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.

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This Year’s Hobo Garden Plans

I planted a bunch of seeds at the beginning of February, about two weeks before Willem’s due date. Unfortunately, only about 1/3 of them germinated and grew – and by the time I realized they were looking pretty pitiful, I had a tiny creature that was occupying all of my time, energy, and brain space.

In other words, the seedling trays are completely haphazard this year, which means the garden is going to be completely haphazard. Hobo garden. Ghetto fabulous. I’m okay with this. I HAVE to be okay with this, since I have no time or energy to do much about it.

We do have signs of life out there, though, which makes me very happy. The bee balm and other perennials are coming back, and the garlic is shooting up through the hay. At least we’ll have garlic!

This weekend, the plan is to have Chris on baby watch for a couple of hours at some point so I can plant the many greens that are flourishing under the basement lights, as well as all the direct sow seeds: beets, turnips, collards, radishes, sunflowers, and other goodies. At the very least, we’ll have greens, garlic, some root veggies, and strawberries this year!

I also think I might break down and actually buy some seedlings this year. We NEED fennel, peppers, rosemary, basil, and tomatoes. NEED. And next year? Well, hopefully the seeds that didn’t grow this year will do a bit better next year when I have a bit more of an attention span.

 

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

Last year’s garden insanity:
20130629. First garlic harvest = 50 bulbs.

And speaking of the little guy, Willem gets cuter and cuter every day. His happy times are my favorite – he coos and squeals and is generally the most adorable guy in the world. Not that I’m biased or anything.
Afternoon naps.

Squash Bake. Squash Bake. Party Time. Excellent.

Currently, we have a bit of a squash problem – meaning we have seven, count ’em, SEVEN large green and yellow squash taking up half a shelf in our fridge. Keep in mind, this is after pickling five pounds of the beasts, making almost countless loaves of zucchini bread (really, I think we’re up to about eight, at this point), and devouring a previous squash bake.

20130714. So THIS happened: suddenly, it's summer!

When a friend told me her mom makes apple crisp in the summer but replaces apples with summer squash, I was all for it. Health food, it is not. But our house smells of wonderful baking deliciousness and cinnamon right now, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Because if you could smell it, you’d be jealous right now.

SQUASH BAKE, SQUASH BAKE, PARTY TIME, EXCELLENT. Helllllooooo, 1992!

SQUASH OATMEAL CRISP
Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped squash (1/2″ cubes will do)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Putting It All Together

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and butter. Mix until crumbly. Lightly press half of crumb mixture into pan.
  • Spread the squash evenly over crumb mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with remaining crumb mixture.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

In other news, today was another amazing day at ye olde urban farming apprenticeship. We spent the morning picking onions, weeding, and planting broccoli seedlings with Genesis and Eli, the farmers at Full Hand Farm. On our way out, I told Tyler, part of the Growing Places Indy dynamic duo, that I think I heart Genesis and Eli, and he said, “They make it easy to heart them.”

Check out some beautiful photos of their farm and a little more of their story at Farm Stories, a photography project by local photographer Kelley Jordan.

I am just so continually impressed, inspired, and encouraged by the farmers in this area, their stories, and their advice, wisdom, and knowledge. I get the warm fuzzies every single Tuesday when we visit other farms and community organizations. The willingness to share knowledge and experiences and personal stories with us has been downright heartwarming, and I doubt I will ever have quite this experience to this extent again.

P.S. Click here for a special little snippet of today’s magic, captured by the lovely Kate: Eli playing a squash stalk like a trumpet. Who knew?!

Just Another Manic Monday

When I pause for a moment to take a good, hard look at all the things we have going on this summer, I realize it’s kind of a lot. Today was one of those days where it felt like it. Kind of a lot, that is.

Have I mentioned lately that we are engaged? Because we are. Which basically means the next step is to get married. Have I also mentioned we are pulling together a wedding by September (date still TBD)? I realized today that even very small weddings require a certain degree of coordination that is a large step above “backyard barbecue,” which is pretty much the extent of my party planning skills to date.

And then there’s the apprenticeship, the chickens, the dog, the cats, the summer projects, the garden, the job, the still-nebulous dreams for the future, and the many, many other things I’ll divulge in more detail at some point.

The long and short of it: I’m overwhelmed today, so I’m going to show you some pretty pictures of my evening, then curl up on the couch with some warm zucchini bread and a good book until I pass out at, oh, 9:00 or so.

Life continues on the homefront. The bee balm is swarmed by bees daily…
20130708. Bee balm bonanza.

The zucchini plants continue to bleed…
20130708. Bleeding zucchini.

Birdie maintains her cuteness…
20130708. Backlit Birdie.

And, as her winter coat falls out, we learn that her skin is spotted like a wee, tail wagging cow’s…
20130708. Birdie's winter coat fell out, and it turns out she's spotted like a cow underneath.

And finally, the peppers multiply like bunnies. I seem to have a pepper problem, though. The problem is I got the seedlings completely mixed up, and I have no idea what’s what. Well, I have a little idea… Eh, whatever. They’ll all get pickled and scarfed down regardless.
20130708. First pepper haul.

P.S. Heavens to Betsy, this may be the best zucchini bread I’ve ever eaten. Bless you and your restorative powers, zucchini bread!

MONSTERS IN MY GARDEN!

Meanwhile, back on the homefront… this monster popped up out of nowhere!
20130617. First squash and banana peppers.

In honor of said monster squash, dinner last night was sliced, baked squash with bok choy, tatsoi, and radish greens (sauteed in soy and teriyaki sauce with garlic and ginger) atop cous cous with chopped raw scallions and radishes for a little bit of fancy. Best dinner yet this summer.

A Day in the Life

My day:

  • 6 am – Up and at ’em, tiger! Lots of animal care, followed by self-care and some coffee (that’s kind of redundant, since coffee totally counts as “self-care”).
  • 7:20 am – Out the door and on the bike to…
  • 8:15 am – White River State Park and prepping for the Growing Places Indy CSA. Assess plants and get a general plan of attack down.
  • 8:30 am-12 pm – Do yoga; schlep a bunch of tools, containers, and other accoutrements out of the parking garage closet; harvest, wash, and store the veggies (we’re talking kohlrabi, chard, kale, beets, radishes, lettuce, herbs, service berries, and so much more I’m forgetting now).
  • 12-1 pm – Lunch at City Market, watching the world go by at the weekly farmers market downtown.
  • 1-2 pm – Attend awesome discussion on food culture and food access in Indianapolis with the people from Living Well Community Garden and KI EcoCenter. One of my favorite quotes from KI EcoCenter Program Director Paulette Fair: “When a child comes in eating cheese curls at the community center, I say, ‘Why do you make me love you more than you love you?'”
  • 2-3 pm – Actually GO TO THE BATHROOM, chug some water, and lie in the grass for a minute.
  • 3-6:30 pm – Put out all CSA veggies and make ’em look pretty (which doesn’t require much effort, thankfully). Give veggies to happy people who seem to feel the same way about beautiful vegetables as I do. Learn how to use a broad fork. Learn how to patch a tube on a bike tire. Laugh a little. Pack up, clean up, and schlep everything back down to the dungeon-parking garage closet. Check out and mentally high five everyone.
  • 6:30-7:30 pm – Bike home.
  • 7:30-10 pm – Pet puppy and pick mulberries. Put away delicious fresh veggies. Make dinner (chard/kale mix sauteed with garlic, over easy eggs, feta, and sliced radishes). Pack up lunch and set out clothes for tomorrow morning. Talk to mom. Finally answer work emails for the day, which are far too numerous.
  • 10 pm (aka NOW) – Blog about your insanely packed, yet insanely awesome day.

Next up? Couch time with the dog and the dude until I pass out in t-minus 25 minutes. What a tremendous week, although the coming weekend will be a welcomed relief. 

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…)

My Little Whirlwind of a Life

I seem to have very little time on the computer these days. This is certainly not a complaint, just an observation. I’ve been on my bike, in the sun, learning, talking, doing – and when I am on the computer, it’s to dedicate some time to my day job, which has so graciously and kindly allowed me to have this summer of awesome.

It’s funny how extracurricular internet is the first thing to go when life gets busy-happy (or, like last night, just plain exhausted… OMG SO EXHAUSTED). Nevertheless, it’s high time for a post about all the awesome goings on over here.

VISITORS FROM AFAR
Over Memorial Day weekend, I hosted two of my favorite ladies – good friends from San Francisco and North Carolina who I wish lived much, much closer. We ate ice cream and delicious food stuffs, played with chickens, napped, watched Sherlock and Portlandia and Jenna Marbles videos on YouTube, visited the butterflies and the meerkats at the zoo, and went to the Indianapolis 500 parade. It was a much-needed weekend of girl check-in and resting time.

The ladies, the ladies!
20130525. Sarah, Carrie, and me. Indianapolis Zoo.

Butterfly cocoons, looking like leaves and beads and the rare jewels that they are.
20130525. Butterfly cocoons. Indianapolis Zoo.

The most pensive meerkat.
20130525. The best meerkat. Indianapolis Zoo.

Petting sharks.
20130525. Shark petting. Indianapolis Zoo.

GROWING PLACES INDY URBAN FARM APPRENTICESHIP: It Is ON!

Our first day: Introductions, bicycles, strawberries and garlic and Jerusalem artichokes, downtown Indy, yoga, rows of greens and clover, chickens, markets, more veggies than I probably know what to do with, and some already stellar people.

20130528. Growing Places Indy.

An overall good motto to live by, right?

We finished our first week, and I can honestly say this is one of the better decisions I have made in my life. It’s on the same level of deciding to go on a solo trip around Europe in my late-20s or transferring schools to Humboldt State in my early-20s. And it’s only the first week! In the past three days, I have harvested mint, oregano, lemon balm, strawberries, chard, kale, radishes, and… a lot more. I have also biked nearly 60 miles in those three days.

Even better, I have eaten some amazing food and have an entire shelf in my fridge dedicated to locally produced or homemade items (some of which was produced in my own kitchen).

My current office.

My current office.

At White River State Park, thinking about a nap under this sign.

The best part of all? My fellow apprentices are pretty fantastic. I’m not surprised at that – I am just so excited about HOW fantastic they really are. I am also super excited that I will get to be the veggie share/CSA coordinator this summer, as well as work on fundraising for next year’s apprentices (a sort of “pay it forward” model) with another of the apprentices. If you have any brilliant fundraising project ideas, let ’em fly!

20130530. What ever could be hiding in that over-stuffed bag?

What ever could be hiding in my ridiculously overstuffed bike bag?

20130530. The sexiest top shelf of a fridge ever - completely local or homemade items.

My first Growing Places Indy CSA share, of course! Our top shelf is nothing but ultra local produce or stuff made by our chickens or me (mmm, apple sauce canned from last fall’s orchard visit).

THE STATE OF THE GARDEN
I would be remiss to not mention the fact that our garden has been off the chain this spring. It has also been a long, cool, wet spring, which means my earlier season plants are rocking my socks off. Let’s just close out this post with a few pretty garden pictures, shall we?

20130529. State of the garden - lettuce.

Some of the lettuce leaves are about a foot long. DINO LETTUCE.

20130529. State of the garden - tomatoes.

Baby cherry tomatoes.

20130529. State of the garden - strawberries and lettuce.

Strawberries and lettuce for last night’s dinner – mint strawberry salad with pea tendrils. Yeah, it didn’t suck.

20130529. State of the garden - tatsoi.

TATSOI!

20130529. State of the garden.

Long view of the garden.

Officially Official!

It’s official! I just sent in my acceptance to be one of eight lucky apprentices at Growing Places Indy’s 2013 summer apprenticeship program. I am so dang excited. DANG excited! It starts the day after Memorial Day and ends in August. The end of May will be here before I know it, but it still feels like forever to wait.

I am also so grateful to my employer for letting me do this. I’ll be taking a part-time sabbatical (and probably working rather strange hours) during this time. I’ll be busy, but I can do anything for 10 weeks, particularly when it’s stuff I really want to be doing. It’s really important to me, too, that I give my employer my all during those 20 hours a week. I never, ever, EVER want them to regret allowing me to take this opportunity.

From Growing Places Indy’s website, here’s the breakdown of what I’ll be doing this summer:

SO! DANG! EXCITED!

In totally unrelated news, yesterday I knitted a hedgehog
20130413. I knitted a hedgehog today.

And bought some splurge yarn to knit this sweater.
20130414. Splurge yarn for splurge sweater.

Canning Report, August 2012: “I Yike Apple Toss”

First and foremost, be sure to add Jenna and her lovely blog, Upcountry Living, to your blog roll! We have a little collab going (that’s what the cool kids say, right? collab?) of guest posts. Check out our guest post on her blog, “Chicken FAIL,” and stay tuned in early September for a report right here from our best (and, admittedly, our only) buddy in Maine!

Next up: August canning report! Seeing as it is now September, you can see I’ve been a tad behind on my canning reports. With all the chicken telenovela drama we’ve been having, the canning reports have dropped to the wayside a bit. Who cares about canning reports when UFOs are flying out of chickens’ backsides and the little death defying jerks are breaking out and braving the wilds of So Bro?!

August:

    • Honeyed Hot Peppers (3 half-pint jars): Yes, more honeyed hot peppers! Now that it has rained a bit again and the temperatures are cooling, the peppers are finally taking off. This recipe is perhaps one of our favorite foods around here – we put them on burgers, huevos rancheros, egg sandwiches, tacos. They are fantastically hot.

20120825. Honeyed hot peppers.

    • Roasted Tomatoes (4 half-pint jars): I will admit, I am lazy when it comes to tomatoes. Peeling seems like a horrible pain in the tookus. Plus, I discovered last summer that I absolutely love the sweetness of roasted tomatoes. So instead, I roasted a big batch of Romas, then added the appropriate amount of lemon juice and canned them based on a different basic tomato recipe. I hope we don’t get botulism.

20120812. My grandma's chicken, roasted tomatoes, honeyed hot peppers, and Thomas Jefferson.

  • Apple Sauce (10 jars and counting): What can I say… in the immortal words of my favorite uncle, Kyle, I yike apple toss (Kyle didn’t utter a word until he was about four years old. The first thing he said was, instead, a sentence: “I yike apple toss”).  I have probably one more batch worth of apples in the fridge, too, so there will be more apple sauce. Oh, yes.

July:

  • Pickled Beets (3 jars)
  • Honeyed Hot Peppers (5 half-pint jars, plus some)
  • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars)
  • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars)
  • Rosemary Jelly (8 half-pint jars)
  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)