Monday, July 26, 2010

Watermelon Going Strong

I have not posted too many updates this summer, as I haven't really done much experimentation. Moving to a new house and starting just a limited plot left me feeling like not a whole lot was worth reporting.

But I can confirm that my watermelons are thriving in the heat! I have harvested a small crop from my earliest vine, which was a native variety with orange fruit. But the newer vines are doing even better, really taking off and producing tons of flowers right now!

My corn this summer, again, I left on the stalk too long... Grrr. It got too hard to eat, and so I just fed it to the chickens...

What I need to do now is get the pumpkins in the ground, so that maybe I will have some for Halloween! I am already two weeks late, yikes!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the nice cool summer we are having so far, fellow crazy people, I mean, Arizona gardeners!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Devolution of the Economy

Interesting article in the L.A. Times about the devolution of our economy.

Basically, as more and more people lose their jobs, because their jobs are "permanently outsourced", more and more people filter down into the agricultural economy, growing crops for food and extra cash. At the Arizona Victory Garden, I do this with corn and watermelons (and might be trying it with pumpkins this fall as well). I like the corn and watermelons as multi=-purpose crops: if I don't eat them or sell them, the chickens love them, so it can't go wrong.

Public policy for this kind of thing can change over time. In the Depression of the 1890s, the unemployed were encouraged to turn empty city plots into productive gardens for sale in local markets. The Europeans still advocate this practice, going under the name of Community Gardens.

In the Depression of the 1930s, the unemployed were not encouraged to market their food, due to the deliterious effect upon crop prices. In short, government wanted to support farm prices, and farmers incomes, at that time.

Yeah, keeping the price of food high during a Depression, brilliant! Never underestimate the power of government to screw things up. As if our generation needs to be told that lesson...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Home Grown Eggs are Better

Its true: Fresh home grown eggs from the backyard flock are better!

The girls are great egg layers, and the value of the eggs far exceeds their feed costs.

We are even able to sell our excess eggs to help offset the feed costs.

Absolutely great investment.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How and When to Water Your Plants?

Recent studies have confirmed that water on the leafs of plants can cause sun damage, as the water droplets focus the light rays, causing burns (see here). Thus, you should avoid spray watering your plants, especially here in the Arizona desert, which has intense sunshine due to the low humidity.

Hands down, flood irrigation is the best watering technique for the desert. Build an earth wall berm around the outside of your growing area, then just flood it with water. Be careful not to overflow the berm wall, as a little leak over the edge will quickly erode a huge hole in the wall.

For the most efficient use of water, irrigate in the evenings, to avoid excess evaporation.

You can do day-time flood irrigation during the heat of the summer to cool off the ground. I have kept tomatos going all summer long, in full Arizona sun, by heavy flooding and intentsive plant spacing. The intensive spacing creates a shaded zone under the plants, which along with the water, helps the plants survive the brutal heat.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Food Price Spike of 2008 set to Repeat

The main cause of the food price spike in 2008 was speculation. Secondarily it was supply shortage, but primarily, it was speculation, meaning that big money investors threw their money into commodities, driving up their price. Warning signs are blipping that we may see a repeat of those events soon, driven again by a worldwide flood of money, just waiting for an investment vehicle to flood into.

Global food prices are rising again with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) food price index hitting 168 points in November, the fourth consecutive month of increase and the highest since September 2008. While this is still about 21 per cent lower than the most recent peak in June 2008 when the index hit 213.5 points, FAO does note that the index has never exceeded 120 points prior to the price spike between 2007/2008.

Several reasons have been highlighted for the rising prices. However, FAO has possibly for the first time highlighted the 'growing appetite by speculators and index funds for a wider commodity portfolio investments on the back of enormous global excess liquidity', as exacerbating the situation.

This mirrors the view of World Bank president Robert Zoellick who said recently that with so much liquidity in global markets, 'you could see additional moves towards the agricultural commodities sector if there were perceptions of market shortages'.

Speculation in agricultural commodities may not have reached fever pitch yet but with food shortages expected in 2010, it could.

Jim Rogers, one of the world's most astute investors has been bullish on commodities in general for several years. On agricultural (or soft) commodities, he says: 'Food inventories worldwide are at the lowest in decades as the world continues to consume more than it produces. We even have a shortage of farmers now since agriculture has been such a terrible business for three decades. We should all hope prices go higher or there may soon be a time when there will be little or no food at any price.'