Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013 Strawberry Season Has Arrived

The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has its own strawberry patch and our berries have been ripening in waves for the past week.  I’ve had a couple.  Neighbor Dave had quite a few on Monday.  Typically, the neighborhood kids eat most of them.  The adult gardeners who are interested in bulk strawberries drive to a local u-pick farm for our strawberry fix.  Unlike last year (when the strawberries ripened two weeks early), the strawberries this year appear to be right on schedule.

a. Hann Farms 4600 Lockbourne Road has u-pick strawberries this year at $1.80/pound (a 21 cent increase over last year, but still the least expensive option in Franklin County). This is the closest u-pick farm to Bexley and your least expensive option by far, but the trip there is a little tricky (through an industrial district in Obetz, etc.). You can pick 10-6 Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. You must pay with cash, so come prepared. Call 491-0812 for more information.

b. Schact Farms, 5950 Shannon Road in Canal Winchester, is a family farm we typically visit every year.  It is is the next closest to Bexley and is pretty easy to find. However, I was shocked to learn today that they have discontinued most of their u-pick crops, including strawberries, tomatoes and peppers.  For the next two Saturdays, you can pick only asparagus and rhubarb.  Then, they will close until Fall, when you can pick pumpkins, gourds and winter squash.  They explained that they have been worn out with labor issues, increasing government regulations, weather and increasing age.  They will still have a wholesale business and, I believe, their market. This news was very disappointing because it is such a well-run farm.

c. Jacquenmin Farm, (between Plain City and Dublin), $2/pound (same price as last year). I visited here several years ago with my nieces and it is very quaint and very close to Dublin and Sports Ohio. They are typically open weekdays 8-5 and Sundays 1-4 p.m. They often stay late on Wednesdays.  They will not be open for strawberry picking on Friday, May 30 because they are picked out.   They recommend that you come early on Saturday because of the heat and number of expected visitors.  They also have a program for organized groups of 10 or more young children.  The strawberry field trip costs $4 per child and includes 1 quart of strawberries (picked by the children, of course), an educational coloring book about berries, and an ice cold slushee to cool down with after the picking is done. Please call the farm for more information regarding a field trip and to set a date.  Call 873-5725 for more information.

d. Doran Farms, 5462 Babbitt Rd. New Albany, I've never been there, but have heard good things about it. They will open on Monday, June 3 from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day until the strawberries are gone (with temporary suspensions while the ripe strawberries catch up with the pickers). They have not set a price for their berries yet, but I’ll update this site if they ever call me back.  Call 855-3885 for more information.

e. Circle S Farm, 9015 London-Groveport Rd west of Grove City. They will not be opening for u-pick for another few days (at least), but have reported that they expect a bumper crop.  I went here a few years ago with my oldest niece and it's a nice, large farm, but is way, way out in the country. They have not set u-pick strawberry prices yet.

While you can get strawberries for $2/pound at Kroger’s without a lot of bending, driving, sweating or walking, they aren’t as fresh or ripe or flavorful as the ones you pick yourself.  Freshly picked berries were being sold tonight at the Bexley Farmers' Market for $3.50 and $5/pint.  Strawberries should be red all the way through, something you rarely find at a grocery store. Be sure to wear sunscreen and bug spray. I highly recommend going first thing in the morning because it is supposed to get very, very hot this weekend.  Next week will be ideal weather for strawberry picking IMHO.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

As Twain says, Everyone Talks About the Weather, But Never Does Anything About It

As many of you know, this was an exciting week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. Usually, that’s a good thing, but not always. We had a good crew out working again yesterday.

I planted peppers, dill, parsley, marigolds, and nasturtium, continued to dig bricks out of my plot, watered extensively, mulched the new south flower bed, watered Antoinette’s bed, and helped two groups of boys and one of their sisters plant their beds (with watermelon, sweet potatoes, greens, tomatoes, etc.). Sabrina came, tended her plot and began weeding her second plot (which had been abandoned by another gardener). Cassie came, helped mulch flowers and tended her plot. Neal came, weeded, thinned, watered and photographed his plot. Frank and Barb had already mowed our lot and the two Block Watch lots and substantially weeded their own plot yesterday, but stopped by and waved anyway. Rose came, spread mulch under her raised bed, fed the kids, brought us drinking water, weeded her bed and planted tomatoes. We had two different people stop by asking to join, but we’re full up at this point. I sent them over to the Big Garden run by Four Seasons City Farm at Mound and Carpenter.
The Garden looks so much better than it did this time last year. All of the plots are being actively tended. The daisies, bachelor buttons and cat mint look lovely. I have several engaged volunteers. However, I’m still staying hours later than I intended each day because there is always more to do. Ugh.
The kids were mostly interested in the chocolate no-bake cookies I brought as a reward for helping out. I had promised them last week to one of our youth gardeners (because they are her favorite), but she was not here yesterday. Her uncle was shot in the chest and murdered right in front of her and a couple of other neighborhood kids on her front porch – just a few houses down and across the street from the SACG -- at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. This has been a pretty traumatic event for the neighborhood. The other three murders in the neighborhood since the Garden broke ground in 2009 have been at night. No one has been so brazen as to do something like this in broad daylight in front of lots of witnesses and with children present. Now, no one -- particularly the witnesses -- feels safe until he is caught and put behind bars.
A police officer stopped by to say hello and thank us for all of our hard work. She is new to the weekend day shift and has a garden of her own.
It was warmer than expected yesterday when the sun was shining. We haven’t had any significant rain in almost two weeks and certainly not since I hooked up our second cistern on May 17. This has required us to water a lot and caused me to be very frustrated with the local weathermen who had predicted lots of rain in the last week. If Bill Kelly and Yolanda celebrate a dry day one more time on WSYX, I’m likely to throw my shoes through my television. My only consolation is that the Memorial Golf Tournament is about to start. I think I can count on one hand how many times since I’ve lived in Central Ohio that they haven’t had to postpone play because of rain delays. If anything is a rain magnet in Central Ohio, that tournament is. And then we can look forward to at least one rain shower during the annual Arts Festival downtown. After that, who knows?
Carpenter bee on Bee Balm in 2009
There have been virtually no bees at the SACG (or my backyard) this year. I saw our first and only bee at the SACG yesterday. Like the SACG, my own backyard is full of roses, cat mint and purple salvia – which are typically bee magnets. Nonetheless, I’ve had only a couple of carpenter bees and no honey bees. My fellow knitwits said they heard there had been a 90% die-off of hives over the winter (with the cold temperatures on top of mites and other mysterious causes). OSU reported this weekthat only a 31% die-off had been reported nationally. If that’s true, there are areas in the US with lots of bees because there are none on the near-East side. I’m not sure yet how this will affect my bean, pepper, or eggplant crop, let alone our peaches and cherries . . . . . .
Tonight looks to be the last cool night of the season. That means I can finally transplant our basil seedlings into our herb garden tomorrow and my eggplant into my own plot. I’ve grown weary of having to bring them inside every night in the past week. While I sleep better on cold nights, my eggplant and basil do not. Of course, this also means that I need to substantially reduce the size of our several overgrown oregano plants. They have almost completely taken over parts of the SACG. So, if you want some fresh oregano to dry, stop by the SACG tomorrow around 10-10:30 and there will be lots of free fresh oregano available. If you’re really nice to me, I may even divide some of the plants so that you can transplant them into your own garden.
Finally, our strawberries have begun to ripen at the SACG. That means strawberry season is upon us and I will be updating our annual strawberry farm list sometime this week. Sabrina and I (and possibly Rose) will be organizing a strawberry picking expedition within the next 10 days. Email me if you’d like to join us. I usually pick around 15 pounds, freeze a bunch and then make some jam. If it gets as hot as predicted, I may even make strawberry ice cream. I promised my fellow Knitwits fresh berries for our evening dessert on June 4 and I intend to keep that promise.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What a Difference a Year and a Week Makes

This time last year, we were a couple of weeks into a significant drought and I spent almost all of this Saturday at the Garden building raised beds and planting cherry trees.  I was already exhausted and looking forward to the end of the year.  Last week, it was cold and soggy and the weeds had taken over the SACG in my absence.  This year, our weather is blissfully improved and we have a very energized group of volunteers.  This week, it was warm and dry and I was able to leave around 2:30.  And our perennial flowers are looking pretty swell, too.

On Thursday, I weeded the flower beds, continued planting tomatoes and had help with weeding the small pantry plot from two neighborhood girls.  We also planted tomatoes in their raised bed. Barb tended the Block Watch flower beds across the street.  She and Frank had installed our new and improved gates earlier in the week.  (The gates have been “improved” by adding a lattice top to keep the mischievous neighborhood kids (and other n’ere do wells) from jumping the gates to gain access to the Garden).   

On Friday, one of the girls returned to help me transplant volunteer sunflowers and to plant some cosmos seeds in our various flower beds.  I also reconnected our second rain water cistern and had to repair the downspout to our first rain water cistern.  Our BTBO neighbor mowed their grass, raked it up and donated the clippings to our compost bins.  Barb continued with the flower beds and Frank used their power edger on weeds in the vicinity. I put cages around my determinate tomatoes.

On Saturday morning, I focused on weeding my plot and the food pantry plot with our stirrup hoe, planted some peppers and winter squash, and put tomato stakes with the tomatoes. I also planted tomatoes and peppers in the neighbor bed along the alley and transplanted collard greens.  Antoinette came, helped weed one of the vacant plots and we planted beans, peppers and lettuce in her raised bed.  Sabrina and Tom came, weeded their plot, put in a trellis for their peas and helped Antoinette finish weeding a vacant plot. Tamara came and acted as our water girl for a while so that all of our new seedlings could get watered in well.  Cassie came, weeded the small pantry plot and then turned to weeding and planting in her own plot. (We also laughed about a volunteer who had offered to come help me at 7 a.m. this morning, because neither of us would ever be working that early on a Saturday).   Her husband Frank stopped by, helped me pound in tomato stakes (so that I could avoid getting tennis elbow like I did last year by pounding in stakes that are taller than me).  He also helped to adjust one of our benches and emptied our trash can.  Mari came to weed and plant in her plot.  Neal stopped by and planted tomatoes and peppers.

Frank and Barb continued running errands.  They borrowed a rototiller from the Rebuilding Together Tool Library to till Ms. D’s backyard garden (since she hadn’t been around on April 6 when we tilled the Garden).

Board member Cathy spent Saturday building two 4x6 raised garden beds at Ohio Avenue Elementary School in the Old Oaks neighborhood.   She emailed me last week asking for help to build beds like the ones we built last year for our youth gardening program.  On Monday, I reached out to Trudeau Fence and, as always, Mike and Russ generously donated cedar lumber to build the beds.  Cathy and I picked up the lumber in her SUV on Thursday morning and I cut it down with my circular saw on my patio.  Cathy then went and purchased a pick-up truck load or two of top soil and compost.   I know she must be exhausted from shoveling out all of the soil into the beds.  On Monday, a class of third-graders will be planting during their last week of school and then will return in the Fall to harvest as fourth-graders.

With all of this work, the Garden is starting to look like a real Garden instead of a neglected patch of ground.   In addition to the lovely daisies, the clematis vines that Betty Weaver planted a few years ago are in full bloom and our strawberries are ripening on schedule.  If only we had more bees . . . .

This time last year, I went home, got a pizza and watched the Preakness.   Today, I went home and collapsed even though I left the Garden almost four hours earlier . . . . . Go figure.

P.S.  I managed to return to vertical and went grocery shopping.  Aldi's has tomato cages for $1.50.   That's a bargain.  I got 2.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Supreme Court: Saving and Replanting Patented Seeds Unlawfully Infringes the Patent

This morning, a unanimous Supreme Court held that a farmer infringed on Monsanto's patent for Roundup Ready soybeans, which had been genetically modified to survive exposure to its well-known herbicide. Bowman v. Monsanto, No. 11-796. (The genetic alteration enables you to spray the herbicide and kill everything except the soybeans you are trying to grow). Monsanto sells the seeds to farmers subject to a licensing agreement preventing growers from harvesting and replanting any seeds from the crop. Instead, the farmers must sell or consume the resulting crop. The defendant farmer in this case purchased the Roundup Ready seeds for his early crop from a Monsanto supplier and complied with the license agreement. However, he purchased additional commodity soybean seeds from a grain elevator (where the seeds were not sold subject to a licensing agreement), planted them, applied the herbicide to kill any non-genetically modified plants, harvested the resulting soybeans and saved them to plant his second crop (thereby avoiding the premium price paid for the Roundup Ready seeds). He did this for eight years and admitted that he knew of no other farmers who were doing this.

The legal theory asserted to support the farmer's conduct was that under traditional patent law, a legitimate purchaser of an object can put the object to whatever use he wants – except making copies – without infringing on the patent. In other words, ""the initial authorized sale of a patented item terminates all patent rights to that item." This is referred to as patent exhaustion. An example would be if you buy a car and then turn it into a house or a piece of art or buy a shoe and use it as a planter. However, in this case, the Court concluded that he was really making copies of the patented seeds. If this conduct were permitted, then farmers would only need to buy the patented seeds once before growing and saving their own. "If the purchaser of that article could make and sell endless copies, the patent would effectively protect the invention for just a single sale . . . [T]he exhaustion doctrine does not extend to the right to 'make' a new product."

As Justice Kagan explained in the opening paragraph of the opinion:

Under the doctrine of patent exhaustion, the authorized sale of a patented article gives the purchaser, or any subsequent owner, a right to use or resell that article. Such a sale, however, does not allow the purchaser to make new copies of the patented invention. The question in this case is whether a farmer who buys patented seeds may reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder's permission. We hold that he may not.
Following a trial, Monsanto was awarded $84,456. The verdict was affirmed on appeal.
Our holding today also follows from J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred Int'l, Inc., 534 U. S. 124 (2001). We considered there whether an inventor could get a patent on a seed or plant, or only a certificate issued under the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), 7 U. S. C. §2321 et seq. We decided a patent was available, rejecting the claim that the PVPA implicitly repealed the Patent Act's coverage of seeds and plants. On our view, the two statutes established different, but not conflicting schemes: The requirements for getting a patent "are more stringent than those for obtaining a PVP certificate, and the protections afforded" by a patent are correspondingly greater. J. E. M., 534 U. S., at 142. Most notable here, we explained that only a patent holder (not a certificate holder) could prohibit "[a] farmer who legally purchases and plants" a protected seed from saving harvested seed "for replanting." Id., at 140; see id., at 143 (noting that the Patent Act, unlike the PVPA, contains "no exemptio[n]" for "saving seed"). That statement is inconsistent with applying exhaustion to protect conduct like Bowman's. If a sale cut off the right to control a patented seed's progeny, then (contrary to J. E. M.) the patentee could not prevent the buyer from saving harvested seed. Indeed, the patentee could not stop the buyer from selling such seed, which even a PVP certificate owner (who, recall, is supposed to have fewer rights) can usually accomplish. See 7 U. S. C. §§2541, 2543. Those limitations would turn upside-down the statutory scheme J. E. M. described.
The farmer also raised the issue of self-replicating seeds. The Court was skeptical of a blame-the-seed argument, particularly in this case where the defendant farmer "was not a passive observer of his soybeans' multiplication; or put another way, the seeds he purchased (miraculous though they might be in other respects) did not spontaneously create eight successive soybean crops. As we have explained, supra at 2-3, Bowman devised and executed a novel way to harvest crops from Roundup Ready seeds without paying the usual premium."

Because a passive recipient of the patented seeds might have additional defenses that are not available to the defendant farmer in this case, the Court declined to address the issue of self-replication:

Our holding today is limited--addressing the situation before us, rather than every one involving a self-replicating product. We recognize that such inventions are becoming ever more prevalent, complex, and diverse. In another case, the article's self-replication might occur outside the purchaser's control. Or it might be a necessary but incidental step in using the item for another purpose. Cf. 17 U. S. C. §117(a)(1) ("[I]t is not [a copyright] infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make . . . another copy or adaptation of that computer program provide[d] that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program"). We need not address here whether or how the doctrine of patent exhaustion would apply in such circumstances.
It might be a different case – as we all know exists – if this was simply a situation where bees, wind or other pollinators spread pollen from a patented crop to fertilize a non-patented crop and then some of the progeny contained patented or even new characteristics. (Frankencrops is one reason that some people are vehemently against genetically modified vegetables). Similarly, birds, other small animals and the wind frequently carry seeds from one location (i.e., a farmer who uses patented seeds subject to a licensing agreement) and drops them on land of another grower (who did not purchase the seeds or sign the licensing agreement).

So community gardeners, keep this case in mind this Fall when you begin saving seeds for next year. Did you grow your crop from patented seeds? Or Heirloom seeds?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Preparing for May Flowers

Yesterday was a fairly uneventful day at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.   We got so much work done last week that this week was a little more laid back.  Because of the heavy rain last Sunday and Monday, the focus of this week was on weeding and mowing.  Frank and Barb mowed our lot and the two Block Watch lots where the grass and dandelions had gotten a bit shaggy.  They had so much to mow that they used up the charge on their electric mower and the gas in the Tool Library mower and still had a bit left to finish today. (Doug from Urban Connections stopped by to offer assistance from our own mower).  I weeded my plot, the herb garden and our three flower beds (which was made much easier because Cassie and Mari had already substantially weeded the front flower beds in the past week).  I was amazed out how deep the roots already were for those pernicious morning glory weeds that reside throughout the SACG.    Two of our compost bins are almost full from the weeds we have been pulling and the third bin has a nice pile.

Because we are not predicted to receive much, if any, rain in the next week, Antoinette, Rose, Tom and Sabrina watered our roses, berries, neighbor plot, and fruit trees. I watered my plot and the food pantry plot. 

Sabrina picked up a flat of peppers, a small bag of onions from this week’s GCGC meeting and a six-pack of yellow pansies.  With the six-pack of purple pansies that I had left over from my own yard, she planted pansies in our two large flower pots.  I planted a flat of perennials (from DeMonye’s perennial sale last month) in our new southwest flower bed and in the front flower beds. The seedlings included butterfly bush, Shasta daisies, coreopsis, lavender, asters, and salvia.  I also planted some Shasta daisy and poppy seeds for good measure.  Because it was almost after 2 and our extensive collection of early/weed daisies are about to pop, I decided to hold off on planting cosmos and sunflowers until after the daisies start to die back.   

Sabrina also weeded her plot and the paths. Tom and Zephyr planted onions in our second food pantry plot.   Antoinette, her niece Eternity, and cousin Michael planted cabbage, greens, broccoli, onions and carrots in her raised bed.  (Kristin, Gio, Tyrese and Chimera already planted some leeks, kale and cabbage in their raised beds on Tuesday evening).

Mari and Charlie stopped by to tend and water their plots.  Neal had laid landscaping fabric in his plot earlier in the week. He came back to plant two rows of corn and some leeks.  We had a discussion about whether to water new seeds or wait for Mother Nature to do it.   There is also the continuing discussion about when to start planting tender vegetables (like tomatoes and peppers).  I tend to opt for later in May, but Charlie decided to test that hypothesis by planting one pepper plant as a test plant.  Neal is eager to get started.
I returned home and continued my regular chore of watering the half-dozen flats of seedlings I’ve started.  While it is mostly tomatoes, there are also peppers, eggplants and some squashes, basil and cucumbers.  Then, I transplanted a number of tomatoes into larger containers because their roots keep outgrowing the current home.  While I love cool nights for a good night's sleep, I’m a little anxious for the nights to consistently stay above fifty-five degrees so that I can plant and distribute all of these seedings, pack away my mini-greenhouse  and regain use of my patio.

Lastly, I almost used some of our spearmint to make a mint julep in honor of Derby Day.   What else am I going to do with all of that spearmint and the rest of my Wild Turkey?  Cassie hacked a lot of it out of our front flower bed last week because it had  -- as mint likes to do – taken over a great piece of the southeast flower bed and had started to choke out other flowers.  (Rest assured, there is still some mint there).   The chocolate mint in my plot (and Joey’s old plot) has begun reasserting itself as well.  Sabrina was happy to take some of that home for her own herb garden.

I’m not sure what we will be focusing on – if anything – next Saturday.  Currently, it is predicted to be raining and still too cool to plant tomatoes and peppers.   I think I will be watching youth soccer in Dublin instead of spending another four hours at the Garden.