Monday, April 4, 2011

Bits and Bites- How My New Gardening Tool is Also Helping Me Eat Better

I'm practically a card carrying Luddite (except, of course, for the cars, TV, radio, blogs, Twiiter, Facebook, IPod--things like that) and so the last thing I thought I would be writing about in this gardening blog is an IPhone.  Yet, I have discovered that my smarty pants phone has turned out to be a rather interesting little gardening tool.  And, if it doesn't first burn out my brain cells from low-level radiation, it may even have some potential health benefits by helping me to improve my miserable diet and eat a little better!

My daughters razz me constantly about my new addiction to my phone because I pooh-poohed smart phones for so long.  I ranted on and on--incessantly-about how no one conversed anymore, how everyone had their faces glued to the things, and how every nerd in town kept shoving phones into my face jiggling them back and forth between landscape and portrait mode, saying things like..."look at this!  Isn't that amazing?"  All right, already!  You'd think they just discovered the difference between horizontal and vertical!  I lamented about how real, intimate, personal interaction had gone the way of the Dodo, and how we're all headed for a society made up of a bunch of techno-zombies walking around in little virtual bubbles.  

Well, I'm acting a little sheepish now.  I think I'm done with my rant.  It's funny how one can do an about-face so quickly when they find out the very thing they scorn might actually have some personal benefit.  But politicians do this every day. And so it was with my phone.

I hardly ever use my phone for talking.  I'm convinced that, with the introduction of the cell tower, we've slipped backwards in time when it comes to being able to actually hear each other over the telephone.  Why we put up with this, I'm not sure. Alexander Graham Bell would surely think that the cheese has slid off our crackers if he could ever see the "progress" we've made in that regard.  My grandmother's 1940's style phone, that was shaped like a big black daffodil, was a lot better. But, then again, I don't like talking on the phone, anyway.  And, who wants to answer the phone when you're out there in the garden, surrounded by the sounds of nature--like birds tweeting, crickets chirping, and our neighbor's dog who barks all day long?

So, forget talking.  I found other interesting uses for my phone in the garden.  Like, for example, the notes function.  There was a time when I would carry a pen and a small notebook with me wherever I went in the garden, mainly because I have such a poor memory and need to write things down.  Now, hundreds and hundreds of important little notes, like the one that says..." whatever you do, don't forget to pull the poison ivy before the ladies from the garden club arrive," take up no room at all; they reside in my front pocket right next to my car keys.  And, I can index them, keep a record of them on my computer, and even e-mail them to an unsuspecting friend if I have to. 

Then, there's the camera that comes with the phone.  Which is really great for snapping photos of plants in various stages of decline.  You can then simply take your phone along to your favorite nursery where you bought the plant, pull up the picture, and say.."see, I told you!"  

photo by Bruce J . Martin
Cirrus Digital Imaging
The camera is also good for snapping pictures of insect pests and then comparing those pictures to the millions of insect pests on the internet which can, and probably will at some point, attack your garden.  And--even better--you can access the internet right from the garden (assuming you have the right phone), while you're out there bent over your Agapanthus wondering where all the mealy bugs came from.  I did this recently to find out it was the black blister beetle that was destroying all of our Japanese Anemones and not Wendelberry, our poor innocent cat, who I kept blaming for the mess.  I was then able to do more internet research, which was important in this case because I learned exactly why the name of this particular beetle included the word "blister." I, thus, avoided some pain.

But beyond the functions that most smart phones can perform these days, there are some very interesting applications that are geared toward better eating and helping us make smarter food choices.  And, for someone like me, who wants to eat better but still wishes more than anything that there was a way to directly harvest potato chips without having to actually fool around with the potato, this is an important breakthrough.

There are applications like Locavore, which tells you what foods are in season in your location and where to find them.  There is Farmers Market Finder, which helps you find healthy and locally grown foods being sold at farmer's markets near you.  There is Foursquare's new "Explore" feature that will tell you where to eat based on your "eating history."  There is Seafood Watch, which gives you the locations of restaurants and markets that are dealing in sustainable seafood, and tells you what types of seafood to buy given the current ocean and fishing conditions.  And there is Ample Harvest, which helps you find food pantries in your area where you can donate your surplus garden harvest.

I should point out that almost all of these new applications rely on knowing where you are--in relation to everyone else in the world--at any given moment in time.  How your phone actually knows this, I'm not one-hundred percent sure.  I do know that it has something to do with some sort of Buck Rogers type ray that satellites are able to shoot down from the heavens and latch onto your phone.

Having someone, or even some thing, know where I am at any given time of the day or night is, I admit, a little troubling.  However, I've learned a little lesson on rants.  And so, for now, I think I'll hold off on my rant about that until I see what other interesting things might be in store for my new little cellular gardening tool.   


  1. Hi Joe
    As the subservient, underling spouse of one of the area's high ranking combat gardeners (I'm Maude's connection to the non-gardening world), I'm impressed by your most recent blog entry. As I still take pride in being referred to as a "cheap yankee" by most, I am sure everyone (and now you) will be extolling the benefits of G10 networks long before I handle my first iPhone or figure out why I need an app. Maude figures it was a major accomplishment to get me to finally carry a cellphone and have it turned on at the same time.
    I was truly in awe of your apparent fluency with the new gadget. How could you find the time to develop such new, foreign skills and at the same time produce such a beautifully written and illustrated blog? Then it hit me! Like durr! Your home is no different than mine. You can't get in your gardens either! The weather stinks. Winter drags on. It's still frozen! From my outsider's view point it will be interesting to watch what becomes of these extensive blog entries and the hours that are devoted to surfing the net from the palm of your hand when the gardening season does truly begin. But of course, my bliss may be total ignorance. Does that thing have an app for weeding? And one for spreading mulch? If not, I could see this as an opportunity to recover some of our gardening investments.
    Oh, by the way, thanks. Now Maude wants one of the darn things!

  2. Ha Ha! John, your comment had me laughing out loud! You're absolutely right, though. We're all in the same boat here in New Hampshire with this long winter dragging on. And, if the winter hasn't brought anything else, it has at least given this "cheap Yankee" a little extra time to venture into areas where I never thought I would tread.

    As for writing and the summer ahead...the saving grace about writing a gardening blog is that, during gardening season when I don't have the time to write, gardeners also don't have the time to read. So it all sort of evens out.

    And, yes, I'm waiting for those apps that can melt snow, weed, and double dig! But, until then, you might as well give up and take Maude to the Apple store. When she makes up her mind...well, you know.

    Thanks for the comment! You brought a smile and some good cheer to this rainy evening!--Joe

  3. Hmmmmm, I'm not sure I like that comment Joe, "when she makes up her mind...well, you know." You are not helping my case. I've wanted an iPhone for a long time and I had John read the post because it was one, hysterical and had me laughing and rejoicing at the same time; and two, because I thought it would convince John that an iPhone was something I really needed. I mentioned I did have a birthday coming in June and maybe, just maybe.... But he retorted that I had a new patio for my birthday and every other conceivable holiday in between for the next several years. He's promises to get good mileage out of that patio. So I went back to pouting. But I never did know about the Black Blister Beetle and I did mention to John that it was a miracle I had not been blistered yet. I think he mumbled something like "I guess you'll just have to keep relying on Joe for your information." Back to pouting.

  4. OK, I'm trying to help so make sure to tell John this thing is no longer just a gardening tool. So, let's see...It has a compass, a carpenter's level, plumb bob, surface level, and rulers. I know that will get him interested. It can convert any imaginable measurable unit into any other imaginable measurable unit. You can read books about building patios on it and when you get bored with that, you can use it to watch the Red Sox. If you get tired of hanging around the house, It can figure out where you are and then give you hiking trail maps to every known trail in the vicinity of your location. And if you spot a bird on your hike that you don't recognize, you have a complete field guide, with thousands of photos right in your pocket. If hiking is too slow for you, it can plot your run and measure everything from heart rate to calories burnt along the way. It can give you the current weather and ski conditions anywhere, you can use it to purchase your airline tickets to get you to those locations, and your lift tickets once you're there. How's that? It still can't repair leaky faucets or move bluestone and cobbles from one spot to another, but they're working on that.--Joe

  5. Whew, that is better. I bet it also has lots of aviation info in there too, right! Making headway if there is. You know: parts, air shows to visit via garden tours. Yes, yes. He also always likes to find good places to eat. Meanwhile, enjoy the sunshine AND the iPhone. I suspect it can also tell you the nearest doctors to help ailing backs once the real work begins. Thanks for the post, the rant, the fun and for throwing the ball back into my court. Even if it's still a snowball!

  6. Not to mention that I am using my iPhone right now at 30,000 feet to comment on this blog Maude!

  7. Joe, I smiled thru every word of this post. Brilliant! I use my phone in the same way only for me it documents my travels and notes for future blog posts. Like you, I rarely, speak into it. I just live in fascination and marvel at all the things I can do. My only problem is knowing when to let go....I woke up this morning and found it under my pillow :)

    Thanks for the App. tips, I will put together a post on some of my favourites and let you know when I do. Have you checked out Momento?
    This is a new acquisition...

    Best wishes and happy gardening..

    PS... good to see green in your garden...great groundcover!

  8. Thanks Paula, that might be the key to open John's door. He could use it flying and maybe even be in touch with me when he is in the northern, northern remote Inuit country in the summers. And he doesn't even fly at 30,000 feet! Or if he got into an emergency situation it might be one more way to get help. Thank you, thank you.

  9. Thanks, Jeanne! Like you, I love all that I can do with this thing. However, I must admit that this growing feeling of dependence is a little troubling. If I put my hand in my pocket and find my phone missing, I immediately go into a panic!

    I'll look forward to your post of favorite apps! In the meantime, I just looked at Momento and that looks like another great tool, especially for gardeners who write blogs! Thanks for passing that one along!--Joe


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