Monday, April 27, 2009

A new break (unfortunaterly)

I'm ill again. Will be back in a week or so - this time I'll rest and haunt doctors untill I'm completely healthy. Keep on gardening untill we meet again!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A weekly report of sorts

Yet another of those days. I should have known not to set up four sprouting boxes on a weekday evening! But it didn't take many minutes to drill some ventilation holes, and craft some watering tubes, and mix the soil, and fill the boxes with clay pebbles, soil and seedling soil...

When all those tidbits of chores added up they craved the entire evening. So now I'm sitting here, feeling wrung out. What I really want to do is eating bananacake and chocolate, but I can't abandon Indoor Gardener - especially since I missed an update this Monday. Besides, the quinoa is already peeking some sprouts above the surface! It's part of an experiment; I put the seeds in water overnight in the same way you soak beans and peas before sowing them. I mean, you can see the sprout in the quinoa seed even when it's dry, and it's possible to to sprout it in the same way you sprout mung beans, so soaking should work. Now I keep my fingers crossed that the experiment will continue to be successfull.

The gardens still drink fifteen liters of water every time I water them. Today I topped over fifteen for the first time, but that was because I didn't water the oilseed pumpkin in the Big pot. It needs five liters of its own, so I manipulated the statistics in a way.

The thrips are on the rise again and they are attacking in great numbers. My support in life, the Indoor Hubby, has promised to spray all plants with bokashi fluid while I'm away this weekend (creative writing meeting). After that I'll be thoroughly spraying my crops with water at least once a day. Thrips don't like it wet.

This Monday I visited Plantagen (swedish plant mall) and spent most of my gift certificate. I spent the journey home slightly stooped forward since I carried eighteen liters of soil in my backpack. Soil is heavy! In the big paperbag with handles I only had a small pluggbox, a cultivation gadget I've wanted to have ever since I first heard about it. During the journey home I pondered the fact that I've won two gift certificates in a short period of time, one from a big jewelry chain and one from a big plant mall, and while the jewelry one is gathering dust in my book shelf the plant mall certificate barley arrived before I took a day off to use it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

It's Earth Day today, a celebration that's pretty new in Sweden. Since I still have Big and Important Business to do several days a week I'm a bit tired and have to celebrate on the small scale with a cup of tea and a cookie in a manual rocking chair. Unfortunately I happened to pick a maamoul, ie. a cookie from the Middle East individually wrapped in plastic coated with aluminium. I think my environmental points just turned negative. On the other hand I go by train as often as I can and refuse to go by plane - perhaps I was on the plus side to begin with?

Well, if it's Earth Day I feel it's apropriate to ponder the personal lifestile. Is it possible to green it enough? After a couple of years of luke warm work I've reached the point where I almost only use my share of our earth. So I dare say it's possible to live a green life without turning to such extreme meassures as move to the country and live in a yurt (which would be rather cosy, actually). My help is a simpel rule: green habits and devices are only incorporated in my life if they make my life easier and/or makes it possible to live on less money. I've supplemented a helprule; rather do it almost right than completely wrong. This helps me stay cool when I've happened to do something unvironmentally unfriendly - like eating an ridiculously doubble wrapped cookie.

Every now and then I check my lifestyle on to see if I'm making progress. Today my rating was 1.12 Earths, which means I'm going in the right direction (last time I checked I had 1.28 Earths). My goal is a rating of 0.8 Earths - to compensate for any wishfull thinking when I complete the form and any errors due to cultural differenses between Sweden and the USA (where I suspect this website is maintained). I hope to reach this within a year, and if not... well, there are more years to come, and I'm still way below the national average. I use 17.55 acres whereas swedes in general use 40.9.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Indoor Gardener the Next Generation

While I was away on Big And Important Business in Stockholm the entire day the son watered the plants with his bath water.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A look in the green book 090417

I haven't brought it out for a while now - at least not for the blog. The cold from Hell still lingers and my first enthusiasm have waned a bit so my writings tend to be short.


I now know better how much water I use every time I water the gardens. This is what I wrote the 14ht of April
"Water needed 12.3 liters [3.25 US gallons]
Bokashifluid 20 milliliters [0.7 US ounces]"
"Soften 15 liters of water" [4 US gallons]"

12.3 liters of water is the smallest amount of water I''ve used while watering. A sunny day the plants craves up to 20 liters (5.2 US gallons). I start to ponder if I really need to soften all that water, but at the same time I remember those thick, yellowish crusts that developed on top of the soil when I didn't do this, so I press on. Those crust can harbour fungus and I have enough work with fungus gnats and thrips as it is.

The big need for water have made me upgrade my tools. Now I'm not only use the ten liter jam cauldron, I've added the five liter everyday kettle.

6th of April
"Popcorn sprouts ready! Bitter and a surprisingly sweet aftertaste. The seed is still hard - better to be used cooked or as babyleaf."
My quest for sprouts I can eat continues. I liked these popcornsprouts, but the hard corn made them difficult to eat so the can remains in the fridge. I'm planning a larger babyleafgarden with popcorn, sallads and peas. Will be fun!

16th of April
"Had two sugarsnap pods 10g harvest."
Yupp, the modest start of my harvest my friends. 10g (0.35 ounces) sugarsnaps, I'm not exactly calling BBC or CNN, but it is still pretty cool.

Something I will write about this evening is the letter I got in the mail today. I have a habit of attending every contest I can find when I'm visiting a fair, and it turns out I won a gift certificate at Plantagen (swedish plant mall) on Nordica Gardens. Jaaaaaay, I can shooooooooop!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bubbelgum flowers

I like pansies (or Johny Jump-ups), they're perfect table decorations - and they're edible. They taste like (picks a pansy flower and puts in mouth) bubble gum. The first time I tried I was surprised, I thought that kind of taste was born in the labs of the candy industry. But it isn't a big surprise, violets was used as medicine for a long time and to make them easier to eat the apothecaries started to suger coat them. The sugar coated violets became so popular people started to eat them as candy (I wonder what the doctors and apthecaries said about that). Since pansies are a kind of violets they probably became a part in the process, and the taste lingers 'till today,

Did you know, by the way, that marshmallows started out as a medicine made from a special kind of mallow growing at marshes? Perhaps it's time to do a full study on easter candy to see how much of it that is old remedies. A plus for you who thought about liquorice while reading this (liquorice is a laxative).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Little things for Earth Month

I've been tagged in a meme by Green LA Girl. It's "FilterForGood Blog Meme Contest" started by Blake at FilterForGood. I don't join every meme I've invited to, but I'm doing this since it's a contest (can't resist those) and since I can put a spotlight to those small things you can do to live more sustainable.

So, the five "FilterForGood"things I'll do during Earth Month (and continue to do).

1. Close the water tap while I'm washing my hands.
In other words; I'll wet my hands, close the tap, lather and then open the tap to rinse off. This saves water and heat. I'll give you a gold star if you use luke warm water instead of warm.

2. Only light the lamps in the room I'm in at the moment.
I'm going to do some check ups every now and then - those little buttons by the doors are easy to forget.

3. Using communal transport to get to work.
I do this every day - perhaps some day I'll understand all those who goes to work alone in a car. Unfortunately I can't go by bike to work - this would have been my promise otherwise.

4. Meassure the exact amount of water needed when I'm boiling teawater.
We are using a electric kettle which demands a lot of electricity, and still is the most economical alternative compared to put an ordinary kettle on the stove. I used to fill water in it by looking at the grading from the outside while I was pouring. A while ago I decided to see how much extra water I got using this method. Turned out I boiled almost an extra cup - every time.

5. Compost all household waste possible to compost.
It's easy to do with a bokashi and a vermicompost. If you don't have any, check out if there is compost collecting available in you heighbourhood.

According to the rules I would list five things I'm planning to do for the environment during Earth Month (check!), tag five other blogs for the meme and tell them via their commentary section, and then hyperlink back to the starting blog using the hyperlinked text “FilterForGood Blog Meme Contest.” at the end of the list. Well, fair enough, here are my five tagged blogs:

A posse ad esse
Paul Gardener blogs about his urban farmsted where he and his wife grows most of what they need for themselves and their three children.

The Indoor Garden(er)
He grows vegetables indoors, just like me. Although he doesn't have a family - I think (?).

The Unusually Unusual Farmchic
Another urban farmsteder. Her latest post treats a variety of things, including harvesting chicory, upsidedown tomatoes and building a four poster bed.

Bad Human! Don't take chemicals
A pair documening their ride on the "green" teeter totter. Many good DIY ideas, including making home made shaving cream.

Encyclopedia Hydroponica
Blog about growing plants in hydrocultures.

"The rules are simple. If you’re tagged, post five things you plan to do for the environment this Earth Month on your blog. At the end of your list, tag five of your favorite blogs, and include a link back to this post using the hyperlinked text “FilterForGood Blog Meme Contest.” Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs, or on their Twitter accounts (using the hash tag #FFGBlogMeme). Also, be sure to include these rules at the bottom of your post."

“FilterForGood Blog Meme Contest.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ is risen...

...yes, he is indeed risen!

Unfortunately I didn't attend midnight mass this year. All in all Easter has been kind of bland on our part. But we've met friends and family, and I've been able to repot some plants, so I'm not complaining.

Spring has come to Uppsala, and the first wild plants are peeking up above soil. Tomorrow I'll take a walk to see if I can find any baby nettles. If so I'll make a nettle picking excursion as soon as I can. I could add to this a small essay about the rebirth of nature and the mirror in Jesus' death and revival, with some added treats of mythological parallells in the world religions, giving a phenomenological background as well as take a few peaks of the religio-psycological links to the rites aso. aso. aso. But I won't.

You don't have to complicate religion, just live true to your own beliefs.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

I rather work the cropland thinking about our Lord...

...than sit in church thinking about the cropland (old swedish saying). That's why I repotted one of my oilseed pumpkins today. Say hallo to Olga I, she has three sisters waiting for some more space around the roots.

But it's still Good Friday, a time for thoughts if you are a christian. And since I am christian I keep this blog post short. There will be resurection soon.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Pizza rolling thoughts...

It's easy being philosofical when sitting with a pizzaroll, some cookies and a cup of cooca. I'm pondering so many little things. Like, for example, if the members of the biodynamic movement in Sweden are called biodynamics, what are the members of the FOBO association called?


Well, the acronym stands for the association of organic biological cultivation (in swedish "Förbundet organisk-biologisk odling"), but organbiologics doesn't sound right either. Rather it sounds like the one course you hated but had to take to get your exam. I'm a new member of the association, and if I have to choose I'll take fobics - I'm not afraid of my own weaknesses.

Another thing I'm pondering is the Swedish Allotment Garden Association. This is the second year I've visit their booth on Nordic Gardens asking if they had some information about the allotment gardens of Uppsala (the kind with cottages), and gotten the answer "ask the local authorities". They had a big booth at the biggest garden fair in Scandinavia and hadn't even gotten around to get some information about allotment gardens in a city on an one hour drive distance. This year I was so stunned I asked
"Don't you have any information about anything outside Stockholm?"
The answer was
If I hadn't had a friend with me as a witness I'd thought I was dreaming. I mean, it says "National association of allotment gardens" on their homepage - shouldn't they keep some records on what's happening in the nation in that case? It looks rather lame to build a big booth at a national fair without being able to give relevant information to others than locals.

But things are progressing! I've had much more fun surfing allotment webpages this year than last. Swedish allotmenteers are showing a growing interest for the web, and the content on current events have improved. Since I'm following allotment Sweden via the web I can't say if the changes had started before they turned up on the webpages - but things seems to be moving in the right direction.

Will I ever get an allotment cottage for myself? Probably not. The indoor gardens takes all my free time and strength. But I'm following the allotment movement like you're following your favourite soccer team, and I'm a diehard fan of the thoughts that cottages and plots shall be available for people with a normal, or I should rather say 'small' budget. That's close to my own philosphy that everyone should have the possibility to garden/cultivate stuff - and I grew up in an allotment cottage.

Over to something distantly related; I got my first fanzine and seed catalogue from Föreningen Sesam (the Sesam Association). Wohooo! I'm sinking into the depths of geekyness pretty soon after I've taken up a new interest. (I started my carreer as an amateur illuminator by visiting Carolina Rediviva (the Uppsala University Library) and checking out some real medieval manuscripts hands-on - this is usually the endpoint for others.) If you've joined Sesam you've sunken deep into the cultivation swamp. The next step is to wander by foot through forgotten agrarian areas to rescue the last living seeds of LardLotty's moth nasturtium.

Hmmmm, I wonder if the rest of the family would agree to do this as an vacation? Or perhaps I could talk my jurist-economist friend who joined me to the garden fair into it. We joined different associations to get access to a maximum of seeds. She joined the Flowerfriend Association (sounds only slightly less funny in swedish) and I joined the Sesam Assosiation. You shouldn't be stupid. But preferably geeky...

Monday, April 06, 2009

They've started to drink

I went up at half past five this morning to water my plants. I used seven liters (two gallons) and emptied all my bufferts. Deary me, it's only April...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

the Garden Song

I searched YouTube for some Sunday fun for you - and then I fell for this clip from an old Muppet Show where John Denver sing "the Garden Song" (he's wearing socks with his sandals - I thought this was a typical swedish style). I can't remember when a song went straight to the heart like this one does. Don't ask me why. This gives you a few singing flowers too, and I swear I hear something like this from my container when I've watered with bokashi fluid - that stuff is powerful!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Fair advice for getting rid of fungus gnats

Most of you seem to have seen through my April Fools joke about gene manipulated killer slugs and extra tiny sheep (I've always thought someone should breed minisheep for minicollies). It wasn't a joke taken from nowhere though - there was a company at the Nordic Gardens fair that did bring live animals to their booths.

Biobasiq Sverige AB (link in swedish and danish...) is a swedish company selling biological control and beneficial insects to professional and hobby gardeners. We amateurs are not spoiled with these things, I can tell you, and I was even more charmed by the bumble bee nest they had brought to their booth. I didn't know you can hold bumble bees similar to the way you keep bees. You won't get honey but the bumble bees are sturdy pollinators that braves colder weather than bees and they are not as 'stinger happy' as them. But I have to admit I my prime interest was the fungus gnat killer nematodes they sell in small units (previously I've only found them in megapacks for proffessional food growers). Fungus gnats are the most common pest indoors, and almost impossible to get rid of.

In short the nematodes are parasites infecting the fungus gnat worms in the soil, which means they die before they can evolve into a gnat (or eat more tender roots). They are delivered in a plastic box with a granulate and are meant to be mixed into water and watered out into the soil. What you need to know is that this is something to be used fresh, so you can't stock up on them. The best thing is to use the stuff as soon as it arrives to your home.

A more traditional way to fight fungus gnats is to use fly paper. I bought ten pieces at the Willab Garden booth (link in swedish only). Willab Garden sells greenhouses and had brought a shop with bits and bobs for keeping the content of them fresh to the fair. It's worth noting that green house gardening is what comes closest to indoor vegetable gardening, which makes it worth checking out green house tips and -shops for advice and useful tools - in many cases this is more rewarding than checking out traditional indoor gardening resources.

As you can see on the picture I've cut the fly papers into smaller pieces. After surveying my plants I realised it would be more effective letting every container have a paper on its own to catch an optimal amount of gnats. (They've eaten my lovely scallions - it's WAR! Again.) It has worked out well, and I get a hint about where the problem is most serious. But the glue was STICKY! The scissors clogged up, and with my fingers sticking to everything I felt like Peter Parker when he discovers he have spider forces. Fortunately I could remove it with vegetable oil (a household trick I learned from my grandfather who used to work in a sawmill; resin is best removed with butter, so whenever I fail to clean off glue with soap I try some kind of common household fat).

[Fridays is usually the day I let you peek into my green book - but it's disappeared. I'm panicking a bit, but I hope I'll find it again.]

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A new way to handle killer slugs

Often you find the most interesting things in the small booths of a fair. Last year I found a hand lotion made of slug slime that was extremely effective. I do regret that I didn't buy a tin or two since the seller didn't attend Nordic Gardens this year. However she did have some similarities with the find of this year - they are both into slugs. This year I found a company called MicroLivestock Inc.

Since I'm planning an aquapnic system I've already been into micro livestock. It's pretty simple; it's a term for animals like rabbits, guinea pigs and slugs etc. that are small enough to be bread in small spaces and have edible (ie. tasty) flesh. Sometimes pigs are added to this category, but I think this is to stretch things a bit too far.

MicroLivestock Inc. are taking small cattle to a new level though - they are using genetic modification. Their big 'star product' is a variety of the spanish slug - their first successful designer animal - they've designed to A. relieve the nature of the pest and B. give us protein that is easy to catch and tastes well. The manipulated gene is dominant which means that if you release a batch of designer slugs into your garden they'll pass on their traits to comming killer slug generations.

And what are the traits? Well, they don't have the tough slime ordinary spanish slugs have - the designer slugs have normal slug slime, which make it easier for predators to eat them. The slug is easy to spot, is active in daytime and tastes good. No, it doesn't taste like chicken, the company has bet their hats on beef. I was treated to a few pieces of "snail jerky" they sold in their boot. I'm not fond of beef jerky (beef jerky is not a part of swedish food culture, and hasn't immigrated like chips and hamburgers), so I can't tell if the taste was good or not, but the idea was good. The slugs are easy to bread indoors, easy to slaughter and "self destruct" if they happen to run away into the wild. (You should have seen the faces of the boot demonstrators when I hinted that the last trait may not work to a hundred percent when tested in real life.)

But MicroLivestock wasn't all about slugs, they are working on micro cattle of different kinds. You should have seen the vid they were showing in the boot! A mini collie of the smallest kind were running around chasing something that on first sight looked like giant guinea pigs and then revealed to be sheep in the same scale as the collie. They weren't gene manipulated though, the company had tracked down some smallbuilt heirloom races and breaded them down in scale untill they reached the right size. The advantage of this method was that they could reach a stable variety relatively fast. (When you use gene manipulation you have to add some check up generations to see if it has some side effects - in many cases the manipulation weakens the general constitution of the animals.)

If the mini cows wouldn't work out the company is working with milk giving english lops (a giant rabbit breed). The plan is to not only make the milk taste like cow milk, but also to hamper the mechanism that makes the milk dry up when the rabbit's offspring have grown up. This way you don't have to stress the female with repeated births. (I still think this chimerism will be too tough to swallow for animal lovers.)

Gene manipulated food isn't popular right now, so I have to say it's brave to set up a booth at the biggest garden fair in Scandinavia. If you want to know more about the company you can take a look at their home page.

MicroLivesock Inc.

[Ed. April 2nd; as you may have realised this post was the Indoor Gardener April Fool's joke of the year. There is no MicroLivestock Inc. However, the hand lotion made from slug slime do exist...]