Tag Archives: farming

Where the Heck Did That Month Go?

Yes, it’s been a long time between posts!

We’ve been busy finishing up our first child’s school year, and The Wife has been dealing with some minor health issues. Meanwhile, the garden-with-delusions-of-grandeur has been going through some changes.

Compost is happening!

I am such a farm geek. I am just thrilled to pieces that the compost is developing! I’ve been faithfully piling in the soiled straw (soiled with chicken manure), cut grass, kitchen scraps — watering and turning until my back screams at me. But the results are divine. Wormy, earthy, black compost.

Chickens are transforming into hens! (And maybe some roosters?)

B, I, N, G, and O are now 3 1/2 months old, and getting huge. I give them lots of table scraps — grains, vegetable matter, fruit peelings, chewed up in the food processor — mixed with laying feed. They run at the gate when they see me coming, and love to forage in the backyard when let out of their run.

The chihuahua doesn’t go after them at all, and luckily for them, the rottweiler’s rather obsessive interest in them has died down.

Here’s the problem: I can’t tell if any of them are roosters are not. I’ll take pictures tomorrow and post them. First one to predict accurately means some kind of prize — jam? Eternal gratitude?

Tomato cuttings

In training my tomato vines to grow vertically, I have pinched off quite a few runners at the bottom of the plant. I put them in water and kept them in a sunny spot of my office. Through that process, I have been able to grow three more tomato plants, which I have put in big olive cans snatched from the Monday night garbage cans left out the Boot and Shoe Pizzeria on Lake Shore Ave.

Other Plant News . . .

The potatoes are growing beautifully in their washer-tub containers. My two little containers of beans are also starting to produce.

The arugula has come and gone — the heat wave last week was the last straw for my favorite salad green. The chard from last Fall also took its last gasp, and the tired stalks were thrown mercilessly to the chickens.

Beets and carrots are coming up like crazy. We just ate another round of Detroit Reds last night in our salad.

I realized that all the lettuce and basil seeds I have been planting since March must be too old, as none of them have germinated. So I gave up and got plants. Now I’ve got enough basil to make pesto for the winter as well as the summer. And I just put in an entire bed of different kinds of romaine lettuce seeds, as well as more carrots and beets.

I have seven tomato plants going at once — some vine, some bush. I don’t remember the varieties, to be honest. But since they’re from Kassenhoff growers, they are sure to be great.

The red peppers and ancho chilis are starting to flower. The heat wave that killed the arugula pushed them into a growth spurt.

The strawberries (in beds) are producing big beautiful berries and the raspberries (in a big container so as to contain the rampant growth) are starting to produce also.

The elderberry, which I had just about given up on, has grown about a foot and is now quite satisfactorily bushy. And the elecampagne came back out of nowhere.

The yarrow is threatening to take over under the big apple tree.

And last but not at all least, the fruit trees are full of fruit at various stages of growth. The peach tree seems to have fought off the peach leaf curl quite successfully. I am going to be chin-deep in plums in a few months. Both apple trees are producing and haven’t had their June drop yet. And the pineapple guava is flowering in preparation for the fall harvest.

That’s the update back there in wonderland. Next up, the new path in my farming adventures . . . stay tuned!

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Little Farm? Farm-ette? Farm-ish?

Here’s the big confession: I feel like an ass calling our work a “farm”. The entire yard is all of 1600 square feet, and a good chunk of that is occupied by various non-food-producing structures.

The land on which our actual food is growing consists of four raised beds, divided up into VERY approximate versions of square foot-ish grids. Size-wise, and production-wise, it could just as well be called the G word. A garden.

But somehow, that doesn’t fit. The “farm” label, as inaccurate as it may be, has more to do with what we’re aiming for than with the acreage (or lack thereof). Our family isn’t aiming to create food for purchase by others, or to make a living off the land we own. We aren’t going to raise and kill livestock. We aren’t planning our crops with the conscious goal of aiming to feed others in our community, though we do feed others a good deal with what we grow.

What we are aiming for is to eat as much as possible from what we produce ourselves, through year-round planting, as well as canning, freezing, and pickling. That’s the simple part.

The more nuanced parts are a consequence of that decision. For example, ever since I made two cups of homemade ricotta cheese last summer (and realized it took around 2 gallons of milk to do so), I have a renewed appreciation for local cheese making. And a greater sense of connection to what the true costs are of just picking up a container of cheese at the grocery store. What conditions create my convenience?

Ever since I have started making crackers for my kids, and have realized that they go stale in about five milliseconds, I question what it is that prevents even so-called “natural” packaged crackers from getting stale for so long. What the heck is in there? It might be simple — but I sure as heck don’t know how that process is prevented. And I want to.

Both my wife and I work full-time, and have a lot of responsibilities — to the family we have created, the families we come from, and to our friends. It’s not like we are planning to start carving dolls from our kids from corn husks, and knit by candlelight. We are firmly and gratefully grounded in the conveniences we surround ourselves with.

I am, however, on a journey of questioning things I have taken for granted, especially how my choices connect me to corporations and agricultural practices I would rather not support, as much as that is possible within the constraints of our life.

In that light, what I am doing is much more farm-y than garden-y. I feed my chickens; my chickens feed me and my children and my wife and my in-laws and my mother and my sisters and my friends and neighbors. I compost what we can’t use, and our ground gives us what we need to grow fruits and vegetables throughout the year. I can/pickle/freeze our own produce and that I get from local growers, and I extend our decreased dependency on agri-business a little further each year. Our children are learning to anticipate what fruit comes at what point in our garden, and how long it takes before a hen can lay an egg.

I’m not living in overalls, and I’m not in the country (nor do I want to be, at this point in my life). But I guess I am, in a certain way, farming.

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