It has come to my attention that, as a result of the Grease Pencils post, my trustworthiness in the vicinity of other people’s oars and unlocked doors has come into question. Tongue-in-cheek, but still!
This has to do with how I acquired said grease pencils. At the time, during the original supplies search, I had been successful only in finding a box of 1000 for sale on the Internet. What is the ethical solution for this? Probably to have tried harder, in locating a smaller number. Now they are at Staples, but I believe that we tried that, at that time, with no success. My solution, shady action at the health food store, and reimbursing the store by not correcting register errors in their favor, was still not fair. (I had asked to buy some grease pencils, but was told that they didn’t know how to do that, so, no.) Just because I needed those pencils, it doesn’t mean that the store should part with them, even though we know for sure that this happens accidentally all the time (and another employee suggested this solution).
Over the course of time I’ve had more than one assistant who accidentally left my home with everything from good mechanical pencils to Salvation Army style forks and spoons, using them during lunch breaks and forgetting that they were not their own, as they packed up their stuff. The fascinating part was that in each case, those individuals truly did not understand why this mattered to me, after we figured out what had happened. Because it was clearly important to me, efforts were made to sort it out, and all was resolved well. But I could see clearly that for them it was a reach, to understand my perspective.
And yet, I lifted grease pencils! Feeling pressed by need, and rationalizing in assorted directions, from secret payment, to the known poor treatment of staff by the large-chain health food store (nope, not really related). So are anybody’s oars safe, if I’m in the vicinity, if any of these rationalizations are acceptable?
This has nothing to do with boats, except for the oars, and that my desire for a workable navigation system is what prompted this action. This all took place quite some time ago – how would it be now, older and perhaps a little wiser, minus the modern Internet making finding things so easy?
All I can say in my defense is that this action bothers me too, and has been the source of much soul-searching. Maybe that’s why I wrote up the original post in that way, bringing the subject to light. After all, one could have just said something about that these special grease pencils (plastic, and impervious to water) used to be hard to find, but now here they are on the Internet. Instead, the mention is there, and is the very part of the post that has received notice, prompting gentle encouragement from the universe that I might like to get my act together. Thank you universe, and thank you friends!
Now that it’s incredibly cold and snowy around here, but with the solstice long past, the garden folks are working on seed orders. With that in mind, here are some reflections on how the boat farm went in 2013.
Overall, progress was made. It’s still experimental, and a source of treats, rather than a tremendous amount of food, but that’s mainly because it did not get my full, undivided attention. The next round will be easier, with a specific plan in mind, and a firmer sense of what works.
New planting: sunflower, peas, and buckwheat
For starters, being diligent about planting every few days would pay off nicely. Sunflower sprouts fill in well, and once they get going one can harvest each day for about a week from one planting, picking the taller individuals in each container, with new ones growing to harvest size by the next day. They feel substantial when you eat them, so a handful of thinned plants actually makes you feel like you’ve had some fresh vegetables. While the weather is warm, and there are many hours of sun each day, they grow quite enthusiastically. Clouds do not seem to be a big problem, but the shortening days in the fall brought about a gradual end to the success of this crop. This stands to reason, considering that they are SUNflowers!
Once the weather got cooler and the days shorter, I started to focus more on buckwheat sprouts, also planted in a thin layer of soil. These grew quite nicely, so long as the buckwheat was fresh. Old buckwheat that had been in my cupboard for a couple of years (how can that happen??) did not sprout well at all, and was better for cooking. But buckwheat with hulls, bought recently in bulk from the natural food store, grew just fine. This is a more delicate plant, with leaves that don’t have a lot to them. The leaves are broad, but tissue paper thin. Still, they are tasty, with a mild, unspicy flavor. With a diligent planting schedule, and being careful to not let them dry out in the sun, they are a worthwhile effort. Nothing beats sunflowers in their favorite season – thick-stemmed, with sturdy leaves, and growing like a shot – but once the season goes by, it’s time for other possibilities. Buckwheat fills the bill.
I also tried peas, in that cooler time, but they seem slow-growing, both to sprout, and then to grow. This might have had to do with my soil – they don’t seem so slow in the regular garden at home, but maybe I haven’t paid proper attention. It could be that they take some time there also. At any rate, it was fun to have a few sprigs, but they seemed like more trouble. Chard seeds came up nicely, but then grew very slowly. I think that this is also a soil issue, producing stunted, slow-growing plants, which is not the norm for chard that is happy in its garden. I wish I was a better gardener, right off the bat! But experiments continue, and I’ll keep reporting…
One approach that was more of a success this year had to do with watering, for all the different plants. Originally I had the idea that when planting the seeds it was good to water the soil directly, making it thoroughly moist though not soaking wet. However, little bits of white mold were a frequent issue in both sunflowers and peas, and eventually I tried simply spritzing the top of the soil after the seeds were in. This was much more successful, and mold stopped being a problem. Who would’ve thought that seeds would sprout without soaking, and with such a light application of water! They were spritzed enough to be moist on top once or sometimes twice a day, but were definitely dry at times also. The soil underneath was barely moist – and yet this worked.
Another success had to do with learning to live with the fungus gnats. Though I was originally hoping for complete eradication, eventually I realized that the issue was more one of balance. Starting with fresh soil in the container with each planting made a big difference with this, and the only time that they became a problem again was when I neglected to harvest the sunflower sprouts that had quit growing in the fall, short of their normal harvest size (I kept hoping that they’d get bigger). Previous to that, the long-term pot of parsley did have a few gnats, but they didn’t go crazy, and they did not start to take over the other containers. I do think that the parsley, because it was in a long-term, deep container of soil, made it impossible for the boat to be fungus gnat free, but that parsley sure was good! One or two gnats every now and then felt like a worthwhile trade-off. Next time I’ll understand that when the sunflower sprouts stop growing, then it’s time to harvest the final crop even if they are only an inch high (rather than the normal 3 to 5), and move on to buckwheat. Fast growth, making for frequent changeover of container soil, pretty much took care of the fungus gnat issue.
Then there is the subject of fertilizing. This is really important for plants that are in containers ongoing, like parsley, and lettuce, and there are knowledgeable sprouters who say that it makes a difference for short-term crops in an inch of soil, also. I’d agree with that, for the sunflowers, and it was obvious with the parsley and lettuce. There is organic fertilizer, and compost, that are fertilizing options, either applied directly to the top of the soil, or soaked for “tea” that is then applied when watering. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and share that there is another source of perfectly healthy, and safe, fertilizer in abundant supply on a boat. This would be pee, which is a fantastic source of nitrogen. It has to be diluted with water at least 10 to 1, which takes care of the odor issue, as well as being important for the plants, so they don’t “burn.” If potted plants such as lettuce and parsley are given a soaking water with this diluted mixture once a week, they grow like crazy.
I have not gotten brave enough to try this on the indoor sprout plants – they seem too close to the ground that is being so watered, and beyond even my admittedly fringy comfort level. But it would probably be fine. Plants in the cockpit, that can drain over the side, do just fine, and it’s so simple!
It’s important to make the distinction between using urine for vegetable garden fertilizer and using humanure compost. Urine is generally sterile, while a much more involved process is required before composted solid waste can safely be considered for food plants, and some folks argue that it should not be considered for food plants at all, due to potential bacteria as well as heavy metals. However, urine is a different story, and can be very successful. Because we are talking about small boats, and self-sufficiency, it has seemed that the discussion of boat-farm fertilizer would be incomplete without mentioning it.
Another thing that I learned in 2013 was just how much very fine salt spray finds its way across the cockpit – and the plants don’t like it. Once I recognized this, I started moving lettuce containers into the cabin for sailing, and they started doing much better. Previously, I had just been covering them with a piece of sunbrella fabric when there was visible spray, and wondering at the little brown flecks on the leaves even when there had been no spray at all. Finally I started paying attention to that bit of mist that I could feel on my skin when sailing, even in very mild conditions, and the puzzle was solved. In the cooler weather it had been unnoticeable, with all the warm clothing, but was more obvious after the weather warmed up. Now, the shuffling of plants is a small chore, but very worthwhile.
Overall, while the boat farm is a work in progress, it is showing more and more signs of being workable. It’s fun to have the fresh greens, and sailing alone it’s rather nice to have the company. The little plants are festive in the cabin, green and growing in their special shelves, and I’m looking forward to expanding. Just think what a real gardener could do with this concept! I’d love to see.
There’s nothing like January in New England to inspire a person to be a little over-serious. Serious is good too, but it’s nice to remember things like the following, as well.
Earlier this winter I finally learned how to include photos in the blog wherever I want them, rather than having them always place themselves at the top of the post. The secret, for anybody else who has had this puzzle, is that WordPress does not like older versions of Internet Explorer. Running the blog site from my shiny new version of Mozilla Firefox, suddenly all the controls work! The possibilities are a little mind-boggling, but for starters, it means that I can start doing more with the many photos from those months of sailing in 2013. Here’s a beginning:
Jewel Island is in Casco Bay, which is the first big bay as you go north and east along the coast of Maine. It’s the one that has Portland within it, and South Freeport, with L.L. Bean, and the Harraseeket River, with my favorite seafood chowder anywhere. Casco Bay also has zillions of islands, ranging from protected and close-in to the mainland shore, to those on the outside, bordering the open ocean. Jewel Island is one of those on the outside edge of the bay, and is one of my favorite places, anywhere.
For starters, nobody lives there. The entire island is conservation land, open to the public, with a lovely network of trails, and numerous campsites along the shore. And it has a fantastic harbor, protected from most directions. All of these attributes make this spot enormously popular with a whole bunch of people besides me, and this can be a challenge. When I arrived in 2013, on a beautiful day, there was a lot happening there already. 10 or 15 boats were in the harbor, with camping groups going back and forth from boats to the shore, beer in hand. As the afternoon went on, more boats arrived.
On the bright side, everybody is in a good mood, and some fascinating vessels come and go, including everything from enormous and elegant sailboats, mixed in with the more predictable plastic, to a couple who rowed the long way out in a home built dory. There are campfires on the bluff along the shore, and folks to laugh with about how cold the water is, when they come by as you swim around the boat, rubbing algae off the water line. It gets quieter after dark, and in the morning the crowd begins to thin out.
The grand social event is fun, when not overdone. This time around, I had the great blessing of impending wet and foggy weather. By the next evening almost everybody was gone, and by the day after that I was the only one there. The harbor is not well protected from the northeast, but this storm very kindly came from the south, and gently, leaving me perfectly snug. Between showers I paddled around in the packraft, touching rocks, and the needles on overhanging trees.
Eventually I acquired a neighbor, and then the weather cleared. My next stop was the Harraseeket River, and that lovely chowder, along with a meeting for shore support. People talked about how bad the weather had been, but it seemed to lift their spirits when I said how incredibly happy I had been having Jewel Island all to myself, as a result of all those days of rain and fog. I would do it again in a flash, just that way.