Hello, Blogness, My Old Friend

WOW. Has it really been a month and a half since my last post?! HELLO, little long lost bloggie. And how are you?

I wish I could say I’ve been solving world hunger or writing a manifesto that will lead to sustained peace on Earth and good will towards mankind, but no. I’ve just been busy – working, living, prepping for and then celebrating Christmas, playing with my super amazing kid, and watching movies in my jammies with my husband.

So what drove me to post today? It’s pretty self-serving: garden planning has begun, and this is still my official place to store such knowledge for future seasons. This is the second year in a row that I’ve received a gift card to Seed Savers Exchange for Christmas, which is pretty much the best idea ever for a gardener in the winter. Just cracking open that amazingly colorful catalog on these insanely gray December days has been good for the soul.

Day 43. I think Seed Savers Exchange has perfected when to send their dreamy catalogs, full of promises of beautiful, colorful, delicious growing things. Don't worry, Willem, we'll get plenty of green beans. #100happydays

And today was the magical seed ordering day. I also ordered a heat mat, and we’re heading to Lowe’s later to step up our game with lighting in the basement. No more lights zip tied to the bottoms of shelves; no more of this propping up of seedling trays on various boxes to get them closer to or further away from the lights depending on their stage of development; no more needing to constantly rotate the trays so they actually get sort of, kind of equal lighting. We will have adjustable, bright, wonderful lights this year, and my life will be so much easier for it.

Here’s what I ordered today. It also turns out I have an insane number of seeds packets from last season, too, which I’m hoping will still germinate somewhat successfully. Mama needs her arugula!

Exciting things this year: cucumbers will make their return to the garden, and we’ll be trying to grow acorn squash and muskmelon for the first time this year. Oh, and I’m going to have a lot of space dedicated to growing onions right this year. And maybe an entire husk cherry area somewhere. And tomatillos!

  • Tomatillo, Green Husk
  • Swiss Chard, Five Color Silverbeet
  • Tomato, Mexico Midget
  • Tomato, Italian Heirloom
  • Squash, Table Queen
  • Radish, French Breakfast
  • Pepper, Tequila Sunrise
  • Pepper, Jalapeno Traveler Strain
  • Onion, Red Wethersfield
  • Melon, Schoon’s Hard Shell
  • Kale, Lacinato
  • Ground Cherry, Aunt Molly’s
  • Cucumber, Japanese Climbing
  • Beet, Bull’s Blood

Basically? After my disappointing seed starting endeavor last year (I DID have a baby in the midst of prime seed starting time, so I have a  good excuse), I AM NOT MESSING AROUND THIS YEAR. You hear me, future garden? NOT. MESSING. AROUND.

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Garden 4.0: Notes for Future-Me

This year, the garden has been a bit, ahem, wild. Overgrown. Unkempt. Let’s just say it’s in need of a serious haircut at this point.

20140726. Our backyard! And Birdie running laps.

Thankfully, due in large part to the wet, cool(ish) summer we’ve been having (and not to my serious neglect), we’ve still managed to get some lovely produce. The tomatoes, green beans, beets, radishes, lettuce, kale, and husk cherries in particular have done awesomely.

20140812. Husk cherries.

Now is the time, though, to start making some notes to future-me for future-garden. I do this mentally every year, and then I completely forget or push out of my mind the previous year’s lessons learned. So, dang it all to heck, we’re documenting the crap out of them this year!

20140708. State of the garden address.

Plans for next year:

  • Husk cherries are the bomb. We need a field of husk cherries next year. Okay, maybe a bed of them will do, but seriously… a lot, please.
  • Half a bed of tomatoes = perfect. Although Chris will disagree, horizontal trellising has worked nicely this year (i.e. no broken twine halfway through the summer during the latest thunderstorm to try to restring, heavy with tomatoes).
  • Let’s do onions for real next year, and half a bed of garlic was perfect. Next year: half a bed of garlic, the other half onions? Yeah? Yeah.
  • ONLY GROW HALF A BED OF GREENS, TOTAL. PERIOD. None of this “eight kale plants will do” crap. Jeez, girl. Greens do awesomely in our backyard, and we really only need two kale and two chard plants for our own consumption. At this point, the chickens have eaten more kale than I have, which is embarrassing (although the chickens are stoked).
  • I really need an entire bed of pepper plants. I love peppers. We EAT peppers. We CAN peppers. I want ALL THE PEPPERS.
  • Green beans: everyone in this house loves them, including Willem. Next year, we’re building a trellis of green beans – a TRELLIS you can walk through and be surrounded by lovely green beans – maybe as part of our front yard landscaping, maybe somewhere in back. Who knows. But we need a lot of green beans. Also, the purple ones are the bomb, because you can actually see them hiding among all that green foliage.
  • A bed of lettuce early in the season was awesome. Maybe that bed can be flipped later for fall plantings of beets, radishes, and arugula, all of which are awesome and need to be planted everywhere again next year, all summer long.
  • THINGS WE NEED NEXT YEAR: Cucumbers were sadly missing from our garden this year, as were carrots. I think I want to do a huge carrot field in one of the beds. I learned that the best carrot planters are 4-year-olds: they just throw the seeds (in huge quantities) everywhere. So that’ll be the carrot-planting plan next year.
  • Last but not least, how about some sweet potato love? I need to expand our sweet potato growing next year. We’ve been doing a sweet potato bin the last few years, which works but kind of requires upkeep all summer, adding more soil. And I want a LOT of sweet potatoes. I’m open to suggestions for best ways to grow them!
  • Oh wait… LAST last one… We need some winter rye for cover cropping this fall/winter. We ran out and didn’t have any last fall, which I swear is part of the reason we suddenly have grass trying to take over the beds this year. It also provides a great winter fresh feed for the chickens.

Also, someday Chris is going to make an epic post about the tens of thousands of bees who have taken up residence in our backyard. He finally managed to get me into the suit last week to help him move the (now two) hives around a little bit. This was me flexing and feeling very high on life after surviving the process without a) getting stung and b) having a panic attack.

IMG_2775

Trying to Find the Words…

I don’t quite know how to put this yet, but I feel like I am somehow cheating at life last week and this week. I started the apprenticeship with Growing Places Indy, and I can still say, without a doubt, it’s one of the best choices I’ve made/opportunities I’ve been given in this world. EVER.

20130607. Garden jungle.

(Meanwhile on the home front… the garden has taken on jungle proportions…)

It’s like I am living this decadent reality when, really, all I am doing is taking care of myself, taking care of plants and the earth, and taking care of people around me. I guess it’s a little sad that this feels so decadent, but that’s not the part I’m choosing to dwell on. Instead, I’m trying to fill myself up with the awesomeness of feeling this way and trying to figure out how to prolong it long after August 10 when the apprenticeship ends.

20130607. Nasturtium and garlic.

(Nasturtium and garlic make friends…)

And, for the record, we apprentices have already begun talking about how sad we will be to see the apprenticeship come to a close. It’s only the end of week two, but when every day feels like three or four days packed into one (in a good way), I feel very close to these people already. It’s like a happier, soul searching, plant- and food-centric boot camp.

20130607. Beaker does not like being left out of the garden.

(Beaker expresses her discontent at not being allowed to eat – and poop on – all the backyard garden plants…)

I’m surrounded by truly amazing people: the apprentices, the leaders of the program, and the handful of people who have come in to speak with us. It’s just too much! My heart feels like it’s bursting.

20130607. Beaker is the best mulberry forager.

(Beaker scavenges mulberries from the grass while I scavenge from the tree…)

I’m clearing my mind of the extraneous bullshit, being present (really and truly PRESENT), learning so much, working hard, eating well, talking and sharing, doing yoga… I feel like I need to milk every moment for all it’s worth because it’s such a foreign feeling, it’s just not NORMAL, and I fear it could go away at any time.

20130607. Garlic scape.

(Alien shapes find their way into the garden via garlic scapes…)

I feel centered and balanced and vibrant and like I’m paying attention to these things for the first time in years, if not ever. I feel supported and like I really could do anything, like there is a community of people, all around me in the program and in the city of Indianapolis, who can help me accomplish these things and who want me to succeed. And vice versa.

20130607. Mulberry.

(Mulberries fill jars and stain hands and lips…)

Just for the record, here are just a few of the many things I have done or learned so far:

  • Biked 116 miles in two weeks.
  • Learned how to take a soil pH test.
  • Learned how to grow micro greens and sunflower and pea shoots.
  • Laid out irrigation/drip/t-tape across many garden beds.
  • Realized I could still do cartwheels and yoga is actually way more centering and invigorating than I thought.
  • Opened myself up without fear.
  • Met local business folks who are working to put out sustainable, amazing products (and learned I should just do it – with a halfway decent business plan in my pocket, of course).
  • Harvested greens and herbs and helped organize/disperse green goodies at my first CSA pickup.
  • Laughed and got stressed out and talked and picked myself up and worked it all out and laughed again and shared more with strangers than I have in YEARS.
  • Found myself feeling nostalgic for the present, if that’s possible.
  • Began thinking about fundraising ideas and putting together proposals so all of this year’s apprentices can “pay it forward” for next year’s (I’m sure) equally, if not more, amazing apprentices.
20130607. Dinner tonight! All from the backyard or Growing Places Indy.

(What dinner looks like on most nights: beautiful greens and eggs from the backyard, herbs from Growing Places Indy. We lead charmed lives…)

It’s Decorative Gourd Season!

Maybe it’s weird to be making plans for the future in the fall. Everything around us is dying back. Once screaming-intensity desert temperatures are suddenly dropping into the 30s at night. Scarves have  been busted out, as well as handknit wool sweaters smelling of cedar. Hell, we had our first fire last night – and it was delightful.

However, a new life plan has manifested itself as of late, and I think it’s a damn good one. My new plan is to offer whatever services I can (aka whore myself out) to all the people I think are doing super-fantastic things in this town until one of them either hires me or adopts me… OR I learn enough that I decide I can move forward with my own thing. At the very least, I will meet people who I think are doing awesome things, learn a ton from them, and maybe, just maybe, make something out of it. At the worst? Well, I don’t really think there’s a downside, to be honest.

With that in mind, I’ve volunteered my time twice so far over at Big City Farms Indianapolis and had an awesome time. I’m hoping I can continue picking Matthew’s (head farmer/owner) brain about how he’s gone into business for himself and, well, everything there is to know about farming an urban plot. Right… I’m sure that would take me my whole life. In addition to gleaning these nuggets of wisdom, though, I’ve also been enjoying sharing stories about plucking turkeys, what happens to the chickens when young couples break up, missing the caramel apples of old handed out at Halloween, and how jumping into piles of leaves really is what a six-year-old should be most excited about re: fall.

On Thursday, I worked a full eight hours at my job, but I didn’t really feel as though I had accomplished much until I got to the farm and spent a few hours weeding. I think that’s saying a lot.

So yeah – new life plan: surround myself with awesome people, doing awesome things that I want to be doing, too. Seems simple, right? How did it take me so long to get here?

20120920. Big City Farms Indianapolis.

I came out on Thursday to start weeding the “disaster zone” by myself… and I was super excited to be able to take a few shots of the space without feeling like a total creep/dork. And yet, I still feel like a creep posting these shots.

20120920. Big City Farms Indianapolis.

It’s the quintessential urban farm plot: bordered on one side by the highway and an old factory-turned-antiques mart, a view of the skyline in the background, and a very active, noisy train bordering the other side. I kept thinking, “It’s so peaceful,” and then a giant semi would go wailing past on the highway. Ah, nature.

I also discovered today that just past those train tracks is Flat 12 Brewery, which makes fantastic beers (like Sushi Saison, a delicious Belgian IPA, a cherry stout that almost required chewing as you ingested it, and… some others I can’t remember because I sampled a few too many this afternoon).

20120922. A true lady always leaves lipstick stains on her plastic glass.

When we got home, it was time for the chickens to have some outdoor time of their own.

20120922. We hang. Me and my best bitch on a Saturday evening.

My favorite bitch, Beaker, came to chill in the late afternoon sun. She really does get this cozy every time I hang with her.

20120922. Me and Little Red.

Little Red is still quite little. We’re beginning to think she might be a bantam.

20120922. Boo.

Boo in high relief.

20120922. Dino Puppy says HEEEEY.

Dino Puppy, coming in for her closeup.

And this about sums up how I feel about my whole new life plan:
20120920. Happy!P.S. I almost forgot the whole point of this post. Would you like to read my favorite piece of prose related to fall and the changing seasons? Warning: it’s delightfully FILTHY in the language department. “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, M*therf*ckers,” by Colin Nissan.