Monday, March 24, 2008

Locavores: Growing Our Own Food

A week or so ago, just after we had tilled the spot for the vegetable garden, I happened upon this word: locavore. My word processing or spell check program doesn't acknowledge it yet, but I was very amused and taken by it. It means, of course, eating locally. But it also means, going out to the backyard to see what's fresh and ripe for dinner, going to the farmer's market to select great tasting fruit and vegetables that weren't picked green a week or two ago and sprayed and fumigated to be shipped halfway across the planet to get to your table, chatting with the local growers there about what's good and the best way to eat it. To me it means going out my back door to snip the herbs I need to finish off my family's dinner; it means the garden patch at the end of the yard and the homegrown tomatoes and squash there that my grandma tended every summer until the end of her life last fall at almost 90. It means getting my hands in the dirt and enjoying the fruits of my labor.

I found the word locavore in an article (You Want Local? Try Your Back Yard)by Barbara Damrosch from the Washington Post. She says:

"You could say 2007 was the year of the "locavore," a word coined by California food activist Jessica Prentice to describe people who eat food that is locally grown. While the New Oxford American Dictionary was declaring "locavore" the Word of the Year, shoppers were scurrying about in search of onions grown in nearby fields, beef grazed on local pastures, chickens who had come home to roost."

The same day I found an article at Kitchen Gardeners International on reclaiming the water and fertilizer-guzzling, wasted space of front lawns and an interview with the author of the book, Edible Estates, who has gone to many neighborhoods, including one in Austin, Texas fairly recently, to do make-overs on lawns and wasted spaces, turning them into family or community food-producing gardens. I was delighted at this serendipitous discovery just after attacking part of my front yard to put in a garden. This Saturday we raked out the soil, weeded, placed stepping stones, and in the center of the plot set the birdbath from my grandmother's yard. Then, with our 10-year-old daughter, we planted cauliflower transplants and seeded spinach and mesclun salad mix. We're just waiting 'til April to put in those tomatoes and summer squash.

Also from KGI: As Emerson put it: "When I go into my garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Photographing mosaics

I have a lot of trouble photographing artwork, especially mosaics with their shiny and glossy tesserae. Right now Edward is trying to doctor the mirrored sections of a mosaic mirror I took a picture of last week.
Here it is with the mirror section blanked out and the mirrored (grid-like) section at the top color-corrected to stark white. It looks better, but you can't really tell that those are mirror pieces.

On the subject of photography, my friend Michelle, an excellent photographer, supplied the picture of me that I added to the blog this week. I just wanted to credit her for her photo. Her pbase site is:
Lots of lovely pictures there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

This is the first day Of spring break. You would think, since I am not teaching this year, that that wouldn't mean a lot to me. But that would be wrong! It still means freedom! It also occurs to me...well, just now, as I write this...that I have probably, during my life as a mom of small children, as a teacher and probably as a child myself, seen this week as a marker: the beginning of spring and the beginning of new growing things, and that this is part of the reason that the idea of Spring Break gives me joy. So, I started my morning with an inspection of all the tiny, and a few not so tiny (sunflowers and summer squash), green sprouts and seedlings in flats inside, turned on the sun and plugged in the warmth. The tomato seedlings look great so far, and I am as always hopeful. I am still waiting (patiently?) for the eggplant to appear. Yesterday I planted okra seeds.

The glass mosaic I am working on is very spring like, is full of leaves, so it fits right in.

I also spent an hour or so this morning browsing collage artist's blogs. I love seeing other artists' work and getting inspired by their ideas. Of course, the ones who share their techniques and work-in-progress pictures and thoughts are wonderful and deserve great thanks for taking the trouble and time from their own creating to do this.
Here is the collage that I have in the current show at the Fort Worth Community Art Center. It will be up for the Fort Worth Spring Gallery Night (March 29); I always like having stuff up for Gallery Night!

Here it is with another of mine, on the wall at the Percy Thompson Gallery in New Zealand in the Human Artefakts exhibition. These two collages also went several places around the US and to Bremen, Germany. They are much more well traveled than I am!

No outside gardening today, as we are supposed to get severe thunderstorms and hail! Now I'm off to make waffles with my daughter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Latest Mosaic, Bread blog, starting seeds

Here is the MOSAIC that I did last week.
The image is cropped a little on each side, but you can still get the idea.
Yesterday I started playing with design and gathering glass, and today I will start a new glass-on-glass mosaic. It has been a while since I have done a mosaic on a pane of glass. I am going to try the fairly new MAC glue, developed and marketed locally, which is supposed to be great for quick, crystal clear drying on clear glass. I am interested to see if it lives up to its reputation.

BREAD: When I was searching kitchen gardens this morning, I found a great bread blog, A Year in Bread. Three people in different states each do their own versions of a certain type of bread each week, then they post pictures and comments and discuss the results. They have been at it for 1 year now. This afternoon I plan to do the Parisian Daily Bread. It looks great.

Yesterday I started seeds for maybe 50 or 60 plants, including eggplant and lettuce leaf basil seeds I got at a little shop in Tuscany. I never have any luck with tomatoes from seed, but I have still planted a couple of heirloom types...again. The flats are now living on a warming pad under a plant light in my bathroom. Can't wait to see the little green sprouts come up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

First post, starting the potager

This is my first sentence as a blogger. I am a mosaic and collage artist, poet and gardener.

Following a week of both mid 70 degree weather and an inch of snow here in North Texas, E. and I started our long planned kitchen the front yard. The back yard is just too shady, and I can no longer grow anything back there but some herbs and lettuces in a couple of small places. We really like the idea of growing our own food, there's nothing like a homegrown tomato, and just running out the door when you need a few sprigs of herbs is a great luxury. Besides having really fresh, locally grown food we also know what chemicals have ...and haven't!...been been put on and in our produce.

So, we rented a tiller at Lowe's...(this is funny, because I have a small farm tractor with a big tiller attachment on my land, but that's 2 1/2 hours away)...and added about 1/2 a ton of organic amendments to our black clay soil. I can't wait to plant and bought both a 6 pack of cauliflower and an early girl tomato (that I'll have to keep protected for a while) and 2 packs of seeds, added to the collection I already have, when I went to return the tiller this morning.

Our front yard potager is 12x16 feet. We'll see how that works for us this season and add as needed. One thing that I am concerned about is having the garden be visually pleasing as well as productive. I want to be able to go out there and say, Ah, that's really pretty. And I'm sure my neighbors would like that too. We just have to put up the wooden borders now and some stepping stones, then we can start planting early spring seeds.

(Just to clarify, I say E and I started the garden...actually, he did all the hard work of dozens of passes with the tiller and lugging all the bags of compost, etc. Thanks!)