Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Meeting Saturday

Healthy Harvest will have it's December meeting this Saturday December 12th at 2 PM at the Birdhouse in Leakey. Catherine T. will speak about raising goats, and goat's milk and cheese. Come one, come all, and bring ideas for future seminars.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jim R. Leads Another Great Seminar!

On Saturday August 8th Healthy Harvest presented another organic gardening seminar. Jim R. did another fine job in presenting useful information about fall gardening in our area. His handouts included tips from Malcolm Beck, Judy Barrett, Texas A&M, and Dr. Jerry Parsons. Much lively discussion among those present also generated good information. Anyone interested in obtaining copies of the handouts should contact Jim R. He had "door prizes" for everyone at the end of the session.

Our regular August meeting followed, but we tabled the agenda items until the September meeting due to the late hour. That meeting will be held on Saturday, September 12 at 2 PM at the Bird House in Leakey. The agenda will include planning for our Local Food Festival.

Our next seminar will be on greenhouses, led by Barbara V. The date is Saturday, September 19th at 10 AM at the Garden Club building in Leakey.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Minutes of July 11th Meeting

Healthy Harvest met on Saturday July 11th at 2 PM. 8 people attended. After collecting money to reimburse J.P. for the July Jubilee booth, we discussed produce sales at Canyon Charm. This is the closest thing we have to a Farmers Market at the present time. We agreed that Healthy Harvest members would make an effort to sell on the second Saturday of each month, and that we would publicize this effort in the Leakey Star.

We next planned three more seminars. Jim R. will lead a seminar on Fall Gardening on Saturday August 8th at 2 PM, followed by our monthly meeting. The September seminar will be about greenhouses, led by Barbara V. That seminar will be on Saturday September 19 at 10 AM. And in October Sage A. will lead a seminar on Raising Chickens. That date will be Saturday October 10th at 2 PM, followed by our regular meeting. Thanks to Jim, Barb, and Sage for offering to lead these seminars! Pending an ok from the Garden Club, these seminars will all be held in their building in Leakey.

The next topic was planning for a Healthy Harvest Local Food Festival. Rick A. proposed that the Festival be held in the Spring of 2010. After much discussion we selected two possible dates - Saturday March 20th or Saturday April 10th for a one day festival featuring seminars, booths, entertainment, and possibly a farmers market. We also discussed seven possible locations, and Rick A. will contact each one to check on cost and availability. He will report back at the August meeting and we hope to choose a date and a location at that time. Anyone with suggestions for the Festival should leave a comment after this post or contact Rick. Thanks!

Friday, July 10, 2009

July Meeting This Saturday!

Healthy Harvest will meet this Saturday July 11th at our new time - 2 PM. The agenda will include produce sales at Canyon Charm, our next seminar, and the Local Food Festival. Other agenda items are , of course, welcome. See y'all at the Bird House in Leakey at 2 PM.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July Jubilee Booth This Saturday!

Come One, Come All to our Healthy Harvest booth this Saturday July 4th at the Courthouse in Leakey. The hours are 8 AM to 4 PM. Bring produce and other local food items to sell, and remember the old time music jam session at noon! See you there!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Minutes from the June 13th meeting

The June meeting of Healthy Harvest was held on Saturday, June 13th at 10 AM. Six people attended. It was decided that we will change our meeting time to 2 PM beginning at our July meeting so that those wishing to attend the sale at Canyon Charm will be able to do that in the morning and then come to the Healthy Harvest meeting. We will continue to meet on the second Saturday of each month.

The Healthy Harvest booth at July Jubilee on Saturday, July 4th was the primary topic of discussion. We scheduled people to work the booth as follows: Rick and Sage- 10-12, Joe and Don - 12 to 2, and we still need someone for 2 to 4. Rick will email J.P. to check on the canopy. Members are encouraged to bring local food to sell. Rick and Sage will provide tables and chairs, and will bring hand outs concerning the local food movement, a reading list, and Healthy Harvest activities. Barb will bring information and a survey about the Community Garden project. Pat will take photos of members' gardens and have a photo album at the booth (great idea, Pat!).

We will also be having an old time music jam session at noon! Anyone who plays acoustic old time music is invited to sit in. All members are encouraged to stop by the booth!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June Meeting this Saturday!

Healthy Harvest will meet this Saturday June 13th at 10 AM at the Bird House. Agenda items will include a local food exchange (bring produce, bread, whatever you have!), planning for our booth at July Jubilee, seminar planning, and discussion of possibly changing our meeting date so as not to conflict with the market at Canyon Charm. See everyone there!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Announcing!! Healthy Harvest Food Exchange!

Come one, come all to our first Healthy Harvest Food Exchange! On Saturday, June 13th at our regular meeting, members are encouraged to bring some local food for barter or sale. If you are a grower, bring produce from your garden or orchard. If you are a baker, bring home made bread. If you are a cheese maker, bring some samples. Any locally produced food is welcome. Those who would prefer to support local food by buying some should bring cash! With the talents and interests of our members we should be able to have quite a nice assortment of fresh, nutritious food. We can then revive the ancient art of market haggling - " I'll give you a dozen eggs for that loaf of bread..."

Minutes from the May 9th Meeting

Healthy Harvest met on Saturday, May 9th at 10 AM at the Bird House in Leakey. Six people attended. The first topic of discussion was the status of the Community Garden Project. Barb V. and Don W. reported that Sandra H. of the Garden Club was agreeable to having the Community Garden on Garden Club property, provided that details of finances and other issues could be worked out. Barb agreed to have further discussions with Sandra, with the goal of getting the project off the ground in the fall. Rick A. suggested that some way be found to determine whether there is enough interest among Leakey residents to justify further work on the project.

Next we discussed the Farmers Market idea. Rick A. reported that all indications are that Leakey presently is not a large enough city to attract professional growers to a Farmers Market. The consensus was that local growers could sell produce on an informal basis. Some growers are already selling at Canyon Charm, and the area near the Courthouse is another possible location.

The third topic on the agenda was a booth at the July Jubilee. J.P. has made arrangements for our booth and paid the fee. Members present thought that we should pass out information about the local food movement and about the interests, background, and projects of Healthy Harvest members. Barb offered to bring equipment so that we could show a DVD of one of Michael Pollans' talks. Further planning will take place at our June meeting.

Lastly, we talked about having work days at members' gardens/ranches/homes. Anyone who needed help could host a work day, and then later return the favor by working at someone elses' place. Rick and Sage are presently in need of help building their magnificent Coop II - Chicken Hacienda, so our first work day may be at their place. More information to follow about a Coop-Raising!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May Meeting Coming Up!

Healthy Harvest will meet on Saturday, May 9th at 10 AM at the Bird House in Leakey. Agenda items will include updates from the Farmers Market and Community Garden committees, as well as planning for our next seminar and our booth at the July Jubilee. Anyone interested in local, organic food is welcome to attend!

Many thanks to Wanda K. for hosting our April meeting/seminar and giving us a very informative tour of her forest garden.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April Meeting Re-scheduled

The April meeting of Healthy Harvest has been re-scheduled due to Easter. We will meet on Saturday, April 18th at 10 AM at the Bird House, and then carpool to Wanda's place in Uvalde to learn about plant guilds and forest gardening. If anyone wants to meet us at Wanda's, just drop me an email or leave a message after this post and I will send you directions. We hope to see everyone there!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Leave My Food Alone

This has just come to our attention: is a petition designed to stop HR 875. In its current form, the bill could prevent small local organic farms and community gardeners from growing and selling you nutritious, truly fresh, organic produce. It would crush our small local food producers by imposing heavy government regulation that only large corporations could adhere to and make a farmers market almost impossible. It's sort of like NAIS, but for farmers & gardeners.

Please take a moment to read and sign the petition!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Used with permission of Doug Savage. Check out his chicken cartoons at

Pistacios now contaminated with Salmonella

This just in from

"FDA recommends that consumers avoid eating pistachio products until further information is available about the scope of affected products.

The FDA and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are investigating Salmonella contamination in pistachio products sold by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc, Calif. The company has stopped all distribution of processed pistachios and will issue a voluntary recall involving approximately 1 million pounds of its products. Because the pistachios were used as ingredients in a variety of foods, it is likely this recall will impact many products. In addition, the investigation at the company is ongoing and may lead to additional pistachio product recalls.

FDA first learned of the problem on March 24, when it was informed by Kraft Foods that its Back To Nature Trail Mix was found to be contaminated with Salmonella. Kraft had identified the source of the contamination to be pistachios from Setton and conducted a recall."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wooohoo! The Obamas will Eat the View!

According to the New York Times, today 23 third graders will join First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House to break ground on an 1100 square foot kitchen garden that will provide food for family dinners and formal dinners.

The Obamas’ garden will have 55 varieties of vegetables grown from organic seedlings started at the executive mansion’s greenhouses. Almost the entire Obama family, including the President, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing.

Thanks to Roger Dorion at Kitchen Gardeners International who started this idea and promoted it through and, to all who voted and signed petitions, to Michael Pollan for his wonderful letter to the "Farmer-in-Chief", and the two guys who drove around the country in a crazy bus promoting the idea--We did it! What a wonderful example this will be to inspire Americans to start growing their own local, organic food again!

New York Times article
Washington Post article

ABC News article

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trudy's Tree Protector

Trudy F. sends in this design of a tree protector around a young pinon pine that was damaged by bucks rubbing their antlers.

It's a 4ft square of 2x4 boards. The wire with 2 x 4 inch squares is stretched from one side to the other, so that it stands about 40" high. The wire on each end is rounded off at the top and wired to the other wire. A 20" x 24" hole cut out of top for the tree to come through. It can easily be lifted off once the tree gets about 5 ft tall.

Here's Trudy demonstrating how it can be lifted, and what the top of it looks like.

Without the hole in the top, this might even work over a bed of greens or veggies for those without fenced yards dealing with deer. Thanks for sharing this idea Trudy!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bill Filed in the Texas House to Stop Mandatory NAIS

This information comes from FARFA (Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance) and was sent to us by Healthy Harvester Jerry S. of Shudde Ranch:

Representative Kleinschmidt has filed HB 3322 to stop the Texas Animal Health Commission from making NAIS mandatory. HB 3322 is identical to SB 682, filed earlier this session by Senator Eltife.

If it is made mandatory, NAIS would require that every person who owns even one chicken, horse, cow, sheep, goat, pig, or other livestock animal register their property, tag each animal (in many cases, with electronic forms of ID), and report their movements to a database within 24 hours.

NAIS is an unprecedented expansion of the government bureaucracy into people's private lives and infringes on our property rights. NAIS will impose heavy burdens on livestock owners, driving many small and medium-size farmers and ranchers out of business and discouraging people from owning horses and other livestock as pets. Despite spending over $100 million dollars on NAIS since 2004, the USDA has not released a cost/benefit analysis of NAIS nor has the TAHC.

NAIS will not increase the safety of our food supply. Most food-borne illnesses are from contamination at slaughterhouses or in food handling and preparation. NAIS tracking ends at the time of slaughter, so it will not address these issues or increase our ability to trace contaminated meats once they are in the food supply chain. By driving small farmers out of existence, NAIS will increase the consolidation of our food supply into a small number of large companies, destroying consumers' food purchasing options and increasing prices.

The New York Times published a great Op/Ed that explains the small farmer's view on NAIS.

Ultimately, we must fight NAIS at both the state and the federal level. By passing this bill in Texas, we not only provide important protections for Texans, but we send a signal to Congress that Texans are opposed to the NAIS, helping us at the federal level. Please call your State Senator and Representative this week to urge him or her to co-sponsor SB 682 and HB 3322! For a list of contacts of your Representatives, please enter your physical address at

Neither bill has been set for a committee hearing yet, and we anticipate significant opposition to getting the bills out of committee. So it is critical that more legislators step forward to co-sponsor these bills, to provide the impetus to move them forward!

You can read the bill and follow its progress here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Minutes from the March 14th Meeting

Healthy Harvest met on Saturday, March 14th at the Bird House. 13 people were in attendance. After warming up with some potent coffee from Barbara, the first topic of discussion was the April seminar. We agreed that we should combine the seminar with the April meeting and take a road trip to Wanda's place in Uvalde to learn about forest gardening and plant guilds. This trip/meeting will take place later in April due to Easter. The date will be Saturday, April 18th. We will meet at the Bird House at 10 AM and car pool to Wanda's.

Next we talked about the Community Garden project. Barbara reported that the Garden Club would like to have the Community Garden on their property. A committee of Barbara, J.P., and Don W. was formed to consider the particulars of this idea.

Rick reported that the Farmers Market committee had divided up tasks as follows: Rick - location/liability, Sage - logo and marketing, Leah - contacting growers, Catherine - rules and regs.

We briefly discussed the idea of a Local Food Festival, and two ideas for future seminars - chickens and goats/milk and cheese. Stay tuned to the blog for more information!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meeting Saturday March 14th

Healthy Harvest will meet this Saturday March 14th at 10 AM at the Bird House in Leakey. Agenda items will include planning for the April Seminar and the Local Food Festival. We will also discuss plant and seed exchange ideas for the group, and the status of the Farmers Market and Community Garden ideas. The tour tentatively scheduled for this meeting has been postponed. See you Saturday!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Second Seminar a Success!

Thanks to Sage A. and Jim R. for a great organic gardening seminar today. Sage gave a very informative presentation on starting seeds indoors, potting up, hardening off, and transplanting into the garden.

In her system, seed flats are cleaned in a 5% bleach solution to sterilize them. They are then filled with seed starter potting soil (fine texture) and placed in a shallow pan so that water is wicked up from the bottom.

When the soil is moist, the seeds are planted. In this way seedlings get just the right amount of water and are not displaced by watering from above. She pointed out that plastic coverings (humidity domes that often come with the trays, plastic bags, etc.) should not be used to cover the seed flats. A fan of some sort in the room will help prevent "damp off", which is a fungus that makes your seedlings keel over.

A heating pad is placed under the pans to keep the soil warm enough for germination. You can buy an expensive heat mat with a thermostat made for this, but most veggies germinate on the medium setting of the heating pad. Sage also adds a small amount of Medina Plus to the water to give the seedlings a boost.

Shop lights with full spectrum flourescent "grow light" bulbs are suspended over the flats. After germination the first two leaves to open are the seed leaves, and next the true leaves appear. Plants should not be potted up to a larger pot until they have true leaves. After plants have been potted up and kept under the grow lights for a few more days, they are "hardened off" by gradually increasing the amount of exposure to outside air and sunlight. Finally they are ready to be transplanted into the garden.

Sage also passed out copies of the Kerr County Vegetable Garden Planting Guide from Texas A & M. This guide works well for our conditions here in the Frio Canyon. This guide indicates which plants can be seeded directly into the garden and which should be started indoors, and gives the window of planting time for each vegetable.

Next up was Jim R. who talked about using colliodal phosphate (also called rock phosphate) to help make tomato plants sturdier. A handful of this powder, available at most nurseries, should be placed under the plant at planting time.

Trudy F. pointed out that tomato plants can be planted with more of the stem below ground level to encourage root growth. Joe M. mentioned mycorrhiza root fungus and how important it is in a healthy soil. Jim said that Tums or Epsom salts are a good source of calcium for tomatoes.

He passed around two books - Malcolm Beck's Lessons in Nature, and The New Square Foot Gardening Book by Mel Bartholomew. Jim described square foot gardening, in which plants are grown in a mixture of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. His handouts included information on square foot gardening and Fanick's chart on planting by the phases of the moon.

Trudy F. won a cardoon plant given and grown by Sage A.

This seminar was informative and well received. Stay tuned to this blog for information on our next seminar!

We Are What We Eat

66% of Healthy Harvesters indicated in our survey they wanted to learn more about healthy cooking, and once our gardens start producing I'll be giving some healthy cooking seminars.

Eating healthy is as much about eating fresh, unprocessed, clean, local food as it is about dumping things from our diets that are not so good for us. I am a consummate label reader, and it's becoming very difficult to find products that don't have corn syrup added. It's often found listed as one of the first through third ingredients of all processed food--a good reason to eat as little processed food as possible. It's alarming to me that packaged breakfast cereals have crept up to 18 grams of sugars, even the healthy-looking fiber-filled granolas which look so healthy and are promoted as such.

How did our food get so out of control? There's a good article in today's Washington Post "Where the Obesity Grows" by George F. Will. If author Michael Pollan is right, the problem is rooted in politics. The American diet has us undernourished and overfed.

"After World War II, the government had a huge surplus of ammonium nitrate, an ingredient of explosives -- and fertilizer. Furthermore, pesticides could be made from ingredients of poison gases. Since 1945, the food supply has increased faster than America's population -- faster even than Americans can increase their feasting.

"All flesh is grass" says the scripture. Much of the too-ample flesh of Americans (three of five are overweight; one in five is obese) comes from corn, which is a grass. A quarter of the 45,000 items in the average supermarket contain processed corn.

"Four of the top 10 causes of American deaths -- coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer -- have, Pollan says, "well-established links" to diet, particularly through "the superabundance of cheap calories of sugar and fat." What he calls America's "national eating disorder" is not just that Americans reportedly eat one in five meals in cars (gas stations make more from food and cigarettes than from gasoline) and that one in three children eat fast food every day. He also means the industrialization of agriculture, wherein we developed a food chain that derives too much of its calories -- energy -- not from the sun through photosynthesis but from fossil fuels.

"A Pollan axiom: "You are what what you eat eats, too" -- has made it profitable to fatten cattle on feedlots rather than grass, cutting by up to 75 percent the time from birth to slaughter. Eating corn nourished by petroleum-based fertilizers, a beef cow consumes almost a barrel of oil in its lifetime."
At some point, I'd like to rent the DVD “King Corn” by Director Aaron Woolf and co-writers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis and show it to the group. Rick and I watched this documentary last fall and found it to be entertaining and educational. If we are what we eat, then Americans are mostly made out of corn. In this eye-opening documentary, Cheney and Ellis--with the help of some real farmers, lots of fertilizer and government aide, and some genetically modified seeds--manage to grow one acre of corn. Along the way, they discover the absurdities and scary, hidden truths about America’s modern food system.

The next time you go shopping, read the labels. Look for corn syrup as an ingredient, and look under the nutritional analysis to see how many grams of sugars are in the products. You will be amazed, and hopefully inspired to put it back on the shelf and go home to work in your garden!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What's a Home Garden Worth?

Roger Dorion, creator of the EatTheView campaign and Kitchen Gardeners International, thought this was a good question, and a good time to ask it. He and his wife decided to weigh and log all the produce coming out of their 1/25 of an acre home garden, and compare the prices to those from the grocery store, farmers market, and Whole Foods produce.

In six months time, they harvested 834 pounds of organic food that was valued at $2196.50, $2431.15, and $2548.93, respectively. You can see their raw data here. They also calculated their out-of-pocket expenses for seeds, supplies, and water. Their $282 expenses generated a total value of $2431, which means their return on investment was 862% ! Using a calculation like this of $2400 per 1/25 of an acre, you can see that an acre could gross $60,000, or roughly $1.50 per square foot.

You can't beat that!...or can you? Mr. Dorion gardens in Maine. I think it would be interesting to see how well a garden in our longer growing season would compare. I would think our numbers might even be higher! I'm inclined to try this myself...anyone else game?

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guide to Seed Saving for Community Food Security

Here's a useful guide to seed saving for community food security written by Lisa Erwin that you can download as a PDF. It covers all the various vegetables and methods.

I would like to suggest this year we all learn how to save our seeds and begin a collaborative Healthy Harvest seed bank of non-hybrid* seed, to be restocked annually, and kept in case of emergency.

*Why non-hybrid? Some hybrids are entirely unable to reproduce on their own and all F1 hybrids are unable to reproduce the exact traits of the parent plant. This means growers are unable to save seed from year to year and are beholden to the seed companies for future purchases. Non-hybrids are often called Heirloom or Open-pollinated, and were discussed in a previous post.

Cow Pies into Cow Pots

From tons of manure a new business is born for some dairy farmers who find poop is now more valuable than milk. The first experiments were done in their toaster ovens. You gotta love innovative types!

"Why not grow flowers and tomatoes from cow flops? It took eight years’ development, a $72,000 federal grant secured through Connecticut’s Agricultural Businesses Cluster, and countless grim experiments. Now their manure-based CowPots — biodegradable seed-starting containers — are being made on the farm and sold to commercial and backyard growers who prefer their advantages over plastic pots.

Molded of dried, deodorized manure fibers, CowPots hold water well, last for months in a greenhouse and can then be planted directly into the ground, sparing the seedling transplant shock and letting tender new roots penetrate easily. As the pots decompose, they continue to fertilize the plant and attract beneficial worms."

Read the entire article here.
For product information visit

Friday, February 27, 2009

Water Troughs--Not Just for Water!

Healthy Harvesters Don & Pat W. have found livestock water troughs a good solution for raised bed gardening.

If you look closely in the middle of the photo you can see their very FIRST asparagus spear coming up -- it is from the crowns they got from Jim R. who recently divided his bed and gave away his surplus.

This photo shows their onions & radishes.

Don used fencing material that was left over from when they built their chain link fence to form a climbing structure so they can plant cucumbers, sweet potatoes, etc. Recycling feels so good! We'll look for some more photos as the garden grows!

Another item of interest -- Don is the proud owner of a worm farm. Pat promises to get some pictures of it later to share with everyone. Worms are a good way to quickly compost your garden scraps (chickens and fishermen like them too!) So we'll stay tuned for a story to come on the worms! Maybe even a worm seminar!

Do you have photos and/or a garden story to share? Be sure to let us know!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Big Win for Sustainable Foods

Good news! (And we all know we can use some!) The President recently chose Kathleen Merrigan, director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program at Tufts to serve as the Deputy USDA Secretary. Merrigan made the "sustainable dozen" list of deputy secretary candidates put forward by Iowa-based Food Democracy Now.

Over the years, she has been involved in sustainable agriculture policy in organics, conservation, food access, and small farm issues. Most impressively, while a Vermont senate staffer, she drafted the Organic Food and Production Act of 1990 and then went on to work at the USDA's agricultural marketing service (AMS), which runs the organic program.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our Second Organic Gardening Seminar - March 7th

Healthy Harvest will sponsor its' second Organic Gardening Seminar on Saturday, March 7th from 2 PM to 4 PM at the Garden Club in Leakey. Master Gardener Jim R. will cover these topics: appropriate varieties of fruits and vegetables for our area, planting schedules, and seed starting techniques. All are welcome!

How People Heard About the Seminar

Looks like 55% of you heard about our recent Organic Gardening Seminar by word of mouth. Of course I forgot to put Healthy Harvest meetings, so that's probably some of this, but I know many new people attended because you helped spread the word. 33% saw it in the paper, and 11% found out through this blog. Thanks for voting!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Do You Swoon for Cardoon?

Congratulations to Catherine T. for winning the door prize of a cardoon plant from Sage A. at the recent meeting. If you are interested in trying this in your garden, please let me know, as I have a limited number available for sale or trade. (They have already doubled in size since you saw them!)

Cardoon is a naturally occurring variant of the same species as the Globe artichoke. With cardoon, however, the young tender leaves and undeveloped flower stalks are braised and eaten rather than the flower bud. The root can also be boiled and served cold. Reportedly, they taste like artichoke.

Many years ago I bought one at a nursery and grew it as a landscape specimen, never knowing it was edible! It requires so much room (about a 3-6 foot circle) that you will only want one in a small garden, and as a crop it probably wouldn't be profitable. But if you have some space and want a truly beautiful plant you might consider adding a cardoon to your garden and diet!

It is native to the Mediterranean, where it was domesticated in ancient times by the Greeks and Romans. It was commonly eaten throughout medieval Europe, and is still cultivated in France, Spain, and Italy.

Although many people have never heard of it, the vegetable was commonly cultivated in the gardens of colonial America. Like so many types of produce, it simply fell out of favor with the degrading of our nation's diet. You can occasionally find them at farmers' markets during the winter.

And, if you happen to be in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 19th, cardoon stems are battered and fried and traditionally served at St. Joseph's altars in a city-wide homage to Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus, and to carpenters. This is because New Orleans was a major port of entry for Sicilian immigrants during the late 19th century.

The plant is currently being considered as a possible source of biodiesel. Oil is extracted from its seed and is comparable to safflower and sunflower oil. Cardoon can also be used as a vegetarian source of enzymes for cheese production. In Portugal Nisa cheese uses it as a rennet for an earthy flavor.

Cardoon requires a long (5 month) growing season but does well in dry climates. You'll want to keep an eye on it, as it is considered an invasive weed in California, Argentina, and Australia. I had no problem with it trying to escape when I grew it before.

They can be planted after the last frost into a well-manured bed. You can let them grow as is, or if you want to blanch them, about half way through their growing season you arrange the stalks by tying them upright to within a foot of the tops on a dry day and earth up around them without letting soil fall between the leaves, continuing this process as the plants grow.

The plants will be fit for use in about a month after earthing up. Do not let the plants freeze, as they are not frost-hardy! To harvest, remove the earth carefully and take up the plants by the roots, which must be cut off. The video above shows the basic way to prepare them. Closer to harvest, I'll try to find some recipes to share.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Votes are in for Interests Poll

Twenty-seven Healthy Harvesters voted on their interests in the group. Here are the results:

(92%) A local farmers market
(66%) Healthy cooking
(62%) Saving and sharing seeds
(55%) How to improve my soil
(55%) How to grow my own food
(51%) Eating organic food
(51%) How to preserve food
(48%)100 mile diet resources
(44%) Making new friends
(40%) Sharing my knowledge
(29%) A community garden
(22%) The politics of food
(18%) Growing food to sell

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Minutes of the February 14th Meeting

What a great meeting! 19 people attended, including three from Uvalde and one from Sabinal. At the beginning of the meeting, Sage A. led a brief session on blogging. Using computers at the library, several members learned about creating a Google account which enables people to make comments about blog entries. Sage explained that our group will be using the blog to communicate and that members should read the blog entries regularly to learn about group activities. Everyone is encouraged to make comments, ask questions, and generally participate in the Healthy Harvest blog!

The first agenda item was evaluating the Saturday morning seminar and planning for our second seminar. The general opinion was that it was an excellent seminar. It was agreed that our next seminar would cover appropriate varieties of fruits and veggies to grow in our area, planting schedules, including phases of the moon, and seed starting techniques. This next seminar will be on Saturday, March 7th.

Next on the agenda was the Farmers Market. We formed a committee to plan for the market. Committee members are Rick A., Sage A., Leah B., and Catherine T. The committee will study issues including liability insurance, pricing, and legal regulations.

Next we discussed the Community Garden. Pat and Don W. agreed to ask the Garden Club if the Community Garden could be located on their property. We agreed that site selection is very important. We don't want to invest time and money in land that later will not be available to us.

Rick A. talked about the idea of a Local Food Festival in conjunction with World Food Day on October 16th, 2009. The group agreed that the date of Saturday, October 17th would be a good one. Anyone wishing to help plan this event should contact Rick.

Our visitors from Uvalde indicated that they would like to join forces with us. They described their project of reviving a large garden in the Chalk Bluff area. A possible Healthy Harvest field trip to see the property was suggested. Leah B. also mentioned an organization called WWOOF - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The focus of WWOOF is matching volunteers with farms that need workers.

Members also agreed that we should plan something for Earth Day this April. This will be put on the agenda for the March meeting. If there are any comments or additions to these minutes, please click on "Healthy Harvesters Said" below to give us your input. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Agenda Items for February 14th meeting

Healthy Harvest will meet this coming Saturday, February 14th, at 10 AM at the Bird House. Agenda items will include: 1)evaluation of our first Saturday Morning Seminar and discussion of the next seminar 2)farmers market -shall we form a committee? 3) our blog - possible training session on how to blog? 4) community garden 5) Local Food Festival - possible October 2009 date in conjunction with World Food Day. If you have any other agenda items, please comment below. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the meeting! Rick A.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Marsha's Garden Inspired by Seminar!

Here's a success story from a Healthy Harvester:

Thank you guys for organizing this and pulling off a great morning!!!!!! And just wanted to share the exciting news from my front. Jim R. stopped over at our house after the seminar to give me a few pointers on where to start. I came home from church this morning and found my husband finishing up building my first raised bed from scrap lumber he had in the shop. After 2 years of "having an idea" we are heading in to Uvalde tomorrow or Tuesday to pick up peat moss, vermiculite, etc., and a 6 pack of broccoli...I NEVER would have "got around to it" without the encouragement of this group. Thanks again.

Marsha W.

Do you have a success story to share? Let us know! We're all in this together, community helping community!

Cover Crops and the European Scythe

I forgot to mention that during the seminar, both Jim R. and Joe M. recommended the use of cover crops for additionally adding nitrogen back into the soil. These plants are usually seeded in the late summer or fall (although sometimes early spring, depending on the plant) and allowed to grow over the winter (or a fallow season), and are then cut and tilled into the garden soil (or if you are using the Fukuoka no-till method like we are on some of our garden, it is either cut and left to lay in place, or simply planted directly into).

Since legumes are "nitrogen fixers" many of these cover crops are in the leguminaceae family, meaning they have bean or pea pod like fruit, such as hairy vetch, lab lab, Austrian winter pea, cow pea, etc. There's also clover, winter wheat, rye, and oats.

Joe believes all of us should learn to use a European scythe for cutting grass, grains, and cover crops because, unlike their American component, they are lightweight, easy to use, and easy to sharpen. Best of all, they require no gasoline!

He recommended Scythe Supply and the Marugg Company where he worked for a while in his homeland of Tennessee. Let's ask him to give us a demonstration at one of the upcoming meetings or seminars!

I've also added the Soil Foodweb Inc. link to the sidebar. Joe had mentioned the work of Dr. Ingram and her studies of the microbes in soils which is very interesting.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Seminar Attendees...

Please let us know how you found out about today's Healthy Harvest Organic Gardening Seminar by taking the brief online survey in the right sidebar column. Thanks!

Successful Organic Gardening Seminar

Twenty seven Healthy Harvesters attended today's Organic Gardening Seminar at the Garden Club in Leakey, Texas. We were excited to see such a nice group of folks interested in learning about and growing local food.

We ran out of raised bed construction handouts, however, Mi Mi H. will make copies for the Garden Club members, and Rick A. will post the information on the blog. We hope Jim R. will blog about soil fertility in case you didn't take notes.

While the presenters got ready, Sage A. reminded everyone to frequently check the new blog at for current information on Healthy Harvest. She explained that while blogs may be unfamiliar territory for many, you can learn all you need to know in about 10 minutes. Jim suggested we hold a computer session at the library soon for Sage to show us how to get the most out of the blog. Everyone agreed the blog was a helpful technology we need to learn more about.

The first speaker was Jim R., who discussed soil fertility and making compost. His show and tell included three buckets of soil in various stages of fertility. Don W. examines a sample of local "soil" to which many of us could relate: hard, compacted and not much different than rocks.

Because we live in an area with highly alkaline soil, we need to get as much natural matter back into it to help neutralize the pH, add nitrogen, retain and conserve water, and allow for air pockets which encourage root growth and microbial action.

One of the best ways to do that is to add compost. If you have soil that is as hard as the above sample, you can spread a 2 inch layer of compost and water it in and in a year--or less-- you won't recognize the ground under it. During that time the nitrogen leaches down and microbial action begins to break up the soil so that you can actually get a spading fork into it. He's all for making gardening easier!

Although you can buy organic compost at nursery centers, such as Plant Haus in Kerrville and Country Garden and Seed in Uvalde, it is easy to make at home. Jim makes his compost bins out of a circle of hog panel reinforced with chicken wire so that the contents stay inside. Rick A. uses pallets to make the sides of his.

To make compost you layer brown (wood shavings, dead leaves, twigs) with something "green" as in either green plant parts or manures that are fresh (grass clippings, green leaves, kitchen vegetable waste, manure, seed meal) with dirt, watering each layer as you go. Build many layers like this until it is about 3-4 feet high and turn it with a pitch fork every three days. This part is the not-so-easy part but he says it builds six-pack abs and keeps him out of pool halls!

He also recommends Medina Agricultural's all natural line of products for use on compost and garden soils. Medina is a local company, in Hondo, Texas (out Hwy. 90 west, the big blue buildings north of the highway), that specializes in products that increase microbial action. They have been around for decades, and actually make microbial solutions for things like the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Stuart and Elaine Franke are great folks, always helpful, encouraging, generous and with a serving, appreciative attitude. Please let them how much you like what they are doing when you go by there. You can find out more about them here.

They offer a Compost Starter, Compost Nutrients, Hasta Grow, Soil Activator, Medina Plus, and Biological Odor Control products. These products are available at most local nurseries. Sage A. uses their products in growing vegetable starts. They also have an online shop.

Next, the group moved outside and Rick A. demonstrated how he builds raised beds using old, damaged pallets. You can build them out of many different materials, but don't use rail road ties or treated lumber, as those chemicals will leach into the soil.

Many businesses such as feed stores, lumber yards, newspapers, hardware, and paint stores, etc. receive their products on wooden pallets. They reuse them until they begin to break down, and are usually willing to part with the damaged ones for little or nothing.

Rick shows a damaged pallet. He cuts these to the height, filling the gaps with boards removed from the side that will be inside the bed. Pallets come in many sizes, and he chooses two nice ones the same size to be the ends. He uses his favorite tool--a sharpshooter shovel--to dig a rectangular trench and buries the bottom 3 inches of the cut pallet for stability. Corner Simpson ties and strap ties and screws are used to hold the pallets together. He uses a 4 foot level to make sure they are level before attaching a pine board on top. This gives a nice place to sit while seeding and weeding, and gives the bed a finished look. You can see some of his raised beds under this post.

After the raised bed demonstration Joan R. drew numbers and attendees signed in on the roster under those numbers won a bottle of Medina's Hasta Grow. Many thanks to Mr. Franke and Jim for providing the product samples for today's seminar. There were many winners, and Jim said he will make sure the others get some samples soon. Here's just a few of the winners' pics.

Pat W.

Paula P.

Scott K.

MiMi H.

Oh my gosh--me!!

Trudy F.

Thanks to Jim, Rick, and all the participants for a really great seminar!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Study shows industrially grown produce in long-term nutritional decline

Not only are industrial-grown veggies less tasty, a recent study from the University of Texas has shown they are less nutritious. Some minerals, vitamins, and protein have had declines of 5% to 40% or more. You can read more about it, and download the study, in the article "Less Tasty--and Not as Good for You."

It's interesting to note that when plants are pressured, either through chemical fertilizers or selective breeding, to produce more food that there is a decline in nutrition, and more obviously, taste.

It kind of reminds me of the sign that hung in my mechanic's station--fast, good, cheap...pick two. Seems like horticulture is so bent on producing a lot of food fast and cheap that good just got left out. Yet another good reason we should be building our soil fertility over time through organic practices and growing our own delicious, healthful, local foods.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Calling All Growers!!

The local food movement in America is growing by leaps and bounds. More and more people are asking for fresh, locally grown, sustainably-produced food. Every salmonella outbreak in the industrial food system makes us even more aware that we need a new system.

This "locavore" feeding frenzy (a locavore is a person who eats locally) has caused a supply and demand problem. There is now much more demand for local organic food than there are people producing it! This is true nation wide, and here in the Frio Canyon. Almost everyone I talk to about a Leakey Farmers Market is very enthusiastic - we all want fresh, local food. However, so far we only have 4 people who have shown interest in selling at the Market (see survey results in right column). We'd like a few more sellers before we begin, in order to provide our customers with a true farmers market experience!

We are seeking people who can offer any of the following: fruits, vegetables, organic meats and poultry, honey, home baked bread, jellies, preserves, nuts, seeds, fresh milk (goat or cow), yard eggs, etc. We are compiling our list of folks willing to sell, so if you would like to be added to the list, or know anyone who might be interested, please click on "Healthy Harvesters Said" at the bottom of this post and leave us a message! And if you are one of the 4 who indicated an interest in selling, please let us know who you are.

Come one, come all! The "demand" is here in the Frio Canyon. Let's get the word out and provide the "supply" we need.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jim's New Helpers

We hope all of you are excited and planning to attend the free February 7 Gardening Seminar that Healthy Harvest will be giving on soil fertility, composting, and raised bed gardening!

When we told Master Gardener Jim R. that besides great tasting eggs the main reason we keep chickens is to make chicken manure compost, he sort of got a gleam in his eye. The next week he adopted six hens.

This week he reports he was able to teach the hens to turn compost for him in only one morning. Ha ha!

Way to go, Jim!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Healthy Harvest February Meeting

The February meeting of Healthy Harvest will be held on Saturday, February 14th at 10 am at the Bird House in Leakey.

Healthy Harvest To Present Gardening Seminar

Healthy Harvest will present an organic vegetable gardening seminar on Saturday, February 7th from 10am to noon at the Garden Club in Leakey. Topics will include preparing the soil, building raised beds, and making a garden plan. Master Gardener Jim R. will share his knowledge of soil fertility and composting. Rick A. will demonstrate raised bed construction using free and cheap materials. Now is the time to begin growing those Frio Canyon vegetables. Anyone with an interest in these topics is invited to attend!

Discovering Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is German for "cabbage turnip" and is thought to have been developed in the 16th century in Northern Europe. It can be planted in fall or early spring and is relatively easy to grow. Although the bulb looks like a root, it is actually an enlarged stem. Now is the time to start kohlrabi seeds indoors for spring planting.

At the January Healthy Harvest meeting, Paula P. said she was looking for plants to grow in a winter garden and discovered kohlrabi. She hadn't heard of it before, but wanted something besides cabbage and greens to eat. She reported she had just harvested her first ones and found them delicious using the following recipe:

Roasted Kohlrabi
1-1/2 pounds fresh kohlrabi, ends and skin trimmed off, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic
Good vinegar

Set oven to 450 degrees. Toss the diced kohlrabi with olive oil, garlic and salt in a bowl. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and put into oven (it doesn't need to be fully preheated) and roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring every five minutes after about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with a good vinegar and enjoy!

Eggciting News!

As free-ranging egg farmers, we are always interested in what studies reveal in egg studies. Results from Mother Earth News’ latest round of pastured egg nutrient tests show that compared to commercial eggs, free-ranging eggs provide:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
• 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D

You can find the article here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sign On to Support the Sustainable Dozen

There is a grassroots movement initiated by farmers, writers, chefs, eaters and policy advocates who want to stimulate local food systems, promote rural economic development, encourage a new generation of farmers and respond to the growing public demand for wholesome, fairly-produced food.

They've made a list of the "Sustainable Dozen" for the President to consider as USDA Under Secretaries. He has promised to implement USDA policies that promote local and regional food systems, including assisting states to develop programs aimed at community-supported farms.

You can express your voice for local food by signing on to support these candidates and those who have worked alongside the local food community for decades.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick A. speaks to Frio Canyon Chamber

I was invited by the Frio Canyon Chamber of Commerce to speak at their meeting this afternoon about Healthy Harvest. I would estimate that about 25 members were present. I described our group and the interests and goals that we have. Chamber members were very enthusiastic about the idea of a Leakey Farmers Market! I explained that we are looking for more local growers who are interested in selling produce. I also talked about our plans for a community garden, this blog, and our Saturday morning seminars. The Chamber generously offered to put a link from their website to our blog!

Everyone that I have spoken to about local produce has expressed a great deal of interest. The time is definitely right for our group to be active and promote local and organic food in the Frio Canyon!

Saturday, January 17, 2009 Results

None of the local foods issues made it into the top ten of this competition, but I'm happy to report the Victory Garden idea did move up in rank, and now it--along with Healthy School Lunches, Stop NAIS, and Raw Milk--is in the top 25, showing our government there is a real national concern among the American people about what they eat. Thanks to all of you who took time to vote.

Came across this organization that is doing something for the local and organic food movement in their area, and thought it might be of interest. is group of Midwestern family farmers with a mission "to expand the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food and goods, in order to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of [their] communities".

They have developed and launched their own label, which is quite attractive.

They have published Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Selling, Post Harvest Handling, and Packing Produce. The goal of the guide is to build the capacity of Midwest farmers to meet the burgeoning demand for local food. It includes comprehensive sections on issues such as Building Relationships with Buyers, Food Safety, and Calculating Return on Investment.

Although it is geared towards crops for their area, there may be some good general information for anyone thinking about growing for a farmers market. They are working with several local agencies to distribute the guide and to set up training sessions.

Obama to Support Local and Organic Food

Here's an article by Jim Slama, President of

Friday, January 16, 2009

How Many Onions?

To answer Paula's question from a previous post, we always order two bunches of 5 dozen onion set plants and usually harvest well over 100 onions each year. That works out to about two a week, or one onion per person per week. We tend to use onions (and garlic!) in almost everything we cook, so if you don't then you'll want to order fewer onions and remember not to accept dinner invitations from us.

All of them fit in the new bed in the photo. Although some of them get as big as the ones in the store, most of them are a little smaller--about the size of lemons--and some even smaller. Onions are heavy feeders and being organic we don't use commercial fertilizers, so this may account for their smaller size. As our beds get more enriched each passing year with our chicken manure compost I expect we will start seeing bigger onions.

Perhaps another Healthy Harvester would like to split a collection with you?

One of the advantages of buying three colors of onions--besides color and flavor--is how long they keep. Because of their sugar content sweet onions don't keep long before they start going mushy or sprouting. Most of the short day collections have a sweet yellow, so after harvest we try to use these up first. The reds tend to keep the longest.

You'll want to make sure your onion bed is well-drained because they don't like wet feet. We lost all our onion and garlic plants two summers ago when it never stopped raining and they were in raised beds.

Another thing to consider is you can always plant some closer together and use them sooner as "green onions". Generally, we plant them 4" apart and let them grow to the size they choose. You will know when it's time to harvest because the tops turn yellow and fall over.

Literature--obviously outdated-- once recommended you store them in pantyhose with knots tied between them, hung in a dark place. I don't know about you, but I don't have much opportunity to wear pantyhose these days. If I still have any they are probably tied in knots in the dark recesses of my closet, sans onions.

Last year we purchased tulle (bridal netting) for 35 cents a yard at a fabric store and wrapped them in their own little bridal gowns secured with tiny rubber bands from the little girls' hair section of the grocery store and stacked them in an old wire milk basket. This year we discovered Dixondale conveniently sells netting tubes at a reasonable price and opted for them instead. I'll report next year on how well they worked.
There are so many good reasons to eat local food. With food traveling an average of 1,500 miles before landing on our plates, I find it dismal that

A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Last Day to Vote at

It looks like and their Victory Gardens idea is 26th in this competition, so it's good to know it will at least be presented to the President by the folks at On Day One.

In the competition there are many worthy ideas and you get ten votes. The Victory Gardens idea is under the Environmental category. There are several other food related ideas under the Agricultural category worthy of our attention: Healthy School Lunches (14th), Stop NAIS (20th), and Raw Milk (21st).

Did you know a couple of years ago the Sabinal, Texas schools adopted a program to provide healthy snacks in the form of raw fruit and veggies? This effort, led by local organic Longhorn beef rancher Gerry Shudde of Shudde Ranch, provides nutritious food to all their students and helps cut down on their consumption of junk food. There are several programs like this across the country where the organic veggies for healthy school lunches are even grown by the students in their Ag programs. Wouldn't it be nice if every child in America could have access to a healthy lunch?

Many of you may not know about NAIS. This is the USDA’s proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) that was originally designed to give big factory "farms" help in export markets where disease controls are required. The USDA slipped this plan in the back door without any legislation. It's going to be very expensive, and we are going to be paying for it.

Just creating and maintaining the databases for these records will be a hugely absurd task, and it does nothing to prevent disease or make our food safe.

Under this legislation every single livestock animal in the United States will be identified and tagged. All livestock animal movements will be tracked, logged and reported to the government. Big factory farms get to do single ID’s for large groups of animals. But small farmers, pet owners and homesteaders like us will have to tag and track every single animal, without exception, even if the food we raise is for our own consumption. This is agribusiness trying to put small farms out of business! This is agribusiness trying to quash the local food movement and ensure you will buy from them!

Joel Salatin, in his book Everything I Want To Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front, tells about the time an inspector tried to shut him down supposedly for bacteria on chicken. He paid an independent lab to sample his chicken and one from the grocery store produced by a large factory farm. The bacteria count on the factory farm chicken was exponentially higher, so he won that case.

And finally the issue of Raw Milk should be on our minds. For the first time in my life I drank some raw milk a couple of years ago, and let me tell you, it is so wonderfully sweet and delicious compared to pasteurized, there's just no comparison.

Although agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say that pathogens from raw milk make it unsafe to consume, other organizations such as the Weston A. Price Foundation in its "Real Milk" campaign say that raw milk has health benefits that are destroyed in the pasteurization process, and that it can be produced hygienically. Our European counterparts have access to and drink raw milk daily.

Although many of you indicated in the Healthy Harvest survey you weren't as interested in the politics of food, the local food movement is deeply affected by legislation and government regulations. Let's vote with our fork!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And the Winner is...

The results from the On Day One competition are in, and after the final round of voting, it was decided that the number one item for President-elect Obama's day one agenda should be the substantive and symbolic gesture of planting an organic Victory Garden on the White House lawn. Roger Doiron, from, who submitted the idea, explains that:

"The White House is "America's House" and should serve as a model at a time of economic and environmental crisis. You would not be breaking with tradition, but returning to it (the White House has had food gardens before) leading by personal example on global challenges such as food security, climate change, and energy independence."

Thanks to all of you who voted! Of course, a Victory Garden is just one of nine important ideas chosen as the On Day One Agenda—the 9 for ’09. Adopting all of these ideas are critical to improving America. The next step is to tell President-elect Obama to adopt the On Day One 9 for '09 Agenda. As supporters of local food, let's act now!


January is a time when post office boxes are stuffed full of seed catalogs and those of us planning gardens can brush off winter with dreams of spring shoots and tasty vegetables by pouring through pages of prospective plants.

If you are new to growing your own food, choosing your seeds can be a daunting task. I'll try to shed some light on those choices.

Many of the larger seed companies get their seeds from the same source and offer seeds from plants that have been hybridized. What is a hybrid plant?

Some plant hybrids combine different species, such as the Loganberry which is a hybrid between a raspberry and a blackberry, a Limequat which is a hybrid between a lime and a kumquat, and Triticale which is a hybrid between wheat and rye. Although there do exist examples of natural hybridization, most hybrid plants are ones that would never have occurred in nature had a human not been involved. Why are plants hybridized?

Humans hybridize plants in order to produce what they consider are "improvements," such as seedless fruit, showy flowers, new flower colors, and disease resistance to name a few. Unfortunately since the dawn of giant agribusiness, plants have also been hybridized for productivity, their ability to withstand mechanical picking and cross-country shipping, and their tolerance to pesticides with little concern for flavor.

Some of them are entirely unable to reproduce on their own and all F1 hybrids are unable to reproduce the exact traits of the parent plant. This means growers are unable to save seed from year to year and are beholden to the seed companies for future purchases. Since most industrialized food comes from hybrids grown in huge mono-culture plots, is it any wonder why store bought vegetables taste like plastic compared to homegrown?

Many home gardeners and small market farmers have turned to growing heirloom vegetables. Heirloom growers may be motivated in preserving a plant's cultural history, increasing genetic diversity of the gene pool, saving seeds for the future, or just preserving real flavors. What is an heirloom?

When most of us talk about heirlooms we are speaking of important belongings that have been handed down for generations in our family. An heirloom plant is not genetically altered and must be able to grow "true to type" and produce plants like the parents from seed for generations. Just like family heirlooms, many of these seeds have been handed down by families over generations and come with interesting stories.

For instance, some southern beans have family histories in America since the founding of our country. Some melons can be traced back to the 1700's in Europe, and the 1400's in Asia. Some vegetables can even be traced back to prehistoric times. For a list of heirloom seed companies visit this link. You can also join seed saving organizations to swap or buy seeds not available elsewhere. For a list of these organizations, visit this link. For those of you with smaller gardens I will have some heirloom plants to sell or trade in the coming months.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Minutes from January 10th Meeting

The fifth meeting of Healthy Harvest was held on Saturday, January 10th at 10 AM at the Bird House in Leakey, Texas. Eleven people attended, including three newcomers.

The first item on the agenda was our decision-making process. It was agreed upon that decisions should be made by consensus, and that a vote will only be used in cases where a decision is needed and everyone cannot agree.

Next the farmers market was discussed. At the present time we do not have enough growers to establish a market. It was decided that we should survey members of the community to see how many growers are interested in selling produce and other items at the market. We will not begin the market until we have enough people ready to sell.

On the topic of the community garden we agreed that the garden should be publicized and then we can determine the level of interest in the community. Several possible locations are being considered.

We also decided that the Healthy Harvest library should housed at the Bird House for now. As the library grows we can look for another location.

Sage A. suggested that instead of a regular website we should establish a blog. All present agreed to try this approach to collecting and distributing information about Healthy Harvest. The blog will replace the monthly newsletter. For those community members without Internet we will still have information available at the library. A team of members will post items on the blog, and all members are encouraged to post comments and questions.

Rick A. proposed that the group sponsor a local food festival with seminars, guest speakers, and entertainment. It was decided to start small with Saturday morning seminars and work up to a full day or weekend festival. Jim R. agreed to look into a location for our first seminar, which will be on building raised beds and preparing soil for planting.

Rick agreed to submit an article to the Leakey Star about all of our plans and activities. "Stay tuned" to this blog for information about our February meeting.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Victory Gardens needs your vote today!

There's less than 15 hours left to vote on the Victory Gardens initiative and it currently needs about 2,000 more votes to be presented in Washington DC.

Thousands of Americans and people from the around the world are asking the Obamas to lead by example on climate change, health policy, economic self-reliance, food security, and energy independence by replanting an organic food garden at the White House with the produce going to the First Kitchen and to local food pantries.

The many successes of the first Victory Garden movement were the result of effective public policy, bold leadership at a time of national crisis, and the commitment of millions of citizens who were ready to roll up their sleeves for the greater good.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden on the White House lawn in 1943 over the objections of the USDA, inspiring millions by her example.

Victory Gardens (behind homes, schools, in vacant urban lots, etc.) produced 40% of the nation’s produce at their peak, helped conserve food and natural resources at a time of crisis, resulted in the highest consumption rates of fruits and vegetables our nation has seen, and helped keep millions of Americans physically fit and active.

There' s no better, more symbolic place for launching a new National Victory Garden Program than at the White House, "America’s House". There's no better, more urgent time than now. The UN estimates that 1 billion people will go hungry in 2009 while climate scientists predict this year will be one the five warmest years on record. And there's nothing that can beat the fresh taste of locally-grown, home-cooked foods.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Home Food Production

Here's an astounding chart on the statistics of home food production in the U.S. since 1870. Many people today have no recollection of getting food from any place other than the grocery store. A few of us remember roadside farm stands, and even fewer among us recall Victory Gardens, or how Grandpa was a farmer. The sad truth is most of us no longer know where our food comes from and we have absolutely no control over its quality. We are a people disconnected from what we eat.

With the decline of cheap oil and harder economic times to come, this is a good time to reverse this trend. As someone said in the recent Healthy Harvest meeting, the time has come to "Just Do It". The pioneers of the Frio Canyon did not have the luxury of a grocery store--they knew how to grow, raise, and store a goodly portion of their own food. We figure it can be done again, and are glad you are interested too!

Raised Beds and Onions

At our Saturday meeting (which Rick will soon be blogging about) the subject of raised beds came up. There are as many ways of raising vegetables as there are gardeners, all of them being a matter of choice.

One reason to choose raised beds is better drainage and less bending (which we appreciate the older we get!) Paula P. sent a photo of her raised bed, saying it's been a while since it looked this good and that she's interested in getting started with chickens (& their manure) and drip irrigation.

Looks like Paula used cedar to build her boxes. (Comment Paula?) Cedar is a good choice because it's fairly rot resistant. For those of you considering raised beds, you don't want to use any type of treated lumber because of the chemicals, or railroad ties because of the creosote. These substances leach out and would be harmful, and contrary to the idea of eating healthy!

Since our garden is pretty large we've opted for using scrap pine we get from damaged pallets and helping others tear down old stuff. It won't last as long as cedar, but we can't complain about the cost. We are the ultimate scavengers. At first, we feared our garden would look like a hobo encampment, but don't you think Rick has done a wonderful job putting it all together? Using free stuff takes longer than working with dimensional lumber, mostly because of the disassembling first required, but you are doing the Earth a big favor when you recycle materials otherwise destined for the landfill.

To neaten things up a bit, and to provide a nice sitting edge from which to do our seeding and weeding, we do add new pine boards on top. We will seal these with something like Thompson's water seal. You can see the strap ties holding some of the sections together. This is the onion bed Rick built the last two days and we planted this morning. You can see the drip irrigation spigot poking up in the right hand side of the bed. Drip irrigation soaker lines will be run off the multi-head spigot.

January is time to plant onion sets. Last year we bought our onions from Brown's Omaha Onions located in east Texas and had a very good crop. Although the adorable Brown daughters are so cute, this year we opted to purchase our onions closer to home, from Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs. They claim to be the oldest onion plant grower in the nation, starting their family business in 1913. We have been pleased with both of them.

If you are going to order onion sets, one thing you need to know is you will need to order "short day" plants. (It seems to me our days are very long, but apparently this is not so). This is fairly well explained on both their websites. We always order the short day mix of yellow-red-white because we like variety.

Do any of you have something to add about raised beds or onions? If so, please comment!

Blogs and How to Subscribe to the Blog

Many of you are new to blogs and blogging, so I thought I'd give you a little primer so you can see how easy it is.

A blog (a contraction of the term "Web log") is a website, usually maintained by an individual (sometimes a team) with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as photos, videos, lists, links, maps, and other interesting widgets (like the weather widget). Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blogging is the act of maintaining or adding content to a blog.

There are many ways to keep up with the Healthy Harvest blog. You can simply bookmark it in your browser (Internet Explorer, FireFox, etc.). You can also "Subscribe" to it by clicking on the link at the bottom that says Subscribe To: Posts (Atom), or the side bar Subscribe To: where you have a choice of Posts or All Comments. These should put a Healthy Harvest icon in your toolbar where you can see a drop down menu of the posts and also a link to open the entire website.

You can also sign up in the side bar as a Follower. The icons serve as links to the followers' blogs. This is particularly useful if you keep--or plan to start--your own blog, which I encourage you to do if you are interested. We have found it an excellent way of letting friends and families keep up with our homesteading adventures, and of making friends elsewhere with similar interests.

Google offers free blog space on its Blogger ( To get started on your own blog all you need to do is to register for a Google account (this is also free) and follow the instruction to set up your blog. Don't worry, there are templates so you don't have to be a graphic artist or a programmer! You can find the link in the blue Blogger bar at the very top of this website.

If you want to comment on a particular post, there's a link at the bottom of each post that says (So many) Healthy Harvesters said. The link opens a box where you can enter your public comment. For instance, if you have a question about subscribing after reading this post, using the comment link would be the appropriate place to start.

If you want to post something you think will be of interest to the group, or have a on online resource or book you'd like to add to the blog, just email us (the moderators, Sage & Rick). I believe you can do this by clicking on my profile link in the side bar and from there you will see a link that says email me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome to the Healthy Harvest Blog

We've decided to launch a blog to see if this might serve the needs of our group and community of sharing information about local organic food in the Frio Canyon.

This will allow us to publish important information and useful ideas, photos, and videos as they come along, rather than just once a month in a newsletter. You can bookmark this site and also subscribe to receive the posts. It's paperless, and interactive. If you'd like to leave a comment you can do so by using the link at the bottom of each post. You can also email new topics, questions, or suggestions to the moderators for inclusion.

For example, please take a moment to fill out the poll on your interests in Healthy Harvest located in the sidebar. For fun, watch the video below on The Garden of Eatin': A Short History of America's Garden. If you support this cause, you can vote for it by clicking on the link Ideas for Change in America in the sidebar. Visit the links under Online Resources to discover more about the local food movement and check out our recommended reading list.

We hope you'll enjoy this new site, and leave us some feedback, so we can see how well it meets our needs.

Sage & Rick