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.