Archive for June, 2012

June 23, 2012

New Hope Community Farmers Market

Last week I promised more Farmers Market reviews.  Saturday is a big market day so I figured I’d better hop to it.

Let’s chat about the New Hope Community Farmers Market.  Let me start by saying I was pleasantly surprised with what I found at this market.


For starters it was quite a bit bigger than I’d anticipated, quite large in fact. (This picture only captures half of the market!)

The selection and the produce was beautiful. The vendors were all very friendly and welcoming.


Above is a picture of Amaranth nestled between onions and Swiss Chard.  Having never cooked with it before I was told to eat it like you would spinach, but they say it is best sauteed.



The lettuce in every booth was beautiful.  It was hard to decide who to buy from and definitely too good to pass up!


And the Swiss Chard, in all of its colorful glory needed a home too.


I’m not sure where these are grown, but if you have the munchies while at the New Hope Farmers Market, you’ll find a couple of food trucks with everything from Mini-Donuts to Strawberry Spinach Salad (and Corn Dogs too).


And if you need to rest your feet while you eat, they offer live music as well.


Say you’re looking for a new scent or handcrafted soap?  New Hope’s got it.



And herbs, and pickles…




And yes, even eggs.


There are a number of artists and crafters at the New Hope Market including Sue Robinson at Suzy’z Jewelz.  If you’re looking for unique, handmade jewelry made with precious or semi precious gemstones, see Sue. She does beautiful work and will even make custom designs upon request.


Parking is a breeze.  (Plenty and free.)  The location is easy to get to.  The only drawback for me was that there was a very limited number of organic producers, but that aside the produce was beautiful and local.

Definitely worth the trip.  Even if you aren’t from New Hope you’ll feel at home.


June 17, 2012

U is for Urban Farm (a.k.a. Contemplating Chickens)

Remember back in April when I was doing the A to Z blogging challenge and I stopped at T?  That’s because I got a block.  A mental block.  A bad one.  I went two months trying to figure out what the heck U could stand for.  Well guess what?  I’ve now made it to U and U is for Urban Farm.

When we originally bought our house seven years ago, in addition to falling in love with the house, I fell in love with the yard.  Actually, I fell in love with what the yard could become because at the time it was just a “big yard”.  In other words, a lot of grass.  I know it’s not for everyone, but to me, plain old grass is a waste when I could be growing something.  But at the time we bought the house I never envisioned that the “big yard” would transform into the garden it is today.  They say gardening is a process and that couldn’t be more true.  I’ve found that there may be a beginning, a place in time where our interest is sparked, but if you enjoy gardening, it will never be complete in the same way a painting or a meal or a song may be.  Gardening is a never-ending journey, so if you don’t enjoy the experience you’d better get off the ride!

It’s probably an understatement that I love gardening.  And while the term “gardening” used to cover pretty much everything: fruits, vegetables, flowers, annuals, perennials we now have separate terms for each type.

Until recently, “Urban Farm” was a gardening term I kind of scoffed at.  I envisioned an Urban Farm being a small house in the city with a tiny lot.  And on this farm they had a small barn, a dwarf cow, a dwarf horse, a miniature dog and a few stalks of corn in a miniature field.  Since then my concept of an Urban Farm has changed, as have my own gardens.  The small veggie garden changed into two raised beds and the fruits and veggies have expanded into the landscape.  There has been the addition of three grape vines, hardy kiwi, and in addition to the original red raspberries that came with the house, there are now golden raspberries and blackberries as well.  And then there’s the blueberry bush (bought a pair, lost one, still need to add another).  Oh, and there are pairs of both pear trees and apple trees.

You’d think that would be enough, but since I love to experiment with plants, it’s not.  Last Thursday my son’s baseball game got cancelled due to rain and thunderstorms.  I found this the perfect excuse to head to one of my favorite garden stores: Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply in St Paul.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I absolutely love this place.  Anyway, the little trip on Thursday evening to see what’s new expanded into going back this weekend with the truck to pick-up a peach tree, cherry tree and plum tree (not to mention a few other plants for the veggie garden).  And as if that’s not enough, I also signed-up for the Backyard Chicken class next weekend.

I know, I know, I might be crazy, but I’ve been contemplating chickens for quite a while now.  Add that to the fact that they had day-old chicks in the store (which were so darned cute) and it brings me closer to getting some.  (Yes, I realize they don’t stay chicks.)  So if I’m drawn to chickens, why haven’t I gotten them yet?  Well, I have been fearing a few things:

  1. I don’t like to get pecked.
  2. I was told chickens are messy.
  3. I was told chickens stink.
  4. I’m afraid Jake, my rescue dog from the Leech Lake Reservation who has BBs in his hindquarters (most likely from chasing chickens) might kill them.
  5. I live behind a nature center, so I’m afraid the raccoons, wood chucks (are they carnivores?), fox or coyotes might get ’em.
  6. I’m afraid I’ll be a bad chicken mom.

Well, while visiting Egg|Plant I talked to Bob, one of the owners, about my fears.  And he asked me one question.  “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  I said, “Either my dog or the other critters would kill the chickens.”  His response was, “Okay, now you know the worst thing that could happen.”  It took me a minute to process it, but he was right. I’ve worked myself up so badly about chickens dying that I haven’t been able to think past that point.  Thanks to Bob, I’ve now realized that the worst that could happen is that the chickens will die.  And if they do, and eventually, even if I care for them really well, they will, I can deal with it.   So now that I know that, I can quit focusing on it.  I can redirect my energy and focus on the chickens and the experience of having them.

So this morning, as I continued contemplating chickens, I looked out the window on my backyard.  That’s when it dawned on me that if I do this, if I get chickens, I’ll be crossing that line from an Urban Garden to an Urban Farm.  I don’t have a barn.  I don’t have miniature dogs or mini-fields, but I do have fruits and veggies and two full-sized dogs and a dwarf cat and after the chicken class next weekend, I might even have chickens.  I might become an Urban Farmer.  I just might.


June 14, 2012

Front Lawn: Community Builder or Barrier?

The other day I was reading something, somewhere about lawns.  Ha! Do you like where this is going? 🙂  Anyway, they mentioned that lawns, as much as we tend to them, aren’t very welcoming but instead are a barrier between us and our neighbors.  At first I completely disregarded this comment.  A barrier?!?  Come on!  Then after letting it sit for a while I started to think about it.  Hmm… Then I started making some observations and realized that I think they might be right.

As I’ve walked down the street and driven through neighborhoods I’ve been paying close attention to how people are using their lawns and what I found was that people don’t.  I’ve seen kids playing in them, whether it’s a game of catch or tag or simply sitting and chatting, but other than a select few, I rarely see adults in the lawn.  (Unless they’re mowing.)

I also started paying close attention to my own behavior and realized that I treat lawns like a glass wall.  If I’m walking down the block and see a neighbor out in their yard I’ll wave or say, “Hi”  but rarely will I walk across the lawn to talk to them.  I’ve found that I’ll even yell to them from the street (we don’t have public sidewalks in our neighborhood) before I’ll walk across their lawn.  And if I do think about walking over to them, before I step foot in the lawn I’ll search for a walkway, sidewalk or driveway to take instead.  And I’m not alone.  As I’ve been observing all of this, I realized that many other people are doing the same thing.  I’m lucky enough to live in a very friendly, close-knit neighborhood yet even in our neighborhood I’ve found almost all of the conversations on our block take place, not in our yards, but in the street.  And it’s not just in our neighborhood, I’ve seen it in other neighborhoods as well (except that in neighborhoods with public sidewalks the conversations take place on the sidewalk instead of the street).

Why do we do this?  Honestly I don’t know, but I don’t think these are conscious decisions. I do, however, think these are subconscious decisions.  For some reason lawns are not the welcoming green space we often refer to them as.  Instead, lawns have become almost untouchable, uninviting.

So that brings me to question why we have lawns.  I know I’ve told myself that its green space or play space or a space to relax, but what I’ve found is that I treat it more like a green moat, a space not to touch, not to cross, I look for a bridge to get me to the other side,  especially if the lawn is manicured.  Stepping on a manicured lawn is like walking on freshly vacuumed carpet, I don’t want to be the first to leave a foot print.

So what is it?  What is it about lawns that have become so untouchable?  And how to we change that?  Or should we change that?  Maybe untouchable is fine, but in this age of community building, untouchable lawns don’t seem to build much community, do they?  Some say fences in front yards build barriers, but I’m starting to wonder if it actually has the opposite effect.  Maybe fences are friendly because they have a gate, an opening, a place we know we can go and should go.  Plus, fences build curiosity, kind of like a secret garden: we can’t see it all, so our mind naturally wonders, “What’s on the other side?”  With wide open lawns, on the other hand, we could enter anywhere, but we don’t.  Instead we hesitate.  I find myself wondering whether I should walk on the lawn.  “Maybe there’s a preferred route?  Maybe the homeowner doesn’t want me on their lawn.”

Ever since I’ve had this “untouchable lawn revelation” if you will, I’ve started thinking about ways to make lawns more appealing and have come to this conclusion: maybe less lawn is more friendly.  Maybe, if there were perimeter gardens or flowerbeds or shrubs close to the street, with an inviting opening, a virtual gate, or even a structure, the lawn would be more welcoming and less threatening.  I also think if the lawn had a more defined purpose such as a pathway between flower beds or inside a “room” such as a perimeter of plantings under Adirondack chairs it would feel more like a rug or carpet in a room; something to come in, take your shoes off and get comfy on. Or maybe it’s a play area, an obvious play area with defined borders, maybe then it would be more welcoming.

So as my own space continues to evolve I’ll be thinking about the purpose of my lawn.  With each space I create I will ask, “How will it be used?”  Because if I can answer that question, if I can give my lawn a purpose, and design the space around it, I think I’ll be more likely to use my lawn myself and hopefully the glass wall will come down and others will want to use it too.


June 13, 2012

Protecting trees from deer

If you’ve been reading for a while you probably know by now that the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is one of my favorite places on earth.  Occasionally people will ask my why.  The reason is simple, I learn something almost every time I go there.

Last weekend, while my son was planting his garden, I took the trumpeter tram with a friend of mine.  While on the tram I learned many things, but the one I thought most readers would benefit from is a little trick the Arboretum does to protect young trees from deer browsing.

The best part is that it’s extremely simple.  Four re-bar posts placed in a square around the tree.  Check out the pictures for examples.

If you have problems with deer give it a try and let me know how it works!