For the Record: Beets, Carrots, and Radishes

This weekend and today: broke up the soil in the garden beds and shoveled the most beautiful compost I’ve ever seen come out of our bins into the beds most in need of a little pick-me-up.

20150316. My own personal Zen garden.

Seriously, look at this stuff. My own version of a Zen garden right here.

Also today: direct seeded a whole lotta beets, radishes, and carrots. Because beets, radishes, and carrots need to be in our bellies.

Oh yeah, and this guy has been helping me. Baby garden initiation 2015 begins!

20150316. My new garden pal.

We have a few new tools in the garden this year.

Our newest garden tools.

20150316. My new garden pal.

Willem’s new favorite toys are an old timer I have in the shape of an apple and leaves. Sounds about right.

Next up? Onions and greens! 

It’s Never Too Early, Right?

Disclaimer: While in my brain I know it may still be a tad early to start seeds, in my green-growing-things-loving-heart, I just don’t care. 

This year, we have a seed starting Renaissance of sorts going on in the basement.

BEHOLD! We have shop lights! With adjustable chains! And a heat mat! I even have a table to work on (so what if the “table” is two saw horses with a piece of wall paneling for the table top?). As the seedlings grow, I’ll move them up to the upper shelf to make way for more babies in the seed nursery on the lower shelf. 

20150208. Seed starting upgrades! Lights that raise and lower and a heat mat.

20150208. New planting setup (sawhorses and a piece of paneling).

What did it look like before, you ask? (That’s the polite way of saying, “How in the world is THIS an improvement?!”).

Last year: Note the boxes used to bring the seeds up to the lights, which were zip tied to the bottoms of our shelves. Also note that wimpy-ass lights, which required constant rotation of the seedling flats lest we have plants growing sideways. Oh, and let’s not forget the wood paneling used to steady the seed flats.
20140209. The seeds are planted! Our no frills growing setup.

2013: I think it was also this year that I used every cookie sheet in our house to try to provide some way to manage the seedlings as they grew and grew and grew. Yeah. Cookie sheets have no place in your seed starting setup, FYI.
20130209. In hindsight, I may have planted a few too many seeds this spring.

 

What seeds have we started at this point? So far, we have a small army of greens, lettuces, and onions going. I also couldn’t resist the siren call of the pepper and planted a load of those.

We had horrible luck last year with seedlings in general and peppers specifically, so I think from here until planting day, I’m just going to start a new round of seeds each week. That may be a bit of an exaggeration… but only just.

 

 

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.

Sad Seedling Resuscitation

SEEDLING AND GARDEN RESUSCITATION
Back on February 1, knowing I was about to give birth ANY DAY NOW, I started all of our seedlings. I had an awesome spread of seeds, procured from Seed Savers Exchange, thanks to a gift card given to me by my in-laws for Christmas (great gift!). Thanks to the beauty and joy that is bringing a new being into the world, however, we ended up with our own little experiment in survival of the fittest going under the grow lights in the basement.

Only the strong survive!

Thankfully, the flat of greens did really well and went into the ground last weekend. That left two trays of raggedy tomatoes, miniaturized peppers, suspended animation ground cherries, a few spindly onions, a couple of yellowed cucumbers… and not much else. And those guys were hanging on by a thread, still eking out the last of the nutrients from the peat pods I had started them in.

Luckily, Willem loves his morning nap in his carrier, giving me a chance yesterday to repot all of the seedlings AND even plant a few more pots with fresh seeds, just in case I get some more growth in time for this season. I was especially sad that the arugula, peppers, and cucumbers did so poorly. I really wanted some lovely spicy arugula in my salads this spring; more seeds were planted in pots and directly in the ground. ARUGULA OR BUST!

20140412. Willem and me repotting seedlings.

20140412. Sad little onions.

This morning during Willem’s morning tandem nap, we planted more seeds in the garden – beets, arugula, and chard mixed in among the greens. The kale is looking rad, and the greens are thriving to varying degrees. Which reminds me – I need to water those seeds!

NO RATS ALLOWED!
In other news, Chris has embarked on an ambitious project this beautiful weekend to rid our coop of burrowing rodents (aka RATS), which have excavated extensive tunnels underneath our coop to get at our messy chickens’ dropped food throughout this polar vortex winter. Here’s a sneak peek of what he’s got going on so far; more details to come!

20140412. Rat abatement plan, step one: dig a trench.

And check out our sexy new wood rack, built by Chris. He’s the best.
20140412. New wood rack, Chris' work implements for the weekend.

AND… BABIES!!!
Finally, in other OTHER news, I would be remiss if I didn’t say, hey, I really like our baby. Here’s our nightly bedtime wind down ritual:
20140411. Bedtime routine.

20140413. Willem, 7 weeks.

The Day Has Finally Arrived*

*No, I am not in labor.

Nope, folks, the day has finally arrived when:

  • None of my maternity shirts actually cover my stomach anymore, and I have resigned myself to a wardrobe of dresses and leggings or my own frightful incarnation of the bare midriff style (just imagine your average American Apparel model, then add 30 pounds to the belly region and 20 years).
  • Looking in the mirror in the morning is more to get a good laugh than to actually make myself look presentable or, dare I even try, CUTE.
  • Not leaving the house for three days in a row does not seem shocking; leaving the house, on the other hand, sounds like waaaaay too much work.
  • My idea of a party down, no holds barred weekend is planting seeds for the summer garden, making a giant vat of black beans to freeze, knitting a sweater, and making fun of the commercials playing during the Olympics (Fritos on a sub? I can’t think of a food that would be a better antonym to “eating fresh.” Also, are we really going to liken some fat slob biting into one of his 20-for-$5 chicken McFrankenNuggets to an Olympian biting his/her gold medal? REALLY?! And don’t even get me started on the health benefits of drinking an ice cold CocaCola. I’m sure Olympians the world over are chugging that shit down).

I guess all of that is just to say we’re still here, and we’re still waiting. Here are some recent scenes from the current waiting game:

39 weeks:
20140208. 39 weeks.

Me and Birdie, taking selfies to distract ourselves from the hideousness that is ice dancing (no offense if that’s the kind of thing that rings your bell):
Me and Birdie watch the Olympics.

Super sweet, unexpected (and maybe handmade?) gifts from super sweet neighbors. I guess they noticed me living on my bike last summer!
20140209. Sweet baby gift from our sweet neighbors.

Chris’ superhero outfit (err, I mean, protection for insulating our attic. Did I forget to mention he went on a house insulating kick a few weeks ago? He really needs to figure out some sort of amazing Halloween costume with this getup):
20140209. Chris in his attic insulating superhero costume.

And the part I’m most excited about: the beginnings of our 2014 garden! I am loving the stories behind our seeds this year, many of which are heirloom varieties purchased from Seed Savers Exchange. I think I’ll be doing a dreamy regular feature this summer on each of their stories. Because I get into that sort of thing. I also love how our no-frill, inauspicious setup will produce the most amazing garden and food all summer long.
20140209. The seeds are planted! Our no frills growing setup.

The Sweet Daily Grind of Vacation

Vacation life, in bullet point and photo form:

    • Christmas vacation started with a wonderful visit from my parents. It was the perfect combination of fun things to do and straight chilling out. We wandered around Nashville, Indiana; watched football; ate homemade chili and egg casserole and cinnamon rolls and WAY too much chocolate, beer, wine, and Bailey’s (family tradition); watched a really excellent version of A Christmas Carol; enjoyed one of my favorite Christmas movies (ahem…. Die Hard 2, of course); perused the Indianapolis Museum of Art‘s contemporary floor; and, of course, opened loads of presents.
20131225. Christmas collage.

Clockwise from top left: adorable whale rattle and fox baby booties, our new family photo, my lovely parents, me and my mom, and Boombox scanning the presents.

20131225. Christmas collage.

Clockwise from top left: Our present-laden tree, my new chalkboard drawing with Die Hard quotation, Chris and his new handknitted hat, anatomically correct gingerbread men, and Birdie getting cozy with my dad.

    • Yesterday, I took the tree down so we could start Ambitious Vacation Project of 2013 (TM): replacing the carpet in our living room with laminate flooring. I am currently typing from a couch in the middle of a mostly empty, very carpetless room. With all the animals we have – plus adding a kid into the mix – the carpet is just gross. It will be AWESOME once it’s done.
20131226. Family room, pre-flooring.

The living room before.

20131226. Family room, mid-carpet removal.

The carpet comes up!

    • In baby news, if you see a pregnant woman (aka ME) waddling along, it’s not because her belly is so giant she’s about to fall over. It’s because her back hurts so badly it has become difficult to walk. Unfortunately, this pain is most exacerbated by bending over to do work (picture weeding in the garden or – here’s the unfortunate part – pulling staples out of the floor or moving heavy furniture to allow for laminate flooring to be laid). So I felt pretty useless today. I like to be able to help, to DO, and I’ve never really had a health problem that seriously kept me from being able to do the things I want to do.
20131225. Cabled baby blanket.

Instead, I’ve been reading a lot, doing yoga, running errands, and finishing knitting projects, like this cabled baby blanket.

    • In other baby news, I’m starting to feel like I CAN’T WAIT TO MEET THIS BABY. Like, I’m ready. And I’m starting to feel excitedly impatient. Seven weeks and counting!

20131225. Whale rattle.

Today was the quintessential vacation day:

    • I started with day two of morning yoga, which is helping the back out and generally making me feel better about my suddenly unwieldy frame and non-existent stomach muscles.
    • Over coffee, I ordered seeds for the 2014 garden. This is always one of my favorite winter activities: dreaming of springtime’s seedlings poking through the soil, hot summer breezes playing through the bean blossoms, bees buzzing, and chickens scratching through thick grass.

20131227. 2014 garden dreaming!

    • I also did an inventory of the seeds I already have from the past few years. Yikes. I wouldn’t call it a “problem,” per se, but I’ve got quite a seed library going.

20131227. Not that it's a problem, but I might have a bit of a seed problem.

    • It was a balmy 45 degrees today, so after a shower, Birdie and I went for a quick jaunt around the ‘hood, then I ran some errands (including a treat Starbucks run for me and my hard working husband) with my coat unbuttoned, my window down (a little), and Birdie as my co-pilot.
    • Following some afternoon baby book reading, Chris and I tucked into spicy turkey chili and fresh broccoli. YUM.

Not usually one to photograph my food, but dinner tonight was kind of the bomb. Turkey chili and broccoli, what?!

Now? Now it’s movie and snuggle time in our deconstructed home. For posterity’s sake, here’s what’s on tap for the 2014 garden, thanks to a Seed Savers Exchange gift card from my in-laws. Great Christmas gift, am I right?

  • Sunflower, Autumn Beauty
  • Radish, Plum Purple
  • Radish, French Breakfast
  • Pepper, Aji Cristal
  • Pepper, Black Hungarian
  • Onion, Yellow of Parma
  • Lettuce, Forellenschluss
  • Ground Cherry, Aunt Molly’s
  • Cucumber, Edmonson
  • Cucumber, Double Yield
  • Beet, Bull’s Blood
  • Bean, Ideal Market
  • Bean, Purple Pod Pole
  • Asian Green, Mizuna
  • Arugula

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.

The Haps: Backyard Photo Shoots, Doggie Classes, and a Riot of Green

BACKYARD PHOTO SHOOTS:

Our chickens have officially experienced their first ever real photo shoot. We’re talking big reflective flashes on stands, multiple lenses, and a photographer lying in the muddy grass, all Austin Powers style (“Yes! Yes! NO! NO! NO!”).

Indianapolis Monthly, which is a pretty great magazine (we used to subscribe to it but started getting overwhelmed by the piles of magazines everywhere we looked), is doing an article on backyard chickens in their April edition, and they decided they wanted to meet us. What an honor!

I just hope the photog (that’s what they call them in the biz, right?) got at least one or two decent shots. It has been gray and brown and muddy and generally very uninspiring in the backyard lately, and the girls… well, they look like their surroundings: muddy and damp and brown instead of bright and shiny and pretty.

DOGGIE CLASSES:

In other menagerie-related news, our sweet puppy turned seven months old yesterday – when did she get so big?! Our big girl also got her official doggie diploma. I’m so proud I could cry.

20130302. Birdie graduates!

20130302. Birdie's repertoire.

Birdie’s repertoire… sort of. She’s really good at some things, not so good at others. Particularly if other people, dogs, cars, or squirrels are involved.

A RIOT OF GREEN:

Thankfully, although the gray outside won’t seem to lift, we have a riot of green in our basement. The only regret I have this year is that our seedlings are hidden away, and I can’t appreciate them all day, every day. It brings me a bit of peace (and a good dose of Vitamin D), though, to visit them.

20130302. Riot of green.What does your weekend look like?

TREAT YO’SELF!

Last week, I did my first ever multiple day juice/veggies/fruits fast. Day one was a complete juice fast, but the rest of the days I incorporated raw and cooked veggies and fruits. Finally, I threw eggs back into the mix. I don’t think I eat horribly in general, but I wanted to reset how I look at food and move towards a more conscious way of eating. And, frankly, I have wanted to break the hold of processed foods, fried foods, and CHEESE for a while.

Dear baby Jesus in heaven, do I ever love cheese.

But get this – I felt fantastic this past week. It was hard, but not in an “I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD IMPLODE INTO MY CONCAVE, GROWLING, SHRIVELED STOMACH” sort of way. A few things:

  • The greatest difficulty I had was getting over my own head. I found myself getting up from my computer during the work day to make some tea, and the moment I was standing in the kitchen, my head switched over to, “What should I grab to munch on?” I hadn’t realized how strong that pull is.
  • The longer I went, the harder it was to put anything remotely crappy into my body. This, of course, was the desired outcome… so that was pretty sweet.
  • I also started thinking a lot about the whole concept of treating yourself. One of the main reasons I typically treat myself food-wise is because I feel like I’ve “been good,” which, in actuality, means that I feel I’ve been depriving myself or something is missing. But what if you looked at everything you ate as treating yourself? Example: fresh squeezed kale/pineapple/orange juice is DELISH, and it was not a stretch to think of it as a treat and to savor it. I tried to appreciate what I was eating and look at every bite as treating myself – treating myself right, that is.

By extension, then, what if you viewed your whole life as episode after episode of “treating yourself”? What would be possible then? I understand that cleaning the toilet will likely never feel like treating yourself. Your boss may occasionally be a hideous hose beast. Commuting in bumper to bumper traffic will probably never be elevated to “I’m totally treating myself right now” status (although a great album coupled with some inventive car dancing routines could perhaps ALMOST get you there).

20130209. Beaker's first egg.

Simple pleasures: cracking Beaker’s first giant egg to see what’s inside.

But if we make an effort to live our lives with a sense of levity and work to make more and more of what we do every day feel like a treat… what then? Think of how differently we would look at the world and each other. Think of everything we could do.

In honor of all this seeking and reaching, I give you this song: Cloud Cult, “There’s So Much Energy in Us.” I heard the captain say, “We’re so close to it. So very close to it. We still have energy in us.”

So far today, I have treated myself with the following:

  • Made (and ate) a delicious curried egg salad out of hard boiled eggs from my backyard tenants, aka the chickens.

20130209. Beaker and her giant egg.

  • Spent a good portion of my morning in the basement under the bright, clear grow lights, transplanting my beautiful seedlings, thinking about nothing… then friends and work and life and trips and to do lists… then nothing again… Just enjoying being with green things and dreaming of how they will grow.

20130209. Thank goodness for green things.

  • Hung out with my best feathered friends in the sunshine and relative warmth.

20130209. Backyard with the chickens.

  • Went for a long walk in the fresh air with my best furry friend, laughing as she ran through puddles and chased water droplets flinging off her paws, admiring her floppy ears and happy-puppy gait.

Birdie values inter-species relationships. Bean does not.

How did you treat yourself today? And, more importantly, what parts of your days are always a treat?

Uncle, Winter… UNCLE!

Earlier this week, we had 60 degree temperatures, thunderstorms, and tornado warnings. Last night, it was 5. FIVE! And so, winter, I’m calling it. You had your fun with us, and I know last fall I was all, “I love the cold as long as there’s snow! I just hope we get a good snowstorm or two.” Yes, you abided. I appreciate that about you, winter.

But I’m over it. Uncle. There, it has been officially stated. I call uncle.

20130201. Winter hobo style.

Winter hobo is totally on-trend this year.

Luckily, I have green things growing already and the promise of more green things. Last week or so, I posted about asking for free seeds from Wintersown. This was my first time contacting them, and I sent an SASE and a request for 6 packets of free mixed seeds. You wanna know what arrived today?

You know what was in it? Holy criminy, I am so excited!

20130201. Free seeds from Wintersown.org!

We’ve got:

  • Cabbage
  • Mexican Hat
  • Raymond’s Canada Extra Early Tomatoes
  • Tatsoi (a relative of Bok Choy)
  • Wildflower blend
  • Evening primrose
  • Shirley poppy
  • Rudbeckia Indian Summer
  • Pink Hibiscus

In the basement, we already have the following seedlings either planted or growing:

  • A bunch of different lettuces
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Peas
  • A couple of different types of cauliflower
  • Tomatoes
  • A bunch of peppers
  • And… some other stuff I can’t remember without looking

20130201. Greens to keep us going this winter.

20130201. Greens to keep us going this winter.

In totally unrelated news, I now have a chicken serving as co-pilot of a spaceship and a yarn ball planet on my arm. I am pleased with this.

20130201. Yarn ball planet.