Tag Archives: herbs

Urban Gardening

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S. Squire Rooster and Lady Brownie Hen, standing around and on concrete block herb garden. Chickens don’t bother herbs, but they love worms, grubs, termites, roaches, lizards, and fiddlers. I keep my yard as free of artificial chemicals and traps as possible, but I can’t stop the county from dumping malathion on our heads.

August 18, 2017

As people starve in Venezuela and other places, I remind myself Americans don’t know what starvation feels like.  We suffer from the opposite problem, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, life-style-related diseases resulting from consuming too much of the wrong things.

 

My herbs begged for pruning the other day.  It took several hours to cut, sort, wash, chop, and store, but I got a half-gallon of mint-stevia tea and almost a pint of basil-chive pesto.  My mind is free when I’m doing finger-trained things like chopping herbs.  I thought about how easily herbs grow on my deck, and how even urbanites with window sills, balconies, or patios could grow food.

I thought about my “green footprint” and how all greenery—even so-called weeds—contribute to cooling the earth and re-claiming oxygen from CO2.  So even growing an herb or a potted tomato on the patio adds to your oxygen green print.  Citrus grows well in patio pots, too, depending on where you live.

When the government controls the food supply, it’s a set-up for famine.  Julius Caesar used that to advantage, and so have rulers the world over.  That’s what makes centralized power so fragile.  We’re seeing that now, with President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.   He has the military guarding the food.  I’ll bet lots of folks now regret leaving the farms to work in factories and oil refineries.  At home, they could grow their own food.

We have the same situation brewing in the USA, but here the strategy is more insidious. We can see it being played out in all the mergers and acquisitions in the food, drug, and poison industries.  Most notable is the planned purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, based in Germany.  So Monsanto will go underground, should these two poison giants (depending on your point of view) merge.  Second, a little different but no less significant, is the merger of Dow and DuPont, two chemical giants.  Dow has the trademark on Styrofoam and has its own versions of genetically modified (GM) corn and other patented plant products.

Finally, we have the impending merger of Swiss Syngenta, the world’s largest crop chemical producer, and China National Chemical Corp., a state-owned outfit.  More than half of Syngenta’s sales come from “emerging markets.”  At a $42 billion price, Wikipedia reports the purchase of Syngenta to be the largest for a foreign firm in Chinese history.

The farming industry (which is often distinct from and at cross-purposes with “farmers”) is supposedly opposed to the Montsanto/Bayer merger.  The opposition claims it will increase prices and reduce innovation.  The poison companies say they will increase research and development.  (That’s what scares me most.)

In the US, the ethanol mandate represents the biggest government power grab of the food supply to date.  GM corn manufacturers are now making “ethanol-grade” corn.  Well, folks, what does that mean to you?  It means to me that Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and other GM manufacturers are busy downgrading everyone’s food supply to generate electronic profits on Wall Street.  Of course Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, Cargill, and other Big Food are all for burning perfectly good corn whiskey in cars.  Cars consume it faster than alcoholics do, and the government gets more in taxes, so of course the FDA, CDC, and EPA are complicit.

So with the mergers of the world’s six largest seed, agrochemical, and biotech corporations, which are in the business of poisoning us from the ground up, it behooves all of us to start producing our own food, individual by individual, as space and sunshine allow.

 

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Deck herbs, some in concrete blocks, others in clay pots.  Cat litter boxes do a good job of catching water.  Can water and/or fertilize from the base.

Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow, and many are perennial.  My chickens don’t like them, the deer don’t like them, and they are amazingly bug-resistant.  Stevia, chives, mint, oregano, and rosemary are all perennial.  The rosemary bush is taller than I am.  Since stevia was approved by the FDA as a natural sugar substitute a few years back, corporate marketing has improved its image. Less well known is that it’s a perennial extra easy to grow in a small clay pot.

So I harvested overgrown stevia, mint, chives and basil.  I made stevia-mint iced tea and basil-chive pesto.

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Set-up for making mint-stevia tea.  Mint is on the chopping board.  kco081717

I use a one-half gallon container for the tea, fill with cold water, let the water come to a boil, and turn the burner off.  I stir in the chopped mint and stevia, replace the lid on the pot, and let it steep all night.  In the morning I strain the tea and transfer it to the refrigerator container.

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Set-up for making basil-chive pesto.  Curved knife blade with rocking motion works best for fast and safe herb and veggie chopping.   kco081717

Making pesto is a breeze with a mini-food processor.  Pesto keeps weeks in the refrigerator and infinitely in the freezer.  I freeze fresh pesto and gouge chunks out of the mix as needed.  I use it in salad dressings, spreads, sauces, marinades, and Italian dishes of all kinds.

I use a standard blend of ingredients with whatever herbs I have.  Two to three cloves of crushed or chopped garlic, a couple of handfuls of chopped herbs, a handful of grated parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped nuts, and enough olive oil to make the processor work right.  I use soy sauce or olive brine instead of salt.  I like red pepper, too.  If you overdo the red pepper, extra olive oil helps a lot.

More traditional pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but they are expensive, somewhat hard to find, and not worth the price.  I prefer walnuts or almonds, but any nut will do.  Put them in the processor early, as they take time to grind up right.

Cheese is also variable.  Hard cheeses, like grated parmesan or romano, tend to last longer in storage, but I’ve used jack and cheddar, too.  Pestos are as versatile as your imagination.

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My version of pesto pizza.  Rye toast smeared with basil-chive pesto, topped with parmesan cheese and salad olives.  Broiled in toaster oven 3-5 minutes. kco081717

GOD HELPS EVE BAKE APPLE PIE

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My back yard, Chatham County, Georgia.  Fig tree in winter.  Foggy day.  Live oak background.  Sago palm lower left.  Windmill palms lower center and right. Spanish moss on live oak, Georgia’s state tree. kco122716

From my journal, ten years ago today,Wednesday, December 27, 2006
(Why every would-be communicator should vent on paper)

            God:  I sure would love a piece of apple pie along about now.

            Eve:  What’s apple pie?

God:  Boy, are you dumb.  Apple pie is what you do if you want to earn your keep in the Garden of Eden.  This place requires upkeep, or haven’t you noticed?

Eve:  Okay.  I’m game.  Tell me what to do, and I’ll try to do it.

God:  Attagirl.  Now, go pick a bunch of apples.

Eve:  Oh, no you don’t.  I’m not falling for that trick again.  Picking those apples got Adam and me in a heap of trouble, remember?

God:  That was because I told you not to pick the apples.  Now, I’m telling you to pick some apples.  Times have changed.  Trust me.  I know what I’m doing.

Eve:  Well, OK, if you say so.

Eve picks some apples and follows directions for making apple pie.  First, she has to invent knives, baking pans, flour, sugar, an oven, and the other tools of apple pie construction. God looks on, giving helpful advice.  Adam has invented television and is busy watching sports.

Eve:  What spices should I use?

God cogitates.   God:  I like sage.

Eve:  OK.  Which one of these plants is sage?

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*

God:  It’s over there.  No, not there.  Over there.  Another step.  OK. Now lean over. Now touch it.  No! Not that one.  That’s the poison ivy.

Eve:  What’s poison ivy?

God:  You’ll see.  Just don’t scratch your hand.

Eve starts to itch.  She tries not to scratch.  The itch gets worse.

Eve:  Why not?

God:  Just don’t.

Eve:  I thought I was supposed to have free will.

God:  Fine.  Disobey me and see what happens.

Eve:  Got a better idea?

God:  Wash it off.

Eve:  With what?

God:  Soap.  Calamine lotion.

Eve:  What are they?

God:  You have to invent them.

Eve:  But my hand is itching now.
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*Sage, a perennial, by itself and with other herbs, here  monitored by the Squire-wire, aka S. Squire Rooster, Attorney for the Law of the Land .  Herbs pictured here, clockwise from lower left:  chives (perennial), sage, parsley (biennial), basil and purple basil (annual). Stevia, a perennial, is on edge of deck, flanked by milo plants (look like corn), grown wild from spilled chicken food.  Chickens love the green milo seeds.  Stevia, the natural sweetener now approved by the FDA for inclusion in soft drinks like Coca-cola and Pepsi, is easy easy easy to grow.  I combine stevia with chocolate mint and dry them together for great winter tea.  In the summer they make delicious iced tea, with no calories or caffeine.  kco122716