In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


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Mother Earth News Fair 2019

This past weekend, the Mother Earth News Fair visited Frederick, MD. I enjoyed the event as much this time as I did last year, and managed to attend both days.

Each day was full of presentations on sustainability topics, permaculture, renewable energy, gardening and cooking. I actually had submitted a proposal for a session on foraging as an approach to defend Maryland ecologies from invasive plants, but unfortunately they did not decide to include it. Maybe the topic was a bit too “fringy” even for them!

(You, dear reader, have gotten to enjoy bits of my presentation-to-be in several posts this year, including those on garlic mustard, knotweed, and field garlic.)

In addition to the interesting classes, I may have splurged on some purchases for my own little suburban homestead.

I purchased clay watering stakes for some of our container garden plants.

Clay watering stakes for container plants

Clay watering stakes for container plants

Each year I plant twice as many tomatoes as I want for my garden, so if some don’t germinate or die during the transition from indoors to the garden, I still have plenty. I always grow eight – two romas, two slicers and four cherries all in different colors. Friends adopted several of my leftover plants, but I couldn’t bring myself to just compost the last three. They now live on my deck, but the pots are too shallow for thirsty tomatoes. Now I have a solution! The soil pulls moisture from the clay stake as needed, and the glass bottle lets me monitor the water level. Plus I clearly need to drink more wine for the other stakes I bought!

Plant nanny in action

Plant nanny in action

(Because the we suffer frequent high winds, the bottles need to be lashed in place.)

(Also, I clearly need to drink more wine because we didn’t have enough bottles!)

I also bought a wicked new weeding tool which will get used in some weed-infested beds.

My new weeding tool

My new weeding tool

The hot dry weather in late May made the weeds go absolutely crazy. I found that my claw tool missed too many weeds, and the dandelion fork takes too long removing a single weed at a time. With this new “batwing” shaped tool, the wide blade and sharp corners provide a variety of ways to wage war on weeds. The bad weeds, I mean. The good weeds are of course allowed to stay put!

But wait, I like this weed...

But wait, I like this weed…

The lions mane plugs I bought last year never produced any fruiting bodies. (Yes, that’s what the edible part of a fungus is called!) Too many beginner’s mistakes I suspect – wrong type of wood, not enough plugs per log, possible infestation of other fungus by the time we inoculated the wood…there’s really no telling. I contemplated buying new plugs, but I don’t feel like I have learned enough to assure success just yet.

Last but not least, I bought a book. Yes, a real actual hardback book. I didn’t mean to buy this book from Marie Viljoen at 66 square feet.  I have been on a book diet for several years, after realizing that most books I buy sit unread on the shelf, awaiting the magical day when I have enough time to read them. Now I only get books through the library. That way when I never get around to reading them, at least I didn’t spend any money! I have checked out a few books often enough, I decided to buy my own copy for future reference. I didn’t find any of them at the MEN book fair, but I did find Forage, Harvest, Feast.

Forage, Harvest, Feast

Forage, Harvest, Feast

Marie’s book is everything I hope for the foraging book I will write some day. Informative, beautifully photographed, and full of delicious looking recipes. Only my book will be focused on Maryland foraging and local eating. I bought this book as much for inspiration as the actual content. (I coulda gotten it a lot cheaper on Amazon, apparently. Oh well.)

There were different vendors from last year, and fewer of them; and a lot fewer attendees as well. I overheard a few vendors discussing how much lower their sales were this year, compared to last year. I don’t know whether the low attendance was due to conflicts with other local events, or because the Frederick Fiber Fest wasn’t colocated with the Fair this time like it was last year. I’ll be curious to see whether they have a MEN Fair in Frederick again next year. Since I have only attended this one, I can’t compare attendance with other venues. (No, I never did make to the session in Seven Springs, PA last September.) On the other hand, last year I also speculated about whether it would be hosted in Frederick again, and it was. So I guess time will tell!


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The Mother Earth News Fair

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I attended the Mother Earth News (MEN) Fair this past weekend in Frederick, MD. This was the first time the MEN Fair had visited Frederick.

I was only able to attend for a short while on Saturday, due to family visiting from out of town. The weather Sunday was abysmal anyway, cool and rainy, although I’m sorry I missed hearing Michael Judd and Joel Salatin speak.

Since I only had a limited time, I had to be very selective with the presentations and vendors. Of the presentations I attended, I most enjoyed Jessi Bloom’s “Perma-what?”. I haven’t been able to put my finger on why, exactly, but it inspired me to start dreaming up ideas for my own tiny little paradise. I would have loved to see some presentations on foraging (surprise) or focused on the gardening challenges specific to the mid-Atlantic.

I didn’t purchase much. Well, I didn’t purchase as much as I could have, let’s put it that way! I was excited to find a lion’s mane mushroom spawn kit from Sharondale Farm.

Lion's Mane Mushroom Log Plug Spawn Kit

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Log Plug Spawn Kit

I also picked up some asparagus bean seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange as an impulse purchase. I normally order from their catalog, so when I found their booth I had to fan girl and buy something, anything!

The MEN bookstore was a major eye opener for me, when I realized how many books I already owned! Did I mention I’m on a book diet at the moment? Uh oh, I might have brought two new books home. (Samuel Thayer’s Nature’s Garden, and Home Grown Pantry by Barbara Pleasant. Because I don’t have enough foraging, gardening and preserving books … oops?)

The last acquisition of the day was June, my new serviceberry. (Yes, I name my plants. Don’t you?) The vendor, American Native Plants, had pawpaws as well but sold out of them Saturday morning within 30 minutes of opening.

I’ll be curious to see if the MEN Fair returns to Frederick in future years. The Frederick News Post boasted of the thousands of people who attended, but I saw a LOT of empty seats in the presentations I attended or walked past. The only long line I encountered was for food, and it wasn’t really that long of a wait. Even the ladies’ restrooms had little or no line! Crazy, right?

I am evaluating whether I can attend the session in Seven Springs, PA, later this year, so I can enjoy more of what this Fair has to offer. I am particularly excited to see Sara Bir listed as a speaker. And yes, I am aware of the irony in driving 146 miles, each way, and paying for a hotel, to attend to a conference on sustainability topics… shhhhhhhhhhh.