Farmers are gamblers. They're the folks who literally bet the farm every year. Gardeners take that leap of faith in a smaller way. Some years are better than others, but every year starts out full of hope and eager expectation. I like to keep a journal of my gardening journey to compare the different things I try, the different outcomes, what works and what doesn't. I have friends who smile behind their hands at the detail of the things I put in my journal. Yes, Breatharian, I even weigh the produce I harvest and journal that according to vegetable and variety. This is when you know that you've moved beyond gardening as a hobby. When the pole bean sprout that you planted begins to resemble Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors and sing, "Feeeeed meeeee..." That's when you know that you have an addiction going on.
Every year, I try to branch out into a new aspect of sustainability. I'm still waiting to see if the kombucha'd molasses tea will yield great things from my garden. But twiddle my thumbs I will not; I'm also meditating on other things to improve the soil quality and yield in the meantime. These days, seaweed is coming up on my radar with more frequency. I use a lot of it in our foods. I put powdered kelp in the salt shaker. I sneak spoonsful into chili. I sprinkle dulse on my sprouted salads (if you look closely at the pictures, the red flakes are the dulse). And there's the perennial favorite, kimbop. Princess is the only one who will eat seaweed voluntarily, but I have no compunctions about resorting to guerrilla nutrition. I stealth sheets of it into the bone broth. Now I'm looking at the ultimate stealth: the garden.
The ground in my corner of the Shire isn't fertile. Breatharian, there's a reason that the settlers began to push on to the Midwest from here: this here ain't really farm country. Trapping, hunting, and dairy farming, yeah. Planting, not so much. The only thing that one can grow with ease and rapidity here are rocks. I discovered very quickly after assaying into the gardening world exactly why New England is laced with rock walls. Add to that the highly acidic pH and my first garden didn't yield very much. That year's journal tally totaled 68 pounds. It's come a long way, but we're not there yet. There's still more to hope for.
After reading an excerpt from Seaweed in Agriculture and Horticulture by W.A. Stephenson and following the enthusiastic flow of information about the myriad of ways that seaweed benefits the soil fertility and tilth, I was convinced. My soil needs all the nutrients, minerals, and structure that I can pour into it. So this year, along with the compost, clippings, leaves, manure, lime, and molasses kombucha tea, I'm turning under a large supply of seaweed.
One of the things that impressed me mightily with seaweed is that it tackles the fungal challenges that can plague gardens. Yeah. That would be my garden. I'm not sure if it is impaired soil quality, over watering, watering at the wrong time, or overcrowding, but every year I run a race with a kind of fungus that rushes to consume my garden. Neem oil has helped keep it in check, but I'm looking for better answers. Got a lot to hope for this year.
Last year's garden...a definite improvement on the very first...left me with a generous supply of tomato sauce and the remnant jars of that still cling to the shelves that line the basement. Mostly we're satisfied with our style of eating these days, but once in a while, Tool Guy will wistfully emote about a particular food that he misses. I gaped at him, slack jawed, when he recently sighed over missing spaghetti. He was a little taken aback when I informed him that everything necessary for spaghetti was already in the house. I whirled through my stashes of stuff and threw together a pot of spaghetti that had all of the Hobbits humming. And they never knew it had seaweed in it. See? Guerrilla nutrition.
4 lbs. ground beef
1 quart tomato sauce
1 quart bone broth
2 tsp. kelp powder
Tinkyada rice pasta
Brown ground beef in cast iron dutch oven and drain. Return meat to dutch oven, add sauce, kelp, and broth, then heat until incorporated and simmering. Meanwhile, in a pot, bring water to a boil and add rice pasta. Cover and turn off heat. Leave pasta in hot water for twenty minutes without removing the lid. After 20 minutes, drain pasta. Perfect pasta every time. Serve spaghetti sauce and meat over pasta.
The iodine in seaweed has a lot to offer our bodies. It works with our endocrine system. It is becoming recognized as a viable way of dealing with pathogens and avoiding antibiotics. It certainly helps deal with fungal overgrowth in our bodies as well as our gardens. In my zeal to include as much seaweed in our diet as guerrilla nutrition will allow, I've discovered that a light hand is required. Better to use less in more foods than more in less. Yes, they'll be getting a lower percentage, bite for bite, but a little seaweed in a Hobbit tummy is a higher percentage than all of the seaweed still in the plate. Softly, softly...
In addition to sustainable gardening, I'm also interested in other sustainable forms of harvesting. In discussing a source of seaweed, The Maine Seaweed Company came up. This company is a delight to do business with. Larch Hanson has a warm, personal touch and is always up for an email exchange about gardening, how to use the seaweed, and is eager to share what's going on in his garden. I'm quite impressed with how his cold frames are producing.
The Hobbits continue to grow and thrive. We continue to stalk new foods. My seedlings are sturdily pushing upwards and putting out their true leaves. In another week or so, my garden will be redolent of seashore. We've come a long way. The substance of things hoped for...the evidence of things not seen.