Picture Snob

January 13, 2011

The Burpee Seed catalog is here!

Burpee Catalog is filled with tons of new items. The King of Color tomato collection is featured on the cover with four varieties each a different color and perfect for slicing. There is a "Green Envy" cherry tomato which is deep green. Most of the new items are hybrids. Brokali is a cross between borccoli and kale and there is a lovely exotic looking petunia called Phantom which has black petals with a yellow star on them.

Burpee has been in business for 135 years and is one of the oldest and most venerable of seed companies. It made itself famous during WWII promoting victory gardens and in 1954 offered $10,000 for a white marigold. This is the company that developed the Big Boy Tomato and has continued to supply seeds and plants, both perennial and annual as well as garden supplies.

Their catalog is a delight to look through. It has a huge flowers section listings from A to Z both perennials and annuals, a total of 40 pages. The sweet pepper collection is really vast, all sizes, colors and shapes--a joy to behold.

You can check it out online or order one at Burpee

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January 12, 2011

Organic Comsumer Association takes on Monsanto

Monsanto & the Merchants of Death

In the 1990s, Monsanto found an ingenious way to sell large quantities of its broad-spectrum toxic herbicide RoundUp to farmers. The company's scientists gene-spliced corn, soy, cotton, and canola with foreign DNA, enabling these "Frankencrops" to survive massive dosIes of RoundUp. Farmers could now repeatedly spray their fields with RoundUp, killing weeds but not the crop. Unfortunately, the collateral damage of heavy RoundUp spraying includes groundwater pollution, toxic residues in crops, and destruction of essential soil microorganisms. The Genetically Modified (GM) crops themselves create herbicide-resistant Superweeds and spread genetic pollution to organic and non-GMO crops as well as plant relatives. Last but certainly not least, Monsanto's GM foods have been linked to serious health damage - not only for animals, but humans as well.

Today, a major portion of cropland in the US is sown with Monsanto's "RoundUp Ready" corn, soy, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Eighty percent of these GM crops are then sold as animal feed to the nation's 125,000 factory farms or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that produce most of the non-organic meat, dairy, or eggs sold in grocery stores or served in restaurants, schools, and hospitals. The other 20% of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Organisms are laced into non-organic processed foods (soy lecithin, corn or sugar beet sweeteners, cooking oils, etc.) that are found in every grocery store aisle.

There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the US spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases. Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, US factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Low fruit and vegetable consumption is directly costing the United States $56 billion a year in diet-related chronic diseases.

Monsanto's GM crops are highly profitable for the food industry, turning cheap, federally subsidized, genetically engineered crops and GE-fed animals into cheap, ubiquitous, junky foods. But from the standpoint of public health and environmental sustainability, Monsanto and their factory farm collaborators are nothing less than merchants of disease and death.

A critical mass of consumers would turn away from GMOs and Factory Farmed meat, dairy, and eggs - if they knew what they were eating. Please join and support OCA in our new Truth-in-Labeling campaign.

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January 7, 2011

Southern Exposure Seed donations to community garden

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If you know of some worthy gardening venture, a school, a community coop, Southern Exposure has some seeds they will donate. This is from their monthly newsletter.

"This time of year brings us a happy task here at Southern Exposure. We're chock full of fresh new seeds, and have to go through all of our stock to remove the packets that are officially 'out of date' - just barely too old to sell, but still quite viable and too good to compost! We set aside a section of shelving for these older packets. They are labeled as 'donation seed' and are sent out in response to requests from schools, community gardens, and other projects that seek to offer seeds and gardening support to those in need.

It's the time of year for giving and being thankful, and it warms our hearts to be able to pass on still-viable seed to worthy folks. This picture is from a community garden in Florida that was established with donation seed from our stock. They've done a nice job! If your garden, community, or organization is in sore need of seeds, this is the perfect time to e-mail us and make your request. Of course, this is also our busy season (so don't expect to get your seeds the next day!), but we do our best to send out all of these seeds and answer every request that we can. "

At Southern Exposure

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January 5, 2011

The first seed catalog arrives!!!!!

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A perfect day for it! I has rained for a week and is now snowing, just a dusting to cover the ground. I went out to the garden and jury rigged the gap in the fence where the deer seem to be getting in. I found the gate open, but didn't see tracks in or out, so I locked the gate and put chicken wire over the fence gaps and called it good and then came back to the warm house and found the seed catalog.

There's nothing quite as satisfying as sitting warm and cozy indoors, watching it snow and thumbing through pictures of great garden bounty. It's one of those times when anything is possible and the reality of insects, critters, disease, pests or other failures are not in the fantasy of this year's perfect garden!

"Seeds of Change began with a simple mission: to preserve biodiversity and promote sustainable, organic agriculture. By cultivating and disseminating an extensive range of organically grown vegetable, flower, herb and cover crop seeds, we have honored that mission for 20 years." All of their seeds are organic and some are recently developed varieties, like "Blush", a tomato just now released for sale after being lauded for having really remarkable flavor.

Prices in this catalog are high. A 4 ft apple tree bare root sells for $41.50. Seeds are also pricey. There are many garden tools, heating mats, and an interesting roll your own seed pots which makes starter seed pots out of newspaper! There's a lovely Tiger's Eye heirloom bean that looks like it could be strung for a necklace. And there is page after page of the gorgeous fruits and vegetables, enough to make you hungry for spring.

At Seeds of Change

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December 14, 2010

Southern Exposure Seed catalog is the first to come

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I got the Southern Exposure newletter that says my catalog is on the way! They say, "It's not winter yet, but we hope you'll accept the season with open arms once you're cozy at home with our new seed catalog, dreaming up next year's garden." The newsletter mentions several conferences that will be taking place this winter season with an invitation to join others to discuss gardening techniques and seed saving.

What I like about this catalog is that it explains their perference for open polinated and heirloom seed and their rejection of GMO crops even though if people save the seed they buy from Southern Exposure, they have no reason to buy seed the next year. The price of the seed is comparable to other major seed stores and the planting information is extensive and very helpful. For example, with the open pollinated corn seed, they include tips on using mineral oil on the silk to discourage corn ear worms.

At Southern Exposure

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November 11, 2010

Superweeds created by the use of Monsanto's Round Up

The Usual Bad News arising from the use of Round up ready crops!

There's been much recent news about Monsanto paying farmers to use its competitors' herbicides, in what many see as a last ditch effort to address the spread of superweeds created by the company's "Roundup Ready" (RR) GMO crops.

Environmental scientists warned even before Monsanto's "herbicide tolerant" GMO crops were approved that they would hasten the evolution of resistant weeds. For these scientists, the issue was obvious: introduction of high doses of a single chemical year after year would result in the exact conditions needed to breed resistance: weeds with resistance genes would be the only weeds that could survive and breed, leading to superweeds that are unaffected even by massive herbicide spraying.

Of course, Monsanto denied these early warnings. In a 1997 paper, Monsanto scientists claimed that weed resistance was such a complex genetic phenomena that RR crops would be unlikely to lead to resistant weeds. What's even more troubling, though, is that Monsanto continued to ignore the spread of superweeds for years, and worked to persuade and threaten farmers against strategies to avoid resistance - since those strategies would have cut into the company's sales of Roundup and RR crops.

In fact, superweeds from Monsanto's RR crops create more pollution while costing farmers time and money. Thanks to resistant weeds from GMOs, farmers have been forced to return to mechanical tillage: a 2006 report noted that resistant weeds on cotton farms had resulted in a 40% drop in the percentage of Tennessee cotton farms that use conservation tillage. Farmers are even back to hand-weeding, adding more time and labor costs. And of course, thanks to Monsanto, we all face the environmental costs from increased use of chemicals on GMO crops.

At Organic Bytes

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November 4, 2010

Some good news from the Big City

This is the kind of article that gives us for for humanity and for a simple, community friendly life style. It's a great idea that needs to grow and spread over the country.

SEEDS OF DIVERSITY GROW IN BED-STUY GARDEN

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, two women, one black, one white, make preparations for a party in the Greene Acres Community Garden on Franklin Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Musicians from The Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium are performing. A barbeque smokes near an overgrown bush. The women are preparing for the expected 40 guests that will be part the garden's second annual celebration of Buster Bailey, a black jazz clarinetist who moved to the area in the 1950's from Harlem.

According to the 2000 US Census, the zip code in which the garden is located is 68.5 percent black. But the party guests that wonder into the garden throughout the afternoon are of different races, religions, sexual orientations, and eating habits.
"That's what makes it work so well I think, that there is such a diversity, all focused on this serene place in this urban jungle of ours," said Rowe, when she took a break from preparing for the party. "That's what brings the beauty besides the greenery and flowers and veggies and fruits. It's the growing of minds and people and tolerance." Rowe, who describes herself as "a woman in her early sixties," has lived in the neighborhood since she was 7-years-old.

Since last year the Obama administration has promoted community gardens for their environmental and health benefits. In February of 2009, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "broke pavement," turning an impervious surface at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington into a community garden. Vilsack announced that he intended to do the same at each USDA facility worldwide. In a show of support, Michelle Obama gave the USDA a historic magnolia seedling that was an offspring of a tree planted at the White House by Andrew Jackson. In her effort to promote healthy eating, she has also praised community gardens for being sources of fresh fruits and vegetables.
But community gardens, like Green Acres, can also be places that encourage social connections and personal interaction. "It's rich ground for growing community," said Annie Hauck-Lawson, an associate professor of health and nutrition sciences at Brooklyn College. Hauck-Lawson says that community gardens in New York City became important neighborhood symbols in the 1970's when "times were bleak."
"It is one thing to join a community garden because now it's really trendy," she said. "Its another thing when the city's got god-awful conditions...to start from the ground up."
There are over 600 community gardens in New York City, more than 30 of which are in Bedford-Stuyvesant, according to GreenThumb, the community garden program of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Like many gardens in the city, Greene Acres Community Garden has been involved in political turmoil in the past.
In the late 1990's, the administration of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tried to auction off some community gardens in an effort to create more housing in the city, a plan that was objected to by gardeners and activist groups. Green Acres Community Garden was one of the gardens embroiled in the controversy.

As part of the fallout from Giuliani's attempt to auction some gardens, Greene Acres, along with at least 50 other gardens, were bought by a land trust operated by The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit organization founded by the actress Bette Midler that is dedicated to beautifying and cleaning New York City.
"Good public spaces [create] a healthier place for people to live, a healthier place for businesses to open," said Amy Gavaris, executive vice president of NYRP. According to Gavaris, when planning how to build and improve community gardens, NYRP considers how the local community is developing and changing.
"There are bigger economic forces out there. We try to make nice places without displacing people," said Gavaris. "We're also recognizing that communities do change, and that's a new constituency."

NYRP works with neighborhood residents when planning gardens. "It's a design process in the end that people who have participated have signed off on," said Gavaris, noting that some communities want farms, while others want pocket gardens or playgrounds.

Gavaris says that in some gardens, like the Target Community Garden, also located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, NYRP had to cultivate a membership. In the case of Greene Acres Community Garden, she says a diverse membership was already in place when NYRP took over the garden and began its design process.

"A community idea means that it wasn't my idea or her idea or his idea it was pieces of everyone's wishes, hopes dreams, imaginations - creativity, " said Rowe, a founding member of Greene Acres Community Garden. She says that being part of a garden that has such a diverse membership has allowed her to learn about other religions and cultural practices.
"I'm the run your mouth person," said Rowe. "Some people could tell you about how we're organic here and we don't use chemicals...I'm the person if you're walking by the street and you're looking I'll be like 'Hey, hi, how are you? Come in. Look at our garden.'"

It is through the garden that Rowe met Suzan Frazier, who also prepared the garden before guests arrived for the Buster Bailey celebration. After meeting in the garden, the two discovered that they attend "sister churches," which are in the same dioceses.
Frazier, 55, originally from Ohio, came to New York to attend Barnard College. She says that not all members of the garden join with the sole purpose of harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables. "They enjoy growing," she said. "Its intriguing to people. And then it brings them in and they enjoy other aspects."

According to Hauck-Lawson, who is the author of the book Gastropolis: Food in New York City, community gardens can be places that build bridges between new and old residents in a community. "I see the residents who have always lived there as valuable resources for new arrivals," she said. "They provide a sense of place for newcomers."
The Buster Bailey celebration Greene Acres Community Garden started last year to commemorate the clarinetist who played with Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson. Born in Tennessee, Bailey moved to Chicago, and then Harlem before eventually settling in Brooklyn.

"I've seen the area go, come, go, come, you know. It's just a circle," said Rowe, referring to the cycles of demographic change that she has witnessed in the neighborhood.
The celebration of Rowe's grandfather was in full swing by late afternoon. Hotdogs, burgers, and ears of corn smoked on the grill. Attendees gathered round a picnic table to talk and eat, as Rowe sliced a watermelon. According to Frazier, most of the attendees were new faces, not members of the garden.

"For years you walk by people in your neighborhood and you see neighbors you've seen for years, and you might smile and say, 'Hello. How are you?' But, you don't even know their name," said Rowe. "But here, with a community garden, you get to learn people's names...It makes for a little more conversation and a little more getting to know you."

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November 2, 2010

What you don't know about dirt!

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This interesting article is from www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com which has information on both the book and the movie: DIRT!


Ten Facts You Should Know about Dirt:

1. Only one planet that we know of in all the galaxies of the universe has a living, breathing skin called dirt. For 2 million years, humans have used dirt to grow their food for survival. If we don't take care of the soil, our future is condemned. We can't survive on Twinkies alone. (But it sure would be fun...for an hour or so.)

2. A handful of soil contains tens of billions of creepy-crawly microorganisms. These organisms keep plants, animals, and the planet alive.

3. Industrial farming is eroding the soil and disrupting its structure. We've lost a third of our topsoil in the last 100 years.

4. When there are miles and miles of only one species and one variety growing on our farms, as there is in modern-day industrial agriculture, this creates a vulnerable system. Monocultures are dangerous to our future. Diversifying crops on our farms, especially in drought, can keep the system from collapsing.

5. When we grow just one species on our farms, it's an all-you-can-eat restaurant for pests. Once a pest learns to unlock the key to that plant, you have a pest infestation, and then you add pesticides. Exposure to pesticides, especially in children, has been linked to higher birth defect rates, cancer, learning disabilities, and abnormal hormonal changes.

6. Insects and plants are so like us physiologically, cell to cell, protein to protein, gene to gene, that if a pesticide is going to kill plants and insects, it's going to kill humans, too. Ta-da!


7. Chemicals (synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) deplete the life of the soil. They take away the structure and the moisture of the soil. They take away the very organisms that make the soil fertile. When you add a layer of compost to your dirt, instead of a nasty chemical fertilizer, you're adding life to your dirt, and can then call it "soil."

Repeat after me: Compost, compost, compost.

8. When the land is dead and we add synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to feed the crops, only about 20 percent goes to the plant roots. In the Midwest, the rest of the wasted fertilizer flows into the rivers and streams, and then into the Gulf of Mexico. This excess fertilizer feeds algae that grow and suffocate nearly all of the marine life, creating "dead zones" where only jellyfish survive. This mobile nitrogen combines with oxygen, which forms nitrous oxide and rises into the atmosphere accelerating climate change. Twenty-five percent of greenhouse-gas emissions come from agriculture.

9. In India, farmers have been pushed to buy more genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and tractors. Now a farming activity that was zero cost is increasingly expensive. In India, over the last decade an estimated 200,000 farmers have killed themselves, many by drinking the pesticide they can no longer afford.

As farmers around the world go broke and lose their farms, their land is taken over by international agribusinesses that grow genetically modified single crops for a globalized economy.

10. Each year 100 million trees are turned into 20 million mail-order catalogues.


At Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

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October 18, 2010

Organic Bytes is a newletter that informs and provides action alerts

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Why We Need Labels

Only 26% of the U.S. public understands that most junk foods and animal products contain GMO ingredients.

The FDA is moving fast to approve a brave new world of GMO foods, including genetically engineered animals like Frankenfish, the eel-like-ocean-pout-chinook-Atlantic-salmon mix.
Genetically modified foods are less nutritious, more likely to trigger an allergy, and contain higher levels of growth hormones and pesticides. Yet GM foods aren't required to be rigorously tested for food safety before they end up in grocery stores and restaurants.
Common genetically modified food ingredients include corn syrup from GM corn, sugar from GM sugar beets, vegetable oils from GM soy, cotton and canola, and cheese, eggs, milk and meat from animals given GM feed or shot up with GM growth hormones and vaccines.

The same foods that are making people fat, sick, and undernourished are the ones that Monsanto has genetically engineered. High fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, fryer grease, chicken nuggets, and bacon cheese burgers all contain GMOs.

The industrial-scale mono-crop farms, factory farms and slaughterhouses that are abusing workers and animals, destroying the soil, poisoning the water, polluting the atmosphere with climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases, and creating a breeding ground for mad cow disease, E. coli, salmonella, and swine flu, are the best customers for Monsanto's RoundUp Ready and Bt-spliced crops. Agribusiness thrives off feeding taxpayer subsidized GMO crops, especially corn, soy and cotton seeds, to the chickens, pigs and cows they keep confined in cesspools of their own waste.

Companies like Monsanto and AquaBounty (the Frankenfish inventor), claim that GMOs are "sustainable" because they're going to feed the world as the global climate crisis accelerates. But genetic engineering companies' business model - mass-marketing techno-fixes for the industrialized food system - only perpetuates the waste and pollution that have already made agriculture the source of at least one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

GMOs can't beat the capacity of organics for restoration, resilience, and abundance. Organic agriculture is the best way to remove billions of tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and safely sequester them for centuries in the living soil of organic farms, pastures, and rangelands. If all the world's cropland were transitioned to organic, it would sequester 40% of current greenhouse gas emissions. Organic systems also produce higher yields than GMOs and are more resistant to droughts, floods, diseases and pests.

The organic solution to the climate crisis is threatened by contamination from GMOs. Organic agriculture relies on the diversity and resilience of the thousands of varieties of crops and food animals that humans have cultivated for every soil and climate on Earth. GMOs, also known as "recombinant DNA", are bizarre combinations of foreign genes forcefully inserted into "host organisms" from different species. Once you insert foreign genes into a food crop or animal, these mutant varieties breed and reproduce. These GE mutations are likely permanent, meaning that it is only a matter of time before natural and organic varieties are contaminated with GMO traits.

GMO contamination could lead to the collapse of the industrialized food system. GMOs have the capacity to break the species barrier. Weeds that plague row crops have adopted the RoundUp Ready trait, creating super-weeds that are forcing farmers to turn to greater amounts of super-toxic herbicides and pesticides. The overuse of RoundUp, the most widely-used pesticide in the history of agriculture, enhances the virulence of pathogens such as Fusarium and may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious.

At Organic Bytes

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September 21, 2010

Antibiotics in our food put us at risk for infections

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This article from the NYTimes has to do with the factory farming of animals and although this blog is about gardening, I think it is important enough to include in a post. Just like factory farming of plants uses chemicals and pesticides and heribcides, basically poisoning the environment, so factory farming of animals over uses antibiotics.

These medicines are used to keep the newly weaned piglets from getting sick. This is a danger because they are held in crowded pens and have to stand in their own excrement until the pens are washed out and then the waste goes into local watersheds. People who live near the factory pig farms complain about the smells and the contamination of ground water.

The pigs are then given antibiotics to make them grow faster. The FCC is getting ready to limit the use of antibiotics in factory farming. One look at those pig pens and I can say I wouldn't want to eat any of that pork. The arguement for its use is that you can produce meat faster and cheaper this way. But faster and cheaper may not be healthier. Immune resistant antibiotics are created this way and pose a risk to humans, besides getting a dose of antibiotics with your meal.

At Antibiotics in meat

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