleigh had a day with 9 degree and another day with 7 degree temperature in January of 2005. That would keep it in zone 7 not the zone 8 shown on the new map. (http://www.weather.gov/climate/local_data.php?wfo=rah)
Using the same website I found Greensboro had a 7 in 2004 so it remains in zone 7 not the zone 8 showed on the map. Fort Wayne had a -15 in December of 2004 which puts it in zone 5 not the zone 6 show on the map. http://threadex.rcc-acis.org/threadex/program/process_records
Using the same website I found that Sioux City had a -14 in 2003 so it hasn’t changed from zone 5. Wichita Falls had a 7 in 2004 which makes it zone 7 not the zone 8 shown on the new map.
In summary, 100% of the locations I checked (5 out of 5) have had a minimum temperature within the last five years below the zone listed on the hardiness zone change map. My conclusion is that the map from the Arbor Day Foundation over states the zone changes for the last 16 years.
Actually each temperature I quoted was in the top three of all time minimum temperature records for the day it occurred. My conclusion is that the global warming has increase minimum temperature extremes. This is what I would predict from bigger winter storms caused by global warming. They are sucking the colder air farther south.
I bounced this off a real climatologist and he said the maps may be accurate but 10 years of data was not enough to draw conclusions or maps. He thinks we need to use every year we have data and then some. Be curious to hear what you think.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Call back slips

The end of an era. Call back slips have gone digital so I am throwing out the olds ones. This collection is about 20 years worth but even so, it looks impressive.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New crop for me

For the last few years I have been growing hot peppers to get some of my tax dollars back from the Mexican immigrants who use the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. This year I decided to grow a few tomatillos for the same purpose. It is a new crop for me. They got off to a spindly start in my solar greenhouse compared to their close relatives tomatoes and peppers. Eventually, I placed them toward the center of the greenhouse where they would be warmer and then found some foil to reflect more light on them. Now I have some fairly good looking transplants. Next year I think I will give them some supplemental light. They seem to be closer to tomatoes than to peppers in growth habits so far. My next concern is figuring out when to pick them. The references say to wait until the inside fills or splits the husk. Only time will tell if that works. When I ordered the seed, there was a Hispanic in our church and I was hoping to get some picking advice from her as they got closer to ripening. She recently dropped out so I will have to find somebody else who knows how they are suppose to look. The other thing that will be interesting is eating them. I intend to try some of them in the fried green tomato recipe we have been using for years. (I have a coworker who expressed horror about that recipe but I have recently had my cholesterol checked and it didn’t even pick up any LDL. The HDL was 16. They say the optimum HDL is 60 but since HDL’s function is to return LDL to the liver and there was not any LDL available for it to return, that shouldn’t be a problem.) Anyway, the next time somebody tells you that Mexican immigrants are necessary to do farm work that American’s won’t do, tell them you know a farmer who is doing work that the Mexican’s aren’t doing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Busy winter at the Goforth Farm

I started a number of projects this winter. One of the most interesting is a blueberry plot. I planted 8 different types of Rabbiteye blueberries. I started with Columbus, then Ira, Montgomery, Onslow, Powderblue, Premier, Tifblue and Yakin. When planting, I typically go in alphabetical order with the first one closest to the house. That helps sometimes when the labels are lost. I planted at least 5 of each type. Once they get some size on them, I will be able to compare and figure out which is best. My suspicion is that the Powder Blue will extend the season, while Columbus will taste the best. Premier is suppose to be a large one which may help during picking. It will be educational to have them all in one place and see what happens.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Environmental Stewardship in Landscape Design

In my latest news article I mention a courtyard at The First Assembly Living Center which originally contained 22 ligustrum. My understanding is that a traditional vegetable garden was grown in front of the lisgustrum in the past. Now the residents have added roses, dianthus and annuals along with a clematis vine. This location is tough for a couple of reasons. One is limited sunlight on one wall. The other is the possiblity that there may be residents who are elder and fragile. So I have concerns about plants I would normally rate as excellent for environmentally friendly landscapes. For example, muscadines could constitute a choking hazard to certain residents, while figs would have the potential to irritate fragile skin. Plums could be somewhat thorny in my opinion although some cultivars wouldn’t be as bad as the roses which the residents recently planted. If I was in charge of the world, I would included a non astringent oriental persimmon in this design. I don’t see much danger to this plant and it should grow better here than in most areas because the radiant head from building on all sides would help protect it from winter injury. Blueberries would make a suitable addition as would service berry. I would leave some of the ligustrum for evergreen structure during mid winter although I might swap out a few of them for sasanqua camellias which have prettier or at least larger blooms. Or I might research loquat, an evergreen plant that I am not familiar with, but I think would grow and perhaps even fruit in that location since it is so protected. In the beds, asparagus, daylilies and tomatoes are easy selections giving both beauty and food.
Some of my readers may have recognized the other landscape as Taylor Glen, a Baptist retirement complex off Pitt School Road. The idea of going from 150 to 140 Burfordi’s was somewhat of a joke. Burfordi’s are good cover for songbirds and provide a food during a time when there isn’t much food. Still 20 or so is plenty for a landscape this size. If I was designing this landscape, I would include blueberries, muscadines, figs, oriental persimmons, sour cherries, service berry and crabapple within this landscape sometimes as a one for one replacement for the Burfordi hollies. I don't have any reason to create a complete landscape design, but this landscape is crying out for plant diversity and overall improvement in its environmental stewardship.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Successful Gardener Country Living Seminar

Websites mentioned in the Successful Gardener Country Living Seminar class.

Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension
Successful Gardener

Determining Soil Type
Soil Test Information

Getting a plot plan
Aerial Photo and Topographical information

Plant Selection





Food Plots

Pond management Guide



Septic Tank
Owners manual

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tips for cutting back on your food bill

There was an article in the paper this week about reducing your food bill. The reporter rehashed the typical little tips like making a list to go shopping, making soup with leftovers, and not going to the grocery store hungry. Nothing wrong with those tips but there has been times when I have taken slightly more drastic steps. Like the time I killed, cleaned, wrapped and froze a huge turtle. I then cooked turtle for Tuesday and ate leftover turtle for Thursday. I did this for 7 straight weeks. It really wasn’t that bad because the taste varied. The forelegs tasted like duck and the back strap tasted like shrimp.
Then there was the night we had a lantern and gig in the creek and collected suckers, bream, jack, turtle, and eel. Then a huge creek minnow went in a hole in the toe of my uncle’s boot. We kept and ate the minnow. (Flavored the stuffing with sourgrass I picked off the side of the road.) Growing up we occassionally gigged over 100 lbs of fish a night. We ate some fresh, put some in the freezer to eat whole and canned the rest to eat in patties over the winter. The reporter suggested going vegetarian for a meal. Growing up we never bought meat to eat during the week. Sunday dinner occasionally featured store bought chicken and pork chops. Some Sundays we had hamburger and the hamburger may have been in spaghetti sauce or on pasta. Sometimes we might eat meat we had caught or killed but some weeks we ate vegetarian every day but Sunday. I bet I have a slightly different perspective than that reporter in the paper. So for what it’s worth, here's a few tips if you really want to reduce your food bill.
1. Take up hunting. I have killed over 50 deer for my family. A couple of deer a year can go a long ways. Besides it is great recreation. And if you are able to process deer, people will occasionally give you road kill.
2. Don’t bypass the little varmints. The way city squirrels sit around they look mighty vulnerable to a sling shot. I have eaten raccoon and muskrats too.
3. Take up vegetable gardening. I ate peanuts for several years with no inputs other than time. Somebody gave me the original seed and I saved seed every year. Peanuts don’t need any nitrogen fertilizer. And there are dozens of other plants you can grow in your garden.
4. Add some edible plants to your landscape. In piedmont North Carolina think blueberries, muscadines and figs. Put the excess in a freezer.
5. Learn to eat wild plants. I hate to think of the winters I didn’t eat many vegetables while chickweed went to the bad in yards up and down the street. Of course I have taken advantage of many wild edibles. One year I would pick blackberries during my hour lunch break. I froze them and ate them all winter. Almost every year in Cabarrus County white acorns go to the bad. Shell them out and wash them in a couple of changes of water. Then toast them and grind them up. If you don’t care for the taste you can sweeten it with sugar. You don’t have to find left over country for edible plants. I have eaten daylilies collected in suburban areas.
6. Learn to fish. One year I caught a couple of hundred little bream and put them in the freezer. The following winter I told my friends I would provide and cook the fish if they would provide French fries, slaw and drinks. We did that every Tuesday night for over 10 weeks.
7. Pintos will make a meal. To change the taste you can add catsup, pickle relish, beet pickles, black pepper, or hot peppers. Milk and cornbread are nice compliments but there have been times when I had pintos for supper and pintos were what I had for supper.
8. If it comes right down to it, you can take flour and sugar, mix them together, and then mix in butter and maybe a touch of water to get it mixed in one big gooey gob. Then eat it. This will increase your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart attack, obesity and arthritis. If you keep doing it, additional problem will develop. (These statements weren’t approved by the FDA but you can take my word for it.) Still10 dollars will buy two weeks worth of calories which may be enough time to scrape together some more food money. And for that matter, a cream cheese Danish isn't much better nutritionally speaking.
9. If you get down to one food left on hand, you only have to figure for 2 meals a day. I don’t care if that one food is grits or potatoes or stewed tomatoes; you won’t be able to eat more than two meals a day. Even if you aren't getting enough calories you won't be able to eat that third meal(For the most part, people that know this have been there. This is the first time I have ever seen it in writing.)
10. If you are going to sell blood plasma, make sure you do it before you run completely out of food before going to the clinic. First of all you have to lie about whether you ate or not. If you don't lie, they won’t take your plasma. And there is a reason they ask. Lying there on the gurney with cold blood flowing back in around an empty stomach was a pretty tough point in my life.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blackberry Planting Frenzy

I was talking with the county agent in Cleveland county (about 90 miles west of Cabarrus County) about a year ago and he said he suspected there would be 100 acres of blackberries planted in Cleveland County during 2007. This week I asked the actual count. It was 150 acres. He suspects there will be an additional 150 acres planted in 2008.
I don't forsee very much acreage being planted in Cabarrus County. If a person planted 10 acres, that person should be prepared to hire 70 workers during picking season.
At any given time the total number of people in Cabarrus County willing to work that hard and who don't have a job is probably less than 70. I moved to the Charlotte area during the recession in the early 80's. I remember a guy telling me in 1986 that anybody who really wanted to work during that depression never had to leave town. It has pretty much been that way ever since. There have been people working at jobs they didn't enjoy, or a jobs where they wished they were paid more, but anybody who wanted to work hasn't had to leave town. When cuts down on the number of people who would want to pick blackberries.
Twenty years ago there were people willing to pick blacberries and strawberries for the fun of picking them and the ability to save a little money. In 1986 there were 4 pick your own strawberry operations in Cabarrus County. Today there are none and while strawberries could be a profitable crop, you better plan on hiring somebody to pick them.

Friday, January 4, 2008

I was asked to talk to some Concord City planners about the downtown market. Here are the talking points.
We feel a downtown farmers market is an amenity that brings several advantages to the City. It brings people out on the street, it is a social equalizer, and it increases number of visitors to downtown.
Here is our current situation.
30 day lease with Wachovia is problematic. Farmers need to plan on a yearly basis.
Difficulty of Parking
Customer mix seems about 50% drive up/50% downtown workers. Drive up traffic could double with better access. Several customers who worked in the CTC building have been terminated in the change to Windstream and nobody knows if replacement workers will support the market at the same level.
Vehicle traffic crosses pedestrian traffic within farmers market. Not sure if this is suppressing customer counts but we suspect it might be a factor.
Lack of Shade
Difficult on produce
Reduces customer count on hotter days (around 90 degrees)
Difficult on farmers

The future of the Farmers Market is unpredictable.
Most likely scenario is that vendor and customer counts will stay steady given current conditions.
Vendor count could rise with better conditions.
The farmers market has discussed finding a better venue for Wednesday (Mt Pleasant, Odell or Midland) but currently the market doesn’t have volunteers willing to take on this task. If another location was found outside of Concord and all vendors given the option of moving, vendor count would probably be cut in half.
Piedmont Farmers Market is committed to building a local food system. Any help achieving this goal would be appreciated.

Horticulture Newsarticles Available

Between the holidays, I finished putting my 300 best news articles on line. http://www4.ncsu.edu/~djgofort/ I still need to index them better but you can access them. News articles are written for Cabarrus County which is near Charlotte North Carolina.
Also some of my TV shows are on line at http://www.co.cabarrus.nc.us/News/Channel22/programs.html