Be kind to your knees. And don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Be kind to your knees. And don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

It has been a wild and wooly week in the world of research here at the Manic. Since I’m researching for my WWII book as well as my podcasts, I go careening from nitrous oxide emissions from manure to a history of blood transfusions. (Did you know that the first successful transfusions to humans occurred in 1667 and involved blood from sheep? Neither did I.)

Of course, since my only source for that fact is a single internet document, I shouldn’t call it a fact at all. Yet. I used to give freshmen students an assignment in which they had to find the real source of a quotation or document that’s commonly misattributed. My favorite was what’s known as “The Sunscreen Song,” (Remember that? It had some great lines: “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.” and “Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.”) *

So there I was, blithely researching studies about whether our fresh foods contain fewer nutrients than they used to, and this quotation kept popping up: Continue reading

Polyculture all the Way – Podcast 27

The old kitchen garden, with its neat, straight rows of vegetables, has faced any number of challenges in recent years—raised beds, intensive gardening, square foot gardening, succession planting—all turn their backs on the conventional layout of neat rows of carrots, peas, or potatoes.

Enter polyculture, which turns its back not only on rows, but on the whole idea of a vegetable garden at all. Not that you shouldn’t grow vegetables, but in a polyculture, they’ll be mixed up together, and there may well be herbs and flowers in the mix as well.

David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth have just published What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden?: 100% Organic Solutions for All Your Vegetables, from Artichokes to Zucchini. For them, as for many organic gardeners, half the solution lies in prevention, and a key to prevention is polyculture. When they talk about putting the right plant in the right place, they mean not just giving it the soil, light, and water that it needs, but the growing companions as well. Continue reading

Podcast #26 Minding Your Manure

The Show

The manure problems—pollution and contamination—that I reviewed in my last post occupy the first part of this podcast, and if that were all we covered, you too might be inclined to crawl under your desk and stay there.

A quick recap: Rather to the surprise of many an organic gardener, even organic manures can cause problems: phosphorus can contaminate surface water, while nitrogen can leak into ground water and can also form nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas almost 300 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Mucking about in manure–theoretically

If you’ve ever mucked out a barn, you know how far theoretical manure is from the real thing. For quite some time, my life has been confined to the theoretical version. My mucking out days didn’t coincide with my gardening days, so I’ve never used manure in my gardens, first because I didn’t have easy access, and then because I kept hearing scarey things about it.

Imagine me in my desk chair, googling away about manures, at the start of my relationship with the theoretical version. Here’s what I found. Continue reading

EarthMinded RainStation: The ultimate rain barrel?

EarthMinded RainStations semi-review

Back in early February, I ended a podcast on Water-Wise Gardening with a short interview with Edwin Beck, who helped design the EarthMinded RainStation, so of course I mentioned both him and it in the parallel post. But I discovered I had way too much to say on the topic for that post, so here’s the rest.

First, I’d better say that this isn’t really a full-fledged product review, as I haven’t used the things myself. (Yet.) But it’s such a whole-hearted endorsement that I feel compelled to add that no, I’m not getting paid to do this. (I won’t endorse a product for a price, period.) But while I’m being upfront and center, I’d better be thorough about it and admit that people whom I feature in a product spot on my podcast do get approached by Matrix Media (the syndicating company) as potential sponsors for the show. So Rain Station might turn up later as a sponsor. If I’m lucky. At present, though, at the time of this writing (9:46 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, March 15th, 2012), there is no financial arrangement between me and Mr. Beck.

When Edwin and his partners designed the RainStation water barrels, they had in mind a few modest goal: They wanted to make a product that’s easy on the eyes, the environment, the user, and the user’s basement. Continue reading