Archive for May, 2012

We are the 1 percenters, my wife and I.

I take the bus to work each morning and ride my  bike home at night. Roxie hangs our clothes out on the line to dry.

I make  beer and wine. She makes jelly, pickles and  laundry detergent from scratch.

We compost, do our own home repairs and recycle plastic newspaper bags — what, you think we cart our groceries home in plastic or even paper bags? No, we’ve been doing the cloth bag thing for years.

And long before that, when the kids were babies in he ’80s and ’90s, we went the cloth diaper route, as well.

We’re oddballs. The three Rs — reuse, reduce, recycle has always been our mantra.  Not just because we wanted to save money, but somewhere along the way it seemed like the smart approach.

You become less of a burden on society and environment, and you’re more self reliant. Which is another way of saying, less dependent on The Man, to use hippie speak, and one should whenever possible. (Far out.)

This is not to brag so much (kinda) but it’s something of a realization — the 1 percent thing —   that hit me today as I read some of the responses to Michelle Obama’s new book:  “American Grown, The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.”

You know the story behind the tome.  Our First Lady was concerned about her kids’ health, then  turned that into a much-needed  campaign against childhood obesity through the vehicle of a White House vegetable garden. Now, she’s written a book.

Long before the publishing deal, knuckleheads on the right attacked mobama  for tearing up the White House lawn and planting vegetables the way Eleanor Roosevelt did during WWII. They’ve accused her of both fakery and extravagance in terms of having White House staff tend to a modern-day victory garden.

More pointedly, she’s been accused of f using the White House garden as a club to bully kids and families into eating healthier. (“Don’t take away our Skittles!) And also that the release of the book in a presidential election year is meant more to help her husband win in November than it is to husband improvements in the diets of Americans.

Frankly, I don’t see the political motivation when a large percentage of Americans are overweight or obese and would sooner not have to hear, once again, that they ought to eat less and eat healthier.

To my mind, Barack’s better half is, instead, using what could be the last year of her husband’s presidency to put out an important message. That to plant a garden is not only the smart thing to do, but a healthy and patriotic pursuit, as well.

Deep down, many Americans on the left and the right agree with her, especially the more that 1 percent (but still a minority) who have home vegetable gardens, or raise food in a community garden plot.

And so to Michelle’s many  critic, I offer this: Llet them eat cake —  as so many of them do to excess as evidenced by their waistlines.

Ain’t that right, Rush?

Posted by: Mike


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There’s nothing like looking at other gardens for inspiration. This weekend we got fired up by visiting six gardens at the K-State Johnson County Extension Master Garden tour. Our hats are off to each one of these gardeners, and their volunteers, who put in an unimaginable amount of work into getting everything just so. 

Rather than blather this week, we’re just going to let the pictures tell a thousand words. Head on over to the Mike & Roxie’s Vegetable Paradise page on Facebook to see our photo album.

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I won’t lie. I’m always jealous when I see display gardens. The picture perfect plots on garden tours always make me feel bumbling and inadequate by comparison.

So when I went out this week to write a preview on the upcoming Johnson County Extension Master Gardeners Tour, I was prepared to be green in more ways than one.

The tour, if you don’t know about it, is an exhibition of landscaping at the homes of six people in the extension’s Master Gardener program. It happens every other year, and the $12 ticket price goes to support the program. This year’s tour is May 18 and 19. (Be sure and read my advance story in the 913 section of the Kansas City Star.)

Of course, the yards I saw were spectacular. There were waterfalls, lush shade gardens, English-style herb gardens, you name it. And the vegetable gardens, instead of looking raggedy and homespun like ours, were all tricked out with gravel walkways and boxwood hedges.

When I called or visited, the gardeners were scurrying to get everything ready. And this is where I stopped feeling so jealous. It’s a huge undertaking to get your yard whipped up into such perfection that you don’t mind having strangers march through and judge it freely.

I went through something similar a couple of years ago, frantically pulling weeds to get ready for a photographer to come at morning’s first light to take pictures for our book. (Lucky Mike was out of town that weekend.) Oh, the trouble we had later, when the photo we liked contained one ugly but unnoticed brown broccoli leaf.

Tour gardeners have a little more backup.Since Master Gardeners is a volunteer program, the extension service recruits teams of master gardeners to come out and toil like ants at the tour gardens to get them whipped into shape.

But there’s nothing a cadre of master gardeners can do if weather and pests won’t cooperate. One of the gardeners I talked to pointed out with dismay the tiny carrot tops flattened by about an hour’s worth of pea-sized hail a week ago. Another said she has continual problems with raccoons, who jump into her pond in search of goldfish and flail about enough to knock over and shred the lilies and water plants. At yet another garden, spinach had been replanted twice and still has failed to come up much more than an inch.

But despite a little panic here and there, they were all taking it pretty well. Those carrots have another week to bounce back, but if they don’t–oh well. That’s gardening for you.

Good to know I’m not alone.

Posted by: Roxie


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It’s been quite a roller coaster ride, this spring. Freaky-warm temperatures in March and April, interspersed with a couple of late frost scares where we got down to the high 30s for overnight lows. And the it didn’t rain for weeks and weeks. And then it did.

As  a result of all this craziness, I’ve been putting off the last of the planting. The cucumbers, melons, squash and anything else that really hates the cold. All these things have stayed in their my box of seeds, waiting patiently.

But now that we’ve had a nice rain–over and inch last weekend–and it really looks like temperatures aren’t going to drop again, I’m feeling safer about getting these things in the ground. It is May, after all. Now I only need just enough dry weather so I don’t pack the soil into asphalt hardness by walking all over it. (But I will, if necessary. There have been years that we took off our shoes and just planted things in the mud, as if this was China and we were rice farmers.)

The good weather news comes from people who study the ocean. Scientists at the prediction center for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) say the oceans are transitioning from the La Nina pattern of cold water to a neutral pattern for the period from now through July. As a result, the seasonal outlook for the Kansas City area looks to be normal as well, in both temperature and precipitation. (Here’s the link. Just keep scrolling down through all the charts and graphs until you come to seasonal outlooks and summary.)

I don’t know about you, but I’d welcome a little normal right now, after the weird warm dry weather this past winter and spring. Plants and gardens like normal. We have a fighting chance with normal.

So it’s on out to get the hoe. As soon as the lightning stops.

While we delight in “normal” there are a couple of good things going on in the area.

*Food Not Lawns, Kansas City has started the fifth year of its Sweet Potato Project. The idea is to grow 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes in public places and private gardens. Half of that would go to Harvesters, which provides food to the needy.

*Some of the gardens in this year’s K State master gardener tour will feather food crops interspersed with their beautiful landscaping. The tour is May 18 and 19, and tickets are $12 through the county extension office.

Posted by: Roxie

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