...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Growing Challenges

Despite all the planning and dreaming I do pre-gardening season, my garden never turns out quite how I imagine.  Just like relationships with partners, spouses, or children, you must choose your battles.  Currently I'm battling slugs and small rodents.  It's amazing how such tiny creatures can wreak such havoc.  Though I protected my pole bean seeds in the front yard with hardware cloth, it didn't prevent the slugs from getting to the seedlings.  They've chewed practically every bit from the first leaves, which gives the plant no chance to grow.  I've already replanted the seeds at least once, but have had the same luck.  I recommend "slug traps," which certainly won't fix what's already been done, but will catch these slimeballs before they do any more harm.  I saved sardine and tuna cans all winter then poured a small amount of cheap beer into them.  Well, admittedly it wasn't cheap beer and my husband politely asked me not to use the $8/six-pack stuff to feed these critters, but at the time it was all we had when I frantically ran into the house saying "quick, I need some of your beer!"  I'll have to keep my eyes out for when Hamm's or Olde Style goes on sale then stock up.  In the meantime, this little drink draws them into the can, they get drunk, and basically drown.  Now that would be some way to go.  Hmmm...I think I officially signed off on the slug battle yesterday when I planted some cucumber seedlings along the cherry branch trellis where I'd hoped to see a wall of beautiful leaves, blossoms, and eventually Bingo and Kentucky Wonder beans.  I've also been fighting with what I believe to be the squirrels and/or chipmunks over my corn seedlings.  The first year we planted corn (a colorful ornamental variety that can be ground into meal) I had six healthy stalks that provided about 2 quarts of cornmeal.  Last year I lost the battle, but this year I'm determined to keep trying.  Along with the ornamental corn I've seeded popcorn, one of our favorite locally grown snacks.  I covered the seeds with gallon jug tops and they all germinated.  Too good to be true.  As of the beginning of this week I had only one or two seedlings left.  These critters were slowing picking them off.  It's great that I can see my garden from Vera's upstairs window, but, like the other day, when I see these plant protectors knocked over I have to reel myself in before abandoning my child on the changing table to go out and chase away these scavengers.  Ahh!  It can be maddening.  So Monday I reseeded the corn--I may have used the rest of my seed stock--and placed bricks on top of the jug tops.  The next step will be making tubular shields out of chicken wire.  I WILL win this year!  We WILL have homegrown cornmeal for our Thanksgiving stuffing.  Otherwise I can't complain about the progress of the garden.  A few bush beans have gotten trampled here and there (by creatures of the human kind), but I'm willing to relax about that, since I'll have my hands full picking pounds and pounds from what has survived before I know it.

Today I harvested the first garlic scapes, a tiny handful from some volunteer garlic plants in the front landscape.  Perfect timing because I just used the last of our 2009 homegrown garlic last week.  The scapes, which are the stem from which the seed head of the garlic is formed, can be used in place of garlic in any recipe and also make a delicious pesto.  These curling stems should be clipped after they make their first turn.  This allows the garlic plant to start putting its energy into making a bulb.  If not removed, they will flower and you won't have much garlic to speak of later in the season.

Aside from gardening I've been working on getting more involved in the community again.  I'd love to be a career volunteer, of course, but it's not quite time for that.  I'll contribute what I can in the meantime.  This morning I had a meeting for a new group that's centered in the Washington Park neighborhood called Community Pie.  Our goal is to help the local youth locate unutilized fruit and nut sources in the neighborhood--trees on public or private property, wild bushes, etc. then teach them how to bake pies.  We're dreaming of 501c3 status, but for now we're just focused on building community and gathering over some delicious pies.

I thought I'd share some garden pics since things have changed so dramatically lately.  I gave a garden tour to some ladies from the Holistic Moms Network the other day and realized what had changed since I last posted photos.

1 comment:

  1. Oh the chipmunks! They are eating every strawberry here that flirts with becoming red and ripe. I spread around some (hot) red pepper flakes to see if that deters them.

    So glad to hear about your new activities! There's a similar fruits and nuts group here too, but I think they are focused on getting urban orchards planted in/around Madison.