Wild Grapes on the Ranch

Wild Grapes on the Ranch
Wild Grapes on the Ranch

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! (Repurpose!)

Three words that speak volumes.  Around the farm, these concepts have been applied for decades. My husband, Eric, has an impressive local family history. According to the land deeds recovered while organizing paperwork from the other house on the property, his ancestors purchased this particular plot in the 1930’s.   The family was in the area for quite some time before that, however, and are rumored to have been numbered in the Stevens Party who came over via none other than the Stevens Trail. Frances Lenninger, a local Vina historian and author wrote in her book, Vina’s History in Photos and Stories, that Eric’s great-great-great-great grandmother, Matilda Foster, came over the trail from Iowa in 1848. This photo (Left) of Sam Henry Stephens, Eric’s great-great grandfather was taken in front of the Vina Hotel circa 1910.

As locals during the time period prior to the great depression of the 1920’s, the family made no waste of any items, land, or foodstuffs. As the affects of the depression widened and expanded throughout the nation, nothing was thrown away or ill used. The 1940’s saw great changes as our nation stepped into World War II and were faced with shortages of food staples, steel for munitions and many men leaving the work force to join the war efforts on the front lines. My own family history has ties to this war; my grandfather Harry Paul Newton, formerly of Sioux City, Iowa, once told me of his trials as a Ranger on the front lines of the Pacific Theatre. He and many others of that generation learned the hard way that freedom is not free; many fought on all fronts to keep our country free of the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. 

Desperate times called for desperate measures as the list of rationed items grew longer and longer. Many planted Victory Gardens, small gardens that supported their own family’s fresh food needs and putting by foods was a common occurrence.
We have been growing a Victory Garden for some time; it seriously offsets the carbon emissions that our family is host to by guaranteeing that a large portion of our food came from zero miles away. Here are just a few of the delicious harvest pictures from our bumper crops of the past.

Our “Iron Pile” is testimony to the idea that nothing was wasted; it has been very fruitful in supplying me with endless manifestations of garden pots, raised bed containers and quick fix ‘duct tape and bailing wire’ repair solutions that so frequently present themselves on the farm. As we gear up for another winter, the new “Old Junk Yard” area of my garden is just getting started. Among the reclaimed garden items: several feed troughs (formerly compressed air tanks cut in half), a 1980’s shopping cart, many rusty-bottomed buckets, and several other metal items yet to be identified as anything other than something that has sides and will hold dirt while allowing water to leech out. My hubby has been setting up the new watering lines while the kids and I fill the bottoms of the “new” old containers with rocks for drainage (and space) and top them off with great organic garden dirt, purchased from the local Kinney’s Nursery

Ironically, in all my gardening history, I have NEVER been able to plant a winter garden at the appropriate time: now! As the former Director of the Miss Corning Program, August was always a VERY busy month for me, with Corning’s Olive Festival taking place the third week in August. Even after retiring a few years ago, I have still not caught the window of opportunity open like I have this year. I shot my last wedding several weeks ago and shoot my next on September 1st. This gave me just the right amount of time at just the right time to plan out what we wanted to plant, order any seeds I didn’t already have in my gigantic collection, and orchestrate getting them planted in dirt that had a functioning water system (because if I have to hand water it, it dies!). 

That being said, here is the current list of seeds now relishing their new home in their ‘new’ old containers: Catskill and Falstaff Brussels Sprouts, Ching Chong Bok Choy (our favorite to say) and Extra Dwarf Pak Choy (and yes, they are spelled diferently!), Broccoli Romanesco Italia and Broccoli Di Ciccio, Ginat of Naples Cauliflower and Purple of Sicily Cauliflower, four kinds of cabbage (don’t ask me why!) Henderson’s Charleston Wakefield, Couer de Boeuf des vertus, Late Flat Dutch and Pyramid F1, Monstreux  de Viroflay spinach (already spouting), and finally to round off our brassica family selection, a mix of lettuces for which we will sow a new set in two weeks from that sowing to ensure a constant supply of tasty greens. We planted several root veggies, including giant yellow Eckendorf beets, Golden beets (even non-beet likers enjoys these!) and Chioggia beets, several varieties of carrots and a nice new crop of cilantro. I anticipate they will grow unfailing throughout the winter, as did the last fall planted set. Today, I did set 95 yellow and green bush bean seeds to grow, so I’ll be sure to let you know how many I actually have grow.

So, we have touched on the reduce portion of our title by discussing the reduction of emissions by planting your own garden for totally local food.  We hit the reuse portion by sharing our trash to garden-treasure story of my new ‘Old Junkyard’ section, but what of the recycle? Funny you ask…recycling is really one of those last-ditch-effort stages when something can’t be easily or efficiently used as something else; it must be chemically and/or significantly altered physically in order to serve a new purpose. Well, the best I can do with this in the garden is my newest favorite form of garden bed mulch: paper shreddings. I know, I know…it takes power to run the paper shredder, but I figure it’s offset by not adding a bunch of perfectly mulchable paper to the landfill. My hubby’s mom bought a really awesome one last year for the business paperwork. I used it sparingly; must-shred documents only, until just a few months ago when I came across a random article mentioning shredded paper as mulch for winter crops. It stated that it helps keep the warmth in the soil and the weeds at bay. Duh! Ever since I have been a shredding fool…no scrap of paper misses the shredder and heads right out to the garden to block weeds! No joke. It works great and looks pretty cool, too!

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