Showing posts with label garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garden. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How does my garden grow?

I'm an excellent gardener. From May all the way through, oh, the first week of June or so. After long, cold winters, I itch to get outside and get things cleaned up. And then I get some bug bites, and I sweat off my sunscreen, and I hit the couch. And then the next year I have to clean up all the things I planted and promptly ignored once I had to try to tell the difference between plant and weed. Sigh. Such good (mediocre) intentions, wasted year after year.

My yard is quite small, and thanks to a previous owner working for the parks department back in the day, we have about....6 fully grown, park sized trees on a lot measured in square feet. This is good for finding a place for a hammock, not great for full sun exposure for any measurable length of time. Several years ago, we did a summer of landscaping where we ripped out most everything we could and are still in the process of replacing it in an intentional way. We mapped out the only patch of ground that got a somewhat decent amount of sunlight, and used landscaping blocks scavenged from other really dumb places in the yard to build a raised garden bed.


So many leaves.....

And after! (this is from 2009 - you can see the level of shade we deal with! That's pretty much what determined the size, shape and location of the bed. That and the amount of stone we had laying around.)

Hey look, I was still enthusiastic about gardening in 2010!

And, well, I've fallen off since then. I've halfheartedly planted something every year, but I think last year I got about 4 carrots and some herbs, and that's about it. I guess that's the nice thing about a vegetable garden - there's always next year. THIS year, I'd planned to make things easy on myself and buy mostly plants rather than trying to do seeds, but....well I did my plant shopping on Memorial Day weekend and got totally overwhelmed. I'm not a type of person who does well in crowds. I ended up grabbing 2 tomatoes, a basil, and a handful of seed packets and walking out in a daze. (The seeds I planted were carrots, peas, beans, spinach, lettuce and green onions. I probably meant to get more or different things...but who can remember?)

Despite my lackluster commitment to the garden, I've been pretty faithful to composting. I started out cheap (like I tend to do) with a rubbermaid bin with holes drilled into it for drainage and air flow. It actually worked out halfway decent. I mean, it made's not exactly rocket science. But after several years outside in the winter....because you can NOT move that thing when it's full, the plastic gave out. Last year we got something similar to this compost bin: (I didn't want one of the "tumbling" types, because I've read things about them either falling apart or not turning. Since it has to withstand the elements, I went for the least amount of moving parts)

Even though it's obviously super attractive, we keep it in a planting bed right outside our back door. If it wasn't steps from the kitchen, we would never use it. Or the bin in the house would get disgustingly full and we'd ditch the whole system. We planted some daylilies around it, and due to the compost juices soaking into the ground there, they grow awesome and huge and do provide a bit of camouflage. As for keeping the compost in the house, we've gone through a few systems. I know they have those bins you can leave out on your counter...but they always seemed a little sketchy and gnat attracting to me. First I had a bright idea of putting the scraps that needed to go out in the freezer, because then it definitely wouldn't attract bugs. That part of my theory was totally spot on, by the way. What did NOT work out though was the collection method. I started with a gladware type bin, which worked, but also shattered after several in-and-outs and bangs on the side of the bin to dislodge the frozen bits. Then I moved to a metal bread pan, which did not break, but did not have a lid. In typical man fashion, my husband is of the mind to keep stomping the garbage down in the bin rather than take it out a day earlier. This is not ideal when you have overflowing food scraps and coffee grounds in your freezer. Now we keep scraps in another gladware bin in the fridge, because it's much harder to overflow things that have lids which seal on tightly.

Anyway, because we just have this one bin, we don't have a place to fully age the compost. This, by the way, is the dream for behind the garage:

You know you're old when dreams include ways to organize garbage and dirt.

We use a screen that we build to sit on top of our wheelbarrow so that we can sift out the "done" stuff from the "still resembles food" stuff.

I spent several hot, sweaty hours sifting the compost, and got this:

Impressive, isn't it? It DOES help a little that the part in shadow at the bottom of the picture is also compost. But man, it would be nice to have that 3-bin aging system! Maybe I'll keep that on the list for this summer.....and then in like...3 years, we'll have excellent dirt.

Anyway, so I did plant my meager haul from the garden store.

Despite living in a fairly urban area, we also live near a wooded area, so we get quite an abundance of wildlife. As you can see in the earlier photos, I used metal fencing, which kept out deer, but the squirrels mocked me and used it as a ladder. I cut it on one side on either long edge of the garden so that I could swing it open to get in there and weed (ha) and harvest (double ha), and it had really started to fall apart after several years. This year I'm trying some deer blocking fabric mesh over the whole darn thing. We'll see how this works out. I tacked it into the ground and draped it over the fence post things I already had. It should be fairly easy for me to undo and get in there, and hopefully the squirrels don't just thank me for putting up a hammock for them if they decide to lounge on top, right before breaking through to have a nice lunch.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Of Late

Wow. How do those daily/multiple times per week bloggers do it!? I feel like I've been so busy with life in general that there simply isn't time to upload photos, have a thought, write a post....but I've definitely been up to some things, so here's a snapshot. Or two.

We took serious advantage of a "fill your car for just $28" special at a local farm, and Halloween'ed up the cottage. I think I'll have time to carve approximately zero of these pumpkins, but I'm still enjoying the way the pumpkins make the untrimmed planting beds look almost on purpose. However this might not look quite so cute in February....since I doubt we'll actually get them cleaned up before the snow falls!

We found an amazing deal on a place to stay through my friend's aunt's friend (got that?) in Manhattan, so we were NYC-bound for a long weekend to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! We had the most ridiculously good weather for mid-October. It was nice enough to walk around without jackets most of the time! I've been there twice before, but I haven't done the really touristy stuff either time, either because I was "too cool" or too cheap. But this time we went to the top of several buildings as well as visiting the Statue of Liberty which re-opened during the government shutdown just in the nick of time.

Pretty much the entire results of my garden...all grown without any assistance from me. The herbs that I'm drying (holy cow, how domestic am I?!) are entirely self seeding, and the little pumpkins and gourds are kind of weeds. I guess my compost doesn't get hot enough, and squash sort of comes up willy nilly, but this year I actually got some little pumpkins! The potted herbs I've actually managed to keep alive indoors all summer, which is a small miracle. Turns out houseplants like water! Who knew!

Finally in the background, I've always thought that doing a craft fair might be fun. I rejoined the devil known as facebook, and saw that a friend was doing a couple. I asked if she might be interested in a booth buddy, and she said she was! So since then, I've been busily knitting and crocheting my fingers to the bone to try to build up some sort of inventory that I hope people will like. Because I'm not super bright and the first show is in less than two weeks!! Worse comes to worse, it will be a fun way to figure out if I want to do any more of these in the future and it will basically be a win if I can sell enough to cover my half of the booth fee. Plus if things don't sell I can always put them up as ready to ship items in my shop! (and omg I'm not actually going to be selling socks at these craft fairs - that's a book that one of my knitting group members generously lent me. I would love to be able to knit my own socks, but I think I'll have time for that in approximately 3 years.)

So! Whew! That really does feel like a lot going on lately!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Urban farming

I volunteered this weekend at a farm that helps feed the homeless. I don't even really know why. The receptionist at work sent around an email about it and I thought self, you've done very little do-gooding lately so why not. Sadly I was the only one who thought this, as only she and one other guy from work who I now suspect she is dating showed up. I'd have asked, but in over 2 years now I haven't really managed to make a whole lot of friends there. Must be my sparkling personality! Well and actually deciding to take part and be involved might help me there so onward!

I was sitting on the lawn waiting for the others, and this guy was like, oh, the guys will be right back, they just went to get some inmates to help us out. Um, what now? I looked across the street. Curse my unobservedness and sure enough, there's a prison over there. Huh. 

So, ok! Prisoners and coworkers I barely know and why did I sign up for this? Anyway, we picked jalapeƱo peppers for 4 hrs. It was hot. Note to self don't do afternoon farming on Labor Day weekend! Good thing I already don't like peppers because I'd sure be sick of them!

Anyway, it was so strange overhearing the prisoners talking. I didn't really talk to any of them because 1 I'm a little afraid though they must not have been violent offenders as there weren't any guards along and 2 because I couldn't stop myself from wanting to ask, so, what are you in for? But this one guy, apparently had a rod in his leg, and the guy I met when I arrived asked him how he got it. Normal expected replies, car crash, skiing accident, the like. Nope. He got shot. Oooo-Kay. Not in Kansas anymore. And the other funny thing was this other guy was apparently really into gardening, and talked a lot about it from his life before. Talked about what he had planted this spring and how he didn't want to do too much because his wife would have to take care of it because apparently doing time was not unexpected. Just. Weird. To think of them having lives outside and wives and kids. Sad. Strange. How did you get here? Apparently the guys get a day taken off their sentence for every day they volunteer for the farm. I suppose that's good. Help for the needy, honest days work, reward for good behavior. What a sheltered life I lead though. I never gave it a moment's thought before.