September 30, 2012

Pondering on Peppers- 7 Interesting Facts

I've been harvesting peppers like it's going out of style thanks to the worms.  I was led to believe (by the seeds' packaging!)  that the peppers were RED, and I even witnessed one almost turn red....but I give up!

The impatient organic gardener in me is giving in and calling these GREEN peppers.
organic pepper
Peeping around on peppers online, here are 7 interesting tidbits about this green veggie:

1. Low in calories, high in Vitamin C
Nutrition Facts
(3/4 cup)
Info courtesy of Univ. of Illinois Ext.
     Calories 19.98
     Protein 0.66 grams
     Carbohydrates 4.76 grams
     Dietary fiber 1.48 grams
     Calcium 6.66 mg
     Potassium 130.98 mg
     Vitamin C 66.08 mg
     Folate 16.28 mcg
     Vitamin A 468 IU

2. There is no world record kept for the largest pepper ever grown.
Although there is no official record I could find recorded by a governing pepper body, my vote is for this random I found on Flickr:
Biggest green pepper ever

3. Many, many pepper festivals exist worldwide for this much-celebrated veggie.You can view an entire international schedule at Chilliworld, or if you live in North Carolina you can put this one on your calendar.
Kudos to the amazing artist that designs their posters- loved them all!!!
Pepper Festival Abundance

4. lists over 350 recipes for stuffed green peppers. These recipes use everything from the expected (rice, ground meat, tomato paste) to the unexpected (olives, cheddar cheese, beans, tuna). Another delish one from a new friend can be found here.

5. Green peppers can be cut up and frozen for later use.
And Traditional Foods provides some simple instructions so they don't get all stuck together in the freezer bag!

6. Green peppers can be picked and eaten at any size.
Important information for the impatient organic gardener in me!

7. Allergies to green peppers are rare, and people with allergies are often treated with capsicum (found in green peppers) to treat their allergies. 

I'm allergic to about a million things, so this was interesting to me.

Related posts & links:Snappy Stake Update
Fruits and Vegetables of My Labor
Red Pepper Update and Pesticides in Produce
USDA Green Pepper Nutritional Information

Featured products & supplies:

September 26, 2012

Worm Business as Usual

As I plan my worm empire over at Lilliworm, it's good to have heroes and role models!

Throughout the past few years, I've read up on, tweeted, and emailed successful wormers and composters to see what they were doing right in their business so that I could one day squiggle along in their tracks.

In vermicomposting and composting, generally businesses focus on one or more services:

The Worm Expert- Demonstrate and teach others to start their own bins.
They typically sell bins & worms at their events and classes as well. Urban Worm Girl is a great example. 

Organic Waste Collector- Collect organic waste from individuals and/or businesses & return compost to them later.
Visit Bootstrap Compost to see one in action.

Worms Sales- Sell the worms usually by the pound for bins (yay!) or bait (yikes!)My originals came from De La Ranch.

Vermicompost/Compost, Compost Tea, or Compost Tea Bag Maker
Package and sell the end product. I'm going to focus on compost tea bags and individual smaller bags of compost that are convenient for those with apartments, town homes, or small gardens who don't have a ton of storage space- meaning, the compost arrives and has to get used right away!

A little compost goes a long way...just like a little planning, attention, and excitement!

Related Posts:
In the Beginning...

September 24, 2012

Lessons from a First Year Organic Gardener

Although the endless tomato harvest is still happening (seriously, what haven't I put tomatoes in this summer?!) and the red peppers are still reddening (zzzzz....),  the cooler weather is beginning to wrap up my first organic gardening season.

Overall, the effort was a success- especially at proving how AMAZING compost is as an organic plant food/fertilizer. My left/right yield/size observations showed that all the worm work was worth it. Vermicompost really DOES make a huge difference in organic gardening!
organic pepper plants
Time to take stock of what I did right and what needs switched up for next season!

What I did right and would suggest to other first-timers:
  • Starting 3 months prior to planting- working vermicompost into the soil, continuing to turn it over with the harder clay soil, and weeding every few weeks
  • Installing a rain barrel close by to make watering easy
  • Using compost tea bags to infuse the water and provide an extra organic boost to the plants
  • Staking tomato plants early on and having larger standby stakes ready to go
  • Putting cucumbers on the outside edge so they could grow out and about freely
  • Continually weeding and gently tilling
What I plan to change up for next year:
  • Plan for fewer tomato plants! I planted eight, and really could have gotten by with three. 
  • Grow less spinach! No matter how many smoothies, salads, dips, or toppings I make, two full rows of spinach is too much. One should be plenty.
  • Find better onions- I ended up with these small, white, uber-strong type. I'd prefer the larger, less intense white type.
  • Dedicate more space to strawberries. I eat them every day in my cereal, so they are a priority moving forward. The berry fence is in storage, but will be out in full force for next year!
  • Propagate blackberries correctly. Cutting a stray stem and replanting doesn't work. Blackberry stems can take root when they lean into the ground. I'll be trying this to create two other bushes.
  • Add red raspberry bushes. 
What organic gardening lessons or tips can you share? 

Related Posts & Links:

My Rain Barrel is Full...Now What?
Red Pepper Update and Pesticides in Produce
Vermicompost Experiment and the Tomato Six-Pack
Fruits and Vegetables of My Labor

Featured Products & Supplies:

September 16, 2012

My Rain Barrel is Full...Now What?

We installed a rain barrel at the beginning of the summer, but now that the garden is winding down and cooler weather is coming in the Northeast, what can we do with all the leftover rainwater before the first freeze?
rain barrel
At the beginning of the summer, I was infusing the rain barrel with compost tea bags (now available!) to feed the garden and houseplants. Even with watering twice a day on non-rainy days, our rain barrel has been constantly near-full. 

Here are some great suggestions I've learned for using up the rainwater left in your rain barrel, without concern for treating or filtering it:

-Wash cars or bikes- Washing your vehicle at home with the hose can use up to 100 gallons of fresh water (yikes!). If you use the water from your rain barrel, you are likely to use much less.  Aside from having to fill up the bucket by hand, you’ll also need to do the rinsing on your own- making this great exercise, too!

-Clean outdoor lawn furniture- Mix equal parts white vinegar and rain water to make an eco-friendly wash for your outdoor furniture.  This mixture is safe for wood, plastic, vinyl, and fabric.

-Rinse off outdoor tools and gardening equipment- Before you stash them for the winter, give your shovels, rakes, hoes, and planters a little dousing and let them dry in the sun.  You’ll be thankful in the spring!

-Top off your pond or outdoor water feature- Many times by the end of summer, landscape ponds or outdoor water feature water levels may have fallen a few inches.  Go ahead and replenish with your free water source!

-Remove algae from your siding or cement porches/driveways- Again, use the white vinegar and rain water mixture to scrub off green algae film from your vinyl siding or cement surfaces.

There are more ambitious ways you could use your rainwater- like to flush toilets or for washing rags in washing machines- but I'm just a beginner this year, so I'm suggesting the easiest and most basic ways to drain the barrel for now.

Still to come this week:  1st year organic gardening lessons learned and my plans for an off season ground rebound with vermicompost.

Related Posts & Links:
Featured Products & Supplies:

September 12, 2012

Wrap Up Finale: Yough River Park, Wildlife Works, and Master Gardener Program

To finish my wrap up of the Fair, I wanted to share a little more about the location and the two exhibitors I became the most familiar with.

Wildlife Works
Wildlife Works is an all-volunteer non-profit that rehabs wildlife and promotes native species and habitat preservation. They brought an albino corn snake in an aquarium, a turtle with a nifty open mesh tunnel run, and a kestrel (not pictured) on a leash:
albino corn snake
wildlife works turtle
Aside from hearing the turtle's loss-of-tail story that involved being a dog's play toy (yikes!), I also had a baby bird myth from my youth completely debunked!

Did you know that bird moms will not abandon baby birds if you touch them? You can carefully pick them up and place them in their nests, and you can even warm them gently in your hand if they are cold before putting them back in.

Make sure the bird is too young to fly, though- young birds sometimes jump out of their nests a few days before they can actually fly, but the bird moms will still care from them down on the ground.

Penn State Master Gardener Program
Penn State offers a set of classes to people who have an interest in gardening and helping in the community.  Once they've received the training, they assist with horticulture programs in their county.

The certification is pretty intense: 36 hours of training, 80% or higher score on your final exam, and 50 hours of volunteer service. To maintain certification, you must do 20 additional volunteer hours and 8 hours of training each year.

With worming, dog adventures, football season, yoga, and running currently in season, I'm fresh out of time to become a master gardener, but they do offer some interesting class topics during the program like Basics of Entomology, Plant Diseases, and Indoor & Container Plants. If you do have the time to become a master, you can visit their program pages for more info.

Yough River Park
The fair was held at Yough River Park in Connellsville along the Great Allegheny Passage:
Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage portion of the trail stretches 135 miles from Pittsburgh, PA all the way to Cumberland, MD, over old railroad routes that are now covered with small rocks and cinders.

I spend a lot of time running and biking along the trail and kayaking down the river, so it was different to stay in one place and enjoy the scenery at the park.

That completes the wrap up! Later this week, I'll share lessons from my first year of organic gardening and my plans for an off season ground rebound with vermicompost.

September 10, 2012

Sustainability Fair Wrap Up!

Yesterday the worms made their public display debut at the Connellsville Sustainability Fair!

I finished their viewable bin by stacking some organic waste and putting in the worms with a layer of cardboard:
worm bin display
worm bin display
and then labeling the layers:  
worm bin display
Once I arrived, I set up the posters, samples, and some gummi worms in crushed Oreos for the kiddies. (I positioned these on opposite sides so attendees would understand there was no funny business between worms & food!)
worm bin displayworm bin display
I talked worms, worms, worms with everyone, and talk with some great people doing a lot of environmentally friendly things in my area.

Here are some other photos from the event:
Sustainability Fair
Sustainability Fair
Sustainability Fair
Sustainability Fair
Sustainability Fair
My favorite exhibitor was Wildlife Works, who brought this little guy:
Wildlife Works turtle
More about what I learned at the Fair coming this addition, I am going to be learning the heck out Wordpress, since I launched my Lilliworm website and am attempting to move the blog over the next few weeks. 

Until I am comfortable with the setup over there, I'm going to continue to post here- thanks for your patience during the move!

September 6, 2012

Sustainability Fair Exhibit Countdown!

With the Sustainability Fair countdown at only 3 more days, I've been busy getting my act together. Last night, I had the posters (with a cardboard stand up leg in the back) and compost sample labels printed:
Sustainability Fair Poster 
Today, I put together the small compost bag samples and tied on the labels:
Compost Samples
I also enlisted Russ's help with putting the mobile viewable worm bin together. (You may remember from way back when, Russ enjoys helping with the worms when tools are involved.)

First step was finding a wood base and nailing on a mesh top to put inside the bin to keep the air flowing:

worm exhibit
worm exhibit

Next, I put that into the bin and covered it with a layer of newspaper:
worm exhibit
worm exhibit
I found a box to put in the center, so I can keep the worms near the edges for a better view, and then I filled the bottom with finished compost:
worm exhibit
Tomorrow, I'm going to put in some scraps and worms and a top layer so they can make themselves at home and get settled for their big day on Sunday!

In the garden, the compost is working it's wonders- not only did my red pepper FINALLY start to turn red,organic red pepper
but this one side of the plant has FIVE peppers on it!  Go worms!

September 3, 2012

Labor Day Local Trash Pickup

litter along road
I can't stand trash along the roads I travel. It makes me crazy that I just go right out and pick it up when I can't take anymore!

This morning I headed out with my garbage picking equipment:
-roll of trash bags- my goal was to fill 6 today
-orange vest so I'm easily spotted- important since I live around a lot of blind bends
-some surgical gloves, courtesy of my RN husband- nice to not have to touch gross wet stuff
-my durable Merrells- stepping in a lot of mud and leaves requires some good shoes!
Since I've been honing my Photoshop skills, I created a map of exactly where I covered and left full bags (the township collects them within a day or so- I  have a great relative that lets them know when I've done my rounds):
Labor Day 2012 Trash Pickup
Even though my goal was to fill 6 bags, I only got to 5 because that's all that was left on the roll. Chalk that up to poor planning this time around!

Popular items tossed from moving vehicles in this area include:

-Water bottles, both full and empty. By the hundreds. Bottled water isn't healthier.  It's expensive. The empty bottles are everywhere. Ugh, if you do nothing else this year, please just QUIT IT with the bottled water. 

-McDonald's and Wendy's are clearly favorite fast food spots around these parts. In particular, Quarter Pounders and any super-sized drink- I know because I collected at least 20 of those cardboard containers and probably a hundred cups/tops/straws. Not only is the trash disgusting, but as an added bonus I gag thinking about someone eating so unhealthy, too!

-Beer cans and hard liquor bottles- Scary thought that peeps are drinking and driving and chucking the cans and bottles out the window! What these tend to lack in fullness they totally make up for with terrible smells.

One nice thing was that I got a lot of beeps and thank-you's- but I really wish people would just keep their trash in their car and toss it in a garbage can when they get wherever they're going! I've been cleaning up around here for the past 3 years and it keeps getting worse, so I'm starting to feel like some of those beepers and thankers might also be tossers!

OK, I'm done with the negative energy! I searched road clean ups when I got home, and found some support with a group called Road Trash Warriors:
Road Trash Warriors
I immediately signed up for it and then felt guilty as I read, "Road Trash Warriors are expected to rise above expressions of anger at their fellow man's callous or thoughtless road trashing actions." Point well taken!

One interesting contraption they mention as useful for picking up trash is this nifty bag holder:
Make Your Own Bag Holder
If you are a litter gitter yourself, you can find simple directions at Thrifty Fun to make one. I can attest to the fact that carrying the bag as it fills up can contort your fingers and fingernails, so this is a project I'll need to tackle before the next trash pick-up!

Also, I have a little pick-up to do on myself...