Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Last day of April is not a holiday in Sweden, but here in Uppsala it's impossible to work due to the numerous student celebrations. The day starts with champagne breakfast to be followed up by a picniclunch on pickled herring. At one o'clock there's a donning of the student hat ceremoni outside Carolina Rediviva (the university library) and then the idea is that every student should gallop down Carolina hill and into the nations (fraternity houses) to drink champagne and then move on to look at the river rafting. Since Uppsala University is quite large the run is more like a multiperson glacial movement and the fraternities has invested in sturdy temporary fences to keep the queues in check. Since I'm not a party animal I used to go home after this, but the tough ones moves on to the Spring Ball in the evening. Oh, and some of us watch the bonfires too.
The last years I've spent Last Day of April outside Uppsala - to much people for my taste. But the day still has a special place in my heart. Happy Spring!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Gah! I swear it's just hours since I removed the dead leaves to see if there was any living greenery beneath. Now the first strawberry flower has opened. And my plan was to make major rearrangements in these containers!
When I started this experiment I thought indoor vegetable gardeners were free to ignore the seasons. This has proved to be wrong. Even if you can keep indoor temperature at an even level you have to take the sunlight into the account. During the darkest months of the year you need strong grow lights, and personally I loose interest in growing stuff (the biological clock is a strange thing indeed). In addition I start to realise that an indoor vegetable gardener endowed with a balcony should add that extra space to the 'garden' as soon as it's warm enough. My own extra produce won't be counted in the record, but for indoor vegetable gardening in general it's better to add those extra square foots - this is a compact hobby where every inch counts.
This means that with spring comes extra work for me as well as for 'normal' gardeners. The floor design of the balcony needs to be decided and new plants will be planted (think strawberries...). The terracotta pots needs some tlc, and the floor under the plastic tiles needs some vacuuming. The last part is something hubby came up with, and I won't stand in the way. Since I'm overly ambitious I'll grow plants for my allotment and drag home some pallets for my eeeevil plans. Strange as it may seem I look forward to brake the latter with a crowbar...
There are many hours of hard body work to come, but it's that and chocolate that keeps me alive.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Why I believe? Today an allotment was assigned to me that had been properly dug last autumn, and the soil had been handled with great love. The only things I need to do are raking and sowing...
Friday, April 25, 2008
This picture was taken two hours after I put up the net. Two hours was what it took for the indian spinach to find and twist a creeper into it. Later that evening I called the person administering allotments in the allotment compound close by. We are to meet this Sunday, and if I understood correctly I'm about to get one on the spot (normally you have to wait for a couple of months if the queue is short).
I'm both thrilled and terrified.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I was taught how to make nets by a blind fisherman* who had spent a life in the trade and with the craft. This would sound better if I didn't forget how it's done in between sessions and have to look it up in "Svenskt Husmoders Lexikon" (Swedish Houswife's Dictionary) from 1952. The basic operations are his though, and when the memory is refreshed I have to say his method is better.
Making fishing nets was a chore for the winter, when the kids, who had smaller and lither fingers, worked with baltic herring nets (baltic herring is quite small), and the grown ups worked with, well, pike nets. For my own part I make nets in the spring, since this is an easy way to make lightweight trellises from stuff I have at home. Sometimes they don't work as well as I want them too, but I hope this one will be the ultimate jungle gym for the indian spinach. The spinach has a terrifying way of suddenly sprout several long creepers ("They weren't there yesterday! I swear!") that twist themselves around the tomato support. Since stringclimbing seems to be its big pleasure in life, who am I to deny it?
I've got some wild plans for the balcony too. Every competitor in the climbing race is to be provided with a climbing net, and I hope to have time to make a net for the roof of the pergola to make it possible for the plants to form a shadowing roof in the end. They'll probably not make it as far, since the balcony is windy above the wind shields and the plants won't like it. I got a backup in the form of special made sun screens (and I'll piece them together any day soon...), but untill summer is here I'll dream about a green roof with been pods and watermelons.
*I hope my father in law forgives me for this description. He was kind enough to give me his tools - they weren't needed as much when nylon nets were introduced on the market, and ever since the family farm was sold trellises are the only things they are used for.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
This is what it looks like when you use Mini Happy Plant. The tomato still doesn't get enough water, so I'll add another cup soon.
I'm getting closer. Now it's possible for me to say that we'll have fresh herbs for cooking as well as one sallad a day from my four window garden. The question is if this is enough to be "an amount big enough to feed a family of three". For my own part I feel it's cheating, and I can do that since I see the possibility of growing more than that.
Root vegetables is hard to grow indoors, and so far we get them on subscription from a swedish company delivering ecological fruits and vegetables to the door once a week. We're saving a few pennies on that, partly because we know where we put our money and we're not running around in shops making impulse buys. The big reason I want ecological produce is that I don't want to throw leftover vegetables with pesticides in the vermicompost; when I start the planned soil circulation these poisons will soon amass in the plants, and later on in our bodies.
Something that worried me in the beginning was that it would look like a kitchen garden in our windows. Kitchengardens are not appreciated for their aesthetic values in the first place, and I do want a beautiful home. But the plants looks like any other window plants, and because I've taken great care in chosing different vegetables and nice pots (ie. terracotta pots and plastic boxes without scratches) the gardens are lovely.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Have you noticed how majestic religious ceremonies are in films? Perfectly coordinated rites, thundering music and high priests in elaborate hats. Anyone who regularly partakes in religious ceremonies knows that they are more like this interfaith blessing of a garden with native plants in Michigan.
For some months now I've read about "Earth Day" on various places on the net, and it's supposed to be today. I did a google search on the name and stumbled upon a 'whenfight' since some celebrate Earth Day in March. Moreover ED is celebrated in the last half of the year on the southern hemisphere - since that's when spring comes if you live there. In Sweden the day is almost unknown. I prefer fixed dates so I celebrate today. Perhaps the ideal would be two Earth day, one for the spring and one for the autumn, both on fixed dates. After all the autumn is an important period of preparation and contemplation before the winter. (Better still would be to make both days international holidays - who am I to turn down a day or two off :) )
There's a religious feel to Earth Day, and perhaps it's a sign of the protoreligion you can find in the environmental movement. But it's still possible for christians, muslims and members of other religious communities to celebrate in accordance to normal rites. To make Earth Day and allreligious commemoration takes concious effort from hosts, though. (I may be harsh, but since religion is my speciality I've seen too many good things lost on hosts assuming that the arrangements are ecumenical, while they're actually repulsing prospective sympathisers.) EarthDay.net are doing a good job, and setting a good exemple.
So, how am I celebrating? This year I'm opting for a quite alternative; prayer and contemplation. Out entire home is decorated for the Easterperiod, a forty day party-like-crazy (at least metaphorically speaking) period for christians. It's hard to top that up.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Water! Neither we nor our plants survives without it, and now my plantations starts to be demanding. The indian spinach needs a filled magasin every other day, which means two litres (0,53 US liquid gallons) in one go. My different alliums are heavy drinkers too, and the tomatoes are growing like triffids. You may remember I put a Mini Happy Plant on one of them almost a week ago. (Happy Plant is a watering system using a cellulose goo you're splatting against the soil. The batch is protected by the plastic cup it arrives in, and is supposed to last for about thirty days.) Today I added another cup since I've been forced to add water twice after I started the first one. Let's see if that's enough; despite the stress the plant has sprouted its first flowers, and setting fruit is hardly something less needy.
The balcony season is about to start, and I've decided to use regular tapwater for the plants outdoors. I'm already softening more than ten litres (2.64 US liquid gallon) of water thrice a week for my indoor gardens. Fortunately the balcony plants will enjoy the luxury of rain every now and then - I hope. Our balcony faces south and lacks a roof, so if the summer is sunny I'll be running in and out with the pitcher (and the magasines will overflow, but I'm lucky enough to live above hardy and greenfingered neighbours). This year the plants will need quite a lot of water: I decided to set up a competition between different climbers - first plant to conquer the roof of the pergola wins.
To sum it up: every day I pour at least two litres (0,53 US liquid gallons) over my plants, 'big' days I use more than ten litres (2.64 US liquid gallons). When my balcony garden wakes up I'll add a round of twenty litres (5.28 US liquid gallon) every other day. I'll get my excercise, that's for sure!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I've spent more than a year on my experiment, and I thought I would give you a (selective) tour of my home. The picture above portrays my seedling and first replant window. Since I have no seedlings now the last batch are thriving in their new pots. The window faces east, and eventhough nothing shadows on the outside it's too dark. I've planned a nursery with growlights - hopefully I'll be able to build it next week.
Here you can see the reason why my projects often are delayed - I'm always building something. This time it's shelving units, on other occasions it can be some other ikea furniture in need of modification, one of my own inventions being constructed with plywood - or I've got a tool I absolutely have to use. When I made my nurseries I'll deconstruct pallets into raised beds - by then I'll know if I've got hold on an allotment or not (the allotment association is pretty hard to get in touch with).
Sometimes my bad conscience hits me. I describe this experiment as taking place in a normal flat on various occasions. Thing is, our flat isn't normal, it's a two story flat with a two story window in the library (the room normal people would call a living room - but we are quite bohemian). To compensate for this handicap I try to limit the number of windows I use for gardening. This counts as two, which means I total at four by now. This one is facing south, and I'll soon be able to switch off the growlights for the summer.
The djungle at the bottom story consist of two nasturtiums 'alaska', two tomatoes - I collected the seeds from a cherry tomato bought at the mall, and two plants of indian spinach planted in a big plastic box. In the foreground you see another of the plastic boxes, filled with tiger nuts.
I've placed lighter plants in the top story; two carrots - I use the leaves for sallads, two amaranths 'calaloo red' (can't help being fond of that name) and a batch of chives that doesn't look happy (at least I think the leaves are supposed to stand up instead of hanging down). A small mizuna cabbage are feeling miserable and will probably be thrown out next time I'm relocating new plants.
Like many other gardens my plantations have their dead spots. This is another box with tiger nuts that have survived for months of mistreatment. Right now it's residing in a room that isn't used, which means I only occasionally take a look at it. The plants have survived since they stand in a plastic selfwatering container; the water stays in the soil untill they drink it. And also; this is tiger nuts - a weed you can't stomp out of your garden unless you have really cold winters. Don't plant them outdoors.
All my tigernuts will be given away in exchange for other plants - for example ground-elder, another plant only meant for containers.
If you think the tigernuts seems to be in a bad state you should take a look at their neighbour:
It's a spurge. It's not edible, which means I loose interest.
What's this? This is definately not edible! No, this is my plastic drawer where I store empty eggshells for my sowing sessions, cartons to tear up for bedding in my vermicompost, paperrolls and netbags (you know the kind some stores use for orange packaging). Contraptions of this kinds kind of shows up when you've been into indoor vegetable gardening for a while, because you need to store a lot of stuff somewhere. Under our stairs I keep two boxes of soil and a twentyfive litre carboy for demineralised water. The carboy is used as buffert since I use over ten litres of water those occasiones every plant is thirsty at the same time. My original five litre carboy won't last long then (but I still use it since it easy to pour from). Other indoor gardening stuff are kept in the bathroom.
Here's my new herbgarden. The basil and salvia thrives. The stevia is the current apple of my eye, eventhough it grows slowly. I'll throw out the garlic next time I add new plants to this window; it suddenly stopped growing and neither wither nor grows any taller.
Take a good look at the pots. Since I keep my 'gardens' in our home I want them to look nice and normally I only grow stuff in single coloured plastic containers or terracotta pots. The salvia grown in a plastic bucket with faded colours is a gift I keep forgetting to give away. I sometimes glare at it during breakfasts, but I also do think it proves the fact that you can grow stuff in almost anything.
This is another window facing east - I suspect I'll need to keep the growlight during most of the summer. It's fascinating how much difference the point of the compass does.
So, this is how my home looks at the moment. Perhaps it's not a big surprise that I plan some new projects. I'm adding another window to the gardens, and will make a second nursery out of wood left over from the first one. Soon I'll be able to say "It's a jungle in here!" again.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Photo taken at the boot of Swedish Allotment Association.
I spent last thursday and last sunday at Nordic Gardens Fair, and yesterday in a comfy coach trying to digest everything I've seen. Gracious goodness me - there are a lot to gardening, ain't it?
If you ask media reporting from the fair then geraniums are the big trend now. I didn't notice at all. Maybe because I'm not into trends, or perhaps because I spent the last years stumbling upon geranium enthusiasts whereever I went. What I did notice was a raise in the level of environmental friendlyness. Eventhough recycling was the theme of the fair I have a feeling this would have occured anyhow. Another trend is less garden and more furniture, for some reason.
I took particular interest in the balcony competition which is held anually at the fair. I'm looking for ideas for my own concrete shelf. This year the competition was called "balconies and terraces". My theory is they wanted an excuse for those competitors who had made boots too heavy to work on an ordinary balcony. A zengarden is nice, but if you have a limit of 100kg per square meter ( 220.5 pound per 10.8 square feet) you're not able to cover your balcony with a thick layer of gravel and add a waterfall over a slab.
Many of the "balconies" were bigger than ordinary ones. My own is 8 square meter (86 square feet), which is big, and my neighbour at ground level has a terrace that is slightly bigger. Many of the boots where twice this size or bigger. You can find balconies this big at some of the modern houses built, but they are a minority in their kind. I can't help wondering if there are any value to a competition where almost half of the entries don't follow the limitations of a real balcony.
Among the balconies I liked was a small herbgarden planted in ordinary balconyboxes, a shelf for replanting and a lounging chair with a footbath - the company competing is a swedish herb and feelgood retailer. Rosie, one of our gardening magazines had built a big one, but it was charmingly romantic and everything in it was lightweight and you could use parts of it for your own balcony without making it a lost solitaire. Then we have "OS 2008" which wasnt beautiful, but fun. The Swedish Flower Association had used old football shoes as well as old footballs as pots for tulips. Ten points for creativity - I wish people would use that more often.
The coolest instalation was the water fountain from Garden Aquaticas - I want one when I grow up.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I had a madelaine cookie moment at the fair - ie. by chance I ended up at a place where I was thrust into a memory from my earliest childhood, in a similar manner to what happens to the main character in "In Search of Lost Time" when he eats a madelaine cookie. Instead of telling you the memory (which mainly centered around a balloon) I post this clip with the Corries, since this is what it felt like.
Since the Corries are big favourites I post a bonus clip, plus the link to their website (www.corries.com) if you feel like buying some great music and dvds.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
There are houses built with the goal to have as small footprint as possible. The first ones I found were the swedish nature houses - perhaps it's no suprise that I fall for a solution which most visible feature is to build a giant greenhouse around the house. (The cleaning of the water is cool too, but not as easy to see.) Via YouTube I then found a mass of different sustainable houses - the creativity woken by our sick environment is fascinating. I've selected a few for you - there are a lot more.
The first vid is one where you can pick ideas if you, like me, live in a nonsustainable house. Since films like these have a tendency to step on your sore concience I'll add; you don't need to do everything she does. Using every idea takes up the time of a part time job (hanging laundry consumes a lot), and requires a big house. Use the ideas that fits into your life, especially those that makes it more comfortable.
There are a few prefab house makers selling "sustainable" or "ecological" houses (the definitions of these terms differs from maker to maker). Among others in the USA we have Deltec, building energy efficient round houses. (It's frustrating to write this post without being able to show what's happening in Sweden, but few swedish companies has put their vids on YouTube.)
There is a stroke of religiosity in the movement for sustainable living, something that's clearly visible to an old student of religions like me. By "stroke of religiosity" I don't mean that patterns of action are borrowed from earlier movement (which in many cases were religious) but that there is a spritiual side to it that separates it from other religions. Symbols and terms are often borrowed from buddhism, and mother Earth are in one way or another put in a sacred position, but there is also a high degree of heterogenity, which means you can't nail down 'compulsory' believes and be hundred percent sure. The backside of this is a tendency to crack down on other religions (mostly christianity since 'our' environmental movement is from western countries - and I have to admit being so soft I'm hurt every time*) but for the better part it's good - religion is mostly a positive force. In the the two following vids this religious stroke is visible, sometimes so much that I smile a bit.
Building houses with straw bales and cover the walls with clay is an old method which makes for energy efficient buildings with comfortable indoor climate. The method is used in Sweden as well as in the US. I'm partial to plastered houses, if I'm ever build a house of our own this method will be thoroughly researched.
When I studied sinology I was a tad jealous on bamboo, it's light, strong, grows fast and can be used for everything from knives to schoners. And houses, of course.
Lastly I can't resist posting a small film from the 1950s, called "House of the Future". The faces on the participants reveals that not only did they look at houses in a different way, but also on stuff like cocain.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
In most women's lives there are periods, about once in a month, when life is hard. No big drama, but things don't work out the way you want them to. Yesterday was the beginning of one of those for me. I couldn't remember a chore untill I was completely finished, and had to pick up 'leftovers' all day through. Blogger kept hanging up while I was answering comments on the last post, my head was heavy and my mind was low. When I went to the toilet (sorry for the indiscretion), I concluded, sitting on the throne, that the last scrap of toilet paper wasn't enough and that the box with extra rolls was empty.
That's when I ate all chocolate chip cookies left from the weekend, and spent the rest of the day watching major Uggla*.
On the plus side I managed to repot my seedlings, so the day wasn't completely lost.
*Major Uggla was the first one to lead morning exercises in swedish radio, and are (among those who remember him) famous for his breathing exercises. Swedish television have an open archive with a film clip where he doing his routine in silk pajama. If you take a look: don't try to use his methods! Knowledge about how human body reacts to movements have improved since the 1930s. No sixpack are shown (sorry girls), but he looks remarcably young.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Time to replant. I've lost the rythm. My goal is to replant and sow every other or third week, these seedlings are well into the third to fourth week period. The reason is that I don't have everything I need yet. The nurseries I've planned for giving the replantations light are not built yet. In addition to that I have a new company that nags for my attention by wanting contacts with the authorities, neat paperwork and things like that. Against common advice I do everything at once. Eventhough some of the things will be done a tad late, it also means everything'll be finished in an acceptable time. Time management is an art.
Meanwhile the indian spinach is growing. Yikes!
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
Am I a stacker wiz or not? Twentysix years worth of handdishing stands behind this, and I'm sure I can build a tower with the double amount of pots in the same dryer. I only had twenty pots at hand, so my creativeness was a bit hampered.
A few days ago I discovered another unexpected enjoyment. I was sterilising terracotta pots in the oven, which I do by putting them in 200¤C (392¤F) for twenty minutes. Now, what do one do in the meantime? I brought out "Den goda jorden" by Philippe Plönninge (~"The good soil" a book I recommend for everyone who knows swedish). It's a good one, packed with facts and separate explanations of central terms. In other words: a book with basic knowledge well worth memorizing.
Suddenly I realised that I wasn't on a university course. I wasn't expected to hork down everything in less than a week. If I wanted to memorize the book I could do so in my own pace. I immediately grabbed some paper to take down notes. Then I fetched some age old index cards (by their look I suspect they're around fourty years old), and made flashcards. Believe it or not, I intend to learn every definition and fact word for word.
I don't mind you calling me crazy for loving slow swotting, I'm just happy to know such intriguing terms as "aggregation" and "colloid" by heart.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
All my sources recommend garlic for indian spinach, but we didn't have any. In my hunt for other spices I came across two packets of "Green and Garlic" from Max (dip for french fries from a swedish hamburger chain). I grabbed them, plus some sambal oelek, soy sauce and salt. I fried everything together with five meatballs from the freezer. The indian spinach was reduced into green threadlike scraps. The dip fell apart into several decilitres (or cups) of fat and some milkpowder. I'm not sure if I want to know how they manage to cram that much of fat into a half decilitre (1/3 cup) of dip.
Unfortunately I've been craving for fat since yesterday, so I cut a thick piece of bread and poured everything over it.
The result? It was so salty and fatty that I didn't feel the taste of the spinach - I couldn't even feel the leaves in my mouth. I'm not able to review the taste, and I spare you the cooking pictures. Fortunately the indian spinach grows fast. In about a week I'll have enough to do some real cooking.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Jeez, I've grown tired just because I cleaned twelve terracotta pots, sterilised them in three rows, soaked them in water, emptied a ten litre cauldron of water, showered five plants, dug through the attic only to find out that the perfect rod in the innermost corner really was a molding, replanted twenty plants into fourteen containers, cleaned the worst in panic, run to the bus only to see it disappear in the far distance, pushed a stroller through the grocery store hunting milk, packed food in bags side by side with glaring, grumpy men, maneuvered the stroller through the pharmacy without pushing anything from the shelves, hopped off the bus to catch a parcel at the corner shop, almost tilted the line by entering (imagine a line of memory tiles if you like - it's a small place where even a foldable stroller is too big), and then returned home. I've probably caught a new cold.
Last post was an april fool's joke; there are no ISO, CEN or CT rules for gardens. I did, however, borrow some of the actual projects from SIS's homepage; "Portable machines and pedestrian controlled machines" and "Powered lawn and garden equipment", but I do suspect they are most working with machine standards. It's also true that SIS issued standards for Christmas some years in a row a long time ago. I do remember their standards for christmas gifts, plus the fact noone in Sweden cared a dime about them.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
This photo is called "Garden planning" and was taken by Daniel Morrison. You find his flickrprofile and more pictures here.
To follow up a thought after the last post I took a look at the homepage of Svenska Standardiseringsinstutet (Swedish Standards Institute). SIS is mostly dealing with industrial standards and coordination with ISO and european ones, but they are also diving into every subject that might need some 'common language'. Some years ago they did, for example, issue standards on swedish Christmas by, among other things, publish guidelines for paper, strings and meassurement of a christmas gift.
I did find a project for swedish gardens. It's a kind of top project with the goals to safeguard swedish interests in the european and international work for gardening standards as well as contribute to the process. The task is to be active in the following projects:
- Compost, composting and composting equipment
- Water pipes, drainage and sewers
- Water preservation
- Garden equipment
- Portable machines and pedestrian controlled machines
- Powered lawn and garden equipment
- National horticortural variation (There is a difference between a garden in Spain and one in northern Sweden. If I read the page correctly they are working for at least three national cultivated plants and three national decorative plants. The swedish plants should in this case be potatoes, carrots and redcurrants plus tulips, lilacs and rugosa rose.)
- Pest and disease control
- Garden design and decoration
When reading this I realise that swedes are more prone to anarchic behaviour than we think ourselves. Did we ever notice this in the constant flow of information? No. Will we care? No and yes; if we think the standards are wrong we will. Or perhaps even worse: if they are almost right ("Why rugosa rose? It shoulld be Rosa Majalis!"). Some will fight like the guidelines are compulsory laws (they are not) and others will blame everything on the EU.
Whatever happens you may be interested in checking out the international standards on our favourite way to spend time.