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By: Living Lime  09-12-2011
Keywords: Gardening

I have to admit, sometimes I feel a little crazy about my urban homestead obsession, and though I try very hard to encourage the people around me to grow food (it’s so easy!), I know that sometimes the scale that I’ve taken it to can be a little intimidating.  That’s why I get excited when my web developer friends grow heirloom tomatoes on their apartment balcony (Gavin: “When the tomatoes started growing, I though it was a diseased growth.  It didn’t occur to me that tomatoes start out as these little green things”).

My friend Alec, a business school grad, has been courting my garden for some time now.  Last summer, we took him home to show him what we were growing.  He was excited about it because, as he says, he spends a lot of time thinking and reading about peak oil/climate change/sustainability issues, but he felt kind of powerless to really do anything about it.  But again this year, he was still talking about gardening, because he hadn’t felt prepared to start his own.  (Trust me, it’s not as hard as you think!) So this Canada Day, I invited him to join us for a day of gardening.  He gave me 9 hours of labour on a holiday, and sent me an eloquent thank-you note, as if his slave labour hadn’t been a tremendous help:

Cheers ,

- Alec

“If we want to have bagged spinach and lettuce available 24/7, 12 months of the year, it comes with costs.” -Bill Marler (the lawyer who represented plaintiffs in the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak)

In perhaps an unconscious nod to the fact that it’s managing the perception of safety rather than safe practices, it’s called the “leafy greens marketing agreement.”  Here are some of their great ideas:

  • An Amish farmer that uses a horse to plow his fields can’t sell his greens to retailers, who would much rather purchase bagged lettuce trucked from hundreds of miles away (check the “product of” signs on those packages)
  • neither can a farmer who has children under 5, because, of course, diapers are our biggest threat to food safety.
  • “I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop”  “On one field where a deer… didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.
  • ponds are poisoned and bulldozed, poison traps are placed on the edges of fields and between rows, and companion plantings on the edges of fields are razed for “bare-dirt buffers”.

in the name of sterility.  Because everyone knows that the ecosystem is out to harm us, and the best way to interact with a system that has sustained life since the beginning of time is to beat the living shit out of it.  Real live UC Davis scientists understand that  “vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water”, but the perception of safety is more important than actual safety.  News flash:  we’ve been growing food in the dirt for a very very long time.  Did you ever notice that food safety issues seem to be happening more now than they ever did?

“In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market,” Marler said.

Farming isn’t the problem.  Sustainable farming definately isn’t the problem.  Gigantic companies that can afford the occasional customer drop off here, in the name of saving some cash there, are.  (Which do YOU think is more dangerous: a container of poison, or a toad?) Instead of buying your food from companies that are trying to kill you, or that think that scorched-earth practices are a good idea, visit the farmer’s market.  The businesses there are small enough to know the value of a healthy customer.  Or better yet,  grow your own.  The dirt won’t hurt you, I promise.

(just remember to wash your food!)

You may have thought that you were in charge, but your garden wants to eat you.

Seriously, the human body provides an excellent source of nutrients to your plants that you may not have considered:

Hair: chemical (dye/perm) free hair provides an excellent source of slow release nitrogen to your soil.
Finger/toenails:  Put your clippings in the garden.  They’re a source of calcium.
Blood: an excellent source of nitrogen.  If you use a menstrual cup, or have a nasty blood spill to clean up, empty it out in the garden. Of course, blood meal works too.
Bones: bones are very high in calcium and phosphorous, which is essential for healthy root and fruit development.  If you don’t want your plants to eye your limbs hungrily, I recommend bone meal.

Urine: is a convenient nitrogen-packed liquid fertilizer.  It’s safe to pee directly on most mature plants, but it’s easier and safer if you just pee in your watering can and dilute it.  The smell of your territorial markings will also help deter animals that want to steal your food.
Feces: Human waste is sold as “malorganite”  in garden stores.  General knowledge tells us that we should never use manure from animals that aren’t vegetarian, but no one told the guys who make this shit.  What you should never use is waste from animals that eat chemicals that they can’t pronounce, and are passing things like fluoride and lead through their bodies.  Did you hear about the in the Michelle Obama’s organic Whitehouse garden?  From malorganite being used on the lawn.   It’s a great way to poison yourself twice: the lead that passes through your system can be absorbed by your plants so that you can eat it again.  yum!  That being said, vegitarians can make excellent use of for an eco-friendly way to flush, to recycle those waste nutrients.

Eating seasonally at this time of year is amazing.  Just when you think you can’t stand another salad (a staple since April), wonderful new things come up to make it better. Last night’s garden bounty:  spinach, beet greens, and Genovese basil with green onions, and the last of the peas, plus feta, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  French Breakfast radishes and the first of the beets– the white one is a Chiogga, which is very sweet (when it matures more, it’s supposed to have a bull’s-eye pattern).

Plus, it’s strawberry season of course.  That means jam.

We combined recipes to make strawberry rhubarb ginger jam:

1 lb rhubarb, cut into pieces and cooked in hot (not boiling) water until soft
2 1/2 cups crushed strawberries
6 1/2 cups sugar (nik: “is jam a way of preserving food, or flavouring sugar?”)
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 pack pectin

-make sure you drain your rhubarb well, or your jam will have too much liquid, and not set.  Stir in the strawberries, ginger, and sugar.  Heat, stirring constantly, until it boils.  Boil for 1 minute, then add lime juice and pectin, stir for another minute, seal in hot jars and process.

The editors of the Public Library of Science Medicine are worried that “access to clean water, which is essential for health, is under threat,” due to the privatization of the water industry. It’s a little frightening to learn that clean drinking water has become a $500 billion industry three corporations are dominating.

“This model has proven to be a failure,” wrote Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water issues to the UN General Assembly’s president, in an essay published last year. “High water rates, cut-offs to the poor, reduced services, broken promises and pollution have been the legacy of privatization.”

I was hanging out in a field of daisies the other day, and look what I found:

Wild strawberries! I seriously recommend wild strawberry hunting. They’re like candy, and tastier than domesticated varieties. just look for leaves that look like this:

“An invention that is narrowly focused on solving a single problem often inadvertently creates more problems because nature is highly complex and interconnected.” – Javier Fernandez-Han

Who is Javier Fernandez-Han? He’s a 15 year old boy, who invented an energy system, centred around salt-water algae. The system is made up of six subsystems, which “can treat waste, produce methane and bio-fuel, and is a source of livestock and human food production… produces oxygen and sequesters greenhouse gasses”. He calls it the VERSATILE system.

The benefits of the VERSATILE energy system include better health for villagers due to cleaner burning methane stoves, less deforestation due to wood scavenging for fuel, possible income from the sale of algae biomass for pharmaceutical or nutraceutical products, easier livestock production because of more availability of feed, LED lighting powered by electricity generation from the PlayPump, and a source of fuel for machinery (from algae oil).

From their website: “everyone in society could take initiative and address social needs, rather than looking to the elite few who lead today.”

Simon Dale built his own low impact house with £3000, 1000-1500 man hours, and almost no previous experience. And with few exceptions, the only tools he used were a chainsaw, a hammer and a chisel. It’s absolutely stunning, and looks like it came straight out of the pages of a fairytale.

He says,

Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.

1. Dig the hole twice as wide and 1.5 times as deep as the root ball.

2. Fill the hole with water.

3. Drop some composted manure in the bottom. Regular kitchen compost is okay, but the addition of composted manure makes it better.

4. Let the hole finish draining, and put a handful of bone meal at the bottom. Bone meal is high in phosphorus, which promotes vigorous root growth. If you want to, you can mix it up with the compost at the bottom, but it’s not 100% necessary.

5. Fill the hole back up with water.

6. Carefully plant right there in the muck. You will get terribly dirty. You will need to squish your fingers into the mud to get enough dirt underneath. But trust me, it’s worth it. The happy fertilized roots will follow the water down, instead of remaining shallow from watering on top after planting.


1. Mulch around your plants to keep the soil cool.
2. Water in a doughnut around your plants, rather than on the crown. This will encourage your plant to continue to stretch out its roots. Plus, many plants (especially tomatoes) hate to be watered on the crown, so this will keep them happier as well.
3. Water deeply, when you do.
3. DON’T over-water. Don’t even bother getting out the watering can for a week, unless your plants are really droopy. Decide this early in the morning, because many plants naturally wilt in the sun but will perk back up in the evening without help. Water them no more than once a week for the first 3 weeks, and then wait two weeks before watering again. By that point, your plants should be just fine waiting for the rain.

The information in this article was current at 06 Dec 2011

Keywords: Gardening

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This means that their housing, feed and water, carcass disposal, and manure management are maintained using best management practices.Avian influenza and other diseases may transmitted by contact with migratory waterfowl or shorebirds.


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I’ve noticed a lot of people are arriving here at Living Lime on search terms with some variation of “buttercrunch lettuce” and “lime”. The happy fertilized roots will follow the water down, instead of remaining shallow from watering on top after planting. Finely chopping up the hair from your comb and pets and mixing it into the soil is a good way of adding nitrogen. Let the hole finish draining, and put a handful of bone meal at the bottom.