Posts Tagged by Gardening
|April 25, 2013||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in November 2009 at Jackbooted Liberal.
In late August, I planted a second crop of carrots, spinach, lettuce, and collards, all of which I think are crops that do well in the cold. Carrots, you can even leave in the ground over the winter. Nature’s own refrigerator!
This morning, I pulled a few. The little stubby one on the top/right is from one planter, and the longer, more “normal” looking ones are from a different planter. I’m not sure why the difference between them. I’ve actually only pulled one from the “stubby” planter, and a total of three from the “normal” planter, so maybe the “stubby” planter carrot is just a fluke.
Issa bites one and says, a little bemusedly, “Tastes… like a carrot.”
“What else would it taste like,” I ask. But I understand her reaction. Growing our own food is still new enough that it feels something like a victory when what comes out of the ground not only lives up to, but exceeds our expectations from store-bought food. It’s as if there’s this underlying assumption that only the Machine, or at the very least, some kind of esoteric guru, can produce food that’s any good. Us mere mortals can try it as a cute little hobby, but we’ll definitely fail.
Which is, of course, the exact opposite of reality. To plant these carrots, I literally dumped some seeds on the dirt of a planter and then made sure they had moist soil and sunshine. They did all the rest. No esoteric knowledge required. Which is not to say that some knowledge isn’t required to garden successfully, or that any batch of carrot seeds dumped on any patch of dirt will produce food. Just that plants want to grow and home-grown plants have the potential to far-exceed their store-bought counterparts. Even if the lack of expertise of the home gardener decreases the quality of their produce, the fact that it’s pulled fresh from the plant right before use often more than makes up the difference.
|April 11, 2013||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
Spring has snuck up on me a bit. Last year I had seeds spouting by April 10th. This year my beds aren’t ready, the compost isn’t screened yet, and I haven’t stuck a single seed in the ground. Oops!
I’m still having fun heading outside each day to spend some moments on one garden task or another.
Here’s the compost screening in progress (first step is to lay it out on a tarp to dry):
The beds that are at least weeded:
The herb spiral attempt:
I don’t like how the spiral was coming out, so I’m going to try a tiered box instead. I’m sure I’ll update on that if/when it happens. I have to cart away all the bricks first.
The strawberry bed that should make fruit this year:
The abandoned duck pond that’s now turned into quite a habitat for spring frogs:
The beautiful sign my friend Sara painted that now graces our front porch:
|September 6, 2012||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
In these photos, I am collecting lettuce seeds. The plants are some lettuce that I grew, that I left to bolt and go to seed. Once the stalks and seed heads are dry, I harvest them and collect the seeds. Often, the seed heads won’t all be ripe at the same time, so I don’t get even 50% yield. But there are still plenty of seeds–more than I need. I tend to collect early rather than late, because by the time the seeds have fully ripened and fallen on the ground, they’re lost. A single good wind or rain-storm can shake most of the ripe seeds loose.
Each ripe seed head has a tuft of white on it. If the tuft is pointy, like a paint brush, the head isn’t ripe yet. When the head is ripe, the tuft fans out and the seed head is brown, dry, and crumbly. Plucking on the tuft pulls out a bunch of seeds, perhaps ten or so. With the really ripe ones, I can separate the seeds simply by crumbling the seed pod between my fingers.
|August 30, 2012||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
A good gardening book is one that inspires you to finally get out there and start gardening. Reference guides are one thing, but what most of us really need is just a good old kick in the proverbial pants to get us outside and playing in the dirt.
Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening, The No Yard, No Time, No Problem Way to Grow Your Own Food by William Moss delivers on that inspiration to give you the confidence to start gardening for yourself, no matter what kind of space you’re starting with.
I was given a copy of this book so I could do this review, and the first thing I noticed is the gorgeous, full-page photos of the vegetables you can focus on to be most successful. These veggies are accompanied by a quick-and-easy reference pages outlining the at-a-glace basics you need to grow these all-stars. The beauty of gardening is calming and comforting to me, and I want my gardening books to be just as beautiful. The photos in this book deliver.
Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening starts out by walking you through some introductory gardening topics: sunlight needs, soil amending, soil testing, seed starting/transplanting, spacing, intercropping, watering, mulching, etc. If you are brand new to gardening, you may want to educate yourself further about these topics through other sources. This book gives you an overview of what goes into getting starting with gardening but doesn’t go into a lot of detail. Gardening is a big enough topic that each individual thing, like composting, could fill an entire book. If you like knowing everything, the information is out there, or you can do like me and basically just wing it! This book gives you enough information to get started.
You might think that you need lots of space in order to garden. That’s where this book provides valuable inspiration. Whether you have a tiny yard, just a balcony or rooftop, or a community garden plot, this book will reassure you that you can still get started with growing your own vegetables. The basics of raised beds, container gardens, vertical gardening, and even window boxes are all covered here.
Whoever you are, whatever kind of space you have, however much time you have, absolutely anyone can at least grow tomatoes and then use your very own tomatoes in your cooking. Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening gives you an entire chapter on tomatoes. From varieties of tomatoes to how to best care for them, you’ll find everything you need to know to ensure your successful tomato bounty.
If you think it’s the wrong time to think about gardening, you’re mistaken. Now is just the right time to be putting in some cooler weather crops. I just planted carrots, broccoli, lettuce, and spinach. Your tomatoes will have to wait until next year, but now is a good time to pick up a gardening book, get inspired, and get some seeds in the ground or get to planning for spring. Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening (order on Amazon!) is a book that will help you on your way.
|April 10, 2012||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
Two things happened simultaneously. Spring sprung into action all of a sudden, bringing a whirlwind of changes and activity to The Wallow. And I went through the first longish depressive bout I’ve had in awhile. So I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been writing. Now that I’m feeling a little more perky, I’m not sure where to start catching up. I’m in kind of a strange space where I’ve kept up on so many homesteading projects, but I haven’t had clean laundry in days (for example). It seems like I can take care of the larger, “out there” stuff, but personal care just doesn’t make the cut.
So here’s the big catch-up post, and then maybe I’ll get back to my regular writing.
A month ago, we sold our truck. It was the first truck I’d ever owned, and I loved it. I turned out to be a truck person. The old one had some issues, though, and we were wanting a bigger truck, so we made the switch. Farewell, red 1500 Dodge Ram. Hello, white 2500 Dodge Ram. (And hello, Michael, our sales guy who found my blog and might come to Alchemy!)
I’ve been gardening. I’m using my same lazy gardening method as last year, although in twice as much space. This year I have Purple Box and Blue Box. Blue Box already has radishes, lettuce, spinach, peas, and tomatoes shooting up. I’m still screening compost and working it into the soil in Purple Box, but it’ll get some seeds soon.
Joshua built a feeder so the pigs can free-feed now instead of having two big meals a day. I think it’s brilliant, and needless to say, the pigs love it.
We got a rooster. We’ve been roosterless since The Silkie died. And I do miss Silkie, but he wasn’t much of a rooster. This new one is a gorgeous bird! Meet Rooster Sean Connery:
Aaaaand… I’ve got duck videos to show you and adorable Dylan pics, of course, but if I don’t post this right now, I’m at risk for going another week without. I’m going to hit publish, head to bed, and hope I still feel good tomorrow!
|November 4, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
Joshua went to turn the compost the other day and discovered that another batch was ready to be screened. He shoveled it all out onto a tarp so it could dry. Last time I screened compost I learned that it goes much faster when the compost is dry. When I first started trying to work wet compost through the screen, it clumped up terribly and was really slow going.
Once this batch dried out, we shoveled it up to the screen which was laid over a large trash can:
And then worked the compost through the screen:
Dylan was fascinated the whole time, of course:
|May 6, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
Long, long ago (2009) in a land far, far away (Atlanta), I started composting. My bins were small, and progress seemed very slow. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing, but whatever it was, I was going to do it. Composting seems like such a magical process to me, so I was happy to learn at every step of the way.
I learned how to tell if my compost was too wet or too dry.
I learned that you can tell a lot by the smell of compost.
I learned that my little bins were not the ideal size.
I learned that you can’t really mess up compost.
When I moved to The Wallow, I made permanent space for my compost. Using pallets, I put together three bins on the east side of the barn.
Now that I’ve got a homestead, a lot more things go in the compost compared to when I was city-living. I shoveled a lot of pig shit last year, for instance. Chicken shit goes in there and the straw used for chicken bedding. Plus we have a lot more yard debris and the wood ash from heating with wood.
Every so often I turn the contents from one bin to another. The more often you turn your bins, the faster everything will process. I’m playing a long game here, though. I like to turn the compost so I can get a look at what’s going on in there, but I’m in no hurry so I don’t do it very often. Everything goes in the bins, and eventually everything comes back out as compost, but it doesn’t really matter to me how long that takes.
This spring I screened one bin to remove any remaining big stuff, then used the compost in my garden box.
Composting might be my very favorite thing about living the hippie-country life. I collect leftover organic matter from around my life, snuggle it all together in one place, and a year or so later with hardly any help from me, what comes out is a thick, rich substance that helps create more life. It’s a peaceful, valuable, sustainable, magical process.
|April 27, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
I’ve always liked the idea of gardening. Thinking about the actual practice has left me a little less enthusiastic, though. I loved what Joshua did with gardening last year, and I definitely enjoyed the bounty, but doing it myself has always intimidated me.
Some kinds of information sit well in my brain. When I decided I wanted to get pigs, I soaked up all the available information about pigs. I read books and websites and joined a discussion forum and gobbled up every detail. I know a lot about pig raising now, because most of the information stuck.
Gardening is a different story, though. When I try to learn about gardening, I just get frustrated. There’s too much information that I can’t remember. The details don’t fit together in a way that I understand. It just seems like a great big mess.
On the other hand, I like the idea of producing my own food. On some level, I want to garden. So I keep coming back to the idea.
Sometimes my hippie self gets mad at all the precision involved in gardening advice. There’s soil amendments and shade/sun considerations and fertilizers and seed starting and grow lights and companion plants and rotating crops and trellises and on and on. My hippie brain shouts, “Can’t I just stick seeds in the dirt?!”
A while back, I ran across the book Square Foot Gardening. This seemed to be right up my alley. The information is pretty straightforward, and the goal is to make gardening as simple, easy, and enjoyable as possible. Plus, the raised beds and square foot sections are pretty, which appeals to me almost more than the food.
Square Foot Gardening still included some ideas that offended my lazy-hippie brain. You’re supposed to make your dirt out of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. What is peat moss? Where does it come from? I don’t know. What about vermiculite? I don’t know. I just want to use dirt, dammit!
I do have a lot of compost, though, because that is near and dear to me. I absolutely love composting everything I can, smelling the composting goodness, watching as it all changes form, and running my hands through the resulting compost gold. Over the last month or so, I’ve been slowly screening my oldest bin of compost to get out the sticks, rocks, and occasional still-identifiable food part to leave only the finished stuff behind.
Joshua made me a garden box out of left over wood from the pig fence. I tried to paint it yellow, but the spray paint looked like crap on the rough cut wood, so I painted it with the leftover purple from when I painted our kitchen.
I absolutely refused to buy expensive dirt. I filled my garden box with top soil (the cheapest dirt you can buy) plus layers of my very own compost, watering a bit between the layers. I planted lettuce, spinach, broccoli, gourds, radishes, peas, kohlrabi, bak choi, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I didn’t pay much attention to how deep you’re supposed to put the seeds. I didn’t read up on whether these plants need full sun or shade. I don’t know how long they’ll take to grow or whether I was “supposed” to start them indoors three months ago.
I just stuck the seeds in my squares and then watered them.
It felt really satisfying to play in the dirt. It was fun to choose seeds. I was excited to put seeds in the ground. And now I’m delightfully curious to see what happens. Sometimes I have the idea that you have to know things in order to do things. I’m sure a lot of other people have this idea, too, and that gets in the way of actually doing things. How many years have gone by when I didn’t garden because I was intimidated by my lack of knowledge?
If nothing happens in my garden box, I’ll be out about $40. I used spare wood, leftover paint, cheap dirt, and some seeds, so my initial cost was pretty light. If something happens that’s not quite right, then I’ll learn as I go. I’ll make mistakes and make adjustments, and that knowledge will stick with me, because it will matter to my actual garden.
Whatever happens, I’ve already enjoyed my gardening experience, and it will probably only be more fun as time goes on. I’m so glad I abandoned the idea that I had to learn how to garden before just going for it!
How about you? Anything you’re not doing because you think you need to know more things first? What if you just went for it?
Or tell me about your gardening journey. There are so many approaches to gardening! I’m glad to have discovered my way of getting things started. What’s your way like?
|May 20, 2010||Posted by Issa under Simple-Eco-Happy|
Years and years ago when I worked at Pizza Hut, I fell in love with eating off the salad bar. This probably sounds like a really strange thing to write about, but you’ll find a lot of my strange little thoughts here, and this is one of them! I loved how you could get a gazillion little things on your plate in little bite size pieces, all super-yummy fruits and veggies. When I worked really long shifts and couldn’t stop for a meal, I could just graze all day swiping things off the salad bar.
Right after moving in at The Wallow, I tried to create my own little salad bar. I’d set little tins out in the morning on ice, full of fruits and veggies and cheese and other items. I hoped to enjoy happily grazing from it as I toodled around house. Unfortunately, a tiny little salad bar on your counter is a sad, sad thing compared to the bounty in a restaurant. I couldn’t really keep them cool enough to stay really fresh, and there were limited items. I gave up on the idea.
Even in the absence of a salad bar and grazing, though, I can still make a meal out of little bits of yummy variety. Of all the meals in the world, I feel the most decadent and joyful when I’m eating from a plate of juicy fruits and veggies and little bits of meat and cheese. It feels like a tiny little Roman orgy on a plate, as if there should be someone nearby fanning me with a palm leaf.
I recently sat down to a little meal like this, which also makes perfect summer fare, and I just had to take a picture of the pretty plateful. I had watermelon cubes, green grapes, cherry tomatoes, little slices of ham, and slices of colby-jack cheese. The only way it could have been better would be if any of these items came from our garden. Soon I hope to have some of that to add to my feasts as well!
What’s your favorite kind of meal?
|April 15, 2010||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
It’s Spring here in Tennessee, which means things have been busy here at The Wallow. Joshua bought me an awesome hammock, which I love to nap away the afternoon in. I haven’t felt much like posting, but that doesn’t mean stuff isn’t happening. I’m just less likely to want to sit down and get something down on the computer. The last few days I’ve been itching to post and trying to think of what I want to communicate with the world. All I’ve come up with is, “I love Spring!” Not very deep or original, I know, but that’s all that’s really on my mind. Here are the things I’m looking at these days:
This stick with some green on top is the tree I think is a black walnut tree. Last fall, all the leaves and stems fell off, leaving it just a stick coming out of the ground. I assumed this was supposed to happen, since another walnut at The Wallow did the same thing. Still, I’m glad to see it showing some green this spring. Now we just have to wait 15 more years for walnuts!
When we first moved in here, I immediately fell in love with this tree that sits in the front yard of the house. I’m even more overjoyed to discover that it blooms in the spring!
Joshua has tilled, composted, and mulched about 1000 square feet in our front yard, and now all kinds of things are growing there: romaine, spinach, tomatoes, corn, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and more. While I can’t wait to harvest (and eat!) them, I’m less involved in the growing. However, the peas are my favorite plant in the garden. They reach out little tendrils to hold onto their poles and each other, which I think is just adorable!
The pigs are happy! I recently expanded their fenced area so that they have maybe a 1/4 acre to themselves now. Back when the field was raked and planted into a pasture for them, the guy who did the bush-hogging swept a lot of the debris into a big pile. The pigs love rooting through this pile:
The little yard closest to the house is mostly crappy grass that someone planted in an effort to make a “real yard”. Slowly but surely, it’s being overtaken by clover and these awesome little purple flowers:
And, hippie that I am, I’m in love with dandelions, too. I loved it when their bright yellow was mixed in with the purple, and I love their poof tops now: