Friday, December 26, 2008

Find Your Spot

Here's the list of best places for me to live after I took the Find-You-Spot quiz the first time:

Little Rock, Arkansas
Hot Springs-Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Norfolk, Virginia
Salisbury, Maryland
Cherokee Village, Arkansas
Heber Springs-Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas
Alexandria, Louisiana
Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana
Memphis, Tennessee
Charleston, South Carolina
Mountain Home/Bull Shoals, Arkansas
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Houston, Texas
Jacksonville, Florida
Nashville, Tennessee
Paris, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Fort Worth, Texas
Holiday Island, Arkansas
Berea, Kentucky
Oxford, Mississippi

And the second time:

Little Rock, Arkansas
Alexandria, Louisiana
Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana
Honolulu, Hawaii
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Valencia, California
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Hot Springs-Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
San Bernardino, California
Portland, Oregon
Santa Barbara, California
Monroe, Louisiana
Santa Cruz, California
Ventura, California
Salisbury, Maryland
Las Vegas, Nevada
Greenville, South Carolina
Norfolk, Virginia
El Cajon, California
Sacramento, California
Charleston, West Virginia
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Silver City, New Mexico
St. George, Utah

Niche farming

Should we see if truffles might grow in Illinois? I'm pretty sure hazelnuts do and of course, oaks do depending on the type..... And then, if only we could figure out how to do morels....

NYT article on niche farming:

Ms. Holmes, 54, and her partner Ann Vowels, 51, bought 110 acres on a mountainside in Anderson Valley, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, 10 years ago with the idea of producing something besides grapes, the “monoculture of the area.”

They first took two years off to build a barn-style home, with a friend’s help. Then, in 2005, they decided to try growing truffles.

Traditionally, truffles — fungi that grow alongside tree roots — have been collected in the wild with the help of scent-detecting swine or dogs, and command prices as high as $2,700 a pound, although most sell for far less.

In doing her horticultural research, Ms. Vowels found a magazine article about Australians and New Zealanders who were growing the tubers by inoculating the roots of hazelnut and oak trees with their spores. This sort of commercial production is thriving in France, Spain and Croatia, but is just getting started in the United States.

Ms. Vowels was taken with the idea of growing a staple of haute cuisine, Ms. Holmes said, while she herself, a “money-driven” pragmatist, “was excited about the potential returns.”

It will probably be four to six years until the crop matures (if it doesn’t fail), Ms. Holmes said. But, she said, both she and Ms. Vowels can afford to be patient.

The founder of three start-ups as well as a consultant and executive coach, Ms. Holmes recently took the post of chief operating officer of Om Direct, a San Francisco-based Web portal for producers and buyers of organic food. Ms. Vowels is a corporate trainer and executive coach.

Though it has been three years since they planted 200 saplings inoculated with the spores of black truffles on a one-acre plot, they understand that it takes time. “All this is very new,” Ms. Holmes said. “But even if it takes us eight years, so what? It’s about doing something unique and producing something we love.”

Ms. Aubrey and Ms. Holmes are apparently onto something. In one measure of the growth in smaller farms (though it does not include “all natural” operations like Ms. Aubrey’s), the number of organic farms in the United States more than doubled from 1992 to 2005, to 8,500 from 3,600, and the land under their cultivation more than quadrupled, to 4.1 million acres from 935,000 acres, according to the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service.

“Organic farming has become one of the fast-growing segments of U.S. agriculture,” the service said in a recent report.

Another Research Service study indicated that despite the consolidation of American agriculture, tiny farms were holding their own. The number of farms with annual sales of more than $250,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars nearly doubled to 152,000 in 2002 from 85,000 in 1982, the survey showed.

While midsize and small farms, with revenue ranging from $10,000 to $250,000, declined, operations with sales of less than $10,000 jumped 14 percent over those years, to 2.5 million, from 2.2 million. The reports authors cautioned, though, that technical changes in its methodology exaggerated the increase.

Robert Hoppe, an Agriculture Department researcher, recommended the slow and steady approach being taken by Ms. Aubrey and Ms. Holmes. This could be a good time for entrepreneurs to start a farm, Mr. Hoppe said, “particularly if they have other sources of income.”

Ms. Aubrey says a convergence of several trends explains the allure of small farms. For starters, she says, the consolidation of the agricultural industry in the 1970s and ’80s displaced a lot of people, now in their 30s and 40s, who are being drawn back to the land.

More generally, she says, Americans share a longing for their pastoral past. “People have gotten so far from their agricultural roots, and now they are rediscovering them,” she said. “You can see the emotions on their faces when the talk about their herb gardens and their vegetable gardens and about putting up the hay.”

Moreover, as organic farming, farmers’ markets and cooperatives have gained in popularity, and food scares have been the stuff of headlines, many consumers are paying more attention to their food, “what’s in it, where it’s produced,” she said.

For entrepreneurs tempted by the rural life, Ms. Aubrey and Ms. Holmes offer these bits of advice:

¶Do market research. Go to farmers’ markets. See what products are common and which ones are missing. Talk to people. Ask if they would buy your product.

Ask yourself whether you will be able to adapt to the lifestyle, notably long hours of hard toil. If you doubt you will enjoy bending over crops under a hot sun, find another line of work.

¶Do not make the common mistake of growing too big too fast. You will risk discovering you do not have the cash flow to buy the equipment that you need to meet the orders.

¶Choose a “value added” niche product, like gourmet mushrooms, that is not sold widely in your area.

“Make sure they’re unique enough for people to buy them and eat them,” Ms. Aubrey said. “If it’s unusual and tastes good, people will buy it.”

Colton's presentation

Colton can really perform for the camera these days. Catch Logan's laugh at end.

Sam and I did not travel north for the holidays. We rarely do these days. Instead we've developed our own private celebrations in Florida. We love to do a long trek at Honeymoon Island on Christmas morning because it's usually uncrowded, extremely beautiful and a very high contrast to our traditional Christmas when growing up in Illinois. This year it was as though the island was presenting us with the most wonderful holiday gifts - several dolphins to watch lazily swimming by as we walked; a flock of roosting wood storks; more than a dozen ospreys circling together and fishing right above us; willets, sand pipers, curlews, plovers. It was so warm and sunny that I was able to go wading and sent this picture to my family having a champagne brunch in Peoria.

I quickly received these 2 text messages in reply:
Comments: "that's disgusting!" "Hope she sits on a crab." "Delaney, don't throw the phone!" "Wish you were here." Aunt ruth asks when you need her boxes for moving!

Love, the family

"Nice! You are creating quite an uproar here!" Devon

Then they sent this photo of my sister's sidewalk.

It was about 6 degrees there....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Now that we've dodged the hurricane bullet for another few months, I wanted to post these. I can look back at them during the 2009 season if I need some laughs.....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gateway Farm

We've been volunteering at our CSA farm for a few weeks now. Mostly, we've helped harvest but have also prepared flats of various kinds of lettuce seeds in the greenhouse and then fed those seeds after they sprouted.

Here at 423 Grant, the tomatoes are green and still blooming and setting fruit and the okra has attracted aphids. So far, I've just been washing them off. I also just planted a pot of arugula and a pot of lemon grass that Pamela gave me last Saturday at the farm. I had never used lemon grass before and I really like it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bank Coupon

I thought this was a wonderful way to portray our current situation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Obama Rally - Yes we DID!

Meant to post these pics at the time, but....

Inspiration - havin' a great life

"Inspiration enters at the border between hard
work and laziness." That suggests you've got to work hard and discipline
yourself in order to earn the right to inspiration, but often the inspiration
flows in when you're goofing off or giving yourself some slack.

says an
ancient Chinese book called *Poets' Jade Splinters,*

About Permaculture

A Brief Overview by Bill Wilson

Simply put, permaculture is really about relationship - our relationship as humans to the world around us. Will/do we work with the natural abundance and flows of our world and universe, or will/do we ignore these? Working with them will allow us to create sustainable or permanent cultures (permaculture).

Fighting them requires excess time, money and vast amounts of energy from the burning of non-renewable resources (coal, oil, gas), the very resources that all future generations are entitled to have access to, but that we are consuming in just a couple of short generations.

More specifically, permaculture explores practical ways to improve the quality of our lives by re-thinking or re-designing our relationship to:

The land around us and how we use it to provide our food and other needs.
Our homes and how we design and build them for optimum joy and use.
The energy we use - why we use it, how we use it, and how we generate it.
Our work—does it reflects who we truly are? Is our work of true service to anyone or anything?
Our relationship with each other - our families and communities.
Definition of Permaculture:

Permaculture is a creative and artful way of living, where people and nature are all preserved and enhanced by thoughtful planning, the careful use of resources and a reverent approach to life. Thus embraced, these attributes create an environment where all may thrive for untold generations.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Worm Update

The worms never settled down indoors. Then I read an article in Florida Native Gardening about how to do one outdoors in Florida. The worms only "visit" the bin. They have access to the ground underneath in order to stay cool and/or warm enough. So I moved the bin outdoors to a protected area under the balcony. I've put new kitchen scraps in twice. The second time, it appeared that the first bunch of scraps had been processed - but I also had 3 to 4 tiny frogs jump out when I removed the lid! I'm not sure what that means but Sam wants to come with me tomorrow when I put in more scraps to see if there are more frogs!