Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Projects Galore

Things have been a bit quieter around here over the last week or two as the excitement from our spring planting has simmered. A simpler summer routine of watering and weeding is upon us. In the meantime, my attention has shifted from the raised vegetable gardens at the Blue Bungalow to a few other projects, including the following:

  • I launched a tiny vermicomposting business called Gardens NOT Garbage. I'm interested in finding a few brave clients in the Milwaukee area who are willing to try out my products: two sizes of "simple vermicomposters," with or without red worms. If you are interested, e-mail me.

  • Speaking of vermicompost, as I've been developing GNG and as I read through the book Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, I've been experimenting with compost harvesting techniques. I mentioned in an earlier post how I had harvested some of the finished compost from my first bin using a homemade sifter and got about one five-gallon bucket of beautiful vermicompost (which I used to amend the soil at the new veggie patch at Lincoln School -- see below). Now I have begun an experiment that involves a different separation method: I took a smallish piece of galvanized hardware cloth with 1/4" mesh and used it to divide one of my bins in half by sliding it down the middle of the compost/bedding/worms. I am going to try putting fresh kitchen scraps in one side of the bin in the hopes that the worms will gradually migrate to the fresh waste. When they do, I hope that they will leave behind harvestable, worm-free compost. This is a slower harvest process but seems to be pretty easy if one is willing to wait for the compost. I'll let you know how it goes!

  • We planted a vegetable garden at Lincoln Elementary School! The whole project came about rather serendipitously and has turned out to be quite lovely. It all started when I volunteered to pull weeds and spread playground mulch at the school last Friday. As I was talking with the other parent volunteers, I proposed using some of my excess seedlings to plant a small veggie patch in the weedy raised bed by the school breezeway. After weighing the negatives (watering and weeding over the summer, preteen vandals), we figured it was still worth a shot. So this week, on Tuesday morning, the volunteer landscaping coordinator and I met on the playground and got to work weeding and then planting a veggie patch and an additional herb and pumpkin area.

    See photos and read the details at our blog: Lincoln Veggies.

  • I regret that I have yet to post pictures of my rapidly growing Luna moth caterpillars -- doing so would require macro lens skills that only my husband has at this point. So this verbal update will have to suffice. The other day the single plastic pretzel container I had them in was starting to look cramped, so I pulled them out and put them in a new pretzel container poked with holes, and as I did, I tallied them. After about 120 I lost count! I put about 125 in the new container and filled it with leaves, then dumped the remaining leaves, caterpillar poop and caterpillars at the base of the black walnut tree in my backyard, hoping that some of the caterpillars would climb the tree and find their way to the leaves at the top. The next day I noticed that there were no caterpillars out there, so either they did find their way to the food source or they were eaten by birds. We'll see if we have any adult lunas flying around later this summer!

    In the meantime, I ended up dividing my remaining caterpillars into three plastic containers filled with leaves. They are getting so big and eating so much at this point that it's getting a little overwhelming. I had to make a stop at a nearby golf course where there are about five mature white birch trees in a small grove so I could harvest a bucketful of leaves. I am thinking that I may try to give some away, or perhaps bring them to the white birch grove and put them on the trees now that the gypsy moth spraying is (I hope) over for the year. If you live in the area and would like a caterpillar or two, please let me know. I'm happy to give some of them away.

  • As you may know, I've been involved with planning a Wauwatosa farmers market. After deciding a 2009 market for Tosa wasn't feasible, we concluded that it would be best to have a one-day "Harvest Market" this fall as a prelude to the official launch of our market in 2010. The market will hopefully take place on Saturday, September 26 in The Village. See for news updates.

  • Finally, in addition to my gardening and composting pursuits, I am also a writer of middle grade fiction, and I've been working on a new book for, oh, three or four years now. I keep hoping I've written the final draft, only to end up returning to the manuscript every few months. If you don't see another post for a while, I'm probably off in a fictitious world that involves nerdy preteens, a hunt for Luna moths, two Evil Emmas, and a "holy fool." If I ever get this saga published, I'll be sure to post the news here first.

  • Am I overextending myself? Perhaps. But believe it or not, I'm actually starting to feel a bit more relaxed than I felt during the Earth Day-to-Memorial Day gardening push. Summer's on the horizon, school's almost out and I can't wait to have lazy summer mornings and daily hikes!


    1. Please, may I have some of your energy???

    2. Sure! It's called coffee. Very strong coffee.