Covered Rows and a Blanket of Sunshine to Keep Me Warm

What a day, people! WHAT. A. DAY. For the first time since I can’t even remember when, I was able to be outside all day in a t-shirt and corduroys. Well, okay, if I stood still for too long and the sun dipped behind a cloud, I began to think longingly of cozy old man wool sweater (you know, the one with the leather patches on the elbows), lying on the couch being a louse. But I refused to put that damn thing on, just on the principle of the thing.

Hello, spring! I’ve missed you! In no particular order and in reverence to the beautiful day, today I have:

  • Drafted and submitted my proposal to my employer for a part-time sabbatical for 10 weeks this summer to allow me to participate in the Growing Places Indy Summer Apprenticeship Program. That’s right, folks – I’ve been accepted! Please, please, please, employer – let me do this. This is one of those once in a lifetime/dream experiences, for goodness sakes.
  • Took Birdie on a long walk of the neighborhood, pausing to sniff grass, sign posts, and sometimes just the sidewalk.
  • Did laundry! Really, this is notable.
  • Ate fried eggs a la Chris and toast with blueberry-cinnamon jam a la me.
  • Scrambled some eggs for the chickens. We ran out of chicken feed, and the girls needed something first thing before we could pick up a new bag!
  • Went grocery shopping for such amazing things as ingredients to make banana pudding poke cake and egg casserole with sausage and peppers. It is a comfort food kind of weekend.
  • Planted two flats of lettuces and spinach in my covered row in back, threw a few more in with the garlic, then plunked the last four into the front yard bed, which I hope to turn into a PRETTY edible garden this year. Think chard, artichokes, beets, and kale mixed in with the perennials. 
  • Planted a metric butt-ton of beet, turnip, and chard seeds across the front beds and in a few of the back beds. What? I like root vegetables.
  • Got super excited upon realizing my sweet potatoes are FINALLY sprouting! We just might have sweet potatoes in the garden again this year.
  • Watched as Chris put in two more posts for our brand new, Birdie- and chicken-proof garden fence! Go, Chris, go.
  • Purchased a copy of Indianapolis Monthly, featuring an article on backyard chicken keepers this month, including MOI and the girls.

Evidence of the above, also in no particular order:

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly collage.

The Indianapolis Monthly spread – at least, the important parts (i.e. the ones that include ME and MY CHICKENS).

20130330. Putting posts in for the garden fence.

Those posts on the left? We are going to have the most awesome Birdie- and chicken-proof garden fence ever. This is a very good thing.

20130330. Putting posts in for the garden fence.

Work that post hole, Chris! Hmmm… that doesn’t sound too good…

20130330. Baby garlic!

Baby garlics!!!

20130330. The sweet potatoes finally started sprouting.

Thank goodness the sweet potatoes started sprouting. This was one of the funnest things to grow last year, and I really wanted a redo. Part deux.

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly's April edition includes an article of backyard chickens. We're (in)famous!

And, just in case you couldn’t read my words of wisdom in the collage above, here is my sage advice for Indianapolis – and the WORLD – at large.

Which Came First?

On some farm somewhere, our four chickens are currently sitting peacefully in their eggs under toasty heat lamps, without a care in the world. Come next week, they will be thrust into the harsh light of reality, then a day later tucked into a box and will likely travel the farthest they ever will in their little chicken lives to our home.

I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.

We are really, really lucky in this whole chicken-rearing endeavor simply because, four days out of the week, I work from home. I’ve planned to go into the office on Monday of next week, and I’ve notified my co-workers that, sometime on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, I will get a phone call from the post office saying that they have a peeping box on their hands and asking me to please come pick it up. And that I will then be MIA for the rest of the day.

Still, though… my biggest fear is I will somehow manage to mess things up royally and irreversibly. This weekend, I’m going to be studying my chicken books, setting up the brooder, and probably getting massive rounds of butterflies in the stomach. THE CHICKENS ARE LANDING!

Enough of my neurosis and first-time-mother worries, though. Spring has officially sprung, and my hoop house, of which I was so proud, is hardly even needed in central Indiana this spring. While my first round of lettuces are surviving to varying degrees (i.e. half look like they’re dying), the spinach and peas look quite well. We have a second and third round growing under lights in the office anyway, so I’m sure we will at least eat a LITTLE bit of lettuce and spinach this spring.

20120316. Spring is here.

Suddenly, everything in Indianapolis is blooming - including our wild and crazy bush in the backyard, home to countless birds (and subsequent tormentor of two cats who would love nothing more than to eat the birds).

At some point this weekend, in between my obsessive re-researching of baby chicken care, I’m sure we will go on a bike ride to see all the amazing blooms.
20120316. Spring is here.

And would you just look at those lovely little peas! The pea trellis is sticks from our yard and jute. Fancy, I know.
20120316. The first planting of garden 2.0.Go, peas, go!
20120316. The peas are doing well.

The Impatient Garden

In honor of patience, I first give you this beautiful throwback: Fugazi, “Waiting Room.”

I, however, am decidedly not a patient (girl) who waits and waits and waits. Want to know what went into the hoop house today? The first round of peas, lettuces, and spinach, that’s what – about 31 plants in total, but who’s counting?

Last night, I also planted all of the rest of the seedlings for starting indoors, including three varieties of tomatoes, three varieties of peppers, beans, and more peas, lettuce, and spinach. I’ll also get the beets and carrots seeded this weekend, I hope, directly into the hoop house bed.

In other words, garden 2.0 is officially ON.

My Garden Will Grow So High

“Island Garden Song,” Mountain Goats.

I am not the most patient when it comes to springtime and gardens and tilling the soil. So I consider it no small feat to have made it until today to begin planting seeds.

But, oh, seed planting has officially begun!

20120303. Garden planning is underway.

Beets and lettuce and technicolor carrots, oh my!

This is mostly for our own record, but in case anyone is interested in one house’s impatient spring planting schedule, here you have it:

  • 3/3: Start indoors the first round of “earlies” to be transplanted to the hoop house (Oregon snap peas, Cascadia snap peas, spinach, lettuce-gourmet blend, lettuce-black seeded simpson)
  • 3/8: Start indoors the second round of “earlies” to be transplanted to the hoop house
  • 3/17: Start indoors the third round of “earlies” to be transplanted to the hoop house; transplant first batch of hoop house plants outside, and plant beet and carrots directly into hoop house soil. Start indoors ALL other seeds.

The part I’m most excited about is the “START ALL OTHER SEEDS” bit on 3/17. That’s also the weekend before the chicks arrive – I am pee-my-pants excited about that part, too.

20120303. Garden planning is underway.

Seed planting central has taken over the office!

Hoop Dreams: Pipe Dream No More

Faced with beautiful spring weather last weekend and a brief reprieve from the flu-from-hell, I managed to make my hoop dreams a reality. Meet the new hoop house!

20120218. Hoop dreams.

Nap Town Chickens shirt, hoop house, and new raised beds.

I also:

  • Attended a chicken-rearing workshop, led by Nap Town Chickens and the Fall Creek Gardens people, at which I won a super fantastic t-shirt of my very own and learned such sage wisdom as, “Look… they may change your life, but, ultimately, they’re just chickens.” A coop in every yard, a fresh egg on every plate – oh, indeed!
  • Dug up some sod and extended two garden beds.
  • Tore out the rest of the rocks in the front yard beds (ugly) and upcycled them into two new raised beds in the backyard (magic!). I got all rock-tetris on their rocky behinds, and now they just need a good layer of soil and compost (and plants, of course).
  • Bought some more seeds for the garden – including Black Krim heirloom tomatoes from the Black Sea region.

What’s the plan this weekend, you ask? As per usual, the answer is likely, “Too much.” A trip to Black Acre Brewing may be in order, though. I mean, for real: just look at their beer list. Imperial Pumpkin Ale? Saucy Intruder IPA? I’m sold, and I haven’t even tasted it yet.

Hoop, Hoop-ba-Doop, Hoop-ba-Doop: Stretching the Growing Season

Note: The above title is intended to be sung heartily and with gusto to this song:

In my quest to pluck more and more fresh plant delicacies from our garden, I’m looking forward to stretching our growing season this year. As I searched for the best ways to do so, the mighty hoop house flashed across my screen and jumped off the pages over and over again.

Last year, we didn’t actually have a backyard to grow things in until mid-May (Chris closed on his house on Friday the 13th). The very first weekend we moved in, we dug up new beds, broke soil, and planted root-bound baby veggie plants we had been nursing from seed in Chris’ apartment closet. Even getting that jump on things, we still missed out on a lot of growing time. This year, we don’t have those limitations, and I am so accepting the challenge.

So by my count, we have a few things going for us in 2012:

  • We have already moved into the house.
  • We have a good start with our raised beds from last summer.
  • We even have a bit of compost going.

Getting back to the title of this post, then, it seems to me that all we really need is a sturdy little hoop house. Chris found some hoop house guidance today, albeit on the more behemoth end of the hoop house spectrum: inspired by Michelle Obama and her beautiful gardens on the White House lawn, The Daily Green outlines how to build your own hoop house.

Because my boy is wicked smaht, when we built the first raised bed last year, he planned ahead for future hoop house magic. He screwed in six 1″ PVC pipe sections around the edges of the bed. Tonight, we’ll go buy three lengths of 1/2″ PVC to fit into each of those larger pipes, round them over the top of the bed, and create a hoop house skeleton.

20110521. the new garden bed, all finished!Note the sections of PVC pipe (and the super cool dude, of course). This was from 5/21/2011, a mere 8 days after Chris got the keys to the house. I still can’t believe how much we accomplished last summer in the yard.

20110521. resting in the new (garden) bed.By March 1, I’ll have our first hoop house set up and some new-to-me veggies growing! Lettuce, spinach, beets, early peas and beans… get in my belly.