Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Orchard progress - flowers!

I've had several people ask me about how the orchard is progressing since building it in late April. Since pictures tell a thousand words, here's the orchard as it is in late July.

We killed the grass on nearly two thirds of the terrace (that strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street). Instead of planting grass, I threw down several packets of wildflower seeds that are good for bees and hummingbirds. It's a riot of color today.

I planted dutch white clover which grows to 2-3 inches tall. I had a packet of zinnia seeds laying around, so I threw them out with the clover. They came in nicely too, and my neighbors have commented on how fun it is to see pops of color in the sea of green!

The orchard from a different angle.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Getting excited about garbage

I haven't been this excited about garbage in years. 

My neighborhood is participating in the East Madison organics collection pilot program, and this spring and summer I have noticed with envy my neighbors putting food scraps and yard waste into black bins that the roll out to the curb on trash day. Our house didn't come with a bin, and I wanted one. I learned that it's a pilot, and I requested a bin.

So you can't imagine my excitement when I got the following email from George Dreckmann, the recycling coordinator, "We will get you signed up. This brings our Eastside pilot up to 302 households which is over our limit so we cannot add any more right now."

In addition to the 35-gallon bin, we also got a 2-gallon kitchen collector with a close-fitting lid and a carry handle. We also got some compostable bags that allow kitchen scraps to ventilate and evaporate moisture while keeping smells and other nasty things in the bag. What I'm most excited about, to be perfectly honest, is the ability to include small amounts of yard waste. Seriously, that apple tree doesn't stop dropping fruit!

From left to right, green bin for recycling, brown for garbage, and the new little black bin for compostable materials.
Our bin arrived today, and I went  to the website to see what other materials are being collected. They also collect house plants, weeds, and other compostable material such as paper towels, napkins and plates, pizza boxes, and any paper products too contaminated to be recycled. They also take pet waste of any kind including cat litter! (Although that's not a problem, because we use flushable cat litter.)
A 2-gallon kitchen collector with a close-fitting lid and a carry handle, and compostable bag.

Many of these items cannot safely be composted in a backyard compost bin, but they will compost nicely in the large scale compost system where temperatures are high enough to kill harmful pathogens.

So while on the farm we fed food scraps to animals, and "composted" everything else, I'm pleased that we will be more deliberate in our urban setting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What I did with overripe snap peas

I was on vacation last week, and even though I picked every last sugar snap pea off of the vines, the vast majority of the crop matured and then over ripened while I was away. On Monday I spent 20 minutes stripping the vines and when I got home dumped a grocery bag full of snap peas on the counter to see the damage. Indeed, at least a third of them were overripe. The shells were far too mature to be pleasantly, so I split one open and tried a pea or two. They were a bit bitter.

This was my first ever successful crop of snap peas, so I just couldn't throw them away. Instead, we decided to make lemonade out of lemons, or in our case, pea purée with basil and Parmesan cheese. I added some olive oil in a bit of salt, and we tossed it with some asiago cheese.

As Mr. food was once want to say, "Oooo, it's so good."

There is no way we'll eat all these peas, so I'm going to try to blanch and freeze the rest. First time trying that too!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Little Free Library #2805

There are many reasons we built to our front-yard orchard. We wanted fruit trees, yes. But we planted them in the front to weave it into the fabric of our block, to create something for more than us to enjoy and learn from, and to share it. 

I feel the same way about the Little Free Library movement. Have you seen one of these pint-sized wonders in your neighborhood? They are small lending libraries in front lawns and other public places around the world. They reflect their owners or the neighborhoods where they stand. And I love spotting them around town.

 So you can't imagine how excited I was to learn that our neighbor, just across the street from us, was already putting one together for her front yard!

And this week the 1900 block of Mifflin Street became home to the newest Little Free Library, #2805. 

The sponsor, MariLou, decorated it with images of young people and pets from our block, including our cats! 
I love how MariLou painted the library to match her colorful house.

There are many ways to build community - I'm trying one with our front-yard orchard. MariLou is trying another. Together, they make a handsome pair on our block.