Archive for February, 2010

Haiti Relief

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Recently, CobraHead teamed up with Singing Rooster Coffee and Just Coffee to support rural development in Haiti. Singing Rooster has already been working with small farmers in rural Haiti. They bring Haitian grown coffee to the U.S. and work to get Haitian coffee (which is very good) established here. With the devastation in Port au Prince, many Haitians are returning to small towns and will likely be getting back to growing food. Through Singing Rooster, we are sending a lot of CobraHeads to Haiti to help with the gardening programs to be established there.

Of course, in the short term lots of emergency help is still needed. Partners in Health has a proven track record in this regard. Last week, we helped host a fundraiser in Austin for Better Future International-Haiti. DJ Chorizo Funk kept the spirits high.

CobraHead supports helping people grow their own food. It’s part of our mission, and we are pretty sure that small-scale growing is actually the future of agriculture. We are happy that we can help in Haiti, and we are always looking for venues where we can share our gardening tools and expertise with others.

Homemade Potting Mix

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Yesterday I decided that it was time to empty the bottom tray of my worm bin and mix up some potting soil.

When I managed the greenhouse at the Tsyuhehkwa Center on the Oneida reservation I would make a potting mix that consisted primarily of one part worm castings to two parts sphagnum moss. I am now trying to avoid sphagnum and use coconut coir in this mix.

Here is the recipe that I used for this batch:

1/3 five gallon pail worm castings
2/3 five gallon pail coconut coir
1 quart expanded shale
Handful Azomite (a “rock dust” mineral powder)
2 TBS micorrhizal inoculants

First, I removed the castings from the bottom tray of my “Worm Factory.” I only needed to fish out a couple of stray worms as most had already migrated upwards to the next bin. The castings were a little on the wet side. I should probably be adding more dry fibrous materials to the steady diet of coffee ground and tea leaves that I feed my worms.

Next, I broke off some of the coir from a large compressed block. The coir expands to about three times its volume when broken up and mixed with a little water. This particular coir had mostly long fibers. Coir that has been ground to a finer consistency is also available.


Coir Block


Moistened Coir

To this mix I added a quart of expanded shale. I used this because I happened to have it on hand. I could have also used coarse sand, bird’s eye gravel, or decomposed granite. I also added some rock dust for trace minerals.


Expanded Shale

After reading Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis I decided to experiment with a micorrhizal inoculant. Some of these organisms may have already been present in the worm castings, but the particular inoculants that I used claimed to have twenty-five distinct species.

After a thorough mixing, I felt that the batch had too much coir (I don’t think that it was done expanding when I added it). Luckily I had a small bag of purchased worm castings in the house that I added to fix the consistency.

I often add kelp meal to my potting soil as well as a small amount of granulated organic fertilizer. In my current system I water my vegetable transplants with liquid seaweed and occasionally fish emulsion, so I didn’t feel the need for the added fertility. I would have also added some composted rice hulls if they would have been available to me.

When I worked with Bruce Blevins at Nokomis gardens, we would make different kinds of compost piles for different soil mixes. I don’t have that luxury right now, but I have found the worm casting mix to give me good results.


Finished Mix

Souper Tortilla Soup

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Souper Sunday has passed but it’s still soup weather here. Actually soup weather lasts a long, long time in Wisconsin! Following is a recipe that I think came from ‘Sundays at Moosewood’ cookbook. I don’t have a copy of the book so I can’t be sure and as a well-worn family favorite the soup formula is mostly in my head.

Tomato, Lime, and Tortilla Soup (Sopa de Lima)

1-2 cups chopped onions 4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed 3 T. vegetable oil 1-2 minced chiles (1 inch long) (or to taste) 2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds ½ tsp. dried oregano 3 ½ cups chopped fresh tomatoes* 3 cups vegetable stock 1/3 cup fresh lime juice** or to taste Salt to taste

Grated Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese Tortilla chips, crumbled Chopped fresh cilantro Chopped avocados

In a medium soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chiles (I keep a bag of frozen Serrano peppers in the freezer), cumin, and oregano, and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle with a little salt. Cover the pot and cook gently until the tomatoes begin to release their juices. Stir occasionally. This will take longer with winter tomatoes than with summer ones. Add the stock and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve topped with grated cheese, avocados and crumbled tortilla chips. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro, if desired.

Notes: *Freezer tomatoes are fine. The only time I use fresh tomatoes is in the summer. I’ve even used leftover marinara sauce. **Go easy or by taste on the lime juice, depending upon the acidity of the tomatoes you may not need quite that much lime. You can also serve lime wedges and let everyone squeeze their own.

Garden Preserving Note: If I have time during the tomato harvest I will cook up the soup broth and freeze in one quart containers. Then it’s winter fast food time – just thaw, heat and decorate!

That looks and sounds wonderful!

# Posted By Garden Lily | 2/24/10 12:55 AM