Recently Washington voters had the opportunity to vote on I-522, an initiative to require labeling of products incorporating GMOs. The initiative was narrowly defeated, thanks in no small part to the record-breaking amount of money spent by Monsanto and a dozen other large chemical and food corporations.
I don’t have any problem with the science of genetic manipulation. But it bothers me a great deal that in agriculture it has been used exclusively to increase corporate profits, at the expense of farmers, consumers, and the environment. None of the much-touted benefits such as tolerance of drought, improved nutritional content, or improved yields have actually materialized in the field. Instead, farmers find themselves locked into a system of expensive patented seed and ever-increasing application of fertilizers and pesticides. Moreover, Monsanto and other big players have been aggressively shutting down small independent seed companies and harassing farmers attempting to save seeds.
As consumers, we can vote with our dollars. And as gardeners, we can support those seed companies and organizations devoted to maintaining the diversity and availability of non-patented, open-pollinated varieties.
Seed Savers is one such organization. Not only do they maintain and distribute a wide variety of heirloom seeds; but more importantly, they enable backyard gardeners to exchange over 12,000 locally adapted and often little known varieties at a nominal cost.
We’ve been members of Seed Savers for a number of years. But today we finally became “listing members” by offering up some of our Oca tubers to other members. It feels good to be making a contribution, small as it may be.
This Thanksgiving weekend, we have a very special reason to give thanks. With the help of a bunch of friends and neighbors we brought on site and raised our wonderful new wrought steel grape arbor. Rachel Simon, a local artist and consumate renaissance woman, created this functional piece of garden art.
The design and execution was a really collaborative effort that stretched over about a year. Rachel did an exceptional job of taking our ideas and applying her artistic vision and manufacturing skills to give them form and substance. And we’re very lucky and appreciative of all of the enthusiastic helpers that contributed to raising the arbor in our backyard.
The arbor suits the location so well, it feels like it has been there forever. You can see more photos of the arbor raising process here.
Our garden is looking a little sad, now that fall has come. For the most part, plants have died or are in winter stasis. But you wouldn’t know it when you look at the variety of garden produce available to us in the kitchen. Surprisingly, this is the time of the greatest abundance: we have all the late season roots and tubers and greens; and we also have an abundance of preserves from the summer months.
Tonight’s dinner is a case in point. All of the ingredients (except oil, salt, and pepper) came out of our garden:
- Scarlet Emperor runner beans (dried)
- onions (Rosso Milano)
- rosemary, english thyme, lemon thyme
- stewed tomatoes (canned)
And a very satisfying meal it was.
Fall is not only the time to harvest potatoes and pumpkins, but also your Mason Bee cocoons.
You gave them a nice place to nest and provided them with plenty of forage, now you want to make sure the next generation of bees makes it safely through winter and will emerge in peak condition next spring.
You could just leave your bee house outside and let nature take its course. But nature is not always kind to bees. Pests, predators, disease, mold, or rain could decimate your population. More importantly, here in the Pacific Northwest our winters are so mild that there is a danger your bees may emerge too early, before there is a consistent supply of pollen to sustain them.
Following our successful neighborhood spring workshop we decided to reconvene and have a harvest party. It was a good opportunity to compare results and share pointers on how to overwinter the cocoons. Return rates in 2013 were average, but also quite variable. A couple of things we learned this year:
- square nesting channels performed satisfactorily – the bees accepted them and return rates in these nesting trays were about average (compared to plastic trays and paper straws)
- location is key – bee houses mounted in trees had very low return rates; possibly because bees did not have a line of sight and weren’t able to find their way back
I am hoping we’ll get even better result from our wooden trays next year, since they have now acquired the smell of bees. Mason bees are very sensitive to scent. They use it to identify their nesting tube amongst dozens of others; and they prefer to make their home in a tube that had previously been occupied.
I’m already looking forward to next year and seeing what lessons the bees will teach us this time.
Seattle is a city by the water. There’s Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and numerous lesser bodies of water. It is also a green city with parks, green spaces, and lots of wild blackberries everywhere. In short – rat heaven.
As the weather turns colder and outdoor food sources dwindle away, rats and mice are looking for a cozy place to spend the winter months. A nice, warm, and dry crawlspace would be just the ticket.
Fortunately, our sweet and adorable cat has turned out to be a
A dismembered rat may not be what you want to see first thing in the morning. But it’s definitely preferable to a live rat in the house.