Look Out, Folks… I’m Growing Places!

It’s an exciting morning: I just sent in my application for Growing Places Indy’s 2013 summer apprenticeship program!

Some highlights:

  • 1,400 hours of hands-on farming work and education
  • 3,000 lbs. of food distribution
  • 650 hours of community engagement and experiential learning
  • 6,500 bicycling miles
20110710. just on the phone with my best friend, melba.

Doing my part: spreading gossip via my cucumber phone.

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I STILL Don’t Know What I Don’t Know… But I’m Learning, Dangit

As follow up to my post about how little I actually know, I’ve also signed up for this free online class (and you should, too! We can be study buddies!): “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health,” from Johns Hopkins.

It started yesterday, but it is six weeks long and designed so you can still jump in at week two or three and hit the ground running (which is a good thing since my UVM farm course is going to take some focus this week and next!).

Take it with me, and we can talk about FOOD! Also, can we just talk about how cool it is that I can take a class like this from all around the world for free? That’s just cool.

You Know, Just Your Typical Long Weekend

This weekend in no particular order, I have:

    • Planted the first seeds in our new growing setup. So far, we’ve got the first round of peas, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and artichokes planted.

20130121. The inauspicious beginnings of garden v.2013!

      • Ordered free seeds from this place: WinterSown. Free seeds? Too good to be true? I’ll let you know how it works out!
      • Signed up for a free, online course, “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health.” It starts in two days, if anyone wants to join me!
      • Smeared Vaseline on a chicken’s comb for the first time. Nothing kinky here, I swear. Our Mediterranean sweetie, Boo, already has a touch of frostbite on one of her spikes, and this is supposed to help.
      • Set up possibly the KLASSIEST (yes, with a capital “K”) wind break ever. The wind chill is supposed to get down to -10 to -20 tonight, and with Boo’s frostbite, we are NOT PLAYING, winter. We also added a 60-watt bulb light fixture to the inside of the coop for a little warmth boost.
20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures.

Paneling ripped off the walls of our office + lawn chairs = totally awesome chicken windbreak.

20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures: a light in the coop to keep things warm(er)!

Did you know that your typical chicken produces 10W of heat? So this 60W bulb will almost double the chickens’ natural heat.

    • Created – and accidentally exploded – a sourdough starter bomb. Ignore the picture of the large Ball jar in that recipe, just ignore it. When they say to start it in a large bowl, LEAVE IT in the glass bowl while it sits and ferments. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put it in the glass jar, covered with a tea towel screwed down with a jar ring. It will seal up, and you WILL shoot a flour-water mixture 20′ across the room and all over the ceiling when you finally cut a hole in your dead grandmother’s tea towel out of sheer desperation.
20130120. Post-sourdough starter bomb.

It looks so harmless, doesn’t it?

20130118. Oh, sourdough... how I've missed you.

The reason I had to create a new batch of sourdough starter, which you should really never have to do – I used it all up making two loaves of delicious bread. Really, though, sourdough starter should last you your whole life if you take care of it.

On Saturday, we made the brilliant decision to ignore our obligations and to do lists and instead took Birdie to Holliday Park, a most bizarre place just five minutes from our house. It was 50 degrees and wonderful out. Today, faced with snow and chicken waterers that just will not stay unfrozen, I am so glad we took some time to be outdoors together.
20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Bianca's Jacket.

I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know: Resources for Starting at Square One With the Farm Business Dream

Confession: I have no real farming knowledge, not really. Everything I’ve learned has been through lots of research, volunteering with far more knowledgeable people, and trial and error on the ground. Oh, and there have been errors and inefficiencies galore.

20130111. The chickens get some winter rye.

Late last year, I started looking at some of the different online resources, coursework, and apprenticeships available. I also felt vaguely panic stricken every time I thought about starting my own enterprise simply because I had no clue where to begin. A business plan? How the heck do you write a business plan when you’re not even sure what you want to do?!

Like I said, I was feeling overwhelmed – until I finally pulled on my big girl panties and decided to jump right in and start learning exactly how much I don’t know about agricultural enterprises. I’m so thrilled with the resources I’ve found so far, I wanted to share.

  • Growing Places (online course), University of Vermont’s Women’s Agricultural Network. I happened upon this course and thought it must have been created just for me. Seriously. This four-week course, offered in-person and online, is designed to help you explore the idea of starting a farm or other ag-related enterprise. During the four weeks, I will be working through six modules: Mission Statement and Goal Setting, Decision Making, Resource Evaluation, Financials, Marketing, and Next Steps.
  • UVM Course, Week One: Goal Statement. Week one has focused on identifying your core values, what activities support those values, and what you want to leave behind. I usually shy away from stuff like this, but now I feel like a total boob for having made it 33 years and never considering how I really want to live my life. I can share the worksheets that helped me develop the goal statement, too, if anyone is interested.
  • Garden Planting Calendar, All Things Plants. Speaking of getting the knowledge (and don’t forget SKILLZ) you need now, I happened across this amazing resource that any gardener can put to use today. In goes your zip code, out comes a schedule for when you need to start your seedlings! I also like that it gives me free license to start artichoke seedlings at the end of this month (see, Chris?), just when I am most in need of a little light, the smell of earth, and some itty bitty green beings poking through the soil.
  • Your Money, Your Life, Your Happiness (video). When is enough truly enough? Did that dinner out on the town really bring you enough joy to make it worth the xx number of hours you must work at your hideous, soul-crushing job to pay for it? Local foods, bartering, reallocating your time so you’re doing more of the things you want to be doing – just a few of the many ideas jammed into this 30-minute video.

Do you have any resources you can’t wait to share? I’d love to hear about them!