Gardening Year-In-Review: 2014.

So after about a week of bitter cold temperatures, it’s safe to say that the gardening season is over for me.   I like to take some time at the end of the year and reflect on the things that went right and wrong.   Overall, this year was better than the past two years but some things could’ve been better.

I put in several dwarf trees in the ground, as opposed to trying to grow them in containers.   This year I added a plum, nectarine, apricot, two apples, a crabapple and a cherry in addition to the cherry and peach I already have established.   I’m working on creating dense guild systems with vines growing up the trees, which will be surrounded by shrubs.   So far, so good.   I put in a few more aronia bushes, currants, gooseberries, serviceberries, gojis, sea buckthorn and probably something else I’m forgetting.     This is something that I hope to round the edges off over the next couple of years to build a sweet food forest.   So far, so good.   I filled in spaces this year with annuals like tomatoes and pumpkins.   The pumpkins did great and it was kind of cool to have our own instead of buying them from where ever.  I think I ended up with seven or so rouge d’vif pumpkins.

I would *like* to put a brick path through the yard around these trees.   We’ll see…   I’d also like a water feature but I don’t know about that.      Either way, I think the food forest is off to a good start.

I harvested quite a bit of aronia, which was pretty cool.   Got my first kiwi too.   Hopefully next year my vines will be loaded with them – they really took off this year.   I’m a little worried that they’re too wound up in themselves because I had a hard time keeping them trained.   No blackberries or raspberries this year, which was kind of odd.   I have no idea why.

I didn’t do too hot over the winter, but I was able to establish stuff very early on and had enough spinach, arugula, cilantro and lettuce in the spring.   Beets and turnips did ok.  I had enough tomatoes to eat fresh and have the occasional marinara, salsa or chili.   Pretty weak showing on the peppers, but probably enough jalapenos to last the year.

I grew a “three sisters” bed, which was alright.  I got some corn and sunflowers out of it.   Even if I don’t use the sunflower seeds, that stuff is still cool to look out and see.   I didn’t do so hot with squash and cucumbers, but I’d get the occasional one.

Green beans did great.  I harvested a ton of them and even developed a mild case of tendinitis snapping them and missed about a week of work.   I saved a bunch of Kentucky Wonder, Sultan’s Crescent and purple beans to plant next year.      Tomatillos did really well too, but they’re kind of a pain in the ass because there’s only one thing I know how to do with them (salsa).   I think sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re *really* ripe too so green salsa can be hit or miss.

Something new to me that panned out well were jerusalem artichokes.   I planted a 4′ x 4′ square of them and probably dug up 50lbs of them.   I’ve been frying them in bacon grease, which is pretty damn tasty.    Like sunflowers, they look cool growing and I ended up getting spaghetti squash growing up them (and got a good crop of that).

I acquired a shit load of wood chips this year…because the city decided to cut down my ash tree before the ash borers got to it.   They threw the branches in the chipper and I had the guys dump about a quarter of the truck in my driveway.   Someone a few houses down got a huge load from their tree too, so I took about 10 wheelbarrows full from their pile too.   I have everything mulched real well and was able to throw a lot of chips down around my garden beds.   This should help keep things neat and tidy…and less muddy in the spring.

I couldn’t get much established for the fall, even though the weather was decent.   I’ll chalk this up to being busy with other stuff at key times.   Lots of little projects happening due to the upcoming baby, merging families, etc.    I’ll just try to get an early start on things next year.

Next year I’d like to have more herbs and I suppose I should cater to the kids’ tastes on what I plant so what I grow can be used instead of it being pretty much just me that eats everything.

I figured I’d take the year off from bees since they died and see where I’m at in the spring to see if I want new ones.   As of right now I’ll pass.   It seemed easier when there weren’t kids to worry about.   Plus I think I went into it a little half-cocked.   Sometimes that’s not a bad thing, but last year I figured I’d learn as I went but ended up getting sidetracked by life.    I’d like chickens, as I have more or less everything in place for them.

I say this every year, but I’d like to do a better job remembering what I planted where.   I think if I did some planning I would be able to better manage things and do a better job.   Although it wasn’t a bad year, it could’ve been a lot better.

So we’ll see what next year brings…   I’d like to have my backyard production account for a bigger percentage of my diet so hopefully it’s the best year yet.

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ISIS and Gold Backed Currency

ISIS Going Back To The “Gold Standard”

This is another story that is probably more style than substance, but ISIS is talking about introducing a gold-backed currency into a consolidated Islamic State.   They’ve released some images and plans for the different denominations so it’s a little more tangible at this point than just an off-hand comment.

I know turmoil in the Middle East is par for the course, but I don’t think the world quite anticipated a group like ISIS.   Middle Eastern governments are on thin ice, ISIS is gaining power, Turkey isn’t sure how to handle this (issues with the Kurds – long story short, they’re holding their own and it’s increasing chances of Kurdish secession), the West doesn’t know what to do, ISIS has a shit load of oil at it’s disposal.    There are a lot of wild card factors in this story and I don’t think anyone knows for sure how it’ll play out.

A gold backed currency would fit in with their plans of removing themselves from the world’s current financial system and still have a means to trade for the one thing they have, oil (oh, and concrete, dates and carpets.  Ha ha. ).    However, I think worrying about minting coins is a few steps ahead of where they are…or would it fast track them to some legitimacy?    We’ll see…

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Star’s Reach: A Novel of the Deindustrial Future by John Michael Greer


I’ve seen John Michael Greer’s name around and have probably heard interviews with him before, but this is the first time I’ve read one of his books.    A couple weeks ago I heard him on the Kunstlercast talking about his latest book and decided I’d check it out.

The story takes place about 400 years in the future in what the author describes as a period that would be towards the upswing of a Dark Age in America where society gets more stability and things are starting to look up.   The industrial age is long dead and climate change has radically altered the land.  The protagonist is a “ruinman”, one who makes their living disassembling the wreckage of the ancient (see: modern) world who finds a document that could uncover the mystery of “Star’s Reach”, a place where the ancients may have talked with aliens.   A quest begins to figure it out with all the usual trappings of a quest story.

The story itself is pretty good but what stuck with me about the book is the ideas in the way of language, mythology, culture and even astrobiology that the author weaves into it.    I think this book will stick with me for a while because of this.

The story mainly takes place in the Ohio River valley and the place names have changed but are still mostly recognizable.   If you think about it, a lot of our place names come from Indians and mean nothing to us except that specific place and the words we use have probably morphed a bit from their original pronunciation to suit our needs.    What’s an “Ohio” or “Cincinnati”?   I live in Des Moines, Iowa.    It’s two French words, but not pronounced like someone from France would and they don’t have any meaning to the people who live here.   “Iowa” is the name of a long-gone people who inhabited this general area.    I did feel kind of stupid for not getting one place described as a great center of learning from the ancient times name, even though it’s the city technically my degree was from (did it online so I never stepped foot in “Belumi”).

I also thought some of the mythology was cool, especially surrounding what we know today as the Washington monument.   We don’t always understand why people in the past did they things they did and do our best to explain them.    There’s a few instances in the book where seemingly trivial things from the modern world pass on into the future, especially circus related stuff (which is kind of funny, since a lot of that is holdovers from the Roman era).    It’s kind of interesting to think about what can be lost by time and what can make it through.    I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head, but we have tons of sayings, customs, etc. that we do today that come from the past that we don’t associate directly with their older meanings.

Greer predicts some major climate change to this patch of land we’re sitting on – modern day Arkansas becomes a jungle, Kansas a desert and the Ohio River Valley gets a rainy subtropical climate.  The coastline changes drastically to the point that a lot of the Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard is underwater.     The major shifts in climate and the end of the current era leads to new religious movements and new holidays based around the weather patterns (as ours are today if you look back).   I didn’t know that Greer was a big shot in the druid world while reading this, but it makes sense now and that kind of earth-based spirituality runs through the book.

He also brings up a lot of interesting thoughts about astrobiology and who the aliens that humans may have contacted would be.

I read one of his books, “Not The Future We Ordered” after this one.   Interesting guy.   I’m going to have to pick up a few more of his.

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Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles

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