The Forgotten Spaghetti Farmers

On this date in 1957, the BBC aired a groundbreaking report on the harvesting of spaghetti trees in southern Switzerland. Up until this time, many people in the UK did not consume spaghetti, and therefore were unaware of the painstaking process involved in spaghetti farming.

Though the images from the story are quite pastoral, spaghetti tree cultivation is not for the faint of heart. Improper care of the spaghetti tree can result in a crop of difficult-to-eat dancing spaghetti or the accidental transmogrification of the spaghetti tree into a pizza plant. At first thought, this may sound even better, but pizza plants are an invasive species, and almost always attract most of a neighborhood’s pests to one’s garden. Even worse, spaghetti storms (sometimes including meatball hail) have been known to happen in areas where genetically modified spaghetti plants are grown in large quantities. Scientists are unsure of why this may happen, but some hypothesize about a process similar to that where it rains frogs: waterspouts (spaghetti trees are largely farmed in low-lying wetlands or artificially-created ponds) rip the spaghetti from the tree limbs (which are weakened by unnaturally large spaghetti pods), transporting it to relatively high altitudes, and carrying it over large distances. The winds are capable of allowing the spaghetti to fall in a concentrated fashion in a localized area. Some tornadoes can suck up a spaghetti pond entirely, resulting in what we loosely translate as the fabled “rain of pasta.”

Sustainable Farmer and Entrepreneur Joel Salatin to Visit Ann Arbor

Joel Salatin, the well-known organic farmer, will be coming to Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater on Tuesday, April 24th by way of the People's Food Co-op of Ann Arbor (PFC), to "share how his farm serves as a prototype to the way local food can lead to our agricultural, environmental, and nutritional salvation. Noting that our food system now faces challenges in biosecurity, food safety, energy, integrity, and humane animal husbandry, he will explain how local production, processing, distribution, and patrons in the Ann Arbor area can reshape our food future."

Salatin's ideas and progress in the world of sustainable farming have been featured in Michael Pollan’s bestselling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in the documentary films Food, Inc. and Fresh, and also in his very own books, Folks, this Ain't Normal and Holy Cows and Hog Heaven. "Since his cutting-edge sustainable farm, Polyface Inc., began inspiring people throughout the world, his charismatic nature and ability to produce provocative and poignant proclamations about the unfortunate state of our food system have made him one of the most influential voices in the sustainable food movement today."

The event will take place at the Michigan Theater in Downtown Ann Arbor on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 from 8pm to 10pm. Tickets are $15 for the General Public, and $13 for Students & PFC Members. Available at ticketmaster.com or surcharge-free at the People's Food Co-op of Ann Arbor.

English Gardens With Betty Bishop And The Ann Arbor Garden Club

Wednesday March 14, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Pittsfield Branch: Program Room

Spring begins next week! Time to think about the wonderful outdoors and the beauty of finely-tended gardens! Join us as Ann Arbor Garden Club member Betty Bishop offers a colorful presentation of her bi-annual trips to England, touring a variety of traditional gardens.

What better way to get in the mood for spring?

Fall Leaves: Five Ways to Say Goodbye

The City of Ann Arbor Fall Leaf Management Guide offers five ways to manage leaves this fall:
-Mulching
-Compostable pickup
-Compost at home
-Free Leaf Drop-off @ Ann Arbor Compost Center
-Free Leaf Drop-off @ Recycle Ann Arbor

Grab a Rake, Help a Neighbor . . .
Neighborhood Senior Services is coordinating its 35th annual fall chore day on a Saturday, in mid-November from 10-2. Volunteers sign up online by Oct 31 at www.nssweb.org and assist raking leaves, checking smoke alarms, and helping seniors throughout Washtenaw County. 734.712.7775. Groups, individuals, and families are welcome to participate.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #284

Once in awhile, a book comes along and moves you so unexpectedly that you keep thinking about it long after you'd turned the last page. Vanessa Diffenbaugh's debut The Language of Flowers * (being released today) is as memorable as anything I have read of late.

32 foster homes, 18 years of abuse, neglect and disappointment fail to prepare Victoria Jones for life on her own after being emancipated from the California foster-care system. Squatting in the local park is dangerous but it allows her to care for the personal garden she secretly (and illegally) cultivates. Flowers and their language she understands. People she avoids.

When a local florist discovers Victoria's gift with flowers, she offers her a job and soon her talent is in demand as word gets around that her bouquets have the ability to transform and affect change. All the while, Victoria guards her solitude - until a mysterious vendor at the flower market marks her with his own unique offerings, the meaning of which sends Victoria to the San Francisco Public Library, and forces her to come to terms with a secret that haunts her.

Readers wanting to learn more about the symbolic language of flowers would be pleased to find a glossary included at the back of the book. Or check out The Language Of Flowers : Symbols And Myths by Marina Heilmeyer and Kate Greenaway's definitive The Illuminated Language Of Flowers.

Readers might try She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb for another moving, character-driven, bittersweet, coming-of-age story of grief and self-acceptance. In Julie Orringer's debut collection How to Breathe Underwater: stories we meet young protagonists trapped in awkward, painful situations who discover surprising reserves and wisdom in themselves.

* = Starred review (and one on NPR)

2011 Nichols Arboretum Peony Festival

PeonyPeony

It's almost time to stop and smell the peonies at the Arboretum! The Peony Gardens will be in bloom during this year's Peony festival June 4th to June 12th, and there's lots to see and do. Peonies will be available for sale on June 4th and 5th, with proceeds benefiting the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. There will be live music Saturday June 4th from 11 to 1pm, and guided lunchtime tours at noon June 4th through June 10th. Click here for the official event listing, where you can learn about the festival's Peony Photo Contest, more about the Peony Garden, hours and directions for the Arboretum, and more! Want to start your own flower garden? Check out the AADL's flower gardening resources!

Teen (and Parent) Magazine Update -- Home Schooling, Conspiracy Theorists and Luchador Socks

image by Odin Fotografia, Flickr.comimage by Odin Fotografia, Flickr.com
As winter and spring duke it out for supremacy, a beautiful new collection of magazines has blossomed in our teen room. Check out these lovely flowers:

For Teens:
Audrey -- All about Actress Olivia Munn, plus an article on the presence of Asian-Americans in mainstream TV shows.

ESPN Magazine -- See athletes strut their stuff in this special Style Report, in more ways then one, plus Derrick Rose shows off his luchador socks.

Rolling Stone -- Where else can you see Snooki, rock star Sammy Hagar and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in the same place? Plus, 2011's coolest new faces.

Sorry, parents, I've only got one magazine for you this time, but it's a good one:
Home Education Magazine has ideas on teaching your kids about gardening and food, as well as a list of books for Women's History Month!

Get out your umbrella and come check out these cool magazines!

Learn to Mulch Leaves and Win a Lawnmower - Now That's an Event!

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Tired of raking and bagging those fall leaves? Come to the City of Ann Arbor's leaf mulching demo on Sunday, Oct. 10, 1:00 p.m. ~ 2:30 p.m. at Wheeler Park and learn several ways to mulch those nutrient-rich leaves. There will be cider, donuts, and kid activities. Carpenter Brothers Hardware will be demonstrating lots of cool ways to use mulching mowers and then at 2 p.m. .... the big drawing for a new Lawn Boy mulching mower. Wow! Winning a lawn mower will more than make up for losing to the Spartans on Saturday, right?

Compost Can Change Your Life

compostcompost

Your garden will grow better, your grass will be greener, your plants prettier with certified City of Ann Arbor compost. Need a lot? Then the bulk sale is for you. Bring your truck to the Platt Road Compost Center. Need just a bushel or two? Then head to the Recycle Ann Arbor Drop-off Station. Pick up a copy of A Little Piece of Earth: How to Grow Your Own Food in Small Spaces at AADL and your table will be plentiful next year.

This Saturday is the Homegrown Festival

HomegrownHomegrownThat’s right! Are you ready for local food, local beverage, local live music, and good times? You’ll find it at the 3rd annual Homegrown Festival this Saturday, from 6pm – 11pm in the Kerrytown market area. The festival aims to promote awareness of local foods, farmers, resources, food security, and community support. There will be heirloom tomato tasting, kids activities, chef demos, non-profit booths, a silent auction, games, and more. Check out the website for full schedule, including a list of the fabulous food vendors. For more local food love keep an eye on 2011’s Local Food Summit, and keep in mind that September is Local Food Month!

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