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Adventures in Suburban Permaculture

When I relocated to a small town just south of Atlanta last summer, I was faced with a typical suburban lot that had been unchanged save for routine yard maintenance for several years. While that meant I had free reign over the outdoor space, it also mean that there would be a lot of work required just to create a blank canvas on which to work. Lucky for me I have never been one to shy away from a challenge. I knew immediately what I wanted to do – create a permaculture-based garden that would be an easy to maintain ecosystem packed with edibles that would feed us, but also act as a source of food and shelter for the creatures that play an important role in this circle of life.

Celeste Fig

The front yard is average sized and nondescript. Grass runs from the overgrown sidewalk to the front of the house with a few basic shrubs. I planted a small Celeste fig tree in the center of the yard, but haven’t done much more to the front for the time being. When you take a look at what’s happening behind the house, you will understand why.

The image below shows a satellite image of the property with the back yard marked with red:

Back Lot

This was the front corner of the back yard the first time I saw it:

Back Garden Before

Managed, but definitely not reaching its full potential. The back yard is sizeable for a suburban lot, full of grass with the perimeter thickly ringed by privet and English ivy (all of which has to go).

The first thing I did was to put that green bin to use; a friend had drilled holes in it a few years ago for use as a compost bin but it was never used. That is no longer the case as all kitchen waste is being composted. Less than six months later, that bin is nearly full using only the compostable kitchen waste created by two adults. That adds up to a good amount of usable compost next spring.

But back to the front corner… in the center of that clump of overgrown mess in the top center of the photo above was a struggling dogwood. It was the first thing I noticed on my first walk around the yard and I knew I would want to free it first to give it a chance at thriving next year.

Back Garden During 1

You can see the transformation (above) after just cutting away the brush that was choking the young tree. I would continue to clear away the weeds, thorns, and English ivy over the days and weeks that followed, until I was able to till the area that was one under that pile of brush:

Back Garden During 2

Freshly tilled and amended, I couldn’t wait to plant a few fall edibles. This year I was happy to plant seeds from the Renee’s Garden collection after the company sent me a ton of great options as a birthday gift in August.

Back Garden Planting

At the same time, I got the itch to have something to look at while the rest of the space was in such upheaval. I found just the right ornaments in the form of several old bowling balls that I quickly included in a curved planting with my potted herbs:

Bowling Ball Garden

Back Garden Labyrinth

The pile of leaves in the center of the yard isn’t the result of laziness on my part. This area is going to be the centerpiece of the new garden space when I turn it into a labyrinth next year. In the upper left of the photo you can also catch a glimpse of the new composting area, aptly dubbed “Compost Corner”.  More on that in a future post as well.

I have a lot more to share, but it will have to wait for another day. There’s so much left to show you (and so much left to do!)

NOTE: This post is a long one, due to the fact that this website had to be rebuilt after a fatal database crash in July. For that reason, there is a lot of info that spans several months.

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How to Start Rosemary from a Cutting

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs.

Its culinary uses are endless, its scent is relaxing, and it’s a pretty plant to boot. It’s also incredibly easy to grow and can take a beating and come back for more year after year. With an enormous new permaculture garden underway, I knew I wanted rosemary to play a big role. Rather than start a bunch of rosemary plants from seed or buy them, I opted to start my own rosemary plants from cuttings.

Rooting Rosemary Cuttings

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Michael Joins the Cooking School at Irwin Street

vegan-curry-300x300Many of you have followed me for years, both for gardening and food content. When I started including more recipes a couple of years ago, the reaction was – and continues to be – favorable. Likewise, the response to my first Food Camp cookbook has been overwhelmingly positive. Now I have even more good news to share.

I have joined a fantastic team of chefs at The Cooking School at Irwin Street in Atlanta. Beginning next month I will teach classes to small groups with plenty of focused attention.

My first class is called Vegan Food for Skeptics, and there are currently four available dates for this particular class where we will make a delicious soup, salad, and entrée with more protein than the average adult needs for the entire day! The menu for this class includes:

  • Coconut Tomato Soup
  • Arugula Couscous Salad
  • Winter Curry with Brown Rice

For more information, class schedule, and to reserve your space, click here.

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Smooth as Silk Roasted Corn Chowder

Roasted Corn Chowder

You might not be thinking about soups and stews in the heat of the summer, but when fresh corn is at its peak, I just can’t help myself. My Roasted Corn Chowder is rich and creamy, and no one would believe that it is completely vegan! You won’t miss the butter or heavy cream – in fact, you will think you taste them and yet there is none in this recipe.

Give it a shot and don’t tell your guests that it is vegan. No one will ever know.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Now that the summer tomato harvest is beginning for most of us, it seemed only right that we delve headlong into an easy, tasty tomato recipe. One of my favorite ways to prepare the little bulbs of sweetness known as cherry tomatoes is to roast them, so that’s what we’re going to explore today.

There is no doubt that when it comes to produce, tomatoes are at the top of my list of favorites. You can prepare them any way imaginable: slice them for a sandwich, coat and fry them when they’re green, chop them for salsa, slow cook and puree them for sauce… the delectable list goes on and on.

The best part about this particular recipe for Roasted Cherry Tomatoes is that if you can turn on the oven, you can make this amazing magic happen in less than half an hour.Roasted Cherry Tomatoes [click to continue…]

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My Earth Garden: The Next Chapter

Late last year I took a big step toward realizing a lifelong dream.

Anyone who knows me knows that my beliefs and lifestyle have always veered a bit left of center. One of those beliefs that I haven’t spoken much about until now focuses on the concept of the retirement plan and all that such a plan entails. It will probably come as no big surprise that my ideas about a plan for retirement are far different from what is generally accepted. Those ideas are what lead me to the next chapter in my life.

My Earth Garden Homestead Site

 

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6 Things You Need to Know

6 Things You Need to Know

 

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Homemade Baked Ziti

If you don’t love pasta, I don’t know what is wrong with you. What I do know is that my homemade baked ziti will probably cure you of whatever it is.

Homemade Baked Ziti

 

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Introducing Food Camp: My new digital cookbook

Food Camp Kitchen Survival Skills Level 1 is the first in my new series of cookbooks available now on Amazon.com.

foodcamp1

Food Camp is survival training for the kitchen impaired; a how-to guide that will teach you to prepare the basic dishes we all love and to do them well. Start your training with basic breakfast foods like eggs and smoothies, then move on to your choice of several soups and salads for lunch. The dinner menu has plenty to choose from for even the most picky eaters, like burgers, fries, macaroni & cheese and even chicken nuggets. Did we mention dessert? Let’s just say your sweet tooth with not be disappointed.

Download yours now!

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Homemade Gel Ice Pack

I’ve seen this mentioned a few times but I could never track down the original source.  There were images all over social media explaining how to make a homemade ice pack but I wanted to give this homemade gel ice pack thing a try, especially since I am training to run a 10K in a few weeks.  Turns out, it works perfectly!

icepack

EDIT: A word of caution about the alcohol. Don’t use scented alcohol because the odor will seep into the freezer (and refrigerator), even if you double bag it! Learn from my mistakes, people. You don’t want wintergreen scented soy milk. It just isn’t right.

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