Sierra Sustainability

Visit us here for interesting developments related to sustainability topics in Yosemite, the Sierras, and the surrounding foothills.

Sierra Sustainability: Summer Into Winter

It is now the last week in October, and both the tour season and Lisa’s and my garden are slowing down. In our garden, we’ve been taking out tomato and other plants that are no longer producing. We’re retaining those that still have ripening fruit on them, even though most of the tomato plants appear to be dying at their bottoms, many of their tops are green and flowering and continue to hold ripening fruit.

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The chicken-wire top of what was a cat’s protective cage has become an arbor for the ripening tomatoes, and the holes in the chicken-wire are the perfect size for bringing the cherry and yellow pear tomatoes down through the chicken wire to pick them.
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Where we’ve removed, unproductive plants, we’ve replaced them with a variety of autumn and winter vegetables, kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mustard greens, lettuce, spinach, celery, and more.

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Some we’ve planted in individual containers, though all are watered with our very efficient watering system described earlier.

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However, we’ve found that these recent planting are visited each morning by a lovely, but hungry variety of migrating birds, Rufus-sided and brown towhees, white- and golden-crowned sparrows, goldfinches, plain titmouses, and more. They nibble at the leaves of these delicate, young plants, so we’ve fashioned some simple cages to protect the most susceptible plants, leaving others at the mercy of these winged friends.

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Today’s harvest: Zucchini, cucumber, several varieties of tomatoes, calendula, peppers, parsley, lettuce, onions, carrots.

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Summer, 2014 Garden Update

Lisa and my garden has matured and has allowed us to continue to eat most of our meals with our major inputs coming from our garden. We harvest enough vegetables daily to eat delicious meals at least twice a day from the garden.

Garden Bounty

From the roof of our house, one can get a “bird’s eye view” of our “Cat-Cage” (with some shade cloth) as well as our recycled tractor-tire beds and other pots and grow-boxes which make up the rest of our garden efforts.

Bird's Eye View of Garden

Bird's Eye View of Garden

To keep cooking heat out of the house (so we can reduce our cooling needs), we’ve put our camp stove on the deck where we do some of our cooking. We also do some of our cooking on the deck using the grill. At one point we had a Stove-Top – Grilling Cook-Off, but there was no consensus about which cooking method was superior to the other.

Camp Stove on Porch with fresh vegetables

Grill on Porch with fresh vegetables

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Spring 2014 Garden Update

This year, we added 5 recycled tractor tires to our garden.

Tractor Tire Planters

This meant we also needed to add a new irrigation valve so all the plants would get enough water, even with our very efficient, system that directs water to the roots of the plants. In the following picture, incoming water comes in at lower left, then passes thru a filter to keep particles from clogging the spitters. Then the water passes into a manifold with three valves; the blue and red valves lead to the 2 spitter systems. The black valve controls a hose which has a watering wand which is seen just above the black valve.

Irrigation System

Unlike a drip system, our system uses 1/8th” tubing from a standard half inch drip line to a “spitter” which directs a small spray to the plant roots.

Tire Irrigation System

Most of the plants are really thriving and we are just beginning to reap our first vegetables.

GardenEarly Harvest

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Garden Update: August 4- 5, 2013

Garden Update: August 4th

The harvesting of tomatoes has grown beyond anything that I’d imagined, so besides giving them away to the Yosemite Close Up Tours staff and the Mariposa Visitors’ Center staff, and freezing them and their products, I’ve started solar drying them:

I borrowed a double-screen dryer from my land-lady (also an avid gardener) and sliced up a bunch of full-size as well as cherry tomatoes for drying.

Tomato Drying

While having a black station wagon in California’s mid-summer presents it’s own discomforts on sunny days, it makes an excellent solar food-dryer if the windows are left open a crack so that the moisture from the drying food can escape.

Solar Food Drying Car

It took about two full days in the sun for the tomatoes to arrive at a leathery consistency. At that point, I froze them and started a new batch. This next one had no cherry tomatoes since I filled the drying rack with full-sized ones.

Second Batch of Drying Tomatoes

Garden Update: August 5th:

The tomatoes are coming in like gangbusters, and the plums are getting ripe and are perfect for making preserves/jams due to their naturally high pectin content when they are nearly ripe. Jalapeños have been a steady producer and are adding spice to meals fresh or going into the freezer. Basil is also doing well, and I’ll show them soon as well as comments on making pesto which is a great favorite with all the tomatoes.

The Bounty

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Garden Update

July 14, 2013

Squash, zucchini, and cantaloupe
Basil, pepper, and tomato plants growing in raised beds. They are protected from turkey and deer with the wire cat cage and from gophers below with galvanized hardware cloth.
In lower left of photo: Squash, zucchini, and cantaloupes growing in “Earth Boxes.”

Peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes

Harvest of peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.

Upper left: home-made salsa using the peppers and tomatoes.

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