Monday, February 28, 2011

On Fluid Plans

Over the winter I kept myself sane by drawing up moderately detailed garden plans. I sorted my seeds into the "start inside earliest", "start inside later", "direct sow early", "direct sow May", etc.

I planted inside early and had a slow start due to technical problems. Actually due to problems with my brain functioning, but we will just let that go for now. Two Fridays ago, it was warm. It was so beautiful as a matter of fact that I had to leave work early and come home and throw seeds into the ground. I stayed pretty much on target for that one 5'x5' bed. The SB and I went to Southern States over the weekend. He was keen on us getting cover crops to hold the beds over until we planted our summer stuff out. Luckily they didn't have any because I came home and "accidentally" planted the bed that the peppers and eggplant are going to be in this summer. I just threw in all the stuff that would be done or bolted by mid May... Which is probably going to be less than I think, but definitely includes beets, carrots, arugula, broccoli raab, lettuce and spinach. Some of the other stuff like chard can go for a while. I also put in peas. I assume we can just run the beans up the same trellis a little later in the season. I also got the summer stuff started in the basement. An entire 128 cells of peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, tomatoes and basil. Cross your fingers and hope for some serious harvest.

We put clover seed in the garden paths. Talk about hoping for the best.... We did get rain today, so I hope that helps it get a jump on the weeds.

The ducks are now banished from the garden for the foreseeable future. They can put a hurtin' on some newly planted seeds. It is unfortunate as they are good company. They sort of forget that I am there after a while and just snorfle around and talk to each other. I just eavesdrop. It really is the only way to keep up on the news from that quarter.

I think there are now two ducks laying. I am hoping this is the last week I have to buy eggs until November.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Season of Hope

This is the time of year when things begin to look up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel that is winter. The days are longer, and things start to grow.

My basement seedlings are coming along slowly. I wish it were faster, but I can't see heating the whole of the basement for a flat of plants. They are relatively toasty with the heating mat and under the light cover. I think I have finally figured out the timer and the mats. That definitely set me back.

Last week the weather was gor.geous. I lost my head a bit and put out some seeds directly in the garden. It was too dry for them to do anything and I didn't want to set the hose up, knowing that we would have serious frosts again. So they just got watered Thursday. They are covered with remay, as is the teeny plot of chard that seems to have wintered over. Good ol' Italian Silver Rib. If anyone can do it, it will be ISR. Only one of the many reasons I love that chard.

This morning I planted a bunch of my summer stuff. Tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil. There is more to do, but I am limited by the space under the lights. I am itching to get some other things in... zinnias, sunflowers, ground cherries, etc.

I think this weekend we will be going to Lowes for more garden edging. We want to put in a few new beds for potatoes, and the planting of those is not so far off (St. Paddy's day). Plus I am wanting some hardy kiwi. We will have to incorporate that into the plan as well. The SB is hot for planting a cover crop to keep things together until the direct seeded stuff goes in the garden in May. And we are going to try to plant clover in the garden paths... We had sheet mulched them with newspaper and cardboard, but, as you can imagine, it looks like hell. It would be nice to have something a little more attractive, and since the newspaper and cardboard killed out most of what was growing, now seems a good time to plant. The cardboard and newspaper goes into the compost with the straw from the duck yard. THAT is another weekend project. The rain and warm temps have reminded us that the decomposition has started.

We did get the first egg of the season on Friday.

Hope to start work on the goat complex this weekend. Much to do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading on the Urban Farm

My parents moved to this neighborhood when I was in high school. What drew them initially was the rural nature of the place. When I was in high school, there was a cow pasture a block and half from our house. There were chickens. You could hear a rooster on some mornings. But we were right on the bus line and less than a mile from downtown. In the ensuing years, the cow pasture disappeared to make way for the new development. The roosters came and went. The gardens were always here. Our neighborhood is near The River. And much of the land has escaped development b/c of the flood plain.

My end of the neighborhood, just a few blocks from my parents, was divided off in the 1870s or 1880s. Sold off to pay off the debt of a dead man. The lots were divided into one acre plots. Someone figured this was about right. This was a village then, separate from the city with its own store/pub, schoolhouse and manufacturing. The people who lived here worked at The Mill. And the people that built and owned houses, at least in some areas, had acre lots. They grew their own food. They had animals. There was common grazing ground across the train tracks and children would take the animals back and forth. And that is in living memory. When we renovated, we removed some very bug eaten old wood dividers that had canning records scrawled on them. How many quarts of green beans. And the vaccination and calving dates for Inky the cow. Inky may have lived in the backyard, or maybe at the common grazing grounds. This was in the 60s I think, so probably the back yard. There was also an old chicken coop, fallen down around a perfect glass egg that was put in the nest to encourage the chickens to "lay here".

I hesitate to call us an urban homestead, since we have an acre and a half (the owner of our property was owed money by the person who owned the lot behind and they made it up in half an lot). So many are out there doing more with so much less. But we are in the City limits. We are making our way. Slowly slowly. At first one garden bed, then two. Then we raised them and enclosed them. Two more beds and two more. Bees. Two more garden beds. Then the ducks. Soon, we hope, goats. The SB wants to build a solar dryer and I hope we can hook up our rain barrels this year. May solar hot water heating? Who knows? We are learning more every year. Sometimes we have the privilege of sharing that with others. That is what people who are interested in this do....

We would have done this whether or not anyone else was doing it. So have many people here. It is our culture and our history. This place attracts people who appreciate it for what it is, has been and will be. We are lucky to have found our home here. I can't imagine being any place else. People here have been growing their own right here in the city limits since we were annexed around the middle of the last century. And I am betting that a good number of them have never heard of a family in Pasadena that is so much in the news - but this post isn't about them, it is about urban homesteading.

Neighborhood friends, feel free to correct my dates and timing and add your own stories. And if you want to learn more about the 'hood, you can go here and read from the beginning where it is all beautifully spelled out and lovingly illustrated.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Fire

The blogosphere is on fire. Since I am not a fray-enterer, I will just say that I concur with what the people are saying. A very famous family in CA has trademarked the words "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading". Those of us who are also gardening/keeping animals/orcharding/etc will now be unable to use these terms unless we give credit to The Family.

Boy howdy. There are some excellent posts out there. There is a face book page. Here are a few links:

From Kate at Living the Frugal Life

From Dog Island Farm
and Havenscourt Homestead with a whole list of other links (including a very good one from Punk Domestics which happens to be another favorite site of mine and has a good rundown of the full story to date...)

Many of these folks say exactly what I would... The Family has done a lot of good work. I have always been somewhat uneasy with their persistent marketing. I gave the benefit of the doubt. It is tough to make a living as a farmer, especially when there are 4 mouths to feed and none of them seem to work outside the home. They did a great job of promoting themselves. They had lots of speaking gigs and reporters and TV shows etc. I am sure they work hard. But they have also isolated themselves from the other people who have embarked on this journey. They assumed that since they were getting attention that they were leading the pack when the truth is, they were part of a resurgence that would have happened with or without them. The internet has allowed them to have the spotlight shone upon them which they seem to enjoy. It also seems to have blinded them to the rest of the community.

The Family's response to the hulla ba loo in all this is to shut down, retreat and play the injured party. Sorry Family, but here is my message to you. If you want to play in the big leagues you have to act like adults and enter the conversation - shutting down your sites and turning off the comments is cowardly. Get your head out of your .1 acre and start looking around at what all these great people are doing for sustainability, food security and environmentalism and the local food movement. You didn't start that movement. There is ample evidence you weren't the first to come up with the term or the methods. Step off and let people talk and share info and celebrate good work without having to give you credit. There are a lot of people working jobs while trying to make their way through all this. Finding ways to coop their effort and restrict how they talk about it are absurd and unfriendly.

Wow. Look at that, I DID enter the fray.

And now for more regularly scheduled programming... I made the leap and planted some seeds outside yesterday. Radishes, lettuce, arugula, beets, chard, spinach and mustard. And onion sets. I NEVER have luck with onions, but I do love banging my head against a wall. The seedlings in the basement are finally coming around. Way too slow for me, but there you go.

I may do some more planting today, but it is windy something awful. I may just go ahead and start the tomatoes and peppers and such. It is early, but those stinkin' eggplant take for freaking ever.

My neighbor gave me some cranesbill, which I am very excited to have. I bought seeds, but I am hoping that this will get me started while I see if I can get the other stuff rolling. It may be a whole year before the seeds even sprout, so it is nice to have a jump start.

If the ducks don't start laying soon, they are going in the stock pot.

So far the bees are alive, but with this warm weather, I need to be sure to keep them fed since they will be up and about and eating more but without any food out there.... Generally they call March the "starving time" for bees around here for this reason.

Busy weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Done

We never actually seem to finish projects, but we have made some major decisions, I think, about how to inhabit our space in a little more sane way. Of course, implementation will be off in the future.

When we haven't been planning, I have been finding lots of inspiration from Collette Patterns spring wardrobe challenge. Check it out. I am in awe of the energy.

The weather promises to be fantastic this weekend. I may even put some seeds out since my early starting has been foiled by a malfunctioning heating mat and a confounding timer. The best laid plans, no?

It is time to feed the bees. I am looking forward to checking in on them....