Sunday, October 30, 2011

Possessed? Why did I do this?

Today I picked up a hitchhiker on the entry ramp to the interstate. Why? I have no explanation, but it's NOT like me!! 

I passed him with a shrug of apology because ① I never pick up hitchhikers, and ② the front seat of my truck was packed with stuff as usual so there was no room for a passenger had I even wanted one. Then 500 feet past him, I found myself backing down the damn on-ramp, and said if he could stand the cold wind in the open back of the truck, he could ride. He accepted with a "Yes, m'am" and hopped in.

I pulled over at the next rest area to talk to him about where he was headed so I could decide where to let him off. I felt absolutely no fear. He said his name was Mickey... clean-shaven, about 45-50, clean clothes, decent quality clean winter jacket, spanky white but not new tennies, clean jeans, good backpack frame and pack... and a fabric-cased guitar. Going home to Corpus Christi, Texas, if I believe him.

I reckon Jeffrey Dahmer was also clean-cut, but somehow this man got past my radar, and my inner guides just said to back-up and give him a lift. I haven't picked up a hitchhiker (including this one) but maybe 3 times in my whole life... one was a college-girl hiker close to my home (and hers), and the other when I was about 20 was a stranded motorist in the middle of nowhere and I could see his steaming, overheated vehicle. WHAT ever possessed me to pick up THIS man????

"Mickey" would prefer to be dropped off at an interstate exchange where there was fast food nearby, but he also had no money (nor did he ask me for any). It happens that I had just done a tad bit of shopping (end of the month, no-money-left tidbit shopping) and had a small bag of dried fruit that I shared with him. I also had just bought cream for my coffee and had picked up a pint of their new eggnog to try. I gave him some of the dried fruit and the pint bottle of eggnog, and left him at a MickeyD's with the last $3 in my wallet so he could eat from the dollar menu, use the bathroom, and get back to the on-ramp with his thumb out.

It was a strange encounter... and aftermath, and it doesn't feel like I was a chump. I actually feel good about sharing the meager foods I had in the truck, and the few dollars I had in my wallet (which were supposed to last until next Thursday when my SS check comes).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Crop Failure: Sweet Potatoes

Growing sweet potatoes was a valiant first attempt on my part, but in the end: All Hat, No Cattle. The harvest I dug in mid-October was a combination of very large, pest-damaged potatoes, and fingerlings too small to eat.

The fingerlings were the size of long skinny carrots but they will get tossed in the root cellar with hopes they will last until spring to grow some new slips to plant. (That's now iffy; we had an unexpected hard frost last night, and they were still laying out on the ground.)

Close-up, there was a lot of pest damage which appears to be from voles. Also, a bunch of the potatoes looked like they grew fast, stopped, and then grew again, splitting the skin.

The vines were very thick, affording lots of cover which kept my cats from hunting in the bed. There was so much vine growth that the hilled rows were not even evident, just one huge mound of vines. I didn't see any vole tunnels when I dug, but I was using a fork which would have spilled soil and obscured the tunnels anyway.

You can barely see the SP bed in the right half of this photo, taken mid-September. The bed was 10 feet wide, with 3 hilled rows about 12-14 feet long, but in retrospect the rows were too close together.

I learned a lot by growing sweet potatoes but I'm very disappointed that I have none to eat. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Septic Leach Field, and Garden Woes

Damn and Double-Damn!! Seems I've discovered a potential minefield with moving my garden area higher up from the creek, which puts it closer and downhill from our septic tank and leach-field system. Frankly, I hadn't given the septic system any thought until now.

In my process of sheet-mulching a large area for a new garden, last weekend I started also considering the addition of 2-3 small sheet-composted areas nearby as prep for planting a couple of fruit or shade trees in the spring. Now I find that would put the trees smack-dab in the approximate area of either the tank, the leach-field, or both. You are not supposed to plant trees over the septic area because the tree roots can invade and damage the system.

According to everything I read online, eating foods (including tree fruits) grown over a leach field or just downhill from it, could be hazardous to health. That's a very scary thought!

I did find the diagram for the septic system permit in our house closing papers, and it's rather vague about exact location. That hasn't bothered me until now, but in considering what kind of trees to plant, or where to plant vegetables, the location IS of utmost importance. 

The tank hasn't been pumped in years as far as I know, and certainly not in the 5 years we've been here. It needs pumping now, and a pump tanker can't get under our low-clearance covered bridge over the creek. The tanker will have to come across the neighbor's field, and I'll have to take down a section of fence. The tanker also will probably have to drive over the fragile leach field to get to the tank too, unless they have a very long hose.

The other disturbing thing I found out is the expected life of a leach field... which with the best maintenance is around 20-25 years. Years ago most leach firlds used small sections of terra cotta pipe, which have a very long life expectancy if tree roots don't get in them. More recently, most leach fields use cheaper perforated plastic pipe, which can silt up.

Our system was installed in 1986, exactly 25 years ago, and surely has perforated plastic pipe. Not knowing the exact location and extent of the leach area, the huge area where I recently added a foot of compost and berms could be over part of the leach field!

Unfortunately, the only somewhat level area on our property for a veggie garden of any kind is on the side of the house with the septic system. The septic tank appears to be above any potential garden area, so it would all percolate downhill.

I have someone from Environmental Health coming out this week to assess the situation. No doubt I'll then need to hire someone to locate the tank, bring in heavy equipment to dig up the lid, and a tanker to pump it out. We won't be able to even assess the leach field until we can measure the scum layer and the sludge layer inside the tank.

I am NOT a Happy Gardener!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sheet Composting, Update

The first load of chips, ready to spread over several inches of alfalfa hay on a cardboard base

My effort to build a totally new garden area with new-to-me concepts (based on Gaia's Garden) is making some progress. I may be close to finishing what I can do before the weather is too cold, so it's time for an update.

So far I have spread 12 bales of alfalfa hay, 6 truckloads of chips, 20 pounds of Greensand, 20 pounds of Azomite, about half a 30 gallon garbage-can of biochar... and I'm not yet finished for the year!

Mulch berm with Jerusalem Artichokes and Chard just beyond it. The spent vines on thr trellis back and to the right are Hops. Next year there will be perennial  Hardy Kiwi planted on the trellis.

To better manage rain run-off on my sloping garden, I decided to build a mulch berm on the high side of the garden, and it will have a swale dug parallel to, and just above it. The greywater (just from the washing machine) will run into the swale, but only after it exits 2 planned shallow bog areas with plants that filter the water. The berm will help hold and slowly disperse water from the greywater bogs and the rain runoff from the steep hillside behind the house. 

Since the washing machine water may not always be enough to keep the bog plants wet most of the time, I will probably run one or two of my downspout water-cachement barrels into the bogs, with a valve to control the amount of water in the bogs.

Hugel Edge, partially covered

On the down-slope side of this area is the hugel-edge, which is now partially covered in rough mulch and chips; I ran out of chips and need a 7th load to finish! I managed to scrounge quite a few lengths of partially decomposing logs I found on our lower hillside, plus a few shorter pieces of punky stuff from the firewood pile. It's not as tall or wide as I'd like for the hugel edge, but I will add to it over time.

The Edge will not only absorb water that moves down-slope, it will also be planted with veggies next year. (It will soon get a layer of topsoil over it.) In fact the whole area needs a layer of topsoil... good topsoil, full of microbes... but I'm not counting on finding any. When is the last time you bought topsoil that actually had a worm in it? It's all sterilized dead dirt they sell.

The other thing I really need to do (and possibly cannot this late in the year) is add some Efficient Microbes to my mix. If I cannot, that will get top priority in early spring. There are already some microbes in the mulch/chips I've added, because I have seen some small patches of fungi. It just isn't enough, nor a balance, in my opinion.

I recently attended a conference on economic opportunities of goods from wooded properties, for which mine certainly qualifies. (19 acres total, 17+ of those are fairly steep woods.) Among the several topics presented were elderberries. See the white fence in the background? I plan a row of elderberries parallel to the fence next year, and maybe even start a coppice of basket willow against the fence itself. I won't be planting enough elderberries to market, but certainly enough elderberries to make elderflower champagne, elderberry wine, elderberry cough/cold syrup, elderberry jelly and juice... and who knows what other uses I will find! The elder row will act somewhat as a buffer to prevailing winds, and some basket willow along the fence should help.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Little Black Box for my New Cheese Vat

Hooray, I now have a means of accurately controlling the cooking temps of curds when making cheese! Some recipes call for increasing the temp of the curds by a mere 1º over a 10 minute span, something my kitchen stove definitely will not do!

As a side benefit, the "vat" will hold twice as much milk (at least 4 gallons) as my biggest pot, which means I can make larger wheels of cheese (which age much better).

The "vat" is a new Oster electric turkey roaster, large enough for a 22 pound bird. It has a fixed pan which will hold water, and a deep removable pan to heat the milk.

PID and Temp. Probe

The "Black Box" my friend Dyson put together for me has a PID temperature control on the outside, connected inside to a solid state relay wired to the temperature probe that inserts into the milk. On the opposite end is a receptacle that accepts the plug from the vat, and a plug to power the whole thing by plugging into the wall.

I bought the electronic components several months ago after reading a similar set-up on the cheese forum, but really had no tools nor know-how to put it together. Dyson came to the rescue!

Instead of wiring the PID directly into the turkey roaster controls (which would have meant taking the roaster apart), he made a separate box for the controls, leaving the roaster fully intact. All I have to do is plug the roaster into the black box, and plug the black box into an electric receptacle. The PID will let me increase curd temp by as little as one degree, something I could never do on a house stove.

So my cheesemaking tools are slowly accumulating! I now have a temperature-controlled aging cave I made from an old refrigerator this past summer, and a small wine cooler "cave" for blues given to me by a friend. Now I need to build a Dutch-style press, and get some decent cheese molds. Of course, a cow would help too.

Hopefully by this time next year I will be making some really good cheese!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Latest Gardening Fashion: Slug Collars!

Split Copper Collar on seedling

Nope, I am NOT putting collars on the slugs, nor am I wearing a collar fashioned out of slugs! I'm making collars to deter slugs in the garden. Slugs are a gardener's problem almost everywhere, and living on the creek, my problems are exacerbated by also having snails who do the same kind of damage.

Years ago I read that slugs will not cross a copper strip because it gives them a jolt, so I bought a roll of 1 inch copper tape to put down on the top edges of my raised beds. It didn't work! 

Recently I read that copper actually IS effective (it was a science experiment), BUT to work, the slugs have to crawl across 3 inches of copper to build up the galvanic action between their slime trail and the copper. THEN it works!

Two weeks ago I ordered a 2 foot piece of 12 inch wide copper from Basic Copper. It wasn't cheap... but it is thick enough (16 mil) to re-use for several gardening seasons... and when it gets too beat-up and out-of-shape to use, I can sell it as scrap copper.  I probably could have used a thinner gauge of copper, but I really want to be able to use them over and over.
The first collars (made today) were for larger plants already in the ground, so the copper needed to be split to go around the stem. (I'm going to make all of them that way... it's easier.) I thought about taping the collar split ends together, but that would just give the slugs a place to climb that wasn't copper. In putting them around a plant, I found I could just squeeze the copper "tube" around the stem and the ends would overlap... then I pushed the collar into the ground just enough to hold it in place. 

What I did:
I cut a 4 inch wide strip off the copper sheet, then the first strip into 6" lengths... that gives me collars 4" tall, enough to push the bottom into the soil and still have 3" or more for the slugs to climb. I'm testing it tonight before I cut any more, but I have every confidence the science experiment was correct. I put those first 3 collars on small tender seedlings this afternoon, and will check them in the morning. The only thing I might change is either taller collars so more length can go in the soil for stability, or wider sections to roll into split tubes.

It Works! I will, however, make them a bit taller and wider just for my own convenience.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The 99 Percent Declaration

I've been watching the growing "Occupy" movement for several weeks with some curiousity, even though there seemed to be no particular agenda. Now a Working Group that includes pro bono lawyers and university students arrested in NYC for their peaceful demonstrations, have drafted The 99% Declaration

I will be following this closely because among other things, it addresses the greed prevalent in corporations that affect the laws of this country via political contributions and influence, which means they affect me. (Think BigAg, BigPharma, etc.)

The Working Group wants to draws up a formal petition of grievances voted by to-be-elected representatives of all congressional districts. The US Constitution provides for a petition of a list of grievances to present to the government, but apparently by Constitutional Law only a duly elected body can legitimize a list of demands from the People. Their proposal is only a starting proposal and sample list of just demands on the government, plus how they hope to accomplish it via elected representatives.

Their posted sample proposal includes a fair tax across the board (and cutting ALL tax loopholes), eliminating the contributions (open or hidden) that buy politicians, and a host of other proposals that sound sensible to me, from the War Machine to Health Care and Jobs. 

I encourage you to read the whole declaration... it's short and to the point. Who knows, it may even gain wide-spread support!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

GMO Bees?????

Photo by bucklava

Oh LawdyMercy... Monsanto is now in the bee business! They recently acquired Beeologics, LLC, an international firm dedicated to restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination.

Beeologics says: "The challenges of bringing new veterinary therapeutic drugs to market are significant and require careful planning around research, development, testing, manufacturing and regulatory processes." (Source)

Monsanto says: "The expertise Beeologics has developed will enable Monsanto to further explore the use of biologicals broadly in agriculture. Monsanto will use the base technology from Beeologics as a part of its continuing discovery and development pipeline. Biological products will continue to play an increasingly important role in supporting the sustainability of many agricultural systems." (Source

WHAT is "sustainable" about Monsanto besides greed and profit? As if GMO's aren't bad enough, I wonder if this will turn into something like the recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) developed by Monsanto? 

"Monsanto violated federal law (despite government warnings) by promoting rBGH before its FDA approval.  

They blatantly attempted to bribe Canadian officials (who admitted it) in order to hasten their approval of rBGH. They also have an apparent conflict of interest with their regulators (FDA) in that they share the same lawyer (Michael R. Taylor of Washington, D.C. law-firm, King & Spaulding). [Taylor is a lawyer who has spent the last few decades moving back and forth between Monsanto and the FDA and USDA.~ Editor]

Monsanto and FDA have ganged up on any markets which try to label their milk and dairy products "rBGH-free" by threatening to sue (and actually suing some). The FDA and Monsanto have both lied about the existence of a test for rBGH in milk (stating that there is none). Monsanto has tried to block publication of research from British scientists on rBGH showing the hormone’s link to increased somatic cell (pus and bacteria) counts in milk as a result of mastitis. 

Monsanto is the same corporation which brought us Agent Orange and PCBs (a chemical so toxic that congress banned it in 1976)." (Source)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hazelnuts, finally

In August I posted pics of the growing first "crop" on my baby Hazelnut (aka Filbert) tree. Now I'm happy to report they all seemed to mature, and I actually got to them before the squirrels! There were not many nuts this first year (just 21), but according to all I've read the crop will increase significantly as the tree matures.

In the total re-thinking and re-design of my entire yard, I will be planting many trees with edible fruits and nuts... including a couple more hazels. They are easy to grow, reaching 10-12 feet when mature. I figure if/when things get far worse than they are now, I will have at least a small bit of natural fats/oils for my diet (if I don't acquire any meat/milk animals), plus the nuts can be ground for flour.

Hazelnuts are also rich in protein. Moreover, they contain significant amounts of Vitamins B1 and B6, plus smaller amounts of other B vitamins. What's not to like?

Speaking of "huge" harvests (LOL), I finally managed to get ripe figs for the very first time! I have 2 small fig trees in pots, one Brown Turkey and one Celeste. Wouldn't you know, their watering care got away from me this year when they finally had lots of small fruits forming. The Celeste had perhaps 30 tiny figs, and fewer on the Brown Turkey. I lost ALL the Celeste figlets, and all but 2 of the Brown Turkey figlets. Those 2 figlets grew up into small figs... but figs nonetheless! YUM!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Salatin: “Folks This Ain't Normal”

A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and A Better World

Joel Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms and author of Folks This Ain't Normal. He is hailed by The New York Times as "Virginia's most multifaceted agrarian since Thomas Jefferson [and] the high priest of the pasture" and is a leading spokesperson for local, sustainable food systems.

In Folks This Ain't Normal, he discusses how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love. Salatin has many thoughts on what normal is, and shares practical and philosophical ideas for changing our lives in small ways that have big impact. He understands what food should be: wholesome, seasonal, raised naturally, procured locally, prepared lovingly, and eaten with a profound reverence for the circle of life.

From reading the first chapter (link to download it is on the page linked above), I'd say he's right on target about how our general food supply isn't normal (or healthy) anymore.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Making Gorgonzola Dolce

I haven't had much time for cheesemaking lately, but I did start a Gorgonzola Dolce. I've tried to make a Stilton 3 times so far, and none have succeeded. The first 2 Stiltons accidentally got bug infected while I was out of town, and the third is just bitter. That turns out to probably be a function of the pasteurizing temps of the milk.

For the gorgonzola, I was able to buy some fresh goat milk (real milk!) for the make. The recipe I used is from here.  The only problem I've had so far is that the initial molding calls for removing from the mold and turning every hour for the first four hours. Since I didn't start making this cheese until 2PM, the last turns were long after my bedtime.

Because I couldn't stay awake, the very last turn of the cheese when the alarm went off resulted in it being hung on the top of the mold, which I didn't see at the time. The next morning the cheese was not only lopsided, but part of it was stretched when the mass hung up on the top of the mold. So, it's funky looking! I cut off the top wedge although not quite as level as I thought.

Here are the curds ladled into the mold. I only had a gallon and a half of milk although the recipe called for 2 gallons. I just scaled back the cultures and rennet appropriately.

Here's the cheese after the overnight, lopsided molding. The top of the cheese in the photo above looks like a lack of curd knit... that's where the cheese stretched when it hung up on the top of the mold. It will be okay, just not pretty!

The cheese is in the cave now, at 55ºF temp and as close to 95% humidity as I can get. The photo above and at the top of the page shows the cheese just beginning to grow the blue culture (penicillium Roqueforti) before it went in the cave to age. I will pierce it after a week or ten days so the interior can grow some blue...

Pierced this cheese yesterday, 10/5. Blue is growing nicely, and the paste didn't feel soft enough to close up the pierced holes. The wedge is also growing some nice blue mold. I'm hoping I can scrape some of it off later for another blue cheese.

Wish me luck... I am determined to make a blue cheese!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vegetables and Frost

Frost on Flowering Kale, Photo by PhotoBobil

It's time for many of us to expect frost in our vegetable gardens (although some areas have already had their first frost, sorry). I always assumed frost meant the end of the summer garden, but it's not so! Here's some temperature notes for a few unprotected herbs and vegetables:

Vegetables and herbs that frost will harm:
Peppers (Bell and hot peppers)
Summer squash
Basil, Nasturtiums and sunflowers

Frost on Sage, Photo by fishpickdiver

Vegetables and herbs will handle frost and even a light freeze (down to 28ºF) nicely:
Sage and Parsley
Arugula, Endive, Chard, Escarole
Winter Squash, Pumpkins (the vines may die)
Leeks, Chives and Scallions

Photo by ms. Tea

Vegetables that will handle temps down to 20ºF (or slightly colder):
Brussels sprouts

(*chard and cauliflower are more sensitive to cold than most of the others; broccoli newly in bud can be damaged by even a light frost)

The maturity of the plants matters, as does conditioning. Newly emerging seedlings will bite the dust, so plant early enough for the plants to have some growth before frost. Plants that are exposed to lower temps during the few days before frost stand a better chance of surviving.

ps... I have left leeks in the ground all winter when I lived in in Zone 7, digging through snow when I wanted to harvest a few for Vichyssoise. Of course, it depends on the Leek variety, too.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blogger Messing Up

It has been brought to my attention that Comments to this blog are not coming through. Recently Blogger (part of Google) changed the interface and apparently screwed up the Comments section in the process, at least on my blog.

I have notified them, but I'm not holding my breath. I've had trouble accessing my gmail account (also part of Google) for 6 months, and even with notification, that's still not working either.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mycelium (Running? LOL)

Last week I moved the pile of willow chips (left from last year's tree trimming) for my new sheet composted area, and I found a lot of mycelium growing in it. I'm really pleased to see it! I don't fully understand all about mycelium (maybe I should buy Paul Stamet's book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World).

Here's an excerpt from one Amazon reader's review of his book: "This fascinating book is a treasure trove of effective low tech methods for 'running mycelium'. Paul describes everything from gardening techniques to soil restoration to health care application using typical gourmet mushrooms (oh what Oyster mushrooms can do) and many other species. As a scientist, he backs his data with reputable references."

The basic science goes like this: Microscopic cells called “mycelium”--the fruit of which are mushrooms--recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. That's really great for my project!

However, I now find that mycelium can do so much more: “Mycorestoration” is what Stamets calls his discovery. He found that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silt from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and myco-gardening).

Here's what Wiki says about mycelium:
"Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for its role in the decomposition of plant material. It contributes to the organic fraction of soil, and its growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi increases the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates."

So, I am well pleased to have mycelium running in the wood chips I'm adding to my sheet composting project!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I've Been Roasting

Despite my very busy schedule of house and garden projects, I still have to eat... and prepare canned things to eat later in the year when there's nothing fresh from the garden. So, along with roasting tomatoes with onions and garlic to can, I've taken advantage of the hot oven to roast a few vegetables for immediate consumption too. 

I found these lovely pattypans at my local farmer's market. They are common at the markets in large cities like Atlanta where I lived for a few years, but very unusual around here. (I could grow them, just never think to order seeds.)

I usually roast these on a charcoal grill, but since it was raining and I had the oven heated anyway, they went into the oven at 425ºF.  I quartered the pattypans, slathered on some olive oil, thyme and garlic mashed with coarse salt. Made just enough for me!

Stirred them once while roasting, removed them from the oven when they were browned and fork-tender. YUM!

Then I saw a recipe by Michael Ruhlman for roasted whole cauliflower with brown butter sauce. I just had to try it! I coated the cauliflower with olive oil, although his recipe called for canola (which I will not use). Other than that, I followed his recipe closely.

My oven temp may not be accurate, since my cauliflower got a tad too browned at the 425ºF the recipe suggests. Nonetheless, it was another "YUM"!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

We Humans are 4% Minerals

Yep, that's right... this post is about the 4% of our bodies that are minerals, but a very important 4%!  It came about because someone asked me why I'm adding minerals (like Greensand and Azomite) to my new sheet-composted garden area.

96% of our human body is composed of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen... the other 4% of our body mass contains over 70 or more minerals, some in miniscule amounts and most of which are unfortunately no longer readily available in our soils. Without that mere 4%, we would die. 

Minerals participate in a multitude of bio-chemical processes necessary for the maintenance of health in human beings, animals and plants that inhabit our planet. There would be no life without minerals!

Minerals control literally millions of chemical and enzymatic processes which occur in the human body at all times. That alone should make us want to know more of the importance of minerals for our health and survival, and what to do about the current lack.

So What's the Big Deal about Adding Minerals to my Soil??

Simple. If the soil doesn't have the minerals, there's no way for vegetables to absorb them!

Consider: We no longer get as many minerals from our vegetables as we got 50 years ago. The nutritional value of modern foods isn't just declining, it's collapsing. We cannot live healthily without adequate minerals; they are the fundamental source and the basic building blocks of life.

Over-farming, soil depletion, commercial fertilizer, hybrid crops and genetic modifications are slashing the nutrients found in our fruits and vegetables. In fact, we'd have to eat 10 servings of spinach to get the same level of minerals as from just one serving about 50 years ago.

And that's only the beginning.
Take a look at the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) nutritional values for fruits and vegetables today compared to 1975.

Apples: Vitamin A is down 41%
Sweet Peppers: Vitamin C is down 31%
Watercress: Iron is down 88%
Broccoli: Calcium and Vitamin A are down 50%
Cauliflower: Vitamin C is down 45%; Vitamin B1 is down 48%; and Vitamin B2 is down 47%
Collard Greens: Vitamin A is down 45%; Potassium is down 60%; and Magnesium is down 85%

To be fair, some vegetables appear to be gaining vitamins, or at least vitamin A. Carrots, for example, have more of the vitamin now than they did in 1963. Why is a still a mystery. But the phenomenon has apparently occurred just in the nick of time. The National Academy of Sciences has issued an alert that it takes twice as many vegetables to get the daily requirement of vitamin A as previously thought. (Carrots and pumpkin are exempt from the caveat.)

Despite the apparent increase of vitamin A in carrots, most vegetables are losing their vitamins and minerals. Nearly half the calcium and vitamin A in broccoli, for example, has disappeared. Collards are not the greens they used to be. If you're eating them for minerals and vitamin A, be aware that the vitamin A content has fallen from 6500 IUs to 3800 IUs. Their potassium has dropped from from 400 mg to 170 mg. Magnesium has fallen sharply-57 mg to 9. Cauliflower has lost almost half its vitamin C, along with its thiamin and riboflavin. Most of the calcium in pineapple is gone... from 17 mg (per 100 grams raw) to 7. And the list goes on and on.

However, this is not just a 21st Century phenomena!

Back in 1936, a group of doctors introduced Document No.264 to the floor of the United States Senate. It was a dire warning that the mineral content of the soil was eroding. Vegetables were losing their power and people were at risk. Unfortunately Congress did nothing.

Today, it's worse; much worse. Minerals like iron and magnesium have dropped by more than 80 percent. That's from commercial farming technology and powerful fertilizers that practically sterilize the soil... leaving it with little to no mineral content. 

Commercial farming methods have depleted the soil of every essential nutrient, except NPK (nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous). Our planet's soil is being stripped of minerals, and generally nothing is being done to replace them.

Do we even eat enough vegetables?
No way. The preferred American meal is one-dish, already prepared. Unless a vegetable can be squirted out of a bottle, it’s a nonentity for too many of us. Why? We’re in a hurry. Vegetables are considered side dishes, and Americans don’t have time for such frivolity. The decline is relentless. Within the last 15 years, the percentage of all dinners that include a vegetable (other than salad or potatoes) dropped another 10%. It’s now 41%. (Data Source)

I haven't totally figured out the mineral thing yet in my garden, but I've been working on it going on 5 years now. (The Greensand and Azomite mainly add trace minerals rather than address the major ones like calcium, although they do contain some calcium.) Balanced soil minerals is very complex subject and I'm not convinced anyone has all the answers. For example, a mineral like calcium is one the microbes can/will eat and convert to plant food. We know the microbes make calcium available to plants, but which of the 5 or more forms of calcium should we put on our soils?

Until I can afford $150+ professional soil tests, I have to rely on what I can glean from my research and my gut intuition. My gut instinct tells me that adding trace mineral mixes like Greensand and Azomite has to help put some of that 4% of minerals back into my soil and thus into my vegetables.

My Thanks to Keith Scott-Mumby MD, PhD for the idea that sent me searching for more information on that 4% of our minerals.