Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Update on my tomatoes (christel)

Well a portion of my tomato plant seems to have done well with the transplant. The other half of the seedlings had problems-and I do not know if they will be productive but I have my fingers crossed.

My strawberry plant seems to be doing well-I worry about the frost but it does not seem to be bothered by it.

I plan to repot my rosemary this week as it is growing too large for the one it is in now.

In other news it seems that the Garden Girls blog may get a little attention from the UAB newspaper staff. They have contacted us about an interview and hopefully we will get our blog out there to more interested subscribers!

Finally, we welcome our subscribers to leave any comments as they would be greatly appreciated. I tried to figure out a way to create a page or link to a page where discussion about Historical Ecology topics, plants and other things could be had by more than Courtney, Anne and myself-but have yet to figure something out.
Anyway I will give an update on the interview we have with the UAB journalist!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Climate and Culture (Courtney)

Another interesting article about climate change and how it effects human culture. In the past 10,000 years it seems humans have been on the offense against nature, not cognizant of the fact that they are a part of nature. Nature and culture are intricately connected, they influence and shape one another in critical ways. I like the way this article uses the image of a circular relationship,and I think looking to the past for the answers to the future is an important part of the discourse.

Future of climate change (Courtney)

This is an unsettling article from NPR about the stalemate regarding solutions for climate change. I agree that drastic measures (while probably necessary) are unrealistic and could backfire. Small, but tangible, baby steps seems a more efficacious course to me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Biodiversity (Courtney)

I've never fully understood why biodiversity was so important. It seems self-evident, but I struggled to really explain why. Here is an informative article that explains why biodiversity is relevant and important and why we should "not cover every square inch with houses and strip malls until you can't remember what happens when you stand in a meadow at dusk."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tiny Tim Tomato Transplant (Christel)

So the instructions say that when the seedling reach 5" they need to be transplanted to a larger pot. Well yesterday I attempted to transplant them. It was a huge mess and I wonder when it will become a disaster! Im waiting- with fingers crossed-to see if they will survive.

Another thing-that I have yet to find out if it is an issue- is that I planted the tomatoes in the a pot-some distance from my aloe vera that I had to replant when the pot it inhabited broke. I have sorta skimmed articles about how you can plant many different plants together in one pot or space-but I figure the plants must be compatible. Well I guess I should look it up and find out-but my instinct tells me that I will have to seperate them.

Anyway I will update on any gardening progress I make.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"mite" have been (Anne)

A couple of weeks ago, all of my plants were doing really well: they all had new growth, and I had used each of the herbs at least once in a recipe. Then I started to notice small brownish spots on the cilantro and within a couple of days it had wilted, and the roots molded. I did a little research on cilantro and discovered that it has a very short life span (some sources said only 3 weeks) and so I figured it must have just died from old age. However, soon after this I started seeing the same brownish spots on my basil and lettuce. Then I got a bit worried and did a little investigation. I found some silky strands that looked like spider webbing and some tiny bugs that look like orange chiggers on a few of the leaves. I did a little more research and found out that spider mites were eating my plants. They were too small for me to get a good picture of them but here's Wikipedia's photo:

They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves so that when they hatch, the babies can eat the leaves. The best solution I could find (besides predatory mites that can cause problems of their own) was humidity: evidently spider mites can't stand humidity. So I've been misting the plants at least three times a day but the lettuce has died and the basil and thyme are in really bad shape. The rosemary doesn't look great but I've still been using it and the chives and parsley look like they'll pull through. I've decided to order some worm castings to try and keep the mites away and add some nutrients for the plants. Here is the websites I'm ordering them from:
I also bought a "guaranteed to grow" kit with basil, rosemary and thyme in it. The basil and chives have sprouted but no sign of the rosemary. I'm going to get a strawberry and a sage plant to replace the cilantro and lettuce in the 20gal terrarium.
Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The TEK of Hayao Miyazaki's films (Christel)

Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese artist and film director the movies Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Ponyo just to name a few. These are some of my most favorite films because they are beautifully animated, tell fantastic stories and feature the most delightful characters. Anyway I was watching My Neighbor Totoro the other evening and it dawned on me that Miyazaki's films not only have strong environmental messages-but that these movies can teach children a traditional ecological knowledge that melds play, magic and apreciation of the environment.
In Miyazaki's films the environment is alive with spirits and creatures of magic that protect the trees, lakes, forrests and oceans. The characters in all of the films play with nature and in doing so realize that they are a part of it, no different from the mystical beings that dwell in the trees.
Ultimately the characters learn that the power and magic of the spirits of nature are not without their limits and that it is human care and protection that gives the spirits the powers they have to protect, heal and repair the world. Therefore the characters learn that humans are stewards of the earth alongside the magical elements and that everyone plays a part and must work together to keep the world the beautiful and mystical place that it is!

So to sum up, Miyazaki's movies teach children that the environment-trees, rocks and animals-are things of beauty and magic. Children learn that they can play with nature and take enjoyment from it. This helps foster the idea that nature is important to respect and protect.
Anyway perhaps I have gone out on a limb here-but at least this is how I feel about Miyazaki's movies. What other forms of media are there that provide this level of learning and emotional connection to the world?
This is a picture from My Neighbor Totoro where two girls are learning how the forrest spirits can make their garden grow by dancing around it and believing in the magic of nature.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An update (Courtney)

Well, I went out of town this weekend, and I didn't make arrangements for anyone to give my plants some lovin' while I was gone.  They looked pretty sad and neglected when I got home yesterday, but I think most of them are getting healthier now that I've given them some water.  I'm still a little worried about the oregano. 

Otherwise, however, things have been going well. I use at least one or two herbs every time I cook - which saves money and produces less waste (cause they go bad so fast when not rooted).  The jury is still out on my tomatoes and strawberries, but I guess I am doing everything right.  

I found this article in the New York Times - Hard to Kill: Houseplants for the Inept - and it is right up my alley.  Thought it might be helpful to some of you who want to surround yourself with living greenness but have a hard time keeping things alive.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spending Money (Anne)

Here is a list of what I have bought for this project with each item's approximate cost:
  • 10 gallon aquarium: free, courtesy of Mallory who is also in our Historical Ecology class
  • top to aquarium with fluorescent light in it: $20 at the pet store
  • 20 gal. aquarium with lid/light: $30 from
  • Chives, Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley and Romaine lettuce: between $2-$4 each for a total of $20 at a local garden shop
  • 22L bag of sterile dirt: $7 at a local garden shop
  • 25lbs non-colored pebbles: $13 at the pet store
  • 10 handfuls of Spanish moss: free, courtesy of my grandmother's backyard (local garden shop sold it for $1 per handful
  • 22oz activated charcoal: $19 at the pet store 
  • spray bottle: $1 at Family Dollar
~For a grand total of $110 which is a pretty big investment for a college student but hopefully I'll save money in the long run by not continually buying expensive and highly perishable fresh herbs (usually about $4-$5 for one use) at the grocery store.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More pictures (Christel)

So here are some pictures of my plants in the daytime. The strawberries seem to be doing much better since I've moved them into the front yard near the mailbox-this spot seems to recieve the most sunlight in my yard.

The other picture shows the amount of morning light I get through my kithcen windows which face northwest. This is probably not the most ideal placement for these plants-I don't think they are recieving enough sunlight here-so I plan to move them in the spring to the front yard. I have noticed that a few of my neighbors have various garden projects all of which seem to be in their front yards. I assume they have placed the small gardens there because of the amount of sun and because most of our backyards face north and are bordered by a small wood-which shades our backyards until midday when the sun is high.

I was also considering looking into some kind of light to put in the kitchen for these plants. I have not checked into the details yet but I wonder if it would be helpful or if it would be more beneficial to simply move them in the spring and try a raised garden bed with natural sunlight. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions?

On another note-I have begun purchasing apples and tomatoes at this local produce stand. The owner there said that everything he sells is either locally grown or purchased from the farmers market (I dont know which one). I plan to go back and ask him more questions. I have noticed that the healthiness of the fruits from this stand rival that of Walmart's fruits and vegetables. I have also noticed that the prices also rival Walmart's!
Well that about raps it up for today! I think that my next blog will try to include a small interview and analysis from the gentleman who owns the produce stand near my home. I would like to know perhaps how he feels about, interacts with and talks about food. Is there a local ecological knowledge or terminology distict from other states or regions in the U.S.?
Well I guess we will find out!

Friday, November 5, 2010


I lived in Botswana for a little while a few years ago, and I had the pleasure of getting to know two Bushmen, both named Dabe (Da-bee).  They guided me through the bush on nature walks, astounded me with their knowledge of every kind of plant and its uses, taught me how to shoot a bow and arrow, and entertained me with the clicks and clacks of their native tongue. 

The Botswana government does little to protect the land and culture of the Bushmen, and it has outlawed many of their subsistence strategies.  They have been marginalized as outsiders yet forced to turn to the surrounding political economy for sustenance.  As a result, they have been exposed to Western culture, and this is changing them in fundamental ways.  I can remember having teary discussions with the Dabes about feeling displaced, having no roots, and losing their cultural identity.

I came upon this article this morning in the New York Times, and I wanted to share with the you the danger and injustice of uprooting people, displacing them, and forcing them to adapt to non-sustainable lifestyles whereby they are dependent on the state.

 It is devastating what is happening to these people.  I think one man sums it up well when he says, "The government says we are bad for the animals, but I was born here, and the animals were born here, and we have lived together very well." 
Dabe's son, playing with the water tap. 


Thursday, November 4, 2010

My indoor plants....!!! (Christel)

Well it is night so the picture does not show the amount of light that comes in through my kitchen windows during the day. I have places on my kitchen table the tiny tom tomatoes, aloe vera, catnip and rosemary. I plan to put the rosemary outside sometime soon-I just have not decided where I would like to keep it.

I will post a picture of my strawberries in the morning-I think they look like they are doing well! They have more leaves and are bigger-I take that as a sign of some kind of success!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why We Care (Courtney)

"Environmental change is arguably the most pressing and potentially disastrous problem facing the global community.  Pollution, global warming, species extinctions, and massive disruptions of critical ecosystems have become commonplace topics, although consensus about how these problems are to be addressed continues to elude policymakers."   -Carole Crumley, 1994

 We talk a lot in historical ecology class about the nature/culture dichotomy, that is, the dynamic relationship between humans and the surrounding environment.  What role have humans played in environmental change over time, and more importantly, what is our role now in the face of the current environmental crisis?  We don't want to sit back and hope that things change.  We want to be active participants in the global effort to reverse (or at least abet) the deleterious effects of man-made environmental changes.  We believe that the sustainable agriculture movement is one that efficiently and productively responds to the crisis while also meeting the health and nutrition needs of our society.  According to the UC Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education Program, the three main goals of sustainable agriculture are environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.  On a basic level, it is about reconnecting people to their food in a way that is viable for the long term.  Starting an herb garden in your home is obviously a small step, but it is at least a step in the right direction.  Our idea is to start small with something manageable, then expand it as you feel ready.  Here are some websites to educate yourself about the sustainable agriculture movement as well as how you can get involved:

The Cost of Things! (Christel)

Well I wanted to update the blog for this week and decided an important thing to blog about was Cost!
I am a student that works a part time job. I do not make a lot of money and I have a lot of bills, so the cost of things is important to me.
I have noticed that grocery stores that sell in bulk for cheap prices do not have very fresh or healty fruits and vegetables. Everything I read, watch or listen to tells me to shop for produce locally and/or buy organic. I have noticed that these things can be pretty pricey as well as available in limited places.

Part of growing ones own vegetables is to have access to fresh food that costs almost nothing as you are paying for it with your work and time.
Seeds, plants, soil and planters all cost money though-so lets break down what I have spent so far-and later if my gardening is successful I can discover what my yield may be saving me.

As previously mentioned Courtney and I went to Home Depot for our first batch of plants and seeds.
I spent a total of $60.47. This included everything I listed in the first blog as well as two long plastic planters, one round planter and one small clay pot.

Anyway also plan to build raised beds near the end of winter. I plan to look for wood at the Habitat for Humanity Home supply and rebuild store that has used materials for home repair. I think I may be able to find some materials that I will need for the raised beds there.

Facing all the expenses of the projects and the prices for fresh fruits and vegetables I try to keep one thing that I have read in Farmer Jane in mind: We vote with the money we spend. Everytime I spend money on cheap, unhealthy items I am voting to keep those items stocked on the shelves instead of the produce we should be consuming.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apartment Friendly Gardening (Anne)

When I was a kid, I loved to help my mom in the little herb and vegetable garden in our back yard. I always felt a keen sense of accomplishment whenever we could use the plants we grew. We grew different kinds of mint for tea, basil and rosemary for seasoning and lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

When I moved into an apartment after high school, I had no place to grow things outside, and I didn't get enough sunlight to grow anything inside. But my habit of using fresh herbs didn't go away and I wasted tons of money buying packs of fresh herbs at the grocery store that wilt in less than a day. I had been thinking of trying to have a garden with artificial light but never had enough motivation until I enrolled in historical ecology.

It turns out, there is an easy way to grow plants in fish tanks with a fluorescent light in the top. It can be expensive to get started, but the cost is well worth it if you know what to plant. Your best bet will be to look for fish tanks in the classifieds or a thrift store. You'll also need non-colored pebbles and activated carbon which can be found in pet stores. Sterile soil, sphagnum or spanish moss, and plants can be found in a garden shop, Lowes, Home Depot or Wal Mart. I would suggest finding a locally owned garden shop, they tend to be the most helpful.

Deciding what to grow can be difficult if you don't cook a lot. I choose to start off growing basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, chives and romaine lettuce. These herbs are versatile and called for in many of the recipes I use. If you're not sure what to grow, I'd suggest finding a cookbook with dishes in it that you already know you like. Then just see what fresh herbs are called for in the recipes you'll make most often and try to find those plants to grow in your terrarium.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Starting from Scratch (Christel)

Like many people I do not really understand what I am really eating when I dine, what food really is and where it comes from. As long as I can remember food is something that is always available at the large chain grocery store, packaged and processed for quick transport, purchase and of course, consumption. I have never really had to wait for or cook a meal that was prepared from natural basic ingredients. My mashed potatoes come in a bag, pizza in a box, meat is shrink wrapped and everything else frozen.  As Courtney mentioned, we are all in the Historical Ecology class at UAB. It was in this class that I began to understand that the way we interact with the environment is important. The object of the project is for each of us to learn something more about gardening, interacting with the local environment and how rewarding and difficult that can be. I also would very much like to learn more about food, the consequences of a monocropping system of large scale production and the consequences of the separation between consumers and food production.
Back to the small picture...! I think that an important part of working and living with the environment is having knowledge of the environment that goes deeper than scientific classification. I hope that traditional ecological knowledge can be learned and that we can gain this knowledge from our project.
I know absolutely nothing about gardening! To begin, Courtney and I went to Home Depot, where I bought a strawberry plant, rosemery bush, and an aloe vera plant. I also purchased some seeds-which I have not planted yet and a tomato planting kit that included seeds. So far I have only planted (or replanted) my strawberries and planted my tomatoes. All of my plants with the exception of the strawberries, are located in my kitchen-where I thought there was enough sunlight but am beginning to have my doubts!
The strawberries are another story! I planted them in large round pot and had placed them on my backporch. They were then attacked by squirrels and were not recieving the right amount of sun. I tried a couple rooms in my house-but none of them are sunny enough! Finally I moved them to the front yard by my mailbox-and I plan to plant them there permanently once I have built a raised bed there.

Getting started...(Courtney)

I generally consider myself a fairly competent, capable person.  Most of the things in my life that I've really put my mind to have turned out successful.  However, when it comes to gardening, I lose it.  I don't know where to start, how to start, what to do once I've started...I'm at a complete loss. It seems strange to me because I love being outside, I don't mind getting dirty, and I love fresh flowers and herbs.  But doing it myself seemed incredibly overwhelming and pretty much impossible for me. When Christel told me she was thinking about growing an herb garden in lieu of writing a research paper, I thought maybe this is my chance.  Surely if my grade depends on it, I'll give it my best shot.  So, that is why I'm doing this...we'll see how it goes.

I cook a lot, and I love using fresh herbs.  They add such fresh flavor and aroma to the dish that really can't be matched my anything else.  Buying fresh herbs can be expensive, though, and they don't last very long in the refrigerator.  So, I decided that to save money and grow my own.  I cheated a little bit in that I bought already established plants instead of seeds, but my goal is to keep them alive.

Round 1:  Christel and I went to Home Depot, and I bought a few different things. I bought some pre-plotted herb plants - rosemary, basil, thyme, and sage.  I also bought a do-it-yourself home grown tomato and strawberry kit.  The box said "Guaranteed to Grow," so I grabbed it.  I potted the herbs outside on my back porch and followed the instructions on the tomato and strawberry kits.  I was most pleased with the herbs - mostly for the instant gratification factor.  I'm pretty sure I grew impatient and overwatered the tomatoes and strawberries.  I didn't have time to find out, though, because some pesky cats got into them - they uprooted my herbs and kicked around the soil with the tomato and strawberry seeds.  So, I had to start over.  This time I moved everything inside.

Round 2:  I have this weird space in my house that I've never known what to do with.  It is a small little landing on my staircase, and it has this huge window behind it.  The window faces West, and in the afternoons the sun beams brightly through it.  I thought that would be the best place to put my herbs since they need 8 hours of direct sunlight a day.  I found this precious little bench at At Home and got to work re-potting my herbs.  Growing in confidence with the herbs, I decided I would buy a few more.  To supplement, I got some more of my favorites - chives, oregano, parsley, and cilantro.  I potted these in little clay pots and set them on the bench.  It looks really good, if I do say so myself! I also bought new tomato and strawberry kits, and took another stab at it, this time with more patience.  These I set in a window that also gets a lot of direct sunlight.  Keeping my fingers crossed on those.