Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pollan's Botany of Desire comes to TV and DVD!

Many gardeners are familiar with author Michael Pollan, especially for his acclaimed books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. But do you remember his book The Botany of Desire from 2001?

Well now The Botany of Desire has been made into a 2 hour television special to be aired tomorrow night, October 28th on PBS.


I was able to view an advance DVD copy of it, and I recommend that all gardening and food enthusiasts tune in. The premise of both the movie and the book are that we humans "think" we control plants and use them to satisfy our own desires, when actually the plants are controlling us. About the film, Michael Pollan says, "We don't give nearly enough credit to plants. They've been working on us, they've been using us, for their own purposes".

Pollan and producer/director Michael Schwarz takes us on a beautiful voyage around the world to get an up-close and personal look at the history of how four very important plants have crossed paths with mankind. They profile the Apple, the Tulip, Marijuana and the Potato.

Watching this riveting account of plants prompted me to get The Botany of Desire book as well. The movie does a good job of capturing the essence of Pollan's original work, but of course the book goes into even more detail. If you like the movie and haven't read the book, I urge to to pick up a copy.

What the film accomplishes that the book can't is visual in nature. The photography is beautiful and illustrates the growing processes well. It is also nice to see Pollan and other experts talking instead of just reading quotes. The film is broken up into four half hour segments, each concentrating on one of the four plants. It wouldn't surprise me to see it later aired as a mini series in half hour segments. There is no official word about that. As of now the only airing is slated for October 28th at 8:00 p.m. on PBS stations. After that, it is scheduled for DVD and Blu-ray release on November 3rd. Here is what the DVDs will look like:

The DVD is a great addition to your video library, but you have a golden opportunity to see it for free tomorrow night!

Watch the special and then come back here and let me know what you thought of it. Do you agree with me that it is visually beautiful, interesting and informative? Does Pollan make you think differently about your relationship with the plants in your garden? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks - Marc

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Update on our Chickens and the Coop

I just realized that I have never posted about our adult chickens on Garden Desk! That's crazy because we absolutely love our chickens. I never knew how much fun they would be, and the eggs are delicious!
We did manage a post back in April about raising our chicks. We raised the chicks in our garage while we built our outside coop. We built the coop mostly out of wood that we already had from an old deck that I took apart a couple years ago. The coop construction took much longer than anticipated but they have been in it for three or four months now. here it is:

We were able to put it right in front of the garden and beside the greenhouse.

When we would read about keeping chickens, it seemed that many people let them roam around during the day. Around here experienced farmers were telling us to watch out for the many predators, some even during the day. We have to watch out for hawks, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, weasels, rats and the neighbor's dogs. Many people told us that we wouldn't be able to keep our chickens alive.

With this in mind, we tried to build a very secure coop. The building that they sleep in is in the very center, up on stilts with no outside walls. The small window openings have two layers of wire over them and we even put wire mesh down under the floor boards.

The rest of the coop is all under tin roofing with two kinds of wire around the perimeter. The wire is also buried in concrete at the bottom about 18 inches under ground! The door has a second latch about a foot off the ground so nothing can squeeze in.

If anything does manage to sneak in during the night, they shouldn't be able to get in the wood building. The chickens have a small door that they use during the day.

They go inside at dusk and then I lock their door.

Here they are coming into their building:

The other wall is hinged for us to get inside for cleaning. It also has the nest boxes built into it. When closed it also has a heavy duty latch. Here is what it looks like from the outside:

Here is the nestbox part of the inside:

 Nest Box

The chickens' main feeder and water hang from the building under the nest boxes.

All summer we fed them plenty of fruits and vegetables, an occasional worm or grasshopper and grass that we pulled. Recently, I thought they should get to graze in the grass on their own. In order to keep them safe while grazing, I constructed this crude grazing pen:

Grazing Pen1

I can lock them in if I want to clean out their coop, or I can connect the two units with portable chicken wire sides and top that roll out of the way when not in use. You can see what I mean from this angle:

Grazing Pen 2

The chickens love grazing in their new pen in the evenings. At nightfall, they go back inside to their roosts and I disconnect the pen and lock them safely in their coop.

The chicken coop and grazing pen are working out pretty well, especially since I built it without any real plans. The chickens have adapted well to it and are laying eggs almost daily now. As good as getting fresh organic eggs is, I think my favorite part about our chickens is that they are super friendly. They are more like pets than farm animals. They actually enjoy being held and get excited when they see us.


Raising chickens is great! As long as winter goes well, I hope to get more next spring. Of course then I'll have to build another chicken coop!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Accidental Pumpkins?

Look what we got from the garden - 2 very nice pumpkins.


Actually, they grew behind the garden and actually, we didn't even plant them. We didn't do so well managing our compost pile this summer. Instead of turning it, we just kept adding to it. A lot of plants grew out of the compost pile, including volunteer pumpkins!


I guess they came from last year's Jack-o-lantern.  Pretty funny, but we'll take it. As a compost enthusiast, this is kind of embarrassing. I even used to teach seminars on how to compost and how to build various compost bins.

Harvesting these pumpkins last week made me get serious about building new compost bins this weekend. I now have two sets of double-sided pallet-made compost bins. I will clean up this mess and start new in the new bins. I will take pictures and post them soon. In the meantime we will enjoy our compost pumpkins!

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