Tuesday, November 24

Growing

 Most of the growing we do occurs through our stewardship of the mundane.

Tuesday, October 13

Growing houseplants in water

Last spring I noticed some nice arrowhead plants (Syngonium Podophyllum) growing wild in the neighborhood (one of the benefits of living in Florida). I snipped a few cuttings, perhaps 8 in/20 cm each, and brought them home.

I then took 

  • a 30.5 oz left-over plastic Folgers ground coffee can, 
  • cut a round hole (1 in/2.5 cm) in the center of the lid, 
  • filled the can with tap water, 
  • added 1/4 tsp/1.25 ml of the liquid 2-1-6 hydroponic fertilizer that I use weekly with all my houseplants,
  • inserted the bottom of the cuttings through the hole,
  • snapped the lid onto the can,
  • and placed the plastic can in a decorative pot near a window with lots of indirect light.
This is what it looks like now. 




I haven't changed out the water but I do add water containing the fertilizer mix each week. Because the lid is snapped onto the can evaporation is low. 

This is an inexpensive way to acquire and grow houseplants. And I never have to worry about soil gnats. I have four plant containers at home and six in the office all supporting a mixture of low light tropical houseplants in water.

Wednesday, April 15

Growing citrus from seeds



I am happy to see the Eureka lemon seeds I planted last week are sprouting. The plant in the pot is a Kalamansi (Calamondin) that I planted from seed last November. The great thing about citrus seeds is that most of the off spring will be genetically true to the parent. There are but a few varieties in which this is not the case. Frankly, though I grow these plants from seeds because I enjoy having them in the house or on the patio. It's an inexpensive way to start plants. And if I get fruit in 8-10 years that's all bonus to me.

BTW, the lemon seeds came from a lemon we bought at the grocery store. I cut it up to go in the water at supper then planted the seeds after supper. The Kalamansi seeds were from a small bush I have growing on the patio. The point is, you can use seeds from sources already in your life. They don't require soaking or much preparation.

I mix my own potting soil but you can use a standard mix. If you can find a citrus/cactus mix, all the better. Citrus likes to dry out between waterings.

It would be fun for kids to each have their own lemon tree.

Tuesday, May 28

The restorative power of silence

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.  ("Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think," Rebecca Beris)

Monday, May 6

Beach walk in Ft Lauderdale


Selfie from our beach walk a couple of weeks ago. Cheryl and I have been able to get to the beach about twice a month -- usually on Mondays -- which I take off from work. We live about 12 miles from the closest beach on the Atlantic side of Florida.

Wednesday, April 10

Go go mango


Even when we lived on Guam, I don't remember any of my mango experiments taking off the way this one has. I planted the seed four days ago and it is now 5 inches (12.5 cm) tall. When I planted this Manila Mango in the grow bag there was a slight root bulge but no stem.

Here is how I start mangos --


  1. Find one that you like in the store.
  2. Eat it and save the pit, removing as much of the flesh as you can.
  3. Set the pit on a plate to dry.
  4. Once the pit is dry, carefully cut around the edges of the shell. I often use wire cutters or sometimes pruning shears. (It's okay if the pit looks a little gross.)
  5. Gently pry open the pit and remove the seed from the shell.
  6. Continue to be gentle as you wrap the seed in a damp (but not soggy) paper towel.
  7. Put the damp paper towel and seed into a plastic sandwich bag. Leave it on the table next to your favorite chair and check it every few days for signs of growth.
  8. Once the seed looks like it is about to push out roots, place it with the root bulge facing down on top of the potting soil.
  9. Cover the seed with about half an inch of loose soil.
  10. Place your pot with the seed in a sunny and warm spot.
  11. Water. (I added some organic Neptune's Harvest FS118 Fish & Seaweed Blend Fertilizer 2-3-1 to the water but I think the real reason why this mango shot up so rapidly was the warm and damp South Florida spring weather.)

Wednesday, April 4

Three years without meat


Broccoli, beans, and kale growing
in a straw bale in our garden.


Three years ago this month, after I noticed a correlation between meat consumption and an increase in joint pain, I became a vegetarian. The extreme pain disappeared pretty quickly. And I have not been prevented from getting out of bed in the morning by major stiffness in my legs. I'm not saying that all my arthritis-related pain is gone but eliminating meat has made a world of difference.

It has, however, been a bit of a journey learning how to live without meat and fish. A few observations:
  1. I've not once given any serious thought to going back to eating meat. Even if someone figured out a meat that would not affect my joints I no longer have taste for it. I have lost all desire for meat.
  2. Fortunately, I have always enjoyed the plant-based foods. So the transition hasn't been hard.
  3. The taste is in the preparation. As one person put it, “I realized I didn’t like the meat I was eating. I liked the way it was prepared.”
  4. I have discovered lentils and quinoa. They are wonderful!
  5. Most every restaurant has something I can eat.
  6. I've been able to get a veggie burger at a Burger King anywhere I travel.
  7. Surprise! Denny's has the best veggie burgers.
  8. The hardest part about eating vegetarian is the feeling that you're making things difficult for a host who wants to feed you.
  9. It's not easy having to explain that you don't eat meat -- especially in a cross-cultural setting.
  10. Some meat-eaters are hell-bent on interpreting my diet as some kind of an attack on their dietary preferences. I don't quite get that.
  11. Don't expect to lose weight on a plant-based diet.
Eliminating meat three years ago was a good decision for me -- certainly no regrets.

Wednesday, October 18

Broccoli microgreens




I planted a tray of broccoli seeds six days ago and we harvested our broccoli microgreens into the salad that we had for dinner this evening. 

Last week I laid out a few paper towels on a clean reused plastic food container. There is no dirt involved in this approach. I then covered the towels with seeds that I had previously soaked for about 5 hours. (I bought the pack of 10,000 seeds for $5.50 through Amazon and probably used only 20% of them with this planting.)

I then misted the seeds with a spray of hydrogen peroxide (less than $1 at Walmart) to kill off any pathogens that might have attached themselves to the seeds along the way. After the one time application of hydrogen peroxide I misted the spread of seeds on the towels with water -- but not so much as to soak the towels. I just wanted to keep them mildly damp.


I then covered the container so that the seeds were in darkness and continued to mist every 5 or 6 hours. Because the humidity is so low here in the Arizona desert, extensive misting is necessary. People living in more humid places might be able to mist just a few times a day.

After two days the seeds had started to sprout and I removed the dark covering. I then left the tray out in the open, uncovered, and throughout the days continued to mist with water as before. I have added nothing to the water -- no nutrients or fertilizer. And while the tray is sitting next to some plants with grow lights over them, the broccoli is only benefiting from that indirectly. Most of the light is natural sunlight coming in through the window.

Harvesting requires a pair of sharp scissors.

This is a really inexpensive and simple way to add some nutritious and tasty greens to the diet. I'm told that the microgreens are more nutritious than if I were to plant in the soil and allow the plants to mature. But I don't know if that is true.

The lettuce in our salad tonight was also grown indoors using a counter-top Miracle-Gro aeroponic growing system. The jury is still out on the Miracle-Gro system but the microgreens on a paper towel worked great. Both the broccoli and lettuce tasted good. (I have not yet been able to get any of the leafy plants started in the outdoor garden for the winter. The heat still lingers here in the upper 90's. And we're over halfway through October!)


Many people are farming microgreens from home to sell to high-end restaurants. I'm not one of them. I'm interested in gardening methods for people without a lot of cash. Of course, if they sell microgreens to restaurants they may become flush with cash but others have developed that model.

More experimentation ahead.


Monday, September 25

Patriotism -- let's cut each other some slack

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
When someone voluntarily stands for their national anthem to express gratitude for the gift of country, that is patriotism. When someone is pressured or coerced to stand for their national anthem to prove that they are patriotic, that is nationalism. But if someone declines to stand, it could easily mean that they are expressing gratitude for the gift of country in a different way.

Thursday, July 20

Tax cyclists?


Bike-friendly Oregon has added a tax on new bicycle purchases. A state senator from Grand Junction, Colorado is pushing his state to do the same.


To many cyclists, this appears to be a silly and petty attempt to get them off the road and into cars "where they belong." But really -- a $15 tax isn't going to stop too many people from buying a bike. (Although, it's going to cost the states more to collect the taxes than what they receive. Still, it's the principle that counts -- right?)

But maybe this is the very kind of thing that would legitimatize the presence of cyclists on the road -- at least in the minds of some drivers. If bikes had a license plate with tags they would be screaming -- "Look! I belong here, too!"

The deeper more troubling issue is our incessant worrying over someone getting a "free ride" in society. Will we start taxing walking shoes because pedestrians should have to pay for sidewalks? We don't have enough collective sense to realize that society as a whole reaps a plethora of benefits when individuals leave their cars home to walk or pedal -- 

  • less stress on the transportation infrastructure, 
  • healthier population needing fewer hospital beds,
  • increased mental health levels,
  • reduced criminal activity (cyclists and pedestrians are more tuned into what's happening on the street than drivers), 
  • less dependency on dirty fossil fuel -- foreign and domestic, 
  • reduced carbon footprint, 
  • cleaner air, 
  • clearer thinking which adds to the national productivity levels...

Personally, I wouldn't mind the $15 tax but let's look at the bigger picture before we jump too quickly onto this tax train. There is more at stake here than a few tax dollars.