Amy Gardener

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since Aug 29, 2016
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5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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Recent posts by Amy Gardener

I’m trying to learn to love prickly pear cactus pads. Why? Unlike any other plant besides saltbush and tumbleweed, they grow in my yard without soil amendments, supplemental water, weeding, or care of any kind. They are nutritious, high in fiber, and basically super healthy.
I realize that to start learning to love my bumper crop of springtime nopalitos, I have to find an easy way to turn them into typical US American comfort food. Which leads me to childhood and things like mac and cheese, pizza, and fries. What are people making with nopales that might appear on a typical, kid-friendly, US American table? Alternatively for life-long nopales lovers in any country, what is the nopales recipe that you first remember really liking in childhood?
For starters, this recipe for Cactus Fries comes from Savor the Southwest via PBS.
*"Americanized" is used in Wikipedia's Cactus Fries entry
3 weeks ago
Just in case anyone needs a recipe for LOTS of eggs, today BBC provided a recipe for Polish baba entitled, "The centuries-old baba recipe made with 96 egg yokes."
Sounds amazing!
3 weeks ago
While I have never used the lime hemp finish, it sounds at least as durable as the fine clay mud finishes that I have mixed and applied here in New Mexico. Since your walls, humidity and other variables are unique, it might be useful to make some sample wall surfaces to try different materials. For example, to test finishes in my environmental conditions, I have taken adobe blocks, troweled on the plaster wall layers, then tried different surface treatments. To do this, replicate the finishing layers then experiment with the ideas mentioned above. Olive oil will probably smell rancid over time. Fat-free milk will not smell. White flour paste without the wheat germ will not smell. See what damage your son could do to the surface of the trial surfaces.
For a final finish, I have spritzed water-based carnauba wax on surfaces with success. I have also rubbed whipped car wax onto walls with beautiful results. Once applied, I use a light-weight electric rotary car polisher to get a super shiny finish.
Good luck with your project Tiiffaney!
3 weeks ago
Thanks for this thread Madeline!
Arugula grows very reliably here in New Mexico (zone 7). Some years ago, a friend from Italy gave me a little bag of the tiny round, blackish seeds. We were talking about gardening here and she said that arugula is the only thing she grows. She told me that she eats it daily and in any dish that calls for spinach. So I spread the seed and sure enough I always have arugula growing somewhere: near the house drip line, next to flagstone, at the margins of the compost pile, between bricks. I'm really grateful to have it!
I noticed in your photo that the flowers are 4 petal white. Some of mine are white and some are 4 petal yellow when they go to seed. The leaves are similarly shaped in both varieties but some leaves are much bigger in their early days. I'm not clear on the specific types of arugula but I understand there are several.
Both varieties get very pungent as the weather heats up. When they are too strong for me, I mix them with lambs quarters (or other mild greens) to tone down the bite.
If anyone is wondering what else to do with arugula, pesto and chimichurri are outstanding!
3 weeks ago

Food really is my best 'medicine', I find.


Carla Burke

I am with you Carla!
And if I can grow that food in the best soil, without chemicals, serve it as fresh as possible, without any mysterious processing or packaging, I will surely get a good night's sleep knowing that I eliminated many potential uncertainties from my wellbeing.
4 weeks ago
Tim writes,

I have insomnia that luckily has been able to be managed with a melatonin supplement. This has worked for a long time but I have recently started wondering if perhaps there might be a natural product (at least less processed) that might do the trick?


My greatest happiness is when I can easily grow something delicious and nutritious that also has additional surprise health benefits. One of the many wonders of tart cherries (Montmorency in my yard) is that they are a natural source of melatonin that helps with sleep.
Tart cherry season is short so I pack the freezer with fresh, washed and sorted, whole cherries. Pit the cherries for blending in a smoothie. Or leave the pits in, simmer, then strain the juice from the pits and skins. Sweeten with homemade boiled cider concentrate or apple juice and add water to taste. Cherry tree leaves can be frozen in stacks for a muscle soothing winter tea, preferably with cherry juice and cider.
4 weeks ago
Yes, I did experiment with the T-door and here are my experiential observations without using temperature and air movement measuring tools.

My fascination with the T-door was practical not aesthetic. Considering the basic physics of hot air rising and cold air sinking, my goal was to find a way to keep my adobe dwelling warmer with less fuel (we don’t have much wood). The 6 foot tall door to the cob and mud brick building reaches down about 3 feet below ground level and about 3 feet above ground level. The cold air sinks into the space and the fire continues to draw cold air. The adobe does warm up with the fire and the thermal mass hold the heat. However, no matter how much wood is piled on the fire, the space never really warms up beyond the 60 degree underground temperature.

When I block the lower two feet in winter, the air intake to feed the fire comes from a higher, warmer, point. Allowing only a small point of air intake at the top of the doorway causes more subtle air movement in the room as the warm air cools and sinks on its way to feed the fire; this could be a convection* effect. Naturally, the earthen room is far more comfortable when air intake comes from the top of the 6 foot opening as opposed to the ground level opening.

Practically speaking, a narrow or slot-style opening is much easier to block at ground level than a wide door opening. It is also easier to close quickly using light-weight materials (I used bundles of rags and rugs). I started by blocking the wider door at its base without creating a narrow slot. The bundles to close the wider door required triple the quantity of material compared to the narrow opening. In a small dwelling, storing the fiber bundles took up living space: very problematic in a small structure. Removing the bundles to exit was difficult and even dangerous when trying to exit. Narrowing the walls at the base of the doorway effectively produced the T-door shape.

*On a smaller scale, I see that my wood fired oven draws cool air from the bottom of the oven door. Since there is no chimney for the oven, the smokey hot air exits, (after swirling around thus producing convection heat) from the top of the oven door.
4 weeks ago
Colcannon, or Irish mashed potatoes, have recently become my new favorite comfort food. Now that fresh greens like spinach, parsley, arugula, kale, collards green garlic and tarragon are waking up, I’ve been adding minced or chopped greens to salt-water-boiled gold potato chunks, then mashing everything with warm milk or sour cream, and finishing with a pat of butter. Amazing!
This is probably not the “authentic” way to make Colcannon. What is the “real” Irish way to make Colcannon? How are permies making their own versions of green mashed potatoes with the bounty available in your kitchen, field, and forest gardens?
1 month ago
Here’s the update as of March 11:

The apricots have bloomed a week earlier than last year here and throughout the neighborhood. I see the peach trees are flowering today. The owner of the vineyard across the street is worried that he’ll lose this year’s crop due to early flowering (the buds are swollen now).
Instead of crossing my fingers and hoping the late freeze won’t come, my big effort for the last few weeks has been painting tree trunks white to keep the peach, almond, plum, cherry, apple, and pear trees as cool as possible to prevent early blossoming. I noticed while painting that I’m covering up quite a lot of sun scald from last year: I probably should have painted the trees last fall after the record breaking heat. Today, I will continue painting the grape arbor, pavers, fence posts and other hardscape features white in an attempt to prevent the landscape from absorbing heat, possibly slowing the fruit maturation process (the bigger the fruits get, the more losses in a freeze). The neighbors are asking about my “ghost trees” and the rational for the white paint so hopefully things will work out and we will all benefit from this experiment.
I tried a couple of cleft grafts on sour cherry stock using Stella sweet cherry scions that are dormant. I’d like to try grafting other late sweet cherries such as Black Gold. I’ll probably have to buy a tree to get the higher chill hour scions to use for grafting. I bought one high chill hour bare-root apricot and, happily, it is still dormant. I hope to use scions from that tree to graft onto the early blooming trees.
The other approach I am using, as May suggested, is heavy mulching. The main resource that I have for mulching is horse manure (abundant here) mixed 1:1 with wood chips outside the drip-line of the trees; all composted material is already on the drip line.
Doing all I can to keep the soil and tree temperatures cool and stable is the main strategy I am taking to adapt to the erratic weather.
1 month ago
Thank you for this timely early spring post Miroslav! The sour cherries in my desert New Mexico landscape have (with the help of birds) self-seeded and too many sour cherries are growing. I was going to cut these invasive wild plants down until I saw your video. Today I will save a couple of test plants and graft from a sweet Stella cherry to a sour cherry following your instructions.
Have you tried grafting other stone fruits onto your sour cherry root stock? I would like to try a peach, apricot, plum, and/or nectarine. Does this work?

P.S. The Tree of Forty Fruits by Sam Van Akin provides some more inspiration
1 month ago