I get my upper body strength from working in my garden. Everybody should do at least 30 minutes of upper body workout weekly, the more the merrier. Raking, shoveling, driving stakes really counts. And producing organic vegetables is priceless. I don't really want to eat anything else. Have you noticed that even in June, lettuce is a dollar a pound? In college I ate spinach for 33 cents a pound or nothing [now I eat French sorrel or malabar that's always in the backyard]. Every dollar you spend on food is up to a buck thirty that you earned because you are spending taxed income, and the father-in-law points out that the farmers and in betweens pass their tax costs on to you, too. When I am not practicing medicine, I figure that my labor is cheap, and digging up a garden makes me strong and healthy. Until this year I got by with a shovel, fork and pick axe to turn the soil. After 12 years, a 5hp rear-tine tiller is nice. If I can produce anything at all, I have saved money. Even in our first downtown garden, I grew 15 pounds of beans in a 6ft box and 100 pounds tomatoes from 6 carefully trellised plants, and lots of herbs. We just learned of a technique to grow up to 150 pounds of potatoes in a 2 by 2ft stack of boxes. Last year in Lutherville, I was dragging in 20 pounds of vegetables a day at peak from our modest 600 square feet of raised beds. These produce 50 percent more because of better drainage, despite not having bothered with a formal watering system. We made about 2 liters of pesto from 4 basil plants [compare the cost in the store!], and froze liters of pumpkin, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers. This year we are adding leeks, more blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, and a dwarf orchard with different varieties of pear, peach, apple, cherry and nectarine that cross pollinate. This is next to the 3 bee hives that provides honey, wax and propolis, a strong anti-colon cancer substance, and stings, that may help arthritis. We are collecting data on what heirloom plants do well in this area with these techniques. Heirloom means that you can plant the seeds you grow and save, as opposes to hybrids that do not produce well the second time around. The Oberon Society (1-410-889-7618) is a local group that can help you preserve biodiversity in your own back yard and there is a national Heirloom seed exchange group. So, get thee gardening, and instead of spraying a poison on everything that kills indiscriminantly, including me, we have elected to promote predatory insects such as praying mantis and ladybugs. In addition, beneficial nematodes and bacteria are available to attack boring insects, and I often pinch the pests myself - - "slimy, yet satisfying."
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