January 31, 2010

Organic vs. Certified Naturally Grown

You've seen the word organic plastered all over all sorts of products at the supermarket these days -- just about everywhere but at farmers markets and food co-ops that sell a lot of locally grown produce -- the very places that used to be the sole providers of organic, while the big boys were sneering at the concept.

What happened? Well, agribusinesses saw how popular organically grown food was becoming and decided to hop on. At that point, the USDA became involved and set up a certification program that works fine for big farmers who grow large amounts of just a few crops; a soybean farmer, or a wheat farmer. Not so good for the little market farmer who grows a wide variety of crops sells locally either directly to home and restaurant cooks or to local cooperatives and health food stores.

The local farmers have responded with the designation certified naturally grown.
Read the following excerpt from the Victory Seeds
When the National Organic Program was implemented in 2002, farmers like us that once proudly referred to ourselves as "organic" were no longer allowed to do so unless we became "certified" by a USDA sanctioned agency.

Certification through the National Organic Program (NOP) requires an enormous amount of record keeping. Literally a paper trail of every type of thing you are growing, from seed to sale. This may be feasible for large commodity farms that grow a few types of vegetables (monocrop plantings) and market under contract to chain stores or big processing plants, but time is a short commodity to small growers of diverse crops with a few family members available to complete all tasks.
Read the rest

November 02, 2009

...People talk of getting their “dopamine rush” from chocolate, music, the stock market, the BlackBerry buzz on the thigh — anything that imparts a small, pleasurable thrill. Familiar agents of vice like cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol and nicotine are known to stimulate the brain’s dopamine circuits, as do increasingly popular stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin....
In the emerging view, discussed in part at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last week in Chicago, dopamine is less about pleasure and reward than about drive and motivation, about figuring out what you have to do to survive and then doing it....
Dopamine is also part of the brain’s salience filter, its get-a-load-of-this device. “You can’t pay attention to everything, but you want to be adept as an organism at recognizing things that are novel,” Dr. Volkow said. “You might not notice a fly in the room, but if that fly was fluorescent, your dopamine cells would fire.”

Sounds like the potential for boredom is hardwired. Always need something new...

September 26, 2009

Tropical plants

Now that it's getting cooler, it is a good time to give some thought to house plants.

A friend and I visited Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, CT this morning. They do a brisk mail order business in tropical plants and others that are suitable house plants for cool climates, and most of which are happy outside in the summer, in pots. You can order a catalog from their website.

If you find yourself in the vicinty of Danielson, in northeast Connecticut, it's worth a visit. Outside you will see banana trees, bougainvillea vines and various other southern plants. A few of them manage to overwinter out doors, perhaps nestled against the warmth of a heated greenhouse, but most are in pots -- some in really huge pots-- and are taken in when it gets too cold for them.

On the way home we stopped at the Farmer's Market in Danielson, near the library. Lots of fresh, good looking food! Naturally we bought some!

June 07, 2009

Outdoors in Connecticut

The Hartford Courant today has a list of State Parks divided by region of the state (none is very far from anywhere in the state!) in the paper and online. The information here is condensed from its review.
[ State's Parks An Alternative To Adventures Afar ]


Lake Waramaug State Park, Kent

The 98-acre park has a clear lake with a small sandy beach suitable for young children. There are outdoor grills available for visitors, including non-campers. The 77-site campground provides affordable lodging in an area of upscale bed and breakfasts, wineries and farmland.
  • Cost: Seasonal parking fees are $7 weekends, no charge weekdays
  • Phone number: 860-868-2592 (maintenance office); 860-868-0220 (camping)
  • Mount Tom State Park, Litchfield

    Swim in the 60-acre Mount Tom Pond, gather for picnics, fish and hike. Pets allowed in picnic areas and on trails but not on the beach.
  • Cost: Seasonal parking fees are $7 weekends, $5 weekdays
  • Phone number: 860-424-3200
  • Central

    Devil's Hopyard, East Haddam

    The Eight Mile River plunges 60 feet in a wooded area at Chapman Falls. The site gets its name from the deep, round potholes up to 6 feet in diameter. There is hiking around Mitchell Pond, fishing at Deep Hole and camping at the 22-site campground. The park is good for bird-watching.
  • Cost: No parking fees.
  • Phone number: 860-873-8566
  • Gillette Castle, East Haddam

    Perched along the Connecticut River on a hill known as the Seventh Sister, Gillette Castle, built between 1914 and 1919, has unusual stonework, secret passages and tales of actor William Gillette, who played the part of Sherlock Holmes 1,300 times over 33 years. Much of the woodwork was fashioned by boat-builders, who designed unusual locks and latches.
  • Cost: Castle tours (Memorial Day to Columbus Day) are $5 for ages 13 and older; $2 ages 6 to 12.
  • Phone number: 860-526-2336
  • East

    Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme

    The 710-acre park is fine for swimming or a hike. See Tony's Nose, a rocky ledge overlooking the Fourmile River. Rocky Neck was a popular fishing spot for Colonists and Indians; today families enjoy fishing on the big stone pier.
  • Cost: Seasonal parking fees are $10 weekends; $5 after 4 p.m.; $7 weekdays; $5 after 4 p.m.
  • Phone number: 860-739-5471
  • Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford

    The 230-acre park on Long Island Sound includes a 42-room Italianate mansion, Eolia and gardens designed by Beatrix Farrand. The estate has abundant grassy acres overlooking the ocean and gorgeous gardens.
  • Cost: Seasonal parking fees are $7 weekends, $5 after 4 p.m.; $5 weekdays
  • Phone number: 860-443-5725

  • You can borrow a state parks pass from the main branch of your local library. Parking fees are waived when you use the pass.

    WalkCT Family Rambles

    Take a Hike

    The Connecticut Forest and Park Association lists Family Rambles (short, easy hikes suitable for non-athletic hikers) on their website. These have guides to assist the inexperienced walker.

    Take a break from the daily grind and join us for a refreshing adventure. WalkCT Family Rambles bring families, fun, and the outdoors together. Led by trained WalkCT Family Guides, these engaging outings are offered at trails around the state on the last weekend of every month, January through December. Because these adventures are geared specifically for families, kids and their caregivers will delight in this outdoor quest for fun together.
    For instance there's a bird-watching hike in Hebron that aims at folks not accustomed to bird watching (and it helps to start with a guide rather than a guidebook)

    In addition, there is a listing of other walking routes to follow on your own or with a few friends or family members.

    May 31, 2009

    Gorgeous May day

    I wrote to my daughter the following garden update:

    The garden here looks really nice just now. Three kinds of Iris are blooming, dark purple with white center; palest lavender-blue; and the variegated grape iris planted by the wire fence by the driveway. (I have also planted a few red cabbage plants there.)
    In addition, the dark purple Salvia is blooming, along with two clumps of purpley-blue flowers of catmint. Coming along soon will be the light yellow Coreopsis 'moonbeam' that flowers for several months. I recently purchased one little hollyhock plant to see how it would do here, and so far it seems fine. It's quite small - I assume it will grow taller, now only about 6-7 inches - but it is blooming already.

    May 17, 2009

    I am thinking of a trip to Whately Mass. to see the New England Wildflower Society plant propagation farm.
    ....(It) opens its 2009 Spring Season Thursday, April 16 and will remain open Thursdays through Sundays until June 14. The Society’s nursery propagates and features over 450 native plant species for sale
    They have quite a number of New England plants for sale there, and their website provides a list with prices

    February 15, 2009

    Guerilla Gardeners

    With the paving over of American, sale of public lands to resource extrating companies, and the ownership of much of the commercial garden products by one or two chemical companies (that of course have a vested interest in plants that require chemical fertilizers and insecticides to survive) --- some people are fighting back. They are adding food production to the land in unlikely pieces of land, mostly public spaces that are underused.
    Take a look at the guerilla gardening site called "Primal Seeds."
    An urban adventure at the threshold of nature and culture, taking back our own time and space, transforming the urban desert, into a provider of food and a space where people meet face to face to discuss and participate directly in the remaking of their own towns and cities.

    Victory Seed Co. ++

    Are you planning your own victory garden to produce food for your family?

    This morning I came upon the Victory Seed Company website which sells seeds that are worth having.
    Their mission statement - and they like a few other companies, ARE on a mission not just maximizing profits -- explains:
    The primary reason for our existence as an organization is to help protect open-pollinated and heirloom seed varieties during a time when the diversity of plant life on our planet is quickly shrinking.

    Regions of the planet that provided much of the genetic material for our domesticated crop plants is rapidly being destroyed or irreversibly damaged. Additionally, in the past few years there has been a growing trend of mergers and consolidations among the seed industry. With responsibility to shareholders as a motive, less profitable and similar seed varieties are being dropped from the seed lines of the combined companies. In many cases, these plants are forever lost to us all.

    As we witness the elimination of old varieties from other company's offerings, the emphasis of commercial unstable hybrids, and the proliferation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we feel an urgency in our mission.

    Among other useful treasures, their website has an excellent glossary of terms I keep seeing in seed catalogs and have only a rough idea of what they mean, and the distinctions between words that are similar or overlapping. I looked up "open-pollinated" plants, because I was unsure what that entailed.

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    November 22, 2008

    Back to the land

    Taken from the land, many of us are happy about it, but many others miss it. My grandmother and my mother were both gardeners to some extent. I lived in an apartment for many years where gardening potential was minimal. In my early 60s I went out and bought a house almost enterely because I wanted to garden on my own turf.

    Here's a story from Garden Rant about a German lady who migrated to Canada in middle age in order to farm.

    ...her younger brother got the farm, and she started a heating and plumbing business with her husband and was very successful. Then in middle age, as often happens in middle age, she suddenly no longer had any patience for anything that kept her from the life she'd always wanted. She couldn't stay where she was. Land in Germany is so expensive, there was no way to assemble a farm if you didn't inherit one. So Marl sold everything and got ready to drag her two small children and her husband out of their home, their country, and their culture and head for Canada to become a dairy farmer. ...

    She told me, "I was about to leave Germany when I ran into someone I went to grade school with. I told him I was going to Canada to farm, and he said, 'Oh, that's the kind of thing young people do, not people our age.'

    "'No,' I said, 'I am going to Canada.' So he said jokingly, 'Maybe I'll move to Canada, too.'

    "'No,' I said, 'you're too old. You've been an old man since kindergarten.'"

    [read the rest]

    September 27, 2008

    Rain again

    It is warm and rainy today. Yesterday it was cool and rainy. While hurricanes blow in the South, we get mostly moderate rain. I like this rain -- it is gentle and easily absorbed into the earth.

    Birds don't mind it. They have clustered at one of the hanging feeders - house sparrows and house finches, both common in our garden. Also, an occasional mourning dove or blue jay, a family of cardinals, and a gang of chickadees.

    February 17, 2007

    Hippy Shopper

    Solar Powered Gardeing Features

    Thought you might like to think just a tad about spring, what with the warm 30 degrees we are seeing this fine day in February! (Almost time for snow drops to bloom!)

    Hippy Shopper
    Solar powered water cascade - look, no wires!

    TerwatFancy a water feature in your garden, but can't face the faff? How about this mosaic terracota water cascade? The pump is solar-powered so free to run, and it is stand-alone, requiring no complicated installation at all.