November 12, 2010


Now that things are all tucked away for winter, I have started reading more books. My most recent selection has been less garden specific and more about self-sustaining living. I thought I would share what I've discovered so far. All my links are to which is an awesome site for finding older (and new) used books from all over the world. I would challenge you to try and find a book that is not listed on that site (essentially a kijiji for used book stores).

Lets go in chronological order:

1) Ten Acres Enough - Edmund Morris (1864)

This was the first book I read. I love history and couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this one. It is essentially one of the first "back to the land" books. A reasonably successful business man in NYC decides that he will buy 10 acres of land in New Jersey and grow peaches, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries to the big markets in Phillie and NYC. He goes into great deal about his motivations, his wife's reluctance (friends, things to do in the city, kids schooling). He essentially has summarized my motivations for wanting to move to a less "urban" centre and grow my own food, except he lived 150 years ago. Amazing.

This book was initially published annonymously as he thought it might tarnish his reputation to write such a book, contrevening the going sentement of the day. He provides great detail about his life before the move, the move itself (all the $$ details), his neighbors and what happened over a period of about 5 years living on the land. His main message is that you don't need 100 acres to be sucessful, 10 acres is enough.

2) The "have more" plan: A little land, a lot of living. Ed and Carolyn Robinson(1972)

A step-by-step manual for the small scale homesteader. They argue that you can be self-sufficient on 4 acres of land, and make a small cash income. The book itself is a bit outdated, but it still holds relevant pieces. The Robinson family also left new york, but about 100 years after Edmund, in 1942. They said that new highways and affordable automobiles should allow everyone to own at least an acre outside the city and commute in to work in the city. Well, that was the beginning of suburbia and massive traffic.

Has a 2 page summary on just about everything a homesteader would need to know, even what tools you would need to build your own house!

Another great historical read. Although not something you would read cover to cover, its more of a reference book for the most part.

3) On Good Land - Michael Ableman (1998)

The first two pages of this book are aerial photographs of a small town in california. One taken in 1954 and the next in 1998. The first photo shows essentially a town based on agriculture, with farms and orchards from one corner of the photo to the other. The photograph from 1998 shows an area of land that has been absolutely taken over by subdivisions, with one small outlined area which is the lone remaining farm. Michael Ableman lived on this farm and ran its operations for quite a few years. He wrote a book about his experience there, and he also happens to have a keen eye for photography, so the book is full of wonderful pictures. He constantly points out the contradictions in our societies current way of thinking. He, of course, was constantly in court as the neighbors in the subdivisions were suiing him to get rid of his compost piles, chickens, tractors..etc. He always won, but he eventually decided to leave the farm and now lives on his own land in salt spring island, BC, canada. The farm was eventually bought by a community group, and had legal proceedings to protect it, so it will always remain a farm. People driving up in volvo's asking for tomatoes in february for a dinner party were only part of his troubles. A good easy read. I wish he went into more detail, he only seems to brush the surface of most of these issues.

4) Fields of Plenty - Michael Ableman (2005)

Another book by Michael Ableman. This is essentially a photo documentary of his 3 month tour of Canada and the USA (mainly), visting various farms. A great overview of different farming philosophies and motivations. My only beef with this book is that he only put in one or two pictures of each farm, I really would have liked to see more!

If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them!

September 15, 2010


We managed to grow one melon. The nights have been getting really cold, so I thought I would pick the melon. I read that I should wait until the nearest leaf turns yellow, and I think it almost was. The melon wasn't totally ripe, but it was tastey!

The garden is nearly done now. The lettuce I planted (as per a fellow NS gardener) haven't poked up yet, so Im not sure Ill get anything from those.

Our little one checking to see if she got dirt in the hose!

Our potatoes! The seaweed was a complete failure. Not one useable potato. Must have been too salty. The potted potatoes produced a bunch of small potatoes, but the ones I planted in the bed outside our front window produced 3 monstrous potatoes. I can hardly believe it! We cooked them right up and they tasted delicious. The mashed potatoes we made from them was much creamier than we have ever had before. Nothing like fresh produce. We have more tomatoes than we know what to do with.

Overall an awesome gardening year.

August 20, 2010


Beefsteak Toms!


Sunflower seeds!

More seeds to come!

WE GOT A MELON!! Its about twice as big now.

This is a daily haul now. Notice the black cherry toms, and the black krim. We also have been successful with the lemon cucumber seeds I started indoors. They taste just like regular cucumbers, but they certainly look like lemons!

The garden is starting to look a little sad now. The peas, radishes, lettuce, kale, beets and onions are all done now. Just the cuc's, peppers, toms and sunflowers that are producing. There are bare patches and since I haven't evolved into 'winter' gardening yet, it is going to stay that way. My plan is to take down the PVC frame and perhaps this fall I will plant some garlic and onions for the spring.

July 23, 2010

Very tall now!

The mainland jungle!

Potatoes planted in dirt are winning the race.

Not working out so well in seaweed.

Sunflowers are about 5ft tall. The aphids are almost gone.

The basil has plumped up nicely. We have had 2 pesto dinners so far. Many more to come.

Loads of green tomatoes. I can't wait to see the different colors!

The peas are prolific!

My tomatillos are growing!

July 6, 2010


I have aphids.

I think I have ALL the aphids.

I have red ones, black ones, green ones, little teeny white ones, and probably ones I haven't found yet.

I used my resources to try and find the best way to deal with the aphids.

Step 1: Spray them away with water - Works for green/white aphids. Black/Red just laugh

Step 2: Squish the little buggers - Works for all aphid types, but is time consuming. Are you really going to
turn over every leaf?

Step 3: Spray the leaves with Soapy water: Did not work for me, at all.

Step 4: Spray the leaves with a garlic/onion/water mixture: Worked at keeping the green/red aphids at an acceptable level, but did not phase the black aphids.

Step 5: Buy aphid lions. Yes, aphid lions. Those would be lady bug larvae. They eat between 600-1200 aphids and are a sure thing.

Step 6: Buy cloth netting to keep the robins and other birds from eating your lady bugs before they even have a chance to lay down some aphid lions. SERIOUSLY.

I made it all the way to step 6. I left loads of ladybugs out there under the cloth that covered the biggest infestation which was in the beets. I uncovered it today, expecting to see some beautiful aphid free beet greens. I instead found more aphids than ever. I did find 5 or 6 ladybugs, but they were just lounging around, having a good old time with their new friends, the aphids.

I was heartbroken. The beets were really starting to look terrible, a lot of withered leaves, all of the new growth was a black/grey color (completely covered in aphids). I was left with few options. I could try to fight these pesky bugs, and risk them spreading to the other plants or I could take up the small patch of beets that I had, and compost them. I chose the latter. We are not big on beets, and the sunflowers are already covered in those black aphids. I didn't want them to go further. The sunflowers have a good population of ladybugs on them, so Im sure they are laying eggs which should hatch soon.

Im happy we get our first CSA box tomorrow. At least someone knows how to grow food properly.

July 3, 2010

Still amazed by this tomato plant, its growing like mad every time I blink my eyes.

Ok, so I noted my beets weren't doing so well. They got to a certain point and then seem to have stalled. Not sure if this is regular 'beet-ness' but today I happened to pull back the tops and looked inside... What a heart wrenching site. Aphids. Not just one or two, but giant black clumps all down the stems. I have never seen so many black aphids before. I thought I had trouble on the sun flowers, the beets are 1000x worse. I actually thought about how much worse I would feel if this was my only source of food.

Here are those little monsters.

Ughh, I can't believe it!!! And this was the least populated leaf I found.

The first sunflower plant I planted has bloomed, but all those little back specs you see are aphids IN the flower. !!!

The tomato plants have the regular green aphids. But somehow they seem to be less annoying. they aren't on every leaf, only a few, and when I spray them away with water, or squish them, I don't find 10x as many the next day, unlike those pesky black aphids.

One of the solutions I'm hoping will work. I bought 1000 lady bugs from halifax seed. Says to release a few per night and keep the rest in the fridge. I put a few out tonight with a little helper and they seemed to start munching away right away. They lay larvae pretty quickly and those things eat between 600-1200 aphids over their larvae stage.

Wetting the plants down before releasing the ladybugs. (note the pyjamas)

Lady bug in action. Only one flew away.

So far the garden has been a bit discouraging. I know why people invented pesticides. Its a BIG problem if you put in all this work to feed yourself/ your family and you find its been eaten by some bug. The problem of course is that by using those pesticides you make your food potentially harmful to your family. What a vicious circle.

June 28, 2010


This tomato plant is growing like mad. I think It has nearly doubled in size since the last update.
The potatoes are growing well. As you can see below, the ones planted in dirt have grown larger and faster than the ones planted in the seaweed. Probably time to hill these potted ones.
Not sure how to "hill" these ones. I guess we'll see what happens. The main problem with the seaweed is keeping them hydrated. The seaweed dries very quickly.
The sunflowers are really growing big now. The only problem is they seem to have attracted a ton of black aphids. Ugh, they are easy to squash, but annoying anyway. The ants are going wild with the aphids, but I believe they are just "herding" them. The aphids secrete a sweet liquid that the ants love, so they hang around them. I need some lady bugs.
Caught in the act. I sprayed the whole garden the other day with a garlic water mix and that seems to have lessened the aphid population. They were going to town on the sweet little lettuce plants, and had made their way to the tomato plants too. I couldn't let that happen!
This batch of radishes grew quicker and fatter than the first ones. They still taste great though!
The beets are comming along.
Basil is getting very leafy. We ate some of the lime basil the other day, very nice.
The kale is very pretty, but Im not sure when to harvest it. Perhaps now?

An overview of how green the garden is comming along.

The pole beans are climbing! I wonder if they are too small for this time of the year. I read that they don't like the summer heat, so perhaps I planted them too late, or didn't have enough nitrogren fixing bacteria in the soil.

June 19, 2010

Garden Update

The potato's are growing! I thought all was lost. But since I took this photo they have really taken off. I think this seaweed lasagna might actually work. It seems like only the bottom row of potatos are growing, but I think we will learn lots from this attempt.

Mint! My favorite weed! It is getting a bit annoying, but it is seriously delicious to pick.

Blueberry plant is prolific this year.

Asparagus (bush?) is  growing nice and tall. I wonder if we'll get to eat any next year.
The potted potato's have grown much faster than the seaweed ones. I think dirt is the way to go, but I will reserve my final judgement for later in the season.

The lettuces have taken off. We are regularly eating from this area now. You can see the radishes are all gone, but there is a new crop growing!

Another seaweed lasagna producing.

The basil is in. I think I want more plants next year. We will see. I love the lime  and lemon basil, how crazy is that! The thai basil is great too!
Beets, Sunflowers, radishes and onions. All doing very very well. They are much bigger since I took this picture as we have had some really sunny warm days this week.

An overview of our little garden. Its getting very green. Lots of comments from the neighbours now!

This tomato plant has grown immensly in just a few weeks. Its a black cherry tomato I think. I posted a picture right after I planted it on here and its amazing how small it was then!  You hardly notice the changes when you look at them every day.