lady beetle

So many things happening at the Farm, I don't even know where to start. Before we started this little experiment, I had days off from my "real job" and I would spend them reading the paper while sipping coffee and then I'd take a nap. Okay, so I'd actually spend the day fantasizing about that line up while getting chores and errands done, but at least it was at a leisurely pace.

Now my days "off" are UP AND GO GO GO GO! And it's not a bad thing, for sure, but sometimes I want to yell, "COME ON! I NEED A NAP!" And that's usually when I actually go take a nap, because when you're yelling at the chickens, it's time for a freaking nap.

But then.

Then there's the really wonderful part of all of this: Lorien and her family moved in. Granted, not to their forever home (still in permitting, people) but into a bitchin' sweet trailer we found on craigslist that comes from some fellow burners.

Full image of Trailer getting installed

We set it up, Mark & Lorien spent some time doing repairs and then they simply moved in. Amazing. We've held a knitting night there already, and in addition to being a cool place to hang out, it's giving us an idea what living in community feels like.

It feels awesome.

There's been many a shared meal, borrowing of things, laundry talk, gardening, kid care sharing, dogs everywhere and overall amazingness. So far, I'm totally in love with this.

And things are growing in the garden! Which, you would expect if you've ever been successful at gardening before. Let me assure you: I have not. Not really. Never. Things THRIVE when you pay attention, people. This is shocking to me, though my parenting should have tipped me off that it works universally.

My last post (almost a month ago, *ahem*) was about the putting together a garden bed. NOW LOOK AT IT:


Seriously, nobody could have predicted that. Except for all people who have ever gardened before, but we're not counting reasonable people in that statement.

Speaking of, does anyone have any idea what this is:

what is this?

It's taking over the garden bed and does not appear to be cabbage. Or at least, that's what Lorien says. But the seed packet that I believe it came from claims it's a Nikki Chinese Cabbage. Anyone have experience with this stuff? I clearly don't.

Lots of other things are popping up too:

growing beans radish

apples! peas

Oh, and after several bee hives gave us the middle finger and swarmed off for greener pastures, we finally have a hive that's staying put. Interestingly enough, this hive came from the school, where it had attempted to make a home in the bushes between the art class and the Jr High. Our friend Alex extracted it and brought it on over and they've been very happy ever since. We may even get honey some day!

It's super exciting, ALL THE THINGS happening. And it's keeping us busy, my friends.

What's keeping you busy?

Building a Bed

Years ago when we lived in a house that was up-side-down. The bedroom was on the top floor and there were skylights and vaulted ceilings and LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT! It was amazingly alive, that space, which was not so very wonderful when you were trying to sleep. Downstairs the living room was dark and broody and perfect for watching movies, but not so much for being productive during the day. But it was the first home we bought together and we loved it. We got a dog and took long walks through the neighborhood and bought a real bed. In that big space, our new bed had to have a frame that could compete, so we got a cherry sleigh bed and we loved it.

When we moved to the house we're in now, one that is not up-side-down, we stuck our sleigh bed in our dark, cave like bedroom and we said, "hurmph". It was too big in there. But it was what we had, so we lived with it. Then we moved upstairs into a loft bed and rented out our cave bedroom, putting the cherry sleigh bed into storage. And years later, when we moved back into the cave bedroom, my mother helped us buy a new bed.

And now we had this beautiful bed that had nobody to sleep in it. We tried to sell it on criagslist, but we were unsuccessful. "Why don't we turn it into a garden bed?" I asked Mark.
"A garden bed?"
"Yeah, we could plant things in it."

We did the math and realized that to build a raised bed, we'd spend about what we'd get if we sold it. And so we set to work.


Mark, setting up the frame in the spot of choice.


Putting in a garden bed today. #GingerLeafFarm

Frame is assembled, but will need more support.



Laying in plywood and building up the sides.



Weed cloth to help retain soil.


A few more loads of dirt and compost and it will be ready to plant!

We put tiles under the feel so it wouldn't sink into the ground and then filled it with soil and compost. It's about this point where we realize we put it SO FAR AWAY and now we're dead with carrying buckets.



Figuring out where to put the seedlings. At first, I was all super thoughtful. By the time Lorien showed up, I went kinda mad and we just threw stuff in there.


A good long drink of water.

We planted:

  • Four different kinds of heirloom tomatoes
  • jalapeños
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • pole beans
  • a bunch of random volunteers

We'll see what survives! (fingers crossed, touch wood, spit spit, etc)


Why I need to live in community

Growing 3/27/13

I try to take a walk through the property daily. Doesn't always happen, mind you, but I try. I really don't know how else to get myself in the habit of paying attention and so far it's helping me not kill things. It helps that Mark is focused on the seeds and doing his part, but well, he travels for work sometimes and that makes it my job to focus, something I'm not always so good at.

I carry my phone with me, set on camera mode and ready to capture what I can. I'm also using a garden tracking program called Folia which allows me to note down milestones and will then give me a timeline as to when I should expect sprouts or should aim to transplant or fruit may appear. I'll be thrilled when they finally have an Android App so I can update from the field.

It amazes me how ignorant I can be about plants, though.

seed starts - pumpkin

"Look!" I'll show Lorien, "The pumpkin is sprouting!"
"That's not a pumpkin sprout." She'll reply.
"But that's what the package said." I insist, as though good hard observation cannot possibly win over a seed package.
"Maybe it will still sprout, but that is something in the brassica family." She calmly insists.
"But I want it to be a pumpkin." I pout.

She all but pats me on my sweet stupid head.

I know I can learn, it just seems remarkably slow to sink in. But for now, I think everything is beautiful, even the clumps of nasty aphids I found clustered on a weed stalk in the canyon, or the creeping vine that keeps tying to take over everything.

Growing 3/27/13 Growing 3/27/13

OK so the aphids are gross, but there's a beauty to them too, all huddled together, just trying to survive in the wilds. And the way the vine wraps around the dead stalk of a tree it probably killed?

Poetry, I swear.

This is why I need to live in community: ignorance, I have it in spades.


Learning to be ruthless

emerging peaches and their party hats

Over the weekend I was sitting in the orchard, chatting with my mom on the phone.

"I'm having a disagreement with Mark* about the peach tree." I tell her.
"Tell me about it." She prompts.
"He keeps telling me to leave it alone, but it has so much fruit emerging, I don't know how the tree can manage it all."
"Oh, hon. You have to remove two-thirds of the fruit or you could damage the tree. I know it's hard to do, all that promise, but you have to. Leave about an inch between fruit so it has room to grow. If you don't you could lose a limb or end up with a ton of misshapen, small fruits."
"So be brutal?" I ask.
"Ruthlessly so."

And so, with my game face on I plucked at it, feeling horrible about all that promise I had to remove.

Growing 3/27/13

I still can't force myself to throw away the culled fruit, though it has no reason to live. It's beautiful, though, in it's little bucket.

On advice from my uber smart mother

But man, just thinking about a globe of warm peach, fresh from the tree, large and sweet and sticky and...

I need to sit down for a moment.

But seriously, learning how not to be so sentimental is a huge part of figuring out how to run a small pseudo-farm. I'm figuring it out, it just might take me a while.



*Later, when I showed Mark what I'd done to the tree he had indicated I should leave alone, he was all, "Yeah, I've been meaning to do that." Merp. Turns out we sometimes suck at communication.

Radical acts and paying attention

Sunflowers - Open

Gardening and me? We've never really gotten along. It usually goes like this:

  • I plant things
  • They start to grow
  • I feel like a badass
  • Oh, look! Something shiny over there, la la la la la

It's not that my thumb is black, or even that it's necessarily anything but green; it's that my thumbs, like the rest of me, are distracted. So many things going on in my life, just like all of us. But somehow, an accomplished gardener manages to pay attention.

Because of this, we've been focusing on planting fruit trees. They can survive a little distraction. Well, mostly. We've had a couple figs mowed down by pocket gophers as of late. One day, you have a budding tree. The next? It's nothing but a stick in the ground with gnawed off roots. But in general, if you forget for a week that you have trees, they're still there when you remember.

And it's not that I don't see the value in a garden. I see it clearly. Today, when leaving the house for work I said to my Mister, "I'm off to be a useful part of society."

"I'll be here. Not really being useful." He replied, only half joking.
"Will you feed the chickens?" I asked.
"Of course!"
"BOOM: Supply chain."

There is value to the world in this. And every tomato I grow for my family is one that doesn't have to travel on a truck to get into my mouth. That is more radical than anything else I could do in a day.



Today I followed a link to a TED talk by Ron Finley, a guerilla gardener in South Central LA. He is the epitome of badass gardener. He tells us,"Gardening is the most defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries." He goes on to say, "It's like printing your own money!", noting how a dollar of seeds can turn into $75 worth of produce. He talks about the wild beauty of a sunflower and how it makes a person feel. He speaks of earth as canvas and food as paint. He catches people sneaking fruit from his garden and tells them to take freely what they need. Then he teaches them how to do for themselves.

He MOVED me, people.

I guess it's time to learn how to pay attention. To figure out how not to be distracted by shiny things. To accept that radical acts can happen with a seed.

And see what Mr. Finley has to say for himself. Maybe he'll move you, too.