Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Woe of Inactivity

For the last couple of months I have been dreaming and thinking. Thinking and dreaming, alternately. I've been considering what I want to plant. What I want to raise. How my homesteading dream will work.

And I can't stop, because it's that time of year. Spring! Flowers are popping up outside my window, admidst the snow, from their bulbs nestled underground. This is the time I would normally start looking at seeds and starting them inside on my windowsill. Maybe, even, I would start buying containers to plant in.

My focus has shifted a little bit as I've aged; no longer am I set on two very strong green bean plants or a few productive tomato towers. I want quantity. I want practicality mixed with the beauty.

Eating string beans as a main dish (as we have been calling them on the East Coast) once a week, for three people, is 2 Lb. We make 'em good, Chinese-style, and serve them over brown rice. Starting out, my homestead will just be me and another person. 2 Lb is still a good amount though, since we can use it in soups and stews or as a side dish. So if we assume 2lb of string beans a week, or 3 out of every 4 weeks....And we want to eat green beans year-round (fresh, frozen or canned)... 50 wk x 3/4 x 2 = 75 lb of green beans. That is A LOT of green beans.... and only just one type of food source. Let's not get into the requirements for me (as a vegetarian).

When I dream about my homestead I dream in small details. I want a big butcher block in the kitchen. Chickens, lots of them. A big row of sugar snap peas. I want to sit in the shade and listen to The National and shell them. I want to pick crate after crate of apples, until my arms are sore. I want to work on home guides (think "adult lap books", for those homeschooled-minded) for medicine, plant identification, and growing things. I want to spend a long day re-organising my pantry and putting things in order and having to much food in the freezer so I can't find things. And I want to revel in the glory of knowing that I have created such a  life for myself as the one I am living.

But I am not living that life. I am sitting in my bedroom in New York, looking out the window at the covering of snow on the ground. I can't plant things. I can't stick my hands in the soil, and besides, it's too cold out there. This climate is unfamiliar.

What am I doing here? How did I ever think I could be away from the temperate north west for a whole growing season? First here, then vagabonding in Europe. Hopefully there I'll get the chance to spend some time in other's gardens.

I am sad. Very, very sad.

Here are a couple of pictures to round out this sad post, of harvests past:

My employer/housemate has suggested I (well, given me the task of) plant him a plot of tomatoes and basil near the side door. I've taken up the challenge. It's a small area, maybe 6 or 8 ft squared, with bricks that might need to be moved inside the space. But hopefully it will help me and my plant deprivation syndrome. I'll save that for next time.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The First of Many Battle Scars

Today I acquired 2 cuts on my hand. They are the first of many battle scars I anticipate this growing season. Sighs.

The first happened when attempting to turn over the compost pile. It was moldy and rotting and it's got a lot of bugs. I shifted stuff around with a pitchfork and put some scoops of dirt on top of everything to encourage it to rot further. I quickly discovered, however, that my mom has not been heeding my advice not to put potatoes in the compost pile. We had some nice potato plants growing in there. I pulled them out and replanted them nearby just for shits and giggles. There ARE some new potatoes starting to grow on those plants too! Maybe they'll get big enough to eat? That would be totally weird.

I visited my grandpa earlier today and since it was so nice I decided to walk around his tiny backyard a bit and enjoy the sunshine. The first thing I found was what I am fairly sure is a lavender plant. Not sure if there is a way to take a cutting of that, but I'll look into it.

The other thing I found was a nice and healthy infestation of some sort of mint. Ok, I'm not a plant expert, but I am like 98% sure it's a mint of some sort. It smells good, like a lemony sort of mint, so I am thinking it may be Lemon Mint. I will need to find an expert to confirm this suspicion, however. I dug up a little plant from his mint colony and put it in the back of the car, even though it would be hours until I got home and the boot of my car is really hot. It ended up looking really sad and wilted by the time I got back and potted it, but I've heard mint is quite resilient, so let's hope it perks up soon. I could go for some mint lemonade right about now...

I've done a lot of planting int he last few days. Finally there is something GREEN in the greenhouse...


Since I happen to have a variety of "newbie swap" seeds, I decided to plant a few and see what happens. Some of them look pretty old (one says 2009) but here's to trying! Chamomile, Lemon Mint, and I believe Sweet Basil, although the picture is kind of washed out.

2 pepper plants I picked up at a yard sale for $2 a piece: Sweet Goliath and Giant Marconi. Hopefully they'll both be great for stuffing and baking. Nom! (Note that the Giant Marconi had the top chopped off accidentally by my mom. I might have to go get another one, but this one still has a few leaves so I figured it was worth a shot to plant it anyway)


Organic rosemary plant which I bought for something like $3 or $4. It is so much better than the rosemary I tried to start from seed which grows so slow it might actually be a saguaro cactus disguised as rosemary (pictured at right). It's grown 1" in 4 months. COME ON. My room is not THAT cold. I moved it to the greenhouse with some fresh dirt and hope that it will take off as well. Also note the cute angel thing I picked up at a yard sale today for $.25.

Organic oregano start of some kind. I'm not really sure.

That's supposed to be Parsley. No, it's not albino. It's pretty much dead. Thank god I bought some LIVE organic parsley.....

(Aah. It's so beautiful.)


Random apple seeds I gathered at some point during the winter. I'm not sure what variety they are, so I'm just calling it "magic apple". All I know is that apple must've been pretty darn good for me to save the seeds from it.

Yes, I have high hopes for the $1.99 pea plant.

It's looking kind of sad; I hope the trellis makes it happier.

Good things have small, humble beginnings. This is the start of my "tomato plantation" adventure. I want enough to can sauce and diced tomatos -- enough to last me like a year or so. 

Bonnie Best is supposed to be good for canning. We'll see. They're staying inside the kitchen in the countertop greenhouse. When they get too tall for that I'll move them to my parents bathroom, where they'll have enough light to keep growing without fear of being eaten by the rabid cats that I live with. With any luck I'll have tomato flowers several months from now.... yep, I'm a little late with my seeds.

Hippie Crafting

I think crafting is cool, although I seem to not do a lot of it. I'm actually not very creative. Mainly I just copy other people.

The other thing is that a lot of crafting supplies aren't eco friendly. A lot of re-do projects now-a-days use things like spray paint (for furniture and housewares) and nail polish (for re-doing jewelry and fine details on other crap).

Take this, for example:

Credit to TwoButterflies
A fairly innocent bracelet, completely "painted" with nail polish. Y'know, the stuff with toxic chemicals that we all want on our fashion accessories.

I mean, it's not a bad bracelet. The good part is you saved a bracelet from the landfill by buying it from a thrift shop.

The bad part is the waste from the nail polish is only "helping" this place:

But I'm biased. I own nailpolish, and although I haven't used any of it in like six months, I still have flecks of Ocean Blue on my left big toe nail. Also, not to long ago I had this copper ring, and it totally turned my finger green. So I coated the inside of it with nail polish as the internet told me to, and this is what happened:


  And I know just because I've had a couple bad experiences with the stuff doesn't mean I should totally give up on it....

But then there's this:
A kid in a sea of nail polish bottles. I mean... OBVIOUSLY.

But really. That stuff is EVIL. I'm keen to use up the rest of what I have (the two bottles), when/if the time arises. 

I also have this free art painting I picked up that I'd really, really, really like to have the frame painted silver on, but every time I want to go buy the paint I end up guilt tripping myself because I'd be contributing to the world's trash problem.

...Hippie problems, man.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Metal Penguin that Laid Eggs

My brother has been helping out with the house this week and I guess mentioned offhand that one day he was too lazy to collect the eggs from the chickens, so he just chucked them.

I didn't think he was serious.

But I went down to the coop today to survey the amount of chicken poop lying about for making a batch of manure tea and saw a bunch of eggs lying around randomly like easter eggs.

First I was very confused, trying to figure out if the chickens got out and were laying out there? But that didn't make sense. Some of them were broken, and some weren't.

I decided to take them up to the house and ask my brother. He said that he threw them out. I'm not sure why he didn't just leave the eggs there and collect twice as much tomorrow -- maybe he just wanted to throw something?

I set them outside on the porch in this (mostly dead) potted plant with a penguin in it.

 Less-than-quality picture from my iPhone

I think I'll try crushing them and then adding them to the really small compost heap I have going in the backyard.

There used to be more in it, but not too long after we started composting, we got the chickies, so we have been giving them all the veggie scraps instead. They seem to produce more when we supplement their feed.

Not sure what I will do for composting - Right now it's just a black plastic composter from a yard sale and with some old rotten food, a broken egg on top, and a giant rock (I asked my dad to put some dirt in there with his tractor thing, but I guess I should have mentioned that twenty pound rocks are kinda hard to compost)

We don't generate enough food waste worth composting (I tend to eat most parts of the vegetables, and left over scraps get fed to the chickens) but I want some supplement for the garden this year, so I am looking into seaweed tea and manure tea. More on that later!