Sunday, May 31, 2009

From Soil to Lemons and Everything in Between

What a busy week! 

Starting at the beginning is always a good strategy, so I will lead off with the Water/Soil Forum hosted by Mill Valley's Sustainability Director Carol Misseldine on Tuesday evening. Dan Carney, the Conservation Manager for MMWD was the first of two speakers.  Dan's presentation of the resources available at MMWD to help homeowners (and businesses) save water came as no surprise to those of us who actually read the newsletter that accompanies our water bill or those of us who have visited MMWD's offices looking for conservation information.  If you are not one of those people, I suggest you visit MMWD's website.  There you will discover that the water department provides a vast array of conservation incentives and education tools.  Most people know that you can get a sizable rebate for buying a low flow toilet (you do know that, right?), but did you know that there are rebates for buying mulch for your garden or improving your drip/sprinkler system?  Did you know MMWD will email you a watering schedule each week? Did you know that they sponsor classroom lessons and assemblies for your school? One thing I learned that's not on the website is this: by the next rainy season, MMWD will be offering rebates for Rainwater Cachement systems.  Hooray!!  If all of us take full advantage of as many of these conservation offers as possible, we will be sending an important message to the water department that we are willing to use less water and don't need a desalination plant to support our current over consumption of this valuable resource!

Dan was followed by fellow Master Gardener Joan Irwin's composting lesson. As I've mentioned before, home composting is an issue close to my heart: it's a great way to reduce the waste going to the landfill, reduce global warming and benefit your garden!  The biggest lesson we've been taught in my Organic Farming class is FEED YOUR SOIL and the best way to do that is to COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST!!  Although there's a promise out there by the Redwood Landfill to create a food composting program like San Francisco's (actually, it's more than a promise, it's a mitigation requirement for their proposed expansion), that means trucking our kitchen waste all the way to Novato.  Why do that, when you can save the gas and do it right in your back yard?  As Joan reminded the audience, any one can do it e.g. even an apartment dweller can keep a wormbin under their sink!  Or if all you have is a deck, get a small tumbler available at nurseries like Sloat.

Moving on...

My next stop this week was the Backyard Chicken program offered by Grown In Marin out at Toby's Feed Barn in Pt. Reyes.  The scenic drive (I carpooled!!) was worth the price of admission ($10), but this was a super fun event attended by aspiring chicken owners and experienced chicken farmers alike.  I could go into details, but instead I'll refer you to the great article on the front page of Saturday's Marin IJ: A Chicken in Every Backyard?

We had another successful Mill Valley event yesterday in Boyle Park, the highlight of which was the exchange of fava bean recipes inspired by the shopping bag full of beans brought by one of our regulars.  Try these:
- saute beans (shelled and peeled) in olive oil with garlic, add chopped asparagus (save tips to add during the last minute of cooking), fresh taragon, S&P and shaved parmesan 
-toss entire beans (not shelled) in olive oil and salt and throw on the grill; serve whole beans to your guests (like edamame) for shelling at the table as they are eaten.

Finally, I had the great pleasure of seeing the film The Lemon Tree at the Rafael Theater yesterday afternoon.  Similar to my glowing review of the documentary The Garden, I can't recommend this film enough.  Though not a documentary, this movie is an equally powerful testament to the connection between people, the land and the plants they nurture from the soil. This is something that all of us cultivating food and/or ornamentals can relate to.  Once again, by attending this movie, not only do you get to see the art of film making at it's best, but you also have the satisfaction of supporting the independent film maker and theaters that understand that "blockbusters" aren't the only movies that people want to see.

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