Category Archives: Organic

A little back story

Here’s a little history about me.

I started growing food the same year I met the Stubborn Boy (SB). Actually, he had a garden first. He grew tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.

Before SB, I had tried, unsuccessfully, for years to raise just a few herb plants on my fire escape. Inevitably I would be in the middle of a three-day trip when I realized they had no water, only to return home and find a heap of limp, dried leaves slumped over tiny pots of parched and cracked dirt.  I knew nothing about growing potted plants, except that they were lovely and tempted me every year from the market shelves, and that I would kill them eventually.

But with SB, he had everything. He had huge pots filled with tomato plants, pepper plants, herbs; he even had a crabapple tree when I met him. I absolutely LiVED for climbing to his roof deck and watering the plants. Seeing the dramatic changes from day-to-day simply stunned me. And then I ate my first home-raised tomato and it was all over for me. I had found what inspired me; I wanted to grow food too!

Now here up North, gardens only grow for a couple of months, so as the next season approached (and SB and I were pushing into a second year of togetherness), I suggested we try to expand the growing to include other things we liked to eat. How about broccoli? Swiss Chard? Cucumbers and Zucchini? Carrots???  Thus began the experimentation and the education on how to grow. Having experimented with different growing techniques for the past seven years now, I realize what I like, what works for me and why. For example, I really like the bio-intensive, interplanting methods of Alan Chadwick, made accessible by John Jeavons and his “How to grow more vegetables”.

***Hey, Stubborn Girl. You lost me. What does all this mean? 

It means I don’t plant in rows. I plant everything really closely, in a diamond formation. It makes weeding a huge pain, but pretty much only until the plants get big and shade the space around them. Then it’s not such a problem any more.

IMAG1399

 

This is a photo of carrots, beets and Kale, planted under the pea trellis. Weeding the bed when it was just starting was challenging because it all needed to be done by hand, carefully as to not crush the little seedlings. Trying to do this under a trellis while not compressing the soil added even more obstacles; I started to feel like a contortionist trying to weed it. But after three weeks, it didn’t really need to weed it any more. The plants choked the weeds out. Yay!

The other major component to this method is transplanting vs direct sowing. In the Chadwick/ Jeavons method, they recommend transplanting (growing them in pots first, and then putting them in after they’ve sprouted) vs direct sowing (shove it in the dirt and see what happens) because it allows you to really get the max bang for your garden area. With either method, there are seeds that just won’t come up. Rather than sacrificing growing area to plants that didn’t take in direct sowing, you already know what plants are up, and you space them accordingly.  Look at the photo again. Those plants are in tight.

This year I’m pretty excited to try something I’ve read about for several years now. It’s called the Three Sisters garden bed. It’s a garden bed all interplanted between squash, corn and beans. The three were grown together in Native American cultures (or so the standard literature goes), and they grow together in harmony because the bugs that love squash hate the bugs that love corn, and both of those bug teams just can’t stand the bugs that like beans. So most of the respective gangs refuse to show up, eliminating a majority of bug problems.

Here’s how it’s looking so far…

Three Sisters Bed

Those are radishes growing around the pumpkins; I read that striped squash beetles don’t like radishes and will leave the plants alone. I admit, my squash, cucumbers and melons have attracted WAY LESS ATTENTION this year than last. It’s not foolproof, but I’ll take what I can get!

I’ll keep you posted as to how the bed grows this year!

But how will you take care of the animals?

I have spent much of the past week on airplanes. Sometimes that’s the way life goes. I have a very inflexible schedule for December, which means the poor stubborn boy has been going it alone at the house all week. He’s been up at the farm, and I’ve been bringing home the ~ ehr, bacon?

I actually got sent out to Madrid, España, yesterday with my airline. I have to say, in spite of the awful flight, I’m thrilled to be writing this post from Spain. After all, this is where I started my love affair with farm life last February. Here’s the scoop:

Way back in September of 2010, I finally said out loud this  ~I~D~E~A~ brewing in my mind, that I wanted to have a little house in the country with some land and a garden and some goats and chickens. But stubborn boy pointed out that a) I couldn’t have animals unless I could take care of them and b) I couldn’t take care of them because I knew nothing about them and c) even if I knew how to take care of them, I’d have to be with them every day. Not a very good plan when one is a flight attendant and gone from home an average of 15 days a month.

Not to be dissuaded, I set out to get some hands on skills. But since Brooklyn isn’t really a hotbed of rural farming opportunities, I joined the not-for-profit organization WWOOF [World Wide Opportunites on Organic Farms]. This group connects people who want to learn about farming with actual farmers. In return for free labor, WWOOFers get free room and board and learn loads of skills about organic farming. There are farms all over the world and if you’re at all curious, I encourage you to check out their website at:

www.wwoof.org

It is well worth the $35 user registration fee. And well, since I’m a flight attendant and can fly anywhere on the cheap, it seemed reasonable to go to a country where I like the cheese and can speak the language. Thus, I found my way to Santamera,  España and into the lives of my two patrons, Maxi and Samuel. These two granjeros (farmers) have been raising goats and chickens and pigs in the mountains of Spain, just 150 km northeast of Madrid. The two friends meted out wisdom with humor and patience, and is an ongoing relationship between us. They have even offered to come to New York to help me with some of the setup of my own farm.

I will actually be seeing them in just a few weeks. In mid January I am travelling to their farm for another skillshare weekend. I can’t wait to return, to see all of the changes and also to see all the girls (goats) again. I’m sure they’ve been missing me desperately.

I did invite the men up to Madrid to spend Christmas Eve with me but such is farm life. They couldn’t come. Who would watch over their animals?  Score one for stubborn boy…