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.

Did They Tell You You Should Grow Up When You Wanted to Dream?

I’ve been daydreaming about growing things this weekend – so much so that I finally cracked open the various seed catalogs I’ve received so far this winter and carefully avoided. If you have never seen a seed catalog, they are essentially page after page of crack for the garden dreamer. Plant porn.

Purple and orange cauliflower; eight different kinds of kale; chard stems that scream color to rival the most vibrant sunset. You can guess what happened next, right?

I proceeded to add seed packet after seed packet to my shopping cart, using my holiday bonus from work upon checkout. Greater self-sufficiency seems like a good thing to spend one’s work bonus on. Chard, squash, artichoke, kale, nasturtium, cauliflower, and some sunflowers to round it out. This is on top of the peas, beans, turnips, beets, tomatoes, chives, and a whole bunch of other seeds I still have from last year.

Next up will be picking up seed starter from Worm’s Way, which is the only stuff I’ll buy after last year’s seed starting debacle with the organic mix from Lowe’s. Someday I’ll make my own seed starter mix, but I just don’t have it in me this year.

I bit the bullet today and followed actual directions for how to start sweet potato slips for planting. Last year was my first stab at growing sweet potatoes, and I’m excited to get them in the ground much earlier this year. I cut some of the vines from last year’s batch and plunked them into water, thinking they would root. And, well, they haven’t. Not really.

20121004. Sweet potato slips for next spring!

So, like I said, I bit the bullet, bought two sweet potatoes from the grocery store, cut ’em up, and threw them into a few jars. Each potato should produce many slips, which, in theory, will each become their own plant with oodles of sweet potatoes growing off of it underground. Sweet potatoes are kind of magical, right?

20130113. Starting the sweet potato slips.A rainy weekend spent daydreaming of sunshine and cool breezes, the smell of dirt, tiny seedlings turning to giants to fill my pantry and my belly, and converting more of our yard into useable, edible space? In case you were wondering, it has been lovely.

Did they tell you you should grow up when you wanted to dream? Did they warn you, better shape up if you want to succeed? I don’t about you, who are they talking to? They’re not talking to me.

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!

Dear Spring… Bring It!

Let me start by saying that this weather is just freaky. The spinach I planted seems to be languishing in the heat, and the lettuce are just barely hanging on. The peas are growing like weeds, at least, and I plan to plant some more seedlings soon.
20120318. Peas, spinach, lettuce, and tomatoes.The main topic at hand, however, is the mighty chicken. Our first set of chicks ever are arriving this week, and Chris and I have both found ourselves hoping that the hatchery will throw an extra little girl in the package, just for kicks. Hey, it could happen. Not that we NEED five chickens… but we have apparently caught the chicken bug (the one where more chickens seems like a truly fantastic idea to the extent that I’m wondering why we didn’t just order five to begin with).

Oh, right… because we really wanted to start small with three chickens. Right…

In honor of spring, my love of childhood traditions, and chickens, we dyed eggs this morning.

20120318. EGGIES.Nearly before the dye was dry, those lovely eggs became the most amazing curried egg salad in the world, courtesy of 101 Cookbooks. Is it officially a “tradition” if we’ve made the same psychedelic-colored curried egg salad from our dyed eggs two years in a row? I think so.

We’ve also been prepping the brooder this weekend. The warm weather should help us a lot in keeping the little gals’ temperatures regulated these first few weeks. We had a ton of giant cardboard boxes lying around, so Chris built an expandable brooder modeled after this one. As the chicks get bigger, we’ll be able to add panels to make the brooder bigger, and we can easily replace the bottom cardboard each week as it gets gnarly. Brilliant! I also couldn’t resist building two mini-roosts from some of the branches I cut out of our overgrown backyard bush on Friday to keep the babies busy and give them some jumping/balancing/roosting practice.

20120318. Chick roosts and brooder.In other news, I keep having horrific chicken stress dreams. Get here already, babies! Think healthy hatch thoughts for us.

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.