What To Do Wednesday – Homemade Style

Time to try a little homemade goodness.
OK, I know whippin’ up stuff in the kitchen is no big deal when it comes to homemade goodness.  But chai is a pretty big step for me.  Well, rather, my wife. I happen to L-uh-uhvvvv chai.  Especially in my morning coffee…and at elevenses…and late night with whip (Kinda any time I can, I’ll enjoy me some chai).  I go through cartons of the stuff.  Which means, cartons from the stuff end up in the garbage (not the recycle, and unfortunately, not the compost).  So making homemade chai is a landmark for us.

Had all the fixings already in the cupboard.

Even in the garden, like in the kitchen, it’s a pretty common practice to make up my own homemade concoctions.  Usually control measures of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides.  One key reason why I grow a variety of herbs all year-round.  But beyond the garden and the kitchen, there are so many household sundries that can be made at home instead of purchasing, and having to deal with packaging disposal, or heaven forbid, a discontinued product.

Just like Gramma used to do…

So far we’ve made our own mouthwash, which I’m SO happy about because I hate the taste of mint in dentifrices.  We’re still honing the mosquito repellent, trying to make it last longer and work throughout the season (it seems to vary with effectiveness – or at least the mosquitoes do).  And for months we’ve been making our own delicious anti-bacterial ointment (yep, neosporin).  It’s delicious because it’s just organic raw honey and cinnamon (I call it honey-sporin).  You leave it on for about 10minutes and then you can lick it off – best tasting band-aid ever.  Apply this paste to a cut twice a day for about 3days (do it for 10days and you won’t even notice the scar anymore!).
Next up will be an attempt at cinnamon toothpaste, and then my own custom ‘essence of man’.  It’s a variation on the mosquito spray, since I love that herbal-planty-gardeny smell so much.
You got any homemade mixin’s of your own?  If not, try your hand at something new.  You’d be surprised how easy it can be and how much money you’ll save.  Not to mention, how good you’ll feel not loading up the garbage or the recycle with all those product packages.
Enjoy! (I am!)

and homemade whip, of course.

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Friday Feature – Community Gardens

Friday means it’s the weekend!  And the weekend means getting outside.
With Fall in full swing, gardens are certainly the feature.  One of my favorite things this time of the year is visiting community gardens.  Better yet, volunteering at a community garden.  It’s a great way to meet neighbors, make new friends, and do something fun with your weekend.

Time to help with the harvest!

But really, the best is all the great things to discover.  What’s growing right now.  What’s all done after the summer.  What’s ready for harvest.  What you thought you couldn’t grow.  Ways to build a raised bed.  How to water the garden.  The ideas are endless!

Metal troughs as herb planter.  Makes for easy pickings.

Cinder blocks for raised beds. Cheap and sturdy.

Ornamental kale. So pretty, and sooo tasty!

Old plastic lattice – weed block or square inch gardening?

Soda bottle border. Chug it – Plant it.  Ahhhhh.

Don’t know where to find a community garden near you?  Check out these great resources to find the ones in your area:

Stop and smell the funshine!

Even if you can’t find a community garden, you can look for demonstration gardens, botanical gardens, arboretums, and neighborhood garden tours.  Fall is the bountiful season and gardens are the main attraction.  So get out, explore, and get connected to your community!

Growing big fun!

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Friday Feature – Food!

Yes, its time to talk about food.  Well, it’s always a good time to talk about food.  But I mean real food.
Fall is a wonderful season for food. This is the one season characterized by food, with the harvest basket.  But have you ever seen real food in a real harvest basket?  What do you know about your food?  The food in you community?  The food in your fridge?  The food on your plate?  A great way to find out all that and more is on Food Day. What’s that, you ask?
National Food Day on Wednesday 10/24 is a celebration of food that is healthy, sustainable, affordable, and fair.  You can learn about where food comes from in your city.  Meet local farmers and vendors.  Connect with neighbors and make new friends.  I plan on attending 2 events in my town.  One at Phoenix City Hall and the other in my neighborhood at the Central Farmers Market.  I’m especially looking forward to seeing what  Truck Farm has planted (@TruckFarmPHX)!  What are your plans for Food Day?  Check out the website FoodDay.org and plug in your zip code to learn more about what’s happening in your area.
If Food Day has you excited and jazzed to get involved, check out National Make A Difference Day on Saturday 10/27.   It You can find a community garden or a local food bank to volunteer with or provide a donate.  Click on the ‘Project Search’ or the ‘National Map’ to find events taking place in your area.
I’ll be busy teaching gardening clinics at Growing Together Community Garden doing my part.  How about you?  Get out and do something fun and edifying in your community!
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Yep.  No easy way to do this. It’s all gotta go. Time to clean slate and start over.  I know, in some areas, veggies are brimming for fall harvest.  In other areas, it’s time to let the garden wind down for winter rest.  Here in Phoenix, it’s time for second spring!  That’s pretty much what fall means for us in the southwest.  There is still time to squeeze in a quick crop harvest before our Christmas frost pops in.  In previous seasons, I’ve managed to carry over some veggies from the summer (like tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and eggplants) with a light pruning and some compost tea to recharge them for the fall.

Not this time.  Complete do-over.
Bye-bye okra.  Adios tomatillos.  So-log kale.

Lil’ long in the tooth, these guys.
My primary purpose for doing this is to not only make room for new veggies, but also to rebuild the soil level in my garden beds.  After a productive and exhausting summer, the compost-rich soil has diminished.  So I need to rebuild the soil level, which, in turn will add nutrients to the soil for my new crop.

That there’s quite a gap.  Them bugs been busy underground.

I start by pruning everything away, cutting them at the base.  I leave the root base of smaller plants in the ground.  The roots will breakdown and nourish the soil.

Well, almost clean slate. 2 tomatoes and 1 eggplant get the pardon.

Next, have to get the drip system out of the way.   (I’ll do another post later about that awesome drip system of mine you’re probably wondering about.)

Soaker drip line is safe from the pruners and shovel.

Now comes the fun part.  For me, that is – playing in the dirt!  I add a fresh layer of compost/soil on top to build the soil level back up.  This is my homegrown compost, sifted fine, and mixed with some garden dirt (clay).  I walk in the bed to compress the soil good, and add more if needed.

Adding little piles and spread around by hand.

After that, I reinstall the drip line.

In-line emitter soaker hose is the best!

Okay, now comes the real fun, planting the seeds.  I label my plant markers (well, eventually), but in case I don’t do so immediately, I always make sure to take pictures of my seed layout for reference.

Yummy goodies for salad!

 With my watering can I wet down the seeds then cover them with frost cover.  It’s my preferred material for a seed cover because it lets in lots of light, holds moisture in the soil, and it’s very easy to manage.  I use rebar rods to hold it in place (you can use pebbles, or whatever the wind won’t blow away). I can then just water right on top of the cloth cover to keep my seeds moist.

Seed cover keeping things cozy.

Depending on what’s seeds are planted, it should take about 5-10days for things to begin to germinate.

Only 4 days later, lettuce and broccoli poking their heads up!

I’m all ready with my fall crop of goodies, and I can start harvesting in about a month.  Yum Yum!
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Network Connection

Well, I must confess, I didn’t make my trip to Flagstaff this weekend, I thought I would. But I have to go back a few days as to why…
After studying my trail maps and plotting the drive north for the most scenic of routes, I settled in at my desk Friday afternoon, to attended a webinar presented by the National Good Food Network (NGFN).
The topic was on ‘Food Systems Networks That Work’. Overall, it was interesting, showing lot of statistics and charts and kids feeding goats, but one clearly spoken message really resonated with me – connect with your networks. Initially, that was my objective for the Flagstaff trip, to broaden my network by making some connections with a few community gardens (and of course, escape the Phoenix heat).
But Saturday morning, once I finished my chai, and just before I donned my driving boots, I thought, what about my connections locally? I already have a network of awesome people here, right around me. So off I ventured to the end of my street and then east about a mile to the Farmers Market in my neighborhood.
I re-connected with the ladies at Pinnacle Farms who I hadn’t seen in months. And boyo, they had goodies galore for an end of summer harvest.

Big ol’ box of goodies at Pinnacle Farms!

While there, I made a new friend, discovered a neighbor down my street has a Pampered Chef booth, and learned one of my favorite growers is opening a storefront market.

Horny Toad Farm’s new shop!

My connection trek moved on to downtown Phoenix to see my buddy Kenny at GrowOp.  A very timely visit as we talked plans for fall gardening classes as well as the Chili Pepper Festival coming up September 29th (mark your calendars!).  And I was not deterred by the heat to go explore the garden.


My next stop was just around the corner, where I popped into MADE Artist Boutique to catch a rare sighting of owner and very busy community builder Cindy Dach.  She and some friends were in cahoots deciding about trees to plant. (How timely that I should show up knowing a thing or two about trees.)
With my heart filled with goodness, having reconnected with some friends, farmers, and businesses, I turned my journey homeward – but, after a couple final stops on the way to ‘close the loop’ on my day.  Starbucks and Starbucks.  I know, you may think me to be a huge supporter of all things local – which I absolutely am – but Starbucks is a big part of my connection circle.  This is the place I get tons – yes, TONS – of coffee grounds for my compost and garden.  It’s fairly effortless since I generally drive by every time I leave my house.

Vynnie giving the nod to Chris and Daniel at the Starbii.
(that’s the plural, ya know).

So get off the FacePlace and get out on the street and refresh your network connections.
(p.s. Don’t forget to “Like” me on Facebook. :) happy)
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