Garden Notes: Thinking of others

Thanksgiving celebrations in the post-war years seemed to be a refuge for spiritual urges that did not involve commercialism.

Now, in an era awash with shopping, purchasing, and marketing, that sure is old-hat. I can feel the holidays squeezing me tighter and sooner than ever, and I bet I am not alone. November whizzes by, and already I am glassy-eyed in the holiday push that began in October. It is tricky. How are we to accept the invitation to gratitude while declining the frills, and without seeming to be buttoned-up and sour?

One way is to externalize the essential intent of Thanksgiving traditions, and of all holidays. “Think of others” (TOO) has long been a rule that was instilled at a young age. I ask you to think of others, and since this is Garden Notes, the birds that share our premises are obvious candidates.

If feeding birds is something you want to do, do it religiously. Once birds are habituated to feeders, you must keep the food supplies coming, or casualties will result. They are depending upon you. Keep feeders and water sources clean, by washing or brushing energetically, to rid the surfaces of hosts for harmful bacteria such as salmonella. Who wants to feed the birds, only to sicken them inadvertently?

Please locate feeders close to where there is some cover. Most of us naturally want to observe the birds we are luring to our premises. However, it may be a little selfish on our part if feeder locations are exposed and out in the open: They cause hungry birds to risk their lives to visit.

Placement of feeders is critical, for many birds of prey are smart enough to patrol bird feeders regularly, as are domestic cats. Sharp-shinned hawks are particularly agile at picking off small birds for an easy meal. Conifers and broad-leaved evergreens in the garden, even twiggy shrubs, are tailor-made for obstructing attacks on small birds while they are visiting feeders hung within their shelter. Happy TOO Thanksgiving!

Time for kale soup

A select group of Island ladies was having an impromptu confab at the checkout line about making a “proper” kale soup. I added my two cents’ worth. One of them turned to me and suggested forthrightly that I publish my recipe in the column; let the public judge if it is proper.

This soup can be entirely homegrown, apart from the wine, and a few Islanders have even that in hand:

2 large onions thinly sliced.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 pound linguiça, 1/4″ slices

4 boiling potatoes, (1/2 ” dice, blanched 1 minute, drained)

2 19-ounce cans kidney beans, drained (or equivalent amount soaked and cooked dried beans, as below*)

2 cups dry wine, red or white

1 pound kale, (rinsed, drained, chopped fine)

2 small bay leaves

pinch cayenne

1 tbsp sugar

In a large kettle sweat onion in oil and butter until softened over moderately low heat. Add linguiça and cook mixture, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Add potatoes, 4 cups of water, beans, the wine, the kale, bay, cayenne, sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours , or until vegetables are tender. Makes 12 cups or 8-10 servings.

*Not all Island water is ideal for cooking dried legumes. Minerals and pH may interfere with producing what we consider the ideal cooked bean — intact but soft, cooked all the way through, without chalkiness. For years, until I learned the following technique from “Nourishing Traditions,” by Sally Fallon (New Trends Publishing, 1999), I bought canned beans at the store because I was unable to make them properly with our well water — hours and hours of cooking and yet the beans remained chalky.

Most dried beans are soaked, usually overnight, before use. When preparing to soak them, add one teaspoon of a sour dairy product, such as whey, yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, or naturally soured milk, to the soaking water. Soak them overnight. Pour out into a sieve, rinse, and place in the cooking pot with fresh water to cover. Add one more teaspoon of the sour milk product and salt the water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and cook until softened, but not mushy. (This method also reduces intestinal gas. Use it for brown rice too, without changing the water.)

Info on glyphosate use

The September-November MOFGA Journal mentions that researchers with Purdue University (Huber and Johal) have reported their findings on glyphosate herbicides, such as Roundup. The herbicides kill plants by chelating manganese (Mn) so that plants cannot use the essential nutrient. Glyphosate-resistant, genetically modified plants absorb and use less Mn, which reduces their disease resistance, supplied by Mn. One way these herbicides kill plants is by making their roots more susceptible to soil borne fungi, such as Fusarium and Phythium.

Soils treated with glyphosate, Huber and Johal say, also have more oxidized Mn+4 than reduced Mn+2, because the herbicides select for Mn-oxidizing microorganisms. Diseases that have built up after repeated glyphosate use include take-all of wheat, apple canker, bean root rot and damping off, soybean root rot, and white mold.

Huber is quoted: “Glyphosate is the single most important agronomic factor predisposing some plants to both disease and toxins. These toxins can produce a serious impact on the health of animals and humans. Toxins produced can infect the roots and head of the plant and be transferred to the rest of the plant. The toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.”

Homegrown meets the third Sunday of the winter months at Agricultural Hall and will convene November 21 from 3 to 5 pm.