Archive for ‘Urban Farm’

July 21, 2013


As I was doing my daily walk through in the garden today, checking for ripe or ripening fruits and veggies, signs of insects, and the need for water, I noticed some wilted squash vines.

My stomach fell. I kept looking, scanning all of the squash vines trying to figure out how many got hit. I was certain it was squash vine borer. Upon closer inspection of the longest wilting vine, I lifted part of it to start looking for the point of entry and found that the vine was completely disconnected from the rest of the plant. Somehow it had gotten broken off. I thought it was odd, but then remembered that we got rain this morning, maybe the storm was stronger than I thought. As I walked around I continued to find more wilted vines. I switched my thought process. It looked like they were cut. All of them were on the street side so I started thinking it was a person who did it. A garden hater. A squash hater. Maybe they don’t like the vines trailing into the yard. Stupid garden haters.

It took my husband pointing out that it seemed a little odd that someone would just cut watermelon. He suggested that it seemed a little too specific. Watermelon haters! Okay, really? Even I couldn’t believe that. I continued scanning the dismembered vines and realized that whoever did this was definitely after the watermelon. They went under, over and in between other squash vines to get to them, cut them off and leave them for dead. At this point I was wishing it had been squash vine borer damage. At least I would have been able to do a little surgery to the vine and get it on its way to recovery. But not this. Cut and done. I found only a couple of vines untouched: those riding along the top of the straw bales. Based on the way they were cut, I’m thinking rabbits did the damage.

That and the fact that they left this.


When I found this teeny weenie watermelon with bites out of it, I was ticked. A deer would have eaten the whole thing, even if it were not sweet.

A friend asked tonight if I swear at the rabbits. My response?
“You mean calling them little effers and telling them to stay the hell away from my plants if they know what’s good for them and they better watch their backs because I’m totally sending the dogs out to kill them? Nope. I don’t”

So I guess my time was coming, being so bold as to plant in my front yard, but after I finished up cleaning up the dismembered vines and balling in them up in a fury that my arms are still paying for, I sprinkled a little more deer and rabbit deterrent around the perimeter and said a little prayer that it keeps them at bay.


That and I plan on swiping my son’s night vision binoculars and parking myself in a chair with a sling shot.

Until next time,

July 9, 2013

Rise With The Son

My son is an early riser. He has been since the day he was born, nearly nine years ago. And every day since then I have cringed that he’s an early riser. That is, until today.

You see, today we started harvesting from our little farm in the city, the little urban farm, the front yard garden, the straw bale garden. But today we did it a little too late. We got out there late in the morning, after the rain stopped, and harvested salad greens and kohlrabi. Then we started “processing” our greens; harvest, cool, triple wash, dry, weigh, bag and cool. Along the way we did a little sampling. We were disappointed to find some of our greens were bitter. This can happen for a few reasons: the greens got too big, they are not heat tolerant varieties (ours are) or they were harvested too late in the day. So we sorted through our greens, figured out which ones were still sweet and which went bitter. Although we got a nice harvest, we composted an unfortunate amount of bitter greens and decided that tomorrow we’re starting earlier, before the sap in the lettuce goes bitter from the heat.


I can’t tell you how many days since starting this adventure in January, that I’ve gained so much respect for the farmers who grow and supply us with food every day. They rise with the sun, go to bed with the sun and work every hour in between. We’re trying to plan a little road trip this summer and it’s stressing me out. I can’t stop thinking that I might be gone when my harvest will be at it’s peak. And if spring had been “normal” I would be closer to my original harvest schedule, but it wasn’t normal and having put all of this time and energy into the garden this year, I want to minimize as much loss as possible. And… assuming I’ll be able to sell some of the produce, it would be a shame to miss that opportunity as well. This experience has made me realize just how connected to the land farmers really are. They are caring for our food from the day the seed hits the soil until the day the crop comes out of the ground. They know when it is too early to harvest, too late and when it is just right. It has also reminded me why school starts when it does in the fall and ends when it does in the spring. It has made me realize that when you are growing a garden for your family it doesn’t matter so much when your crops hit peak harvest, but if you are growing for others, or for your livelihood, it does. This experience has made me wonder if I will still want to do this again next year when I get to the end of this season (I’m pretty sure I will). And it’s made me realize that food really isn’t all that expensive when you realize the time in planning, planting, tending, watering, harvesting and proper handling that goes into it. Are those fresh greens or those tomatoes worth the money they are asking for them? Um, yes. And probably more!


It’s funny, when you begin to walk a day in someone else’s shoes, you begin to gain perspective into their life and have a different appreciation for who they are and what they do. Somehow, we become a little more connected, even if it’s just a better understanding of each other.


Before I go to bed tonight I will say a little prayer, thanking all of the farmers for the food they have grown that has nourished me for so many years when I was too busy worrying about other things to stop and genuinely thank them for what they do.

And then, tomorrow, I will rise with my son and we will begin to harvest again.


June 25, 2013

Dripping Springs Ollas


The attached chart shows approximate coverage and depth for the Ollas I am using in the 4×4 raised bed on the Urban Farm this year.

Dripping Springs Ollas site has a where to buy section if you are interested in trying them.


June 18, 2013

Urban Farm Update

Back in April I introduced you to my bare front yard and the beginning of my urban farm.

Quite a bit of time has passed since then and there’s been a lot going on, so let’s see how far we’ve come, shall we?

As I was waiting for spring to come and mulling over the possibilities of the design and method of starting my farm, I attended Joel Karsten’s seminar on Straw Bale Gardens and bought his book.  That led to a few phone calls, which lead to this.


Eighty five straw bales getting delivered to my home.  No, I didn’t plant all 85.  I ordered extra for some of my friends and family that are “doing the bales” as well.  I’m only using 40.

But before ordering the straw bales, I had to make a final decision on which design I was going to go with.  After toying with a few ideas I decided that I really liked one of the keyhole garden designs from the book Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, which looks like this.


I modified it a little to work with straw bales, add a couple of openings for access both for logistical and community purposes and ended up with this.


It’s a little geometric with the bales, but part of my long-term plan is to turn at least some of the straw bales into traditional keyhole beds. At that point the overall design will begin to look more like the design from Gaia’s Garden, which is a modified mandala garden.  Another thing I’m trying to achieve with this garden is to make it partially a perennial, edible food forest garden and partially an annual food garden.  In addition to planting the straw bales, I am adding fruiting shrubs as well as annual and perennial food and flowers for both pollination and for attracting beneficial insects in the areas between four of the horseshoe-shaped beds.

You would think that would be enough to keep me busy this summer, but having a little bug for trying new things, I also decided to add a four-foot raised bed from Organic Bob.  You see, part of my plan for this space is to make it a learning space and I wanted to include a learning space specifically for children.  Turns out this raised bed was the perfect solution for that.  And not to go on about the bed itself, but one of the things that makes this bed unique is that you can plant in the sides as well as the top, and orientated the right way, you can take advantage of the sun and shade, planting heat-loving plants on the South side and those preferring it a little cooler on the North side.  Nothing like playing with your food before it even hits your plate!


In the above picture, you will find two clay circles sticking out of the soil. Those are Ollas. Ollas are unglazed clay vessels that you “plant” into the soil when you are planting the rest of your garden.  The vessel gets filled with water which gradually seeps out into the surrounding soil both benefiting the plants by encouraging deep roots, making them less susceptible to drought and minimizing surface watering, thus cutting down on nutrient loss as well.  From what I understand, the only drawback in our climate is that they need to be dug up in the fall because if they are left in the ground over the winter they will crack.  I’m pretty excited about them because they can be used in every climate, probably even more effective or beneficial in hotter climates, which is where, if I’m not mistaken, they were originally developed.


This is what my Ollas look like, but they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  I got mine here, but they can be found in other areas and there are DIY methods of making them from clay pots as well.

Well, I think that covers the highlights of what’s going on with my little farm in the city.

Until next time, enjoy the sunshine and envision an abundant season!