A Instagram page on food philosophy and affordable health through real food, developed into a series of zines by the same name.
Where Do Bananas Come From?
EAT SHIT & DIE
Chicken of Tomorrow
699. The war against stink bugs, continued (from post 696). These are the biological weapons we are using - the bioferments (post 683) developed mostly from rice and bean water (the water used to soak them), sugar, and then a bit of chicken manure (within the straw) added once it’s nearly full.
Manure, when added directly to Soil, takes time to be used by the Soil (a great plan for long term development), but when diluted with water, it becomes instantly accessible by the Soil and its plants. So this combination of fermented micro organisms, plus diluted chicken manure, makes a powerhouse of nutrition for our Soil. This will strengthen our plants so they can put up a proper fight.
I added composted cow manure to the surface of the Soil the other day, and watered it in. And it may be naive to say too soon, but it seems to have already made a difference in the infestation. (But not too naive, because it’s worked before, just never tried against an infestation this large.) So adding the bioferments should give us that extra kick to really protect ourselves.
To add these, I will fill the trenches with water (maybe the 8th time we’ve done so this year) and pour these straight into the trenches, at different spots. This will give a good easy distribution and will get straight to the plant roots that have crawled towards the trenches for water.
And then I guess I will make more rice and beans, so we can have more nutrition to hold us down. And spread more bird seed. Just saw the first few birds coming through this morning. We will hopefully be pest free by the start of next week.
698. Yesterday walking downtown I found this full, undamaged, organic #spaghettisquash in an alley. I took it home for the chickens and today, when I realized they couldn’t peck through the outside, I cut it in half to help them. Turns out the seeds inside sprouted into full ass baby plants.
As this squash would’ve continued to break down, the outside would’ve become soft enough for these sprouts to break out, and the fruit would become sugar that would nourish those new plants. So, rather than take those seeds out and plant them, I planted this whole half (still left half to the chickens). I chose a spot on a mound that seeds didn’t take fast enough on, and so it’s become pretty grassy. I trimmed the grass a little, put the chunk of melon on top of the grass, and poured a pile of compost/chicken manure on top. (Note: I let the chicken manure/compost “age” a little while first, as chicken manure is so potent with nitrogen it can burn plants when used fresh.) I then started soaking clover seeds to sow around the plant tomorrow.
This will produce anywhere from 2 to 8 plants from the same pile, which will vine out around the garden and make their own space. I put this on the edge of the mound so that we can, if necessary, guide the vines away from the limited mound space. And then we can shade out the encroaching grass with the densely leaved, long vines. And if these plants don’t happen to survive, the squash will turn to sugars that will nourish whatever other seeds we put in its place.
697. Chickens excited to do their job, eating up all the insects (see last post). Letting them out right before they go to sleep means that the stink bugs they are after have taken refugee on the ground, making for easy access. And it means that the chickens will put themselves to bed without any encouragement/energy from me. They head to the roost between 8:30 and 8:40 nowadays, so I can time their release with how long I think they should be out in the garden.
696. So, we got these little shits in the garden. These are stink bugs known as #harlequin bugs and similar to their cousins the squash bug, they feast on leaves and stems of plants, injecting poison into the plant and sucking the sap right out, leaving a completely destroyed garden behind them. These bugs love leafy greens and crucifers, and I've had them destroy an entire dense, beautiful arugula garden before. Problem is, once they take all your greens, they hop to something else. They've turned green patches into withered masses and took our 14 foot sunflowers and brought them to dried up, brittle sticks.
They could've come from anywhere, likely a neighbor, since this space wasn't growing anything before. But they also could've been around in the soil that we added or even in the bags of composted manure.
When most people see a pest, they search for how to combat the pest - Naturally or unNaturally, with labor and perseverance. I have done this in the past. Using neem oil, soapy water, and even in a moment of weakness, very very early on in my gardening life, I was so upset at these stink bugs I brought out a bottle of raid with an automatic nozzle. I do regret that.
Now, we are looking at pests from the other side. Instead of finding and concocting weapons to ward off invasions, how do we encourage Nature to do what Nature does? These bugs, of course have Natural predators, and these plants are stronger than we give them credit for. They just need a bit of help. The plan is to strengthen the plants and to call in backup. Through manure, bioferments, pruning, and a good watering, we hope to give the plants the tools they need to fight their own biological warfare. When a plant is being attacked, not only do they put out chemicals to repel the insect, but they can brilliantly put out chemicals to attract the insects' Natural predators. This is ultimately an issue of unhealthy soil, making weak plants that are struggling to defend themselves. So first we improve the soil.
Then we will call in back up. First line of defense: chickens. Continued below.
695. A gallon of #kimchi, made with a tiny amount of the 35 pounds of radishes and turnips we harvested this weekend (post 693). We separated roots from the greens and weighed about 10 pounds of greens alone. It is crucial that, when possible, we consume all parts of the plant, including the fruits, roots, leaves, sometimes seeds and bark. (Some parts of some plants are poisonous or just inedible, but there are countless foods that we have access to only part of the plant: raspberry leaves, cashew apple, cinnamon leaves, dandelion root, so many examples where there is more of the plant that is beneficial.) So we bagged up 5 one-gallon bags of the greens, gave away two full grocery bags, made a massive salad to share post-harvest, and still had so much left. So, taking note from the lessons of thousands of years of Korean brilliance, we salted and spiced the greens, with some of the roots as well, to preserve them through fermentation.
I was taught how to make kimchi by a friend of mine @dinnerondemand_bmore, who took me into their home and explained a few different methods of preparation. To be clear, there are thousands of varieties from all over Korea, and it’s used in countless different ways. So, while I haven’t seen a recipe for making kimchi in this way before, it makes sense to me likely the earliest methods of kimchi making might have used just the radish and the radish greens, instead of napa cabbage wildly used today.
To make: clean and dry the leaves, and put them, uncut, into a large bowl. Salt well between the leaves (I salt in the same heaviness as seasoning meat) and place a weighted pot on top. Leave for at least 2 hours to press out the water. Clean and thinly slice radishes, and press them in the same fashion, in a different bowl.
Dump that water and then, using korean fried chili powder (other chili powders work as well), mix them all together and spice to your taste. Add diced garlic, grated ginger, and chopped up green onions if you have it. A crucial element in many kimchis is fish, as small pieces or fish sauce. I instead use a whole grain soy sauce which had a pungent fishy/cheesy flavor. Continued below.
694. We’ve got two varieties of #sunflowers growing at the moment: Some black oil variety that was spread into the garden by neighborhood birds (we scatter seed occasionally around the yard to invite life to the space, and we also recognize the usefulness of insect control), and we have these mammoth varieties that, through colonization and early forms of global trade, were developed in Russia.
The original cultivated sunflower dates back thousands of years, likely before the cultivation of corn, kept by the brilliance of indigenous peoples of the present day Arizona region. From small, multi-headed wild sunflowers, ancestral farmers developed flowers that produced just one head that followed the sun and produced much bigger seeds. These were often planted similarly to corn, with beans climbing up them, providing the nitrogen that they feed heavily on, and squash surrounding them. Their wild, drought tolerant origins make them great to substitute for corn in drier situations and it makes these flowers so great for the do-nothing method of farming we got going on.
By the worldwide transferring of the seeds over the last few hundred years, the crop became huge in Russia and frost tolerant seeds were developed. So since they are frost tolerant and drought and heat tolerant, they are fool proof, amazing plants that will provide food and structure (both to the garden and as a building material). The volunteer varieties will be a great chicken snack and are just more beautiful flowers in the garden.
More recently, in the last century, sunflower varieties have been developed to have the seed head drop and face the ground when they’re ready, to hide the seeds from birds. I add this to say that we as humans have been developing plants, masterfully, across the whole planet, for millennia. We have been as developed by the plants as we’ve developed plants, and there needs to be a mountain of respect for that relationship. This is not to condone the reckless manipulation of Nature we see now, but to instead recognize the brilliance in engineering, design, and agriculture, especially from Native Americans, that has allowed us to reach this moment today we hail as unique.
693. Yesterday was really beautiful. We’ve been trying to make this space a communal one, a place people can come, feel safe, share, learn, teach, organize, play, and be. And to see how these beautiful young souls ran around the garden together harvesting, feeding the chickens, and planting our next crop - and in the process becoming best friends while barely being able to speak the same language - was the best reassurance that we are on the right path.
We asked these young ones to harvest the turnips/radishes, and though they started timidly, they eventually became two adventures exploring the bosque in search of the biggest and best to harvest. Some were so large that they literally grabbed the root together and used all four hands to pull it out. And they harvested 35 pounds of food from our little space!
And then spent the rest of the day running around playing, dancing, making music, and looking for more tasks on the mini farm ❤️. We sowed blue corn, red peanuts, pink beans, and sweet and hot peppers and more clover in our open spaces.
We separated the greens from the roots, and used a bunch to make a ton of kimchi, we made a massive salad to share post harvest, we chopped up 5 one-gallon zip lock bags worth and froze for later use, and we gave out two grocery bags full. Some of the roots will be used for the kimchi, some were given out to community members who mentioned they were excited to fry them, but I’m taking all suggestions of what to do with the next 20 pounds!
The farm is not about food. We sow seeds in order to harvest healthy community, food is just the amazing byproduct.
692. We grew #oats just to show that you can do it. To show that sustainability, growing real food we can actually live off of right in front of us, is very possible. And also to see how hard it might be. Turns out they were incredibly easy.
At no point in the last two months have we weeded, watered, or really maintained these oats in any way. Just created our mound/trench arrangement and scattered seed. These were fortunately planted at the perfect start of the cool rainy weather, which they apparently loved.
They started as little grasses, turned into 3 foot grasses shaped sorta like crab grass, and produced seeds. Almost in the background of the garden’s excitement and drama, these small, quiet grasses were producing foods that we could nearly live completely off of, if necessary.
Oats are accidental hybrids that were found in the fields of wheat and barley. These shorter grasses were first cultivated for the green tops (essentially their flower?) as medicine, and later appreciated for the powerhouse of nutrition that is an oat.
They are so low maintenance that we planted them in the harder to reach areas of the garden and let them do their thing. Going to let these dry out in the plant for optimal nutrition, which is perfectly timed with the upcoming heat. These are a hull-less heirloom variety, which I am so grateful for.
Will update on how much we yield, which may be a ton and may just be two bowls of oatmeal. We have atleast 45 square feet planted densely, and each plant gives 10-15 seeds, but I have no idea how that translated into milled product.
Regardless this is a huge success and step for us, and means that this winter we are covering the whole garden in wheat. In the meantime, we are making room for more corn.
691. Today has been full of conversations about community, survival, work, and how food is tied up in all of that. Within the countless foods that we can easily get - packaged up and ready to eat for a couple of bucks - so many have deep, complicated, emotional legacies and reasons for being.
My day started with talking about tamales that are sold every saturday at Big Apple in Southside that are so damn good, so damn fresh, and so damn cheap. (Go there, forreal.) The tamale, a dish with a history that spans continents, made of corn that is carefully processed and put together by a small group of (predominantly) womxn who could sling a thousand in a day.
I compared it to the pastel, a similar style of production to the tamale, but made of green bananas, or traditional Caribbean root veggies, wrapped in banana leaves. My family gets together every Christmas (the history of pasteles as a Christmas food is a mix between Indigenous Tainos harvesting the root veggies that survived hurricane season and preparing a feast in November/December, and making it fit Catholic traditions) and we make as many as we can stand: peeling, grating, mixing, seasoning, arguing, laughing, tasting, story telling, and then wrapping it all up in banana leaves. Crammed around the shrinking dinner table is where the untold stories and unasked questions come out, because you’re settled in for hours. Then we take a pile home to our respective freezers and save them for only the most special occasions.
Then later, I showed another friend these #radishes that will be ready to harvest from the garden soon (this one was pulled prematurely). It took us into an entire discussion of kimchi (fermented cabbage/radish) traditions, and telling me about annual gatherings where family members from all over Korea came together to make different kimchis. Comparing kimchis to cheeses, she spoke of the nuanced differences in the thousands of kimchi varieties, based on the availability of an ingredient or the time of the season. And she told me about the labor, love, and intention that goes into it. Continued below. [PS this was grown essentially without watering.]
690. Happy chickens are top priority, and the rest will come. We scoop discounted produce thats about to go, able to get 25 pounds of food for just $4. This is just to supplement their diet of daily restaurant food scraps and grass/bugs.
Juicy foods like this keep them very full/ satisfied little dinosaurs. We put the another melon into the maggot-making bin so they are getting extra bugs too, and so that $4 goes a long way for making happy chickens.