Thursday, June 18, 2015

Riders On the Storm!

Welcome back to another Thunderstorm-Straddling episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. As you can tell the heat is on and summer officially begins on Saturday, More so the 4th of July occurs the following Saturday so I hope all of you are prepared for a super-happy Fun time week because between those two events it’s going to be off the charts. For today’s topic first I have this image as taken through my office window at the headquarters.

This thunderstorm was an on and off affair lasting a little over an hour and was full of the expected thunder and lightning. But some of you may be wondering what the fuss over a thunderstorm is and that is a simple question to answer. From a basic perspective thunderstorms occur when a mass of cold air meats a mass of warm air causing the fronts to mix and respond with precipitation and of course thunder and lightning. But one other advantage is that the Atmospheric pressure creates both wind and extracts nitrogen from the atmosphere which is delivered to the fields and garden in a soluble form in rain. This alone makes thunderstorms important because they basically both water and fertilize the land. After a series of thunderstorms everything looks super green because all the plants have gotten a nitrogen boost and nitrogen causes a growth spurt and intense greening in plants. Too much nitrogen can cause a plant’s cells to burn out, where as too little causes most plants to become pale and lack vigor. The problem is that nitrogen is capricious, in that it never stays in the soil and thus even the USDA doesn’t bother testing soil samples for it because they know there will be no accuracy in the readings.

Typically we apply nitrogen in a water-soluble form known as Urea nitrogen, which is called urea because we first identified it as a chemical in *drum roll* urine. Fish in a fish tank exchange their urea through their gills which is why when you change the water in your aquariums the water makes for a decent fertilizer. Other creatures exude urea through the skin (amphibians) and in their bodily wastes (birds). If you’ve ever been to a place like Flow & Grow in town, you might see some of the Sunleaves brand bird guano and bat guano fertilizer products. In this case both often have high nitrogen levels but also respectable potassium and phosphorous content. This is because of those two animal’s particular diets. Sea birds eat fish, and fish inherently have a fair amount of urea in their systems. Likewise bats often eat insects and from their chitin exoskeletons calcium, phosphorous and potassium can be extracted through digestion.  In order for these wastes to be processed into fertilizers often they are dried and sterilized so that no pathogens are passed to the user. This leads to one thing that has to be said.

I do not recommend any of you out there using your own bodily wastes as fertilizer or compost due to the risk of transmitting communicable diseases such as typhoid and cholera and or parasites. There are systems like the Bio-toilet out there that allow you to compost your own bodily wastes but if you are going to embark on this I really, suggest you do thorough research first. Oh and make sure you wash your hands…seriously it’s gross.  Moving along there is one happy side effect of having a thunderstorm and that is that frequent but non-drenching rains promotes what I like to call advantageous volunteers. In the new bed that is still under construction a bumper crop of crab grass has appeared and is helping hold the soil in place but in between it a number of edibles have emerged.

This is red Calaloo or a type of amaranth. It volunteered in the new bed from last years seed no doubt. Some see amaranth as a weed, I see it as an edible forage plant with many native edible relatives plus it’s a useful drought tolerant garden plant with an interesting color.

Check this out, of all the rotted sweet potatoes, one somehow survived the winter to sprout in the new bed from the compost I used to build this bed up. I doubt I’ll get anything out of it but it’s still cool to see a success story.

I don’t know the species but I like that some form of squash or gourd is creeping out of the new bed purely on a volunteer basis, this is the most developed out of several examples of volunteering squash in the bed.

This wraps up this week’s post, the market report for this Saturday’s market is on the prior post and this Saturday marks the first Saturday that I am offering Medicinal Aloes for sale. So stop on by and get your instant herbal burn relief.

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