Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Growth Spurts: Organic Production Guides

Free organic production guides are now available for farmers.

The guides provide information on how to produce certified organic apples, blueberries, grapes, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, strawberries and cole crops, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. There is also a guide on management of dairy cattle pests using organic integrated pest management (IPM) methods.

The guides are produced by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell, funded by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The guides offer clear, research-based information to help farmers interested in transitioning from conventional to organic production.

The guides provide an overall approach for organic production with a focus on biological, mechanical, and cultural controls. Sections on cover crops, resistant varieties, crop rotation, field selection, soil quality and nutrient management all highlight their interrelated qualities and precede specifics on pest management options.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Growth Spurts: Legumes can Reduce Need for Nitrogen Fertilizer

Adding legumes to a crop rotation has many benefits, including reducing the need for external nitrogen input.

As spring seeding approaches, this is a good time to think about crop rotation and consider replacing some fallow ground with a legume crop. Annual legumes include field pea, lentils and chickpeas, whereas perennial legumes include alfalfa and sainfoin.

Many dryland grain producers are hesitant to plant a crop rather than fallow because soil moisture is often a limiting factor to wheat production. However, planting legumes rather than fallow can have several benefits:

Legumes, with the proper soil bacteria, convert nitrogen gas from the air to a form available to plants. Consequently, they do not need nitrogen fertilization, and can even add nitrogen to the soil.

Much of the nitrogen benefit of legumes comes from the plant residue - shoots and roots. This gradually decomposes over a few years to provide plant-available nitrogen and increase long term soil fertility.

Replacing fallow with any kind of crop has also been found to decrease nitrate leaching and saline seeps.

Whether as a replacement to fallow or part of annual rotations, the benefits of legumes go beyond nitrogen addition. According to work done in Saskatchewan, only a portion of the benefit from a legume in rotation-compared to continuous small grains-comes from the added nitrogen. The greatest benefit is improved soil structure, and breaking weed, disease, and insect cycles.

Unincorporated pea residue may also enhance germination and survival of wheat under dry fall conditions because it provides soil cover to reduce evaporation loss. These benefits generally add up to higher yields and protein in wheat planted after an annual legume rather than a cereal. How much higher depends not only on the growing season, but largely on whether the legume was grown as green manure, that is, terminated early before maturity, or for a grain or forage crop. The management objectives will determine whether or not the legume should be harvested and whether an annual or perennial legume is the better choice.

If replacing fallow, you want to select a shallow rooted crop that uses little water and nitrogen, such as annual legumes.

For water conservation, terminate the legume as green manure by first bloom (when 50 percent of plants have one flower). If adding nitrogen and organic matter is a higher priority, then the legume can be terminated at the pod stage. This practice generally increases grain protein in the following wheat crop. An annual legume crop can also be harvested as grain for an immediate economic benefit.

Keep in mind, however, that legume grain and forage harvest remove a large portion of the potential nitrogen gained and there will be less benefit to the soil. When legume grain prices are high, as it currently is with lentils, harvesting legume grain makes sense, but decreased yield of the next crop due to lower water availability needs to be considered.

Be sure to have your next rotation planned to take advantage of increased nitrogen. High protein wheat is a good option, but be aware that high persistence sulfonylurea (SU)-herbicides such as Ally (metsulfuron), Glean (chlorsulfuron), Finesse (chlorsulfuron) and Amber (triasulfuron), among others, can damage subsequent annual legumes.

If you have been using these products and want to grow legumes, you'll likely need to avoid their use for three to four years minimum prior to seeding legumes, depending on the product, application rate, and climate.

The nitrogen 'credit' following a legume harvested for grain is approximately 10 pounds per acre and can be more if the crop is terminated as a green manure.

Sources: Clain Jones, Extension soil fertility specialist; Perry Miller, professor; Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University

Garlic Stuffed Olives from New Orleans, Louisiana

Garlic Stuffed Olives now available from New Orleans, Louisiana

These large green olives are stuffed by hand with cloves of pickled garlic, creating a unique and tasty combination.

Sold in a 16-ounce jar.

Olives
Specialty Foods
Farm Produce
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Monday, March 29, 2010

In Season: Wild Mushrooms and Asparagus

Writing on the restaurant scene for WSJ.com, Katy McLaughlin reports that prices for many specialty ingredients have come down due to exceptional harvests of wild mushrooms, strawberries and asparagus in the Northwest.

"On the West Coast and particularly in California, lots of rain this winter has yielded a huge wild-mushroom crop and an early harvest of other spring favorites, from fava beans to English peas," she writes.

"Oregon Mushrooms, which ships wild mushrooms to restaurants around the country, says it is selling morels, a wild mushroom harvested in the spring, for $20 a pound wholesale, compared with $33 a pound last year. Restaurateurs in California, where spring hits first, are paying even less. At Oliveto in Oakland, Calif., chef Paul Canales says for the first time in his career he paid $12.50 a pound for morels—half the typical price."

Source: WSJ.com

In Season: Orange Juice Futures Slump

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts a Florida harvest of 131 million boxes of oranges in the current season ending in July, down from 162.4 million in 2009.

But while orange juice futures surged 90% last year on expectations of a smaller crop in Florida and supermarket prices rose 2.1% in February to average $5.47 a gallon, the volume of orange juice sold fell 8.6% during the same period and orange juice futures for May delivery have fallen to about $1.37 a pound.

Demand for orange juice is being hurt by both the hikes in retail prices and a seasonal decline that usually occurs in March as winter ends in the Northern Hemisphere and consumers drink less of the beverage to fend off colds.

Beverages: Organic Orange Carrot Juice from Miami, Florida

Organic Orange Carrot Juice from Miami, Florida, now available on Juice page.

This delicious blend of organic oranges and organic carrots provides a natural Source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and phytochemical nutrients.

The fresh pressed carrots and oranges are 100% organic - certified by Florida Organic Growers and Consumers and the USDA.

Sold in a package of six 32oz bottles.

Juice
Specialty Foods and Beverages
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Gamesmanship: Alice in Wonderland

Writing for Mercury News, Chris Strach reviews the Alice in Wonderland for the DS inspired by Tim Burton's latest film:
"While it's not surprising there was a video game spinoff from the blockbuster movie, it is surprising that this game would have stood out on its own without a movie. While it shares its name with the movie, most similarities end there...

"It may not share much in common with the film's visual style and plot, but its whimsical sense of wonder and charming presentation will entice players of all ages."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Open Air: Calgary Farmers’ Market

The City of Calgary has granted the Calgary Farmers’ Market a development permit to relocate to the Blackfoot Centre at Fifth Street and 77th Avenue S.E. in southeast Calgary.

The market's lease on its current location — Currie Barracks — expires in November.

Market organizers plan to break ground and start building at the new location soon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pedometer Watch available in The Gift Shop

Pedometer Watch available in The Gift Shop.

This watch counts steps when worn on the wrist and store daily steps for up to seven days.

Backlight for easy viewing in low-light conditions, the watch is also Water-resistent up to 50 meters or 164 feet.

Lithium battery included.

Handmade dolls now available from India

Handmade dolls now available from the Rajasthan region of India

This handmade doll is made in the image of Aasha, who represents the Rajasthan region. Her bandhani has mirror-like sequins sewn into her sari. The face is made from porcelain and is hand-painted, as are the hands. The costume and jewelry are all handmade.

This doll comes already mounted on a wooden display stand. It is approximately 36 cm tall, or about 14".

Dolls
Handmade
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Open Air: King County Releases Farmers Market Report

Commissioned by the King County Council of western Washington State, a publication titled the "Farmers Market Report" identifies challenges facing farmers markets in the county that impact their financial viability and future success. The report also identifies some of the solutions that would help strengthen their operations and facilitate farmer access to the markets.

Although King County has an impressive network of farmers markets supporting hundreds of small family farming businesses, there is concern among both market managers and farmers about the future.

The report notes the important economic development role farmers markets play as incubators for small businesses, a catalyst for strengthening neighborhood business districts and helping bring more money into the state's rural communities. In addition, the report recognizes the important role markets have in the economic success of family farms.

Key findings of the report:

* There are significant differences among farmers markets in the county which impact a market's ability to attract the best combination of shoppers and vendors.
* All of the markets in King County, regardless of size, depend on some form of public and/or community financial support.
* Programs and efforts to support farmers markets must be matched with support for family farms in order for both to be successful. It will take resources from a broad network of organizations, local jurisdictions and community supporters.

Addressing these findings is essential to the future of farming in western Washington. We hope this report is helpful in stimulating discussions to figure out how to garner the support necessary to support farmers markets and farmers

The Farmers Market Report is available online in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf). Click here to download.

Have You Tried... Solar Water Pumps

In a new guide to choosing a solar water pump for remote (off-grid) applications, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists report that for pumps with motors rated less than 1,500 watts, solar is usually the best choice. With current technology and costs, wind power or a hybrid wind/solar pump is usually best for power needs of 1,500 watts or more.

Agricultural Engineer Brian Vick and colleagues tested three major pump types: diaphragm, helical and centrifugal. Diaphragm and helical pumps can maintain almost the same maximum flow rate over a large range of pumping depths. Because maximum flow rate increases with
increasing power, centrifugal pumps can pump more water than diaphragm or helical pumps, although a photovoltaic (PV) array rated at a higher power may be required, especially at deeper pumping depths.

Powered with a 160-watt PV array, most diaphragm pumps sold today can draw sufficient water from wells 100 feet deep or less to supply 75 head of cattle. Some recently designed diaphragm pumps can draw from as deep as 230 feet, but can only supply sufficient quantities of water for 30 head of cattle.

ARS research indicates that if more water is needed or a deeper well is required, a pump type other than a diaphragm -- and a PV array of more than 160 watts -- is recommended.

The researchers also recommend using a controller on all pumps. For irrigation, they recommend the centrifugal pump with a hybrid wind/solar power system.

Their guide offers case studies in the Bushland, Texas, area, where wells are more than 230 feet deep. One example is a four-person household, for which they recommend a helical pump powered by a 500-watt PV array. To supply water to 150 head of beef cattle, they would use a helical pump powered by a 640 watt PV array.

The guide, published by the American Solar Energy Society in 2009, is available in a .pdf file by clicking here.

Handmade Leather Journals from Sandy, Utah

Handmade leather journals now available from Sandy, Utah

This genuine leather journal is the perfect place for journaling trips, poetry, story ideas, or simply recording inspiring thoughts. Made from thick, durable leather, this rustic journal feels like it's right out of the 1820's.

The journal's 96 thick pages are hand-sewn into the top grain cowhide leather cover, and an acid-free cotton rag paper construction helps ensure your writing will last. Use it for yourself or give it as a gift.

Books and Journals
Handmade
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Home Grown: Tips for an Easy-Care Garden

Gardening is a lot like cooking. Sometimes you want to putter in the kitchen all day, making breads and soups from scratch and creating the perfect meal. But there are plenty of times when you just want delicious, healthy food on the table quickly. Same thing in the garden.

Spring planting is exciting, and you're happy to spend a few weekends choosing plants and digging in mud. But a few weeks later, you just want to have a nice-looking yard, without a lot of effort. You want pretty flowers and foliage you can cut for an indoor arrangement, and a chance to relax and enjoy your outdoor room. No problem. Simply follow Monrovia's six steps to choosing plants for an easy-care garden ... just "plant 'em and forget 'em."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Market Watch: Look for Seasonal Decline in Soybean Consumption

Consumption of U.S. soybeans has a clear seasonal pattern, modest for the domestic crush and very pronounced for exports.

For the 10 years from 1999-00 through 2008-09, an average of 51.7 percent of the domestic crush occurred in the first half of the marketing year. Percentages were in a narrow range of 50.2 percent in 2006-07 to 55.1 percent in 2003-04.

There is a slight tendency for the crush during the first half of the year to be a smaller percentage of the marketing year total when the crop is large. In the five years when the crop was larger than the previous year, the crush during the first half of the year averaged 50.8 percent of the marketing year total.

The domestic crush is always the smallest during the fourth quarter of the year. The average during that quarter over the last 10 years was 23.4 percent.

For the current year, Census Bureau estimates of the domestic crush are available through January 2010, the first five months of the marketing year. The February estimate will be released on March 25.

It appears the domestic crush during the first half of the year was near 935 million bushels, nearly 93 million larger than during the first half of the 2008-09 marketing year. If the domestic crush is following an average large crop pattern, the crush during the first half of the marketing year points to a marketing year total of 1.84 billion bushels. That is 110 million bushels above the USDA's current projection for the year.

If the crush for the year is at the 1.73 billion bushels projected by the USDA, crush during the last half of the marketing year would need to total only 795 million bushels, 25 million less than during the last half of the 2008-09 marketing year. The crush during the first half of the year would then account for 54 percent of the marketing year total.

Over the 10 years from 1999-00 through 2008-09, U.S. soybean exports during the first half of the marketing year averaged 69.4 percent of the marketing year total.

For the four years from 2001-02 through 2004-05, first half exports averaged 74.6 percent of the total, in a range of 71.4 to 81.2 percent. During the other six years, first half exports averaged 65.7 percent, in a range of 62.9 to 68.2 percent.

For the current year, exports during the first six months were likely near 1.155 billion bushels, 278 million more than during the first half of the 2008-09 marketing year. The USDA projects marketing year exports at 1.42 billion bushels. At that level, exports during the first half of the marketing year would represent 81.3 percent of the total for the year. Exports during the last half of the year would need to total only 265 million bushels, about 10.2 million bushels
per week.

The rate at which the consumption of U.S. soybeans declines will determine the magnitude of year-ending stocks. Those stocks are currently projected at a modest 190 million bushels.

Exports so far in March have remained brisk, averaging 32.7 million bushels per week. Shipments need to average only 7.4 million per week from now through August to reach the USDA projection.

The reason for the sharp decline in U.S. exports during the last half of the marketing year is the availability of large South American supplies beginning in early April. The seasonal decline is expected to be especially large this year because U.S. exports over the past six months have been supported by a small South American soybean crop in 2009. The 2010 crop is expected to be very large. At 4.787 billion bushels, that crop is expected to be 36 percent larger than the 2009 crop.

In its early projections, the USDA anticipates the large South American crop will continue to impact the consumption of U.S. soybeans during the 2010-11 marketing year.

Both the domestic crush and exports are expected to decline during the year ahead, leading to some build-up in U.S. stocks. The magnitude of that build-up will depend on the size of the U.S. harvest this fall. Expectations about crop size will begin
with the Prospective Plantings report on March 31.

Source: Darrel Good, 217-333-4716, d-good@illinois.edu

Home Grown: When Fruit Trees Bear No Fruit

Getting young fruit trees to bear can sometimes be a challenge.

Choose the Right Location

Young fruit trees will normally begin to fruit once the tree has become established in its new planting site. Several things can influence how soon your trees begin to bear, including weather, climate, tree variety or cultivar, and pollination.

We cannot change where we live, but we can influence the microclimate planting site of our fruit trees in our landscapes by utilizing the sun and providing winter weather protection.

Choose the Right Cultivar

Fruit bud hardiness is another factor in whether you get fruit or not. Apples seem to be the least susceptible to cold injury and apricots the most sensitive. Once a tree regularly begins to bear, fruit buds are formed each year and then, we only lose the crop when cold weather kills the buds.

Fruit trees are typically one or two years old when they are purchased, and most often they have been grown in containers. This is good because the tree has all of its root system intact when planted.

Dwarf trees will take longer to bear than moderate or seedling fruit trees.

Fruit trees need to be trained during the first year to benefit from their dwarfing characteristics or your tree will end up much larger than you expected. Scaffold branch selection should also be part of that training. A common mistake is to wait too long before starting to train the fruit tree. The first scaffold branches should be 18 to 24 inches from the ground. Don't be alarmed if the fruit tree does not begin to flower heavily for the first three to five years while you are training the scaffolds and establishing the tree.

Pollination

The last management strategy is making sure your fruit trees are pollinated properly.

Most apples are self-unfruitful, meaning that you need another apple variety blooming at the same time to provide pollen. Others that need cross-pollination include pear, sweet cherries, and plums.

Fruit trees are pollinated by bees. Bees are influenced by weather just like us, and they stay closer to home in cooler, wet weather. Better pollination occurs when the weather is dry and warm while the trees are in bloom. If you are spraying your trees, treat when the bees are not collecting pollen.

By choosing the right varieties for winter hardiness and pollination times, planting in an area that has both good air and water drainage, and starting your pruning and scaffold training that first year, your fruit trees can provide many years of beauty -- and fruit.

When Fruit Trees Bear No Fruit
Home Grown
Trees

Monday, March 22, 2010

Organic Fertilizer from Snellville, Georgia

Organic Fertilizer available from AvaGrow International in Snellville, Georgia.

This is an easy to use liquid organic concentrated fertilizer for both house plants and vegetables.

This product may also be used to feed vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs, as well as for seed germination and as a compost enhancer.

Open Air: Richfield Farmers Market

The Richfield Farmers Market is a seasonal open air growers' market featuring growers who are also the sellers, bringing their product to the market from within 200 miles. Products offered at the market include fresh produce, bedding plants, fresh-cut flowers, hanging baskets, herbs, honey and more.

Located at the Veterans Memorial Park Picnic Shelter at 64th St. and Portland Ave. in Richfield, Minnesota, this year's market begins the first Saturday in May and continues through October on Saturdays, 7am - noon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kitchen Supply: Commercial Electric Meat Grinder and Sausage Stuffer

Commercial Electric Meat Grinder and Sausage Stuffer now available in Kitchen Supply.

This 650-watt commercial grade grinder can process 264 simple to operate, lightweight, extremely low noise and power efficient.

Suitable for restaurants, butcher shops, school cafeterias, hotel or any other food service industries. Measures 15" x 8" x 16" and weighs 55 pounds.

Small Appliances
Kitchen Supply
Sausage
List your product in Kitchen Supply

Friday, March 19, 2010

Magazine Stand: Acres U.S.A.

Acres U.S.A. is available on the Magazine Stand in the Farm section.

The national magazine of organic and sustainable farming for 35 years, this publication reaches more commercial-scale organic and sustainable farmers than any other publication in North America.

This monthly periodical offers news and in-depth analyses of ecological agriculture technologies, economic issues and environmental topics. It includes case reports on successful eco-farmers and discussions of complex veterinary and human health and healing issues. There are regular columns on marketing, grazing, tillage methods, soils, weed and insect control, high-value crops, meetings, and more.

Farm Magazines
Magazine Stand

Hobo Handbags from Bogotá, Colombia

Hobo Handbags now available from Bogotá, Colombia in Handmade.

This is a limited edition handcrafted handbag shipped directly from the manufacturer in Columbia. Each bag is made to order, with a lead time of 10 days. Personalized bags available upon request.

This intense blue handbag has rounded corners on the bottom for easy maneuverability. With butterflies covering the complete front and a plain blue back with a zipper pocket and cellular back pocket, this bag is a well rounder. The patent handle feels smooth when carried.

Made of bovine leather, the bag measures 16.5" wide by 18" high with a depth of 3.9". Th hardware is brass and the lining i 100% nylon. There are two internal pockets one with zipper. Dust bag included.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gamesmanship: God of War III

Writing in Game Hunters, Brett Molina says he finds 'God of War III' an "epic" conclusion for the trilogy:

"The word "epic" gets thrown around often in the video games, whether it be to describe stories or their larger-than-life heroes.

But the term seems well suited for God of War III, the third and final chapter of the PlayStation 3 action series that delivers a grand video game tale set inside a monumental, mythological world.

The franchise follows lead character Kratos, a Spartan soldier obsessed with vengeance against the Greek gods of Mount Olympus after being duped into killing his wife and child."

Gamesmanship
God of War III
God of War II
God of War

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gamesmanship: No Gold for Vancouver 2010

Writing in GamingExcellence, Christopher Seal expresses his disappointment with a new game simulating the Olympics experience:

"Vancouver 2010 falls well short of any sense of depth and offers up a somewhat limited version of the events seen at the Winter Olympics.

"What Vancouver 2010 does give you is 14 events in which to attempt to achieve your ultimate goal, a gold medal... Most of the events are nothing more than steering left or right and pressing a button or two to speed up or simulate some other action. Playing many of these different events will remind you of those free flash games you can play on the web. Ostensibly that is what many of the events are, with a visual upgrade and a bit more polish."

Gamesmanship
Vancouver 2010 for Playstation 3
Vancouver 2010 for XBOX 360

Friday, March 12, 2010

Contests: Recipe for a Good Start Contest

Win a $5,000 contribution to a 529 college plan for your child children in Ragu's Recipe for a Good Start Contest.

This recipe contest is open to legal residents of the U.S. who are 18 years of age or older and parents or legal guardians of a child under 18 years of age as of date of entry. The contest began March 1 and the deadline for entries is May 21, 2010.

Enter online by visiting the Contest Website, clicking on the promotion link, and completing all required registration information and submitting your recipe.

The winning recipe will be wholesome in ingredient content, have family appeal and will include/apply to the following:

At least one jar of Ragu.
  1. Eight (8) or less ingredients (one being at least one jar of Ragu) and each ingredient must be a commonly used/readily available item;
  2. Feed four (4) or more people;
  3. Prep and Cook time combined 30 minutes or less, unless cooking/baking is untended;
  4. A simple recipe, easy to make and fitting one of the following themes:
  • Time-Saving Convenience
  • Value Meal Ideas
  • Step-Saving Convenience
  • Italian Classics
  • 1-Dish Meals
Recipe must be named and all ingredients listed with exact U.S. measurements. Include complete directions, pan sizes, required utensils, timing, temperature, number of servings, and any other relevant information.

Three finalists will receive a 4-day/3-night trip for four to New York City to compete in a cooking show-down for the Grand Prize.

Ragu Traditional Pasta Sauce
Recipe for a Good Start Contest
Contests
Submit Your Contest

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Farmers Market Supply: Clear Deli Containers with Lids

Now available in Farmers Market Supply: Clear Deli Containers with Lids

These clear plastic clamshell plastic containers with lids are ideal for packaging salad mixes, prepared meals, assorted veggies, baked goods and more.

Farmers Market Supply
add your product to Farmers Market Supply

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberries available from Wilmington, Delaware

Chocolate Covered Strawberries now available from Wilmington, Delaware

Custom fresh chocolate covered strawberries dipped and decorated for every occasion. Shipped Nationwide.

These are large chocolate covered long stem strawberries, with chocolate drizzle (contrasting colors of chocolate). The berries are each hand dipped the day they are shipped and never frozen. And only true gourmet chocolate with cocoa butter is used (no trans fats!).

This product is very perishable and must be shipped using overnight service to preserve freshness. The vendor ships Monday thru Thursday for next day delivery.

Contests: "Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast" Book Contest

Copies of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's newest book, "Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast." are being awarded to 20 contestants in its "Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast" Book Contest.

Explain why you love Everyday Food in 150 words or less and submit with the title of your favorite Everyday Food recipe by March 15, 2010.

Include complete name, address, telephone number, and email address.

Online entries can be emailed or mailed with full name, address, phone number, and email address to:

Alison Sickelka
Assistant Editor, Online
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
601 West 26th Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10001

"Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast" features 250 recipes that are simple to prepare and filled with flavorful fresh ingredients. Accompanied by photographs, the recipes focus on quick-cooking, easy-to-assemble dishes that use what's on hand.

Everyday Food
Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast
Contests
Submit Your Contest

Monday, March 8, 2010

Handmade Women's Casual Shoes from Delhi, India

Handmade Women's Casual Shoes from Delhi, India now available in Clothing section.

Handcrafted and embroidered by a Punjuab showmaker, these shoes with a traditional Indian look are ready for party and casual wear.

Popularly known in India as "juties," these shoes are made of leather or rexin with hand embroidery, makhi work, makdi crayp, tilla and thread work on top. Exquisite shoes for both men and women, juties are often specially crafted for marriages.

Footwear and Shoes
Clothing
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Craft Supplies: Beeswax Candle Kit

This kit includes instructions, wick, and a beautiful array of colors. There are 10 wax sheets that measure 8" x 12" and are in the following colors: Lavender, Coral. Olive, Pacific Blue, Ivory (2 sheets), Red, Pine, and Natural (2 sheets).

Beeswax candles provide a pure and clean-burning flame that produces very little smoke and a slight natural honey scent.

Beeswax Candle Kit
Beeswax
Craft Supplies
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rural Delivery: Spring Forward

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

Now that we're on the verge of falling back into Standard Time -- or "God's time," as some would have it -- the fingers of blame for the senseless exercise called Daylight Saving will soon be wagging again. And, as they have done for more than a century, many of those digits will point "out there" toward the countryside and rural areas where the backward and ignorant farmers who came up with the idea reside.

This, of course, is contrary to what I know about Daylight Saving. All the farmers I've met or have heard from on the matter have been pretty much opposed to a scheme that pushes morning chores an hour deeper into darkness in order to afford bankers, doctors and Congressmen an extra hour of golf in the evening.

City folk, according to Michael Downing in his history of Daylight Saving Time titled Spring Forward, frequently blame farmers for wanting "more daylight for their chores." But when Daylight Saving was first proposed early in the 20th century farmers were the loudest voices against the idea.

"From the first, farmers opposed Daylight Saving, which was an urban idea of a good idea, hatched in London and cultivated in the cities of Europe and the northern United States," he explains.

After Daylight Saving was first enacted in the U.S. in 1917 (by the same Congress that committed a relcutant nation to World War I and Prohibition) it was farm organizations that lobbied for and achieved its repeal in 1919, overriding a veto by President Woodrow Wilson.

"Farmers dominated the debate," Downing points out, "permanently wedding themselves to DS in the public's imagination." Most folks couldn't remember, or figure out, if farmers were for or against Daylight Saving, but they were impressed with how much it concerned the rural community. So, whichever way the issue went, farmers were assumed to the winners.

After its repeal, Daylight Saving was still observed in a few states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island) and some cities (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and others), but there was no national effort to control the clock until President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round "War Time" as a conservation effort from February of 1942 to September, 1945.

Whether Daylight Saving was an effective means of conserving fuel during the war years, or at any time, has never been proven. Proponents claim that longer evenings conserve energy that would be used for heating and lighting homes an extra hour, while opponents note that schools, dairies, factories and early risers eat up any savings in the extra hour of morning darkness. And all the while, energy consumption in general has grown and grown and grown.

The conservation argument persuaded President Richard Nixon to sign the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973, setting clocks ahead an hour for 15 straight months in 1974-75. By the time the clocks were turned back, Nixon was no longer president and no one could remember any energy "emergency."

Similarly, the Daylight Saving Time most of America has observed since 1966 -- the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October -- is being extended by two weeks on both ends under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 signed by President George Bush in order to "conserve energy."

In times of national crisis, when soldiers are dying and children are endangered and levees need shoring up, America's leaders have repeatedly moved the clock forward, as if advancing the hour would help see us through troubled times more quickly.

There's really no changing time, of course, unless we greatly accelerate our speed.

The amount of daylight stays pretty much the same from year to year, no matter how we set our clocks. Claiming to save daylight by taking an hour from one end of the day and putting it on the other is like cheating at solitaire and telling yourself you won.

Messing with our clocks distracts us from the more pressing issues at hand, which is why politicians repeatedly return to the Daylight Saving solution and so many folks fall back to blaming 2 million American farmers for making it easier for 60 million American golfers to squeeze in an extra hour on the links before sunset.

Rural Delivery
Spring Forward
Spring Forward by Michael Downing
Michael Hofferber

Gamesmanship: Final Fantasy XIII Looks Amazing

Writing in The Observer, Serge Pennings reviews the latest iteration of the Final Fantasy series:
"This is everything one has come to expect from a Final Fantasy title. Even without Blu-ray it looks amazing, and not just in its abundant cut-scenes. The epic storyline sees an all-new group of unlikely heroes embark on a typically convoluted quest to save their world and themselves in the process. Meet Lightning, Snow, Hope, Fang, Sazh and Vanille. They look like refugees from an explosion in a hair gel factory. They look every inch like heroes of a Final Fantasy.

"If you enjoyed previous iterations, then you'll love this, and even if you haven't, it may be time to give Final Fantasy another try, because this is the most streamlined, accessible and straightforwardly playable quest to date."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gamesmanship: BioShock 2 Stagnant Sequel

Writing in The New York Times, Seth Schiesel reviews the BioShock 2 sequel to BioShock.
"BioShock 2, released recently by 2K Games for the PlayStation 3, Windows PCs and the Xbox 360, feels great and looks absolutely dreamy. But it simply does not move very far beyond the first game. BioShock 2 is fun, but it is also a bit stagnant in its creative ambition."
Gamesmanship
BioShock
BioShock 2

Good Weight: Free Sample

Free Sample of PowerBar® Gel Blasts available online.

Gel Blasts are energy chews that provide extra energy during moderate and high-intensity workouts like long runs or bike rides. Bite through the soft outer shell to the liquid center and get a blast of energy with 30 grams of carbohydrates to kick off glycogen replenishment.

Free sample of these energy boosters are available for a limited time by registering on the site, which includes sharing email, name, gender, year of birth, address, and how many hours per week you exercise. You also have to opt into its e-newsletter and agree to receive occasional offers and product promotions from PowerBar in the mail. Free samples of Gel Blasts take 3-5 weeks to arrive.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vegetable seeds available direct from Bay City, Michigan

Vegetable seeds available direct from Main Street Seed & Supply in Bay City, Michigan

Seed are available in quantities large and small year-round. This includes a large variety of vegetable seeds for home gardens.

Main Street Seed & Supply also hasa a full selection of organic seeds including beans, beats, carrots, herbs, lettuce and many more.

Home Grown: Lawnmower Bites, Kills Tree

The lawn mower was supposed to circle the newly planted sapling, but instead it struck the base. Oops! Is that a problem?

Yes, it is.

Unlike skin, wounds that reach below the bark don't heal. At best, the trunk seals off the injury, but there is no repair in the sense that our skin repairs itself. Bark will form a callus along the edge of the wound, but it rarely can bridge the break. The trunk typically loses the bark in the injured area, and the wound remains decades later.

University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Nancy Pollard recommends protecting against lawn-mower bites by mulching.

"When planting a new tree, take the time to remove grass at least two feet away from the base. Put down wood-chip mulch to a depth of about three inches.

"Mulch should ring the tree like a lifesaver, not a volcano. A ring of mulch protects the tree from injury, keeps roots comfortably cool, reduces water loss, and keeps weeds at bay."

The best technique is to mulch just to the bottom of the root flare, without piling it up the base.

If the tree isn't planted too deeply, you will see a slight flare where the roots naturally form. Trunk tissue at and above the flare is usually water resistant, not waterproof.

If it is not allowed to dry out, eventually insects and diseases attack wet bark.

"People enthusiastically pile mulch at the base of the tree, not knowing it will soak and injure rather than protect it," Pollard warns.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Here's How To... Grow Your Own Starts

Starting your own plants from seed can give you a wider choice of cultivars than what you can often find as transplants at the local garden center. It also ensures that you will have healthy plants at the right time to set out.

If you want the very latest types of plants or want to try growing heirloom varieties, you usually have to get the seed from mail-order sources.

Once you have the seeds in hand, however, you have to get them to germinate and grow in order to have useable transplants for the garden. And this is where many gardeners face frustration. Sometimes the seed fails to germinate or, once germinated, it doesn't grow as it should, resulting in poor quality transplants.

Growing plants from seed is not complicated if you know a few basic seed germination tips.

Continued...

Rural Delivery: Windbreak

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

Willows that I planted from trimmings last spring now stand high as a man and twice as wide. Their new growth turned reddish gold over the winter and now buds are forming. Given enough water, willows grow like weeds.

The aspen and lilacs and Nanking cherry seem to have taken root with few losses. I'd expected deer to take a measure of their tender shoots, but snow cover came early and heavy hereabouts and game animals have been scarce this year.

I fret over the Austrian pine and Douglas fir. No signs of sun scald, but it's too early for new growth and their progress is slow.

It is early spring and I am walking the windbreak I planted last spring. This stand of saplings should rise up 20 feet in a dozen years or so, providing some protection against the hot, dry westerlies that blow this way come summer.

A properly constructed windbreak can deter winds 10 times the height of the tallest tree, or so I've read. Planted in a bell-shaped curve with the tallest trees in the middle and shrubs on either end, the aerodynamic windbreak will re-direct breezes around a field, giving soils and tender seedlings some peace.

There's a rule of thumb that says a windbreak of medium density will reduce wind speed 50 percent or more on the ground behind it for a distance up to eight times the windbreak's height.

Those 30 mile-per-hour winds that whip through here would be flattened to 15 miles-per-hour for up to 160 feet behind a 20-foot windbreak.


A typical windbreak is made up of shrubs, quick-growing deciduous trees like poplars and willows, and some evergreens for winter protection. It will take 10 years or more to mature.

The Soil Conservation Service, under a federal mandate to encourage windbreaks, sells low-cost nursery stock each spring. Last year I bought a truckload and planted them, one by one, in a succession of rows. I laid out a drip-line along each row with individual drippers for each tree.

Throughout the summer I tried to keep the weeds and grasses down so the trees wouldn't have to compete for water, but did not always succeed. In some places I have to pull away the dried corpses brushy weeds to find my saplings.

But, as I said, my winter losses have been few. I can now envision a second year's growth and, faintly, imagine the windbreak of a decade from now.

Two-foot trees don't break much wind, but they do break ground on the future. And I realize, as I walk this line, that they are planted against more than just the wind, but against any force that would drive us from this land: bankruptcy, death, relocation, condemnation. A windbreak won't stop time, but it may slow it down.

Windbreak
Rural Delivery blog
Rural Delivery
Michael Hofferber

Craft Supplies: Goose Eggs

Goose Eggs are now available on the Emu Eggs page in Craft Supplies.

Goose eggs are ideal for pierce carving and decorating. They are inexpensive and will offer excellent practice for the novice carver before moving up to more expensive eggs.

These eggs measure 3" to 3 1/2" tall and 1 1/2" to 2" in diameter. They have been cleaned and sanitized and are surprisingly durable and easy to carve.

Just in time for making holiday decorations.

Gluten Free Pastas direct from Fontana, California.

Gluten Free Pasta now available direct from the producer in Fontana, California.

A large selection of natural and organic rice and potato pastas are available, including elbows, penne, spaghetti, rotini, fettucini, linguine, and vermicelli, as well as mac & cheese and mini shells & cheese dinners.

Pasta are shipped directly from the gluten free manufacturing facility.

Pasta
Specialty Foods and Beverages
add your pasta to the Buy Direct Directory

Monday, March 1, 2010

Farm Direct: Farmers Market on a Bus

At Change.org, Katherine Gustafson reports on how Mark Lilly, founder and owner of Farm to Family, operates a mobile farmers market in a tricked-out school bus packed with "fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, baked goods and a few pet rabbits." The produce is gathered from Lilly's own garden as well as those of family members, friends and farmers with whom he is trying to build relationships. His marketing route is limited to the Richmond, Virginia, area but varies from day to day. He posts his location for potential shoppers hour-to-hour info on his Facebook page and Twitter feed and responds to special requests for stops.

Open Air: Glenside Farmers Market

Reporting on the upcoming May 1 - November 20, 2010, season of the Glenside Farmers Market in Glenside, Pennsylvania, Jesse Howe writes:
Currently for the 2010 season we are looking for the following types of products:locally produced pork, bison, rabbit,lamb, specialty cheeses, specialty breads, wine, christmas trees, herbs,home made teas. Vendors must provide liability insurance for themselves and provide a canopy for there booth. Payments and dates chosen are due prior to the start of the season and specific payment plans can also be made.