Monday, April 25, 2011

Check in

Posting is way down on my priority list right now. What little time that I have that is not being used to finish up assignments and study I am spending with my family.

The rain has not stopped for what seems like forever. My backyard homestead looks more like a waterpark! I have about 2 inches of standing water. Nothing has been done! I feel like I am so behind.

See you all in about two weeks. Hopefully stress and water levels will be down by then.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Growing Communities

I have the honor of managing a community garden at an apartment complex this season. It amazes me how desperately people want to grow their own food. There was so much competition for garden spaces that the area of the gardens had to double this year.

Each family that has a plot has 100 sq ft. That it! I am so blessed for what I have and I resolve not to take it for granted. So many times when it is too hot (or too cold) I grumble and grump about how much I have to weed or water or...whatever.  This experience is really going to help me grow personally.

I like that.

Today it was nice enough that we were able to divide the new fields into individual plots. It was hard work. The ground in one of the areas was still rather wet, so making the paths was difficult. I got my boot stuck and everyone watched me fall on my butt in the mud! A few people were concerned, but when I started laughing everyone joined in.

Overall it was a great time. This community is very diverse, so there were some language barriers that needed to be overcome. There were also some cultural issues too. Some of the older gentlemen didn't care too much for a young woman telling them what they needed to be doing. I respectfully stood my ground (when I wasn't falling on my butt) and everything worked out well.

I had been very worried about this job because I have no experience with managing allotments. I knew this morning that I would mess up paperwork or make people angry for not putting them in this plot versus that. It wasn't like that at all. I can't wait to really get to know everyone and watch the relationships grow along with the food. I love that community gardens are about more than just growing food.

Tomorrow I have to pick up some plants from a friend to bring to the church garden. The city wants to hold a press conference there to award a grant. This is the same grant we received last year. I have a lot of work to do there before that happens. I want them to see how hard the community has worked and encourage them to continue to empower urban gardeners.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cheap and Easy Plant Trellis

Spring has sprung and it's kicking my tail. The semester is winding down and I am swamped with end of term work. The fields for the allotments have all been tilled and we've got to set the fence. That is my big project for this month. Postings here are going to be sparse.

I also am going to be making about several more feet of trellis like I did  for my peas. Like this:

I have a ton of down limbs that I have collected this year and I am going upscale this to work in my new field. We had over three inches of rain yesterday, so I might have to construct parts of it and then lash the pieces to the stakes in the field in a few days. 

Construction is quite easy. 

I cut downed limbs to approximately 12 inches in length to use as stakes.

These are staked at four foot intervals. Four inches should remain above ground. 

I then lash together two six foot limbs in a V. 

I use a third limb to stabilize the trellis. This limb must form a Y on one end. I lash that to the same spot the other two limbs are connected. 
Using jute twine (it can be thrown in compost at the end of the season) I create a grid for the plant to climb. I do the horizontal lengths first and then weave the vertical through. The vertical lengths are tied to the top and bottom horizontal lengths. 

The only item that needs to be purchased for this project is the twine. So I have less than $2 in this project!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Sun. Life-giver and Flaming Ball of Death

Yesterday I received word that a family member still has melanoma. After treatment almost killed her, she is right back at the beginning. I could spend an eternity cursing the Creator and the conditions that brought this about, but there is no solace in that. What comfort does raging bring?

Instead I turn my attention to ways I can limit my family's exposure.

On our little homestead we try to be outside as much as possible. There are days we don't come in until well after the sun has set. Field work is a big concern because there are some crops that shouldn't be harvested in the cool dewy morning because it increases the likelihood of spreading diseases through the field. Also, some days are just hard work and it takes the whole day just to cross everything off the list. After the cold gray winter we had I am ready to be out in the air doing just about anything. Fire up the grill for lunch and dinner! I don't want to be inside!

Sports are a big part of our lives too. There are days that we arrive at the baseball field at eight in the morning and don't arrive home until dark. Unfortunately, our park does not have many mature trees. We also love to bike and swim. There is a pool in our neighborhood and the children and I are looking forward to light chore days that allow us hours of time with our friends there.

We spend our days in the sun.

The children have bathing suits designed to limit their exposure to the sun. I just wear a tee shirt. I don't spend much time swimming. I never learned. I find a small scrap of shade and catch up on reading or knit while we are at the pool. When we are out doing field work, long sleeve button ups that I found at Goodwill are my uniform. They are big and comfy and the wind flows through enough to keep me cool. As long as I have plenty of water working in sleeves is fine. I wear long pants too. I have these wonderful hand me down Army surplus cargo pants. The rip-stop material they are made of is super lightweight and comfortable.  I also have a dorky visor. I must be a sight when I head out, but I lost all concern about that years ago.

I like clothes over sunscreens because some sunscreens are downright toxic. Why would I slather my skin with layers of carcinogens to keep myself from getting skin cancer? There are good sunscreens out there. I even wear it and make my family wear it. Read the ingredients, do some research and figure out what's best.

Don't get me wrong I love the sun. It is a life sustaining gift. The sun gives us power and food and light. We joke about our family being solar powered because gray days make us grumpy and tired.

 I don't wrap myself from head to toe every time I walk out the door.  When I am going to be out for prolonged periods and/or I know the sun is at its strongest I take precautions. I have been burned several times. These burns happened when I was being careless. The sun is a powerful thing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Four Wheels to Two Wheels

I was so excited a couple of months ago when I finally paid off my van. We did it 18 months early. It didn't save us very much, but the freedom from the crushing car payment every month is wonderful. To be honest I was afraid that the loan would out live then van. I treat that thing like a truck. It hauls kids, animals, tools and loads of dirt.

Saturday it crapped out on me. $800+ to fix a broken shifter and the water pump. Gas is close to $4 /gallon. I can't afford to have the damn thing. It's a good thing Tom bought me a bike for my last birthday.

This is how we will be getting around for the next week while my children are vacationing with their grandparents. Yesterday we had an awesome ride to lunch after church. We cruised around a little bit after lunch and it made me realize how out of shape I have become over the winter. Today we are expecting severe weather, so we rode in Tom's car, but starting tomorrow I will be a bike commuter like Tom. Let me apologize in advance if I ride through your neighborhood. My language gets colorful on difficult hills.

We are getting the van fixed because, while the kids have bikes, Lexington is not bike friendly. Being in the suburbs mandates a car. To get the kids to sports we drive an average of 65-75 miles per week in town. The bus routes do not cover where we need to go, so incorporating public transportation is almost impossible.

What I can do is commute to school each day. That saves 6 miles round trip. I'm totally stoked for summer. The children and I will have fewer obligations and will be working around our little homestead and biking back and forth to the pool.  

I long for the day we have a more sustainable community that is more bike and public transportation friendly. Lexington's day will come.