Drought Tolerant Polyculture Keyhole Garden

I never plant anything in rows, and have always had great success with polycultural gardening.  My gardens look like a wild mess, but this way of gardening helps maintain a balance between the the “good” and the “bad” bugs and weeds.  I planted lettuce, carrots, collards, alliums, turnips, parsnips, and a bunch of other stuff.  The idea is that when the lettuce comes up first, I’ll harvest the whole plant which will make room for other plants to grow.  Everything is planted close together, but not every plant has the same needs.  For example, lettuce is shallow rooted and carrots have long roots so they don’t really compete for space.  Also, the onions won’t be ready to go until later on in the season, so they won’t be needing the same space as plants that are coming up early this summer.

I am looking forward to another year of experimenting and learning more about polycultural gardening, and  I am super extra excited this year because I created a raised keyhole garden bed based on a design that has been successful in dry parts of Africa and Texas.  The basic idea is that most of the garden is composed of compost materials like wood, cardboard, weeds etc and has a wire mesh basket in the center for kitchen scraps which provide nutrients and moisture.  For more information here is an interview with Deb Tolman who is an educator and teaches others how  create these types of gardens: Interview with Deb Tolman) Here are photos of my garden and I’ll keep you updated on how it evolves.

 

 

 

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A Bird Came Down

The other day I followed a little Chickadee down a path and watched him collect material for his nest.  I felt my humanness unfurl as I perceived the world as though I was him, but it was given back to me more whole and beautiful the moment he flew away.  It is our immersion with nature that makes us human, not our distance from it.  Here is a poem by Emily Dickinson that reminded me of the little Chickadee:
A bird came down the walk:

Ginger Melon Mealworm Smoothie

The other day I created my very own super food smoothie in my new vitamix and I have to share the recipe with you!  Here is the basic idea:  One chunk ginger, a tablespoon or so of spirulina, a handful of dandelion greens, a handful of honey dew, 1 tablespoon of Mealworms, ice and water= delicious.  Sometimes I will add half of a banana because I love the consistency it creates.  It doesn’t seem like all these ingredients would be good together, but the mealworms add a nutty flavor and the melon and ginger cover up the bitterness of the dandelions and the pond-like taste of the spirulina.  I hardly ever measure anything so you might want to play around with the ratios until you get it the way you like.  Let me know what you think:)

Mealworm Farm Update

I have been away from my blog for the last two months and have been writing a ton of posts in my head but I haven’t actually written any of them down.  I am sure you know how it goes:)  It is spring after all and I have been distracted!

I almost gave up hope on my tiny farm.  All the meal worms were originally in one big bin which was going great until the bin became too moist and mold started growing.  They also starting transforming into pupae and then beetles so I feared cannibalism.  In their world, eating your friend or your baby is probably fine, but it’s not good for business!  I looked to several videos on You-Tube for advice and many seasoned meal worm farmers have had success using a multiple bin system where you separate the meal worms, pupae, and beetles.  I chose the Sterilite drawer system and bought two, three drawer units and stacked them on top of each other.  Many farmers suggest cutting a 10 inch square in the beetle drawer and putting in a mesh screen so that their eggs could fall through into the next bin.  This is a wonderful idea, but I couldn’t make it work because the beetles always found a way to wedge themselves under the duct tape and got stuck.  I even used aquarium glue as a food-grade adhesive but it wasn’t strong enough to hold up the screen and the weight of the beetles and the oats they live in.  I am willing to try again if any one else has a better idea on how to make this screen idea work because it would make sorting them so much easier.

Here is a picture of what my set up looks like:

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I also stole an idea one woman had and I now put the food for the bugs on pieces of paper so that if it gets moldy it won’t affect the oats.  Since I switched to this new system I do not have any problems with moisture or mold.

Even after converting to this new way of doing things, there were a few weeks where I almost threw in the towel.  It took a lot of time and effort to move all of the meal worms and then it took another eternity to separate the pupae and then to separate the beetles.  I worked so hard, but nothing was happening!  Where they mating?  Where they eating their babies?  Where they happy?  I couldn’t tell:(  I began searching for ways to turn their home into the ultimate love shack and I must have done a good job, because now I have hundreds of super tiny meal worms!!!!  They love darkness hence the duct tape and they love heat which we have been getting a lot of lately.

I ordered some more meal worms mostly so I could have something to eat until the babies grow up (oh my God I sound like a monster), but also so I could ensure that they all don’t metamorphose at the same time.  So far I have been able to harvest a few tablespoons of meal worms which I freeze and then I either fry them up and sprinkle them on food or put them in smoothies.  I am hoping that I can grow enough meal worms to provide myself with a large percentage of the daily protein, DHA/EPA, and B-12 that I need.  Here is a picture of a taco I made with meal worms fried in garlic and butter and another picture of me enjoying it!!!

In my previous post I talked about commitment.  All my fears are still with me but I am sticking with it and here I am eating meal worm tacos!  Right when I thought about giving up I met a friend of Matt’s who teaches survival skills and who surprisingly is trying to raise meal worms to eat too.  He is discovering many of the challenges that I am, and after talking with him I realized that it is people like us that must go through these challenges and learn from them so that we can inspire and educate others.  Eating bugs isn’t a new thing, but farming them for human consumption in the US is, especially in colder climates like the Pacific Northwest.  I want to show people that there is regenerative alternative we can turn to to provide us with the protein and nutrients that we need.  I know I am a weirdo, but hopefully I can help normalize the eating of bugs and bring the idea into mainstream consciousnesses.