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It’s supposed to be springtime in Indiana, and it makes me want to read outside in the crisp spring breeze. I’m re-reading one of my favorites, Jayber Crow, and I love this (I won’t even apologize, even though I’m sure I’ve shared it here before):

“‘You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out – perhaps a little at a time.’
And how long is that going to take?’
I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
That could be a long time.’
I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.”

Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

From Jayber Crow, my favorite:

I remember too how spring came, just when I thought it might stay winter forever, at first in little ouches and strokes of green lighting up the bare mud like candle flames, and then it covered the whole place with a light pelt of shadowy glass blades and leaves. And I remember how as the days and the winds passed over, the foliage shifted and sang.

I began to feel at home.

nativesI’ve been reading more about native plants and the dangers of invasive species lately. I’m realizing how little I know about my home’s (central Indiana, where I’ve lived for all but three years of my entire life) biodiversity. I’m trying to do better, both just to know this place better and in hopes of teaching our children to value the uniqueness of our home. So I thought I would share a little bit of what I’m learning here. I’m hoping you’ll do the same, so we can learn together.

The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society is the BEST source for information on native plants in general, but it is an especially great resource for those of us who live in Indiana. Seriously, just go poke around that site for awhile, and you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of great information available to us gardeners. What I found particularly helpful was their list of what NOT to plant in your yard:

Forbs

crown vetch  Coronilla varia
dame’s rocket  Hesperis matronalis
Korean lespedeza  Kummerowia stipulacea
striate lespedeza  Kummerowia striata
white sweet clover  Melilotus alba
yellow sweet clover  Melilotus officinalis
Japanese knotweed  Polygonum cuspidatum

Grasses

miscanthus hybrid  Micscanthus x gigantea
Chinese maiden grass  Miscanthus sinensis
reed canarygrass, ribbon grass  Phalaris arundinacea
common reed  Phragmites australis
tall fescue  Schedonorus arundinaceus

Shrubs

Japanese barberry Berberis thunbergii
Russian olive  Elaeagnus angustifolia
autumn olive  Elaeagnus umbellata
burning bush  Euonymus alatus
glossy buckthorn  Frangula alnus
bicolor lespedeza  Lespedeza bicolor
sericea lespedeza  Lespedeza cuneata
Amur privet  Ligustrum amurense
blunt leaved privet  Ligustrum obtusifolium
California privet  Ligustrum ovalifolium
Chinese privet  Ligustrum sinense
common privet  Ligustrum vulgare
Amur honeysuckle  Lonicera maackii
Morrow’s honeysuckle  Lonicera morrowii
Tatarian honeysuckle  Lonicera tatarica
Bell’s honeysuckle  Lonicera x bella
common buckthorn  Rhamnus cathartica

Trees

Norway maple  Acer platanoides
sawtooth oak  Quercus acutissima
Siberian elm  Ulmus pumila

Vines

Asian bittersweet  Celastrus orbiculatus
wintercreeper  Euonymus fortunei
English ivy  Hedera helix
Japanese hops  Humulus japonicus
Japanese honeysuckle  Lonicera japonica
periwinkle  Vinca minor

I’m sure you, like me, recognize many of those varieties in your own yard. We’re working to replace those where they exist in our yard (when practical) with native species. The natives that we have used have thrived in our yard. It is especially noticeable after the past several growing seasons with very wet springs and dry summers because the natives are doing well, even thriving, while the non-native species have either died or require much more water and maintenance throughout the dry summers particularly.

Mark your calendars now for the INPAWS Native Plant Sale on Saturday, May 11 at Park Tudor School. The Hamilton County Master Gardener Association has a great sale with lots of natives (including trees) as well on Saturday, May 18 at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds.

bucketWe’ve grown potatoes accidentally a few times over the years – we aren’t totally sure how, but we think from inadvertently putting not completely composted potato eyes onto the garden in the spring. But last year was the first year we’ve grown them intentionally. It was so easy that I’m encouraging everyone to give it a try. We grew them in large buckets following these great and easy instructions. The secret, I’ve found, is to stay on top of adding additional layers of soil and compost as the leafy parts get about one-two inches above the level of the dirt.

I’m telling you about this now because we’re getting close to the time to be starting your potatoes – you want to start them around the time of the last frost (which is usually around April 17th around central Indiana. Find your last frost date here). And also because we found that those giant buckets that trees come in at the landscaping places make for great potato “barrels.” Your neighbors will likely be installing new trees once the weather turns, and you’ll want to keep you eyes out for those big buckets so you can ask your friends or neighbors to give them to you instead of sending them to the recycling bin. I, of course, can’t find any pictures of last year’s setup, and this was the best picture I could find to give you an idea of what to look for…but you get the idea.

I’ll try to remember to take step-by-step pics for this year, but I wanted you to be on the lookout now.

DSC_0102

I love cilantro, but I’m not sure cilantro loves me back. I try to grow it every year, and it always bolts at the first day over 85 degrees. I’ve tried all sorts of things…growing it in the shade, growing it in a pot, growing it in a pot in the shade, and nothing works. I still try every year, so I’ll keep you posted on Sara versus Cilantro Round 19 this year. So our organic co-op had lots of cilantro a few weeks ago, and I took home a ton of it. I used it in pico and tacos and guacamole and black bean hummus (recipe still to come), and I still had lots leftover. So I made some cilantro pesto, which was a really, really good decision.

I made the pesto and then froze it in ice cube trays, which is my go-to preservation method for most herbs and pesto. It works great for this especially because this pesto is really potent, so a little bit goes a long way.

Cilantro pesto
Loosely adapted from here

Ingredients

3 cups cilantro, large stems removed
1/2 cup blanched almonds (I used sliced almonds that I had on hand because they were already blanched)
1 small onion
1 jalapeno
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Throw all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly pureed. This recipe makes a very potent batch, so, if you plan to use it right away, thin it with some additional olive oil. Otherwise, I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays for future use.

We have used this as a dressing for cabbage slaw (a-mazing), thinned with some olive oil as the sauce for tacos, in place of the dressing on these veggie bowls, and thinned with some olive oil as a simple salad dressing. Try it and experiment on your own!

DSC_0101

I found this interview with Eugene Peterson (author of The Message translation of the Bible, among other great books) and Peter Harris, one of the founders of A Rocha, several months ago and meant to blog about it then, but it somehow got lost in the mess. Read the whole thing. Some of my favorite tid-bits:

If, on the other hand, you do what you do because you believe it pleases the living God, who is the Creator and whose handiwork this is, your perspective is very different. I don’t think there is any guarantee we will save the planet. I don’t think the Bible gives us much reassurance about that. But I do believe it gives God tremendous pleasure when his people do what they were created to do, which is care for what he made.

I think the Christian vision of conservation is exactly as Eugene framed it. It’s a wider one that has to do with human flourishing, that has to do with recognizing that a ravaged creation has wrecked not just species but God’s intention for time, for Sabbath, and that in turn wrecks families and whole societies.

Every Christian leader I’ve ever met in poor parts of the world understands that they live an unmediated relationship with the creation. That means that if there is damage done to the creation, there is damage done to the human community. I would argue that the economic possibilities lie now in the building of a sustainable economy; that’s where the smart money is today. In any case, an economy founded on degrading the creation is theologically incoherent. The old model that you can make your money any which way and then give some of it away when you’re rich enough is lacking biblical warrant. A much better way is to make money in a way that impacts the poor and the planet beneficially.

temps

Have you seen the newly released study on global temperatures? The previously available data only went back around 2000 years, but this goes back 11,000+ years. If we needed more incentive to begin acting dramatically right now, this is it. Andrew Sullivan calls it the “climate game-changer” and says:

To be perfectly frank, this graph shows our civilization to be unsustainable unless we dramatically alter its source of energy. Maybe we can adapt – in ways our ancestors did. But they were able to do so over much, much longer periods of time, and were not actually creating the situation.

Additional commentary here and here and here.

bwcFrom a 2007 commencement address at Bellarmine University:

In all the history of teaching and learning, our own time may be the oddest. We seem to be obsessed with education. Newspapers spend an enormous flow of ink on articles, editorials, and letters about education. Presidents of public universities appear on the op-ed pages, prophesying the death of American civilization as the inevitable result of fiscal caution. Our governmental hallways are hardly passable because of university lobbyists kneeling and pleading for public dollars. One might conclude that we are panic-stricken at the thought of any educational inadequacy measurable in unappropriated funds.

And yet by all this fuss we are promoting a debased commodity paid for by the people, sanctioned by the government, for the benefit of the corporations. For the most part, its purpose is now defined by the great and the would-be-great “research universities.” These gigantic institutions, increasingly formed upon the “industrial model,” no longer make even the pretense of preparing their students for responsible membership in a family, a community, or a polity. They have repudiated their old obligation to pass on to students at least something of their cultural inheritance. The ideal graduate no longer is to have a mind well-equipped to serve others, or to judge competently the purposes for which it may be used.

Wendell Berry

zestI hate reading a recipe in a magazine or blog in July or August that calls for orange or grapefruit juice. I cheat on our seasonal eating and get citrus from the citrus truck that comes up here once a month during the winter months, but I definitely don’t have access to citrus in the middle of the summer. I have discovered a little trick that works in many recipes that call for just a bit of  citrus. Right now, when we typically are still working through our stash from the citrus truck, I zest the oranges and grapefruits before eating them – and then I put the “zest” in the freezer for later use. I used to just compost the peels (and the worms don’t like citrus, so I had to take the peels out back to the regular compost bins where they don’t really break down until spring comes anyway), so I figured I might as well spend a few extra minutes to get another use out of them. Through trial-and-error, I’ve figured out that it is better to use a vegetable peeler than the microplane/zester that you would normally use to zest citrus because the pieces are so minuscule that they all clump together in the freezer. Instead, I use a vegetable peeler, which makes for bigger pieces and takes far less time.

I just keep the peels in the freezer until I need them. I have one for grapefruit, and one for oranges. My favorite use of the zest is for salad dressings. I love this dressing, but I just add extra zest and leave out the freshly squeezed orange juice once I don’t have oranges sitting around. When I’m ready to use them, I take a frozen peel or two out of the freezer, mince it, and dump it into whatever needs a little orange or grapefruit flavor.

our little tree huggerIf you haven’t already, “like” the Creation Care’s Facebook page for lots of Creation Care events, articles, and quotes.

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