Posts tagged ‘water’

April 21, 2013

Urban Farm Beginnings

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It’s hard to start an urban farm when… it won’t stop snowing!

What the heck is an Urban Farm?  Glad you asked!  Basically, an urban farm is, well, kind of like it sounds, a farm in an urban setting.  In other words, food production for personal or business use right here in the city.  Chances are if you haven’t already heard the term, you will in the near future.  The term is popping up almost as fast as the farms themselves.  Right now, in our area, they are limited to crops and chickens, however some areas have goats too.  From what I hear other small livestock are in line to be a part of this program too!  But just so everyone is clear… what you will see in my front yard is purely plant related.  The chickens are in back yard.  And I’m not sold on having goats yet… although, I might be interested in the Rent-A-Goat program down the road!

I have to be honest, when I started in the Urban Farming Certification Program, I didn’t really have a definite plan for my “farm” and the plan that I have now is still evolving, but one piece of what I want to do in my yard is plant the seed, so to speak, to get people thinking, realizing, that they too can grow at least some of their food in their yard too.  It doesn’t have to be the back.  It can be the front or the side.  You need to do what works for you.

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Here is a picture of what my yard looks like today.  Essentially a blank slate.  The space where I will be growing food has, quite honestly, been simply ignored pretty much since we moved in.  Over the past few years we lost two large, old elm trees, which took that space from mostly shaded, to full sun and the lawn from lush and green to simply fried. It could use some TLC and since there is an abundance of sun and space, why not grow food?

Regarding the space, for a point of reference, this space is about 60 feet wide by 60 feet long.  I won’t be farming the whole thing, at least not this year, but I will be farming a good portion of it, but any piece of what I’m going to be doing could be put into a smaller or larger scale yard.

Here are some of the challenges I face with this project, not necessarily in an order:

  1. Fencing: Find inexpensive, attractive, yet effective fencing or fencing alternatives to keep the deer and other wildlife that will do heavy damage out (we have a Nature Center behind us and a small lake a block to the North) while at the same time keeping it open enough to welcome people in.  This may include shrubs to provide food for both the wildlife and people as well as a barrier.
  2. Grading:  The grade change is not drastic, but it is currently sloping toward the driveway, the residential street in the front as well as the main street on the side.  This means I’m losing water to run-off (not good!).  I’m working on possible ways to alter the grade slightly to slow the water down and store it where it is most effective: in the ground.
  3. Curb Appeal: Since this garden will be in the front yard, I want to maintain, or in this case, add, curb appeal.  Granted, not everyone is going to love seeing a garden in the front yard, but part of my challenge is to make sure it’s not offensive to most (and hopefully if they get a tomato or two out of the deal it won’t bother them as much)!
  4. Maintain set-backs/easements:  You’ll notice we don’t have a public sidewalk in the front like many urban communities do.  At first this seems like a bonus, and while it is regarding additional space, there are still limitations as to what I can do in the “boulevard” space.  In fact, if I decide to alter the boulevard, I need to submit plans to the city, pay a one-time fee and apply for a permit.  They would need to approve the plan prior to starting the project.
  5. IMG_3834Maintain sight-lines:  Corner lots come with restrictions.  The most important restriction is to maintain a maximum height of 30 inches in a triangle going from the corner, fifty feet back on both sides of the corner and a line connecting those two points in order to not block the vision of vehicles turning into or out of our street onto the intersecting street.
  6. Water:  One goal I have is to capture and store the water that is on site, meaning, when it rains, I want to make sure I store as much of that water in the ground as possible.  I want to limit the amount of municipal water that is applied to this site by redirecting water from the downspout that is currently getting wasted or turning into run-off. At the same time I hope to eliminate current water puddling/ice nuisances.
  7. Community Space: As I mentioned before I want this space to be welcoming.  I want it to be welcoming for our neighbors who live here, welcoming for visitors and passersby.  I want to “plant the seed” for others to consider doing even a small piece of this.  I want it to be welcoming to the community and I may be holding classes and/or events in this space, so I want it to be a space people want to come to and hang out in.
  8. Art/Music:  I’ve had thoughts of including art and music.  I’m not sure what that will look like yet.  My son and I like the “READ” sign at the local library, I suggested we put “EAT” in our yard.  He suggested it be “EAT WELL”.  I like his idea better. 🙂
  9. Compost space: I will need to have a place to store compost.  I believe this may need to be on the other side of the fence, because if I recall correctly, compost cannot be in the front yard in our community according to city code.
  10. Permaculture: And finally, all of this needs to happen within the context of Permaculture, because my Urban Farming Certification is designed within the Permaculture framework.

So that’s where things stand today.  I’ve given a lot of thought over the past few months as to how best to go about this. I’m trying to accomplish this without spending a ton of money, because I want people to see that gardening doesn’t have to take a ton of time, labor or resources.  I’m also trying to figure out how to “work smarter, not harder”.  In other words, are there ways of doing this project that will be less detrimental to people, the environment and the soil and yet, still achieve the ultimate goal, which is an abundant urban farm?

I have some ideas, and the final plan will be posted soon.  Until then, I’ll give you all of those things to chew on, because even though “easy” can be nice sometimes, challenges encourage us to get creative!

All my best,

Kate

 

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February 2, 2013

Connectedness

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
When you take a breath what do you think about?

Do it again. This time, think about your breath and the air you breathe.
Where does it come from?
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Did you think about the plants and the trees?
I know. Many of us don’t want to stop and think about that. We feel weird. Or think others will think we’re weird.
But the plants and trees give us the gift of oxygen every second of our life.
And we, in return, give them carbon dioxide.
We have a relationship with the plants and the trees around us.

But it’s easy for us to forget.
It’s easy for us to forget that we have a relationship with the plants and trees on this planet.
But there’s more to it than that.
We have a relationship with every living species whether we want to admit it or not, we are connected.

When I stop to think about that, it makes me wonder, why is it then, that we find it so easy to abuse that relationship?
Why is it that we get so focused on “me” and lose focus on them?
Why do we find it so easy to ignore the earth and neglect the environment?

I know, some of us, myself included, like to think we’re being conscious of the environment. I recycle, I shut the lights off when I’m not using them, I don’t use chemicals in my yard, I compost and I try to be conscious of the Carbon Footprint I’m leaving behind, but the reality is, I like my life.

I like sitting on my iPad, typing away in my dining room, while the furnace runs to keep me warm on this frigid day. I like my car and the ability to go where I “need” to go whenever I want to.
I like the convenience of the stores that provide the “necessities” within a couple of miles of my home.

I like my life. And the reality is, to acknowledge that I’m connected to this planet, to the air, to the water, to the plants and the trees, and every living being from the microbes in the soil to the animals in the jungle on the other side of the world means I need to take responsibility for it.

Most of us would do anything to take care of our family and friends if they were in need. They are our blood, they hold a special place in our heart and we wouldn’t want to lose that. Yet to ask us to think about the earth, the environment or the living things around us is a different story. We take it for granted. In our lifetime, we’ve always had air to breathe, water at our disposal and food on our tables.

What if you chose not to feed your children or take care of an elderly grandparent or neighbor, how would you feel? Would you feel a pang of guilt in the pit of your stomach? Would you heart hurt knowing you’re neglecting them when you could be and should be doing something to help?

So why is it that when the plants and trees that supply the air that we breathe get neglected or the water that we take for granted that runs from our taps everyday gets wasted and when we abuse the resources that the environment provides for us, by using more than our “fair share” do we not feel equally guilty? Why do we find it so easy to disconnect ourselves from this?

What if we didn’t? What if, instead, when we go out the door or look up from our phones or out the windows of our house or cars, and we started paying attention to the air we breathe, the amount of water we use and the ways we could take care of the world around us a little better?
What if we treated the air, the water and the environment like family? Would you do anything differently? I know I would.

And when you really stop to think about it, we should. Because whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are connected. We’re connected to every living thing around us just like we’re connected to our families and friends. Yes, we have a direct relationship with some, and a more distant relationship with others, but it’s no different than the relationship we have with our parents versus our distant cousins. And while we might feel a tighter bond with our mother or father or siblings than we do with our great aunt she is still family nonetheless.

So let’s pretend, even if it’s just for a moment, that the air is our mother, the water our father, the soil our siblings and the oil our grandparents. Let’s pretend we love them and value them the same as we do our families. Let’s pretend we care. Because if we do, we might change how we treat them. We may start paying attention to them. We may begin feeding them, nurturing them and watching out for them. We may restore the neglected relationship we have and start living in harmony again.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we are connected to the entire world around us. Let’s pretend that if we care for that world, that it will care for us.

Because guess what? She’s not called Mother Nature for nothing. We are connected.

Kate

November 2, 2012

End of The Challenge: Final Reflections, Life Lessons and New Habits Going Forward

The 8 Weeks to a Better You! Challenge ended this past Saturday, October 27th, but I have to say that I learned a lifetime of lessons on this challenge.

Last week, in Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2, I posted the first two lessons I learned:

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

Then, in The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, I posted the next few lessons I learned:

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Not wanting to drag out the lessons forever, I thought I’d do a quick summary of the rest of the lessons I learned.  As a refresher, here are The Rules:

  1. Get at least 45 minutes of exercise per day.
  2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Drink 8 glasses of water per day
  4. No sugar, no white flour
  5. No soda, fast food, junk food
  6. Eat at least 2 fruits and 2 veggies per day
  7. No eating after 8pm
  8. Journal daily
  9. Read at least 15 minutes of scripture or uplifting reading each day
  10. Do at least one Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness or  each day

And, here’s what I learned:

  1. Exercise is my friend.  This challenge, I decided to take it easy on the exercise.  I have a tendency to push myself too hard, which usually means injury or burn-out.  When I was trying to figure out what I would do for exercise I knew I needed something I could sustain for eight weeks. I thought of the story The Turtle and The Hare.  I chose walking.  Ironically enough I’ve had two doctors tell me not to run, just walk, I actually listened.  I loved it, looked forward to it and missed it when I didn’t do it, just like a friend.
  2. Exercise in the morning.  I realized that if I don’t exercise in the morning, I usually won’t do it.  I learned that I love my morning walks, it wakes me up, fills my lungs with fresh air and lets me sort out my thoughts and plan my day.  When I’m done, my mind is clear and I feel good.
  3. Not enough sleep is not enough sleep.  With eight weeks to practice getting 7 hours of sleep, I paid close attention to what I felt like when I did get enough sleep and the days that I didn’t.  And now that I know what it feels like to get at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, I’ve learned that my patience, creativity, understanding and happiness depends greatly upon how much sleep I get.  If I don’t get enough I’ll be setting myself up for disaster the next day.
  4. Water is key.  I’ve always had a tough time drinking enough water in a day, or rather, tracking how much water I drink, but I used a few tricks this time.  I have a couple of 16 oz. “beer glasses” at home.  I realized that if I drink four of those in a day I’m done.  And the nice thing is, most restaurants serve water in the same glasses so whether I’m home or out and about I can still keep tabs on it.  The other trick, as crazy as it sounds, is that I like to sip hot water.  I grab a coffee mug and sip away just like I would a cup of coffee.  If I combine my pint glasses and a couple of cups of hot water throughout my day, I know I’m set.  Amazingly, I now rank hydration right up there with sleep.  Being hydrated makes me feel fresh and energized.  When I get enough water I’m not groggy, my skin looks full (for a lack of a better way to put it) and I feel good.
  5. Sugar and white flour are not your friend.  Oh, I know they are tempting, trust me.  Pre-challenge I had the sweetest of sweet tooths and love bread and pasta.  What I’ve learned though, is that when I eat white sugar and white flour I feel hallow.  I have cravings that don’t stop, but when I replace white sugar with honey, agave, etc. and replace white flour with whole grain flours or other grain flours I feel satisfied without cravings.  I feel in control.
  6. Soda, fast food and junk food are poison.  I know it sounds extreme.  Everyone knows that these things “aren’t healthy”, but we still eat them.  I focused a lot of my energy in the past 8 weeks on food and it’s downright appalling that most of the stuff on grocery store shelves is legal much less labeled as “food”.  Food is nourishment for your body.  The junk that fills the middle of our stores is not food, it does not nourish our bodies and in most cases we can go so far as to say they are toxic.  There is study after study that shows that this is the stuff that causes Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, contributes to ADD, ADHD, the list goes on.  What’s sad is that so many of us trust that if we find it on our store shelves it is okay to eat.  Wrong.  Basically it’s there because it won’t kill you, today, but keep eating it day in and day out and you’re just running an experiment, waiting to see which disease you will get. We all have to do our due diligence to read labels.  If it has more than 5 ingredients, has “hydrogenated” anything, high-fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back!  If you happen to frequent fast food restaurants, do yourself  favor, go online and look up the nutritional information for the things you usually order, if they’re bad, find some alternates and circle them.  Keep them in your car so you aren’t tempted to order the bad stuff when you go there.  And please, skip the soda, especially diet.  Your body and bones will thank you.
  7. I love coffee in the morning. The Challenge eliminated coffee.  They lumped it in with soda, because of the caffeine, which I personally had issue with because there are so many bad things about soda and no redeeming qualities, but I’ve found more benefits than drawbacks to drinking coffee.  In any case I ditched coffee for about 6 of the 8 weeks, that is until I discovered a link to coffee having a calming effect with my personality type, the reverse effect that it has on most people.  Like anything though, too much of a good thing is… too much.  Going forward I’ll keep it to two cups a day.
  8. Fruits and veggies are miracle workers.  I mentioned in my previous post, The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, why plants are good for us.  Go there, read the post, watch the movies listed in the post.  Not to sound dramatic, but it just might save your life.
  9. Vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.  As I navigated my way through food over the course of the past eight weeks, I started looking into a variety of diets.  Not diets in the sense of dieting, but diets in the sense of the way of eating.  When I realized I should be eating more plants, I naturally made my next stop at Vegetarian websites, cookbooks and magazines.  I found some great new recipes, have since subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine but soon realized that “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” like I thought it did.  The vegetarian diet still allows for junk food, processed foods and foods high in fat.  So while vegetarian can be better, I still need to make sure it’s healthy.
  10. Eating out is a challenge.  A couple of weeks ago I went out with a few girlfriends for dinner.  I had decided before we got there that I was going to look for the vegetarian items on the menu to make choosing my meal a little easier.  Sadly, other than a salad, my options were veggie flat-bread (which was really good) or cream cheese stuffed, deep-fried mushrooms.  Tasty?  Yes.  Healthy?  Not by a long-stretch.  Menus are gradually changing, restaurants are gradually adding more organic food and healthier options, but we still have a really long way to go.  Unfortunately, if we all keep ordering the other stuff, the owners and chefs think that’s what we want.  If we want change, we need to request healthier options both in restaurants and in grocery stores.
  11. 8pm has become the witching hour.  I realize until I did the challenge, how frequently I used to snack after 8pm.  Thankfully this challenge taught me to plan better.  I try to eat dinner a little earlier, leaving enough time to get a snack in by 8pm which tides me until bedtime.  If I find myself getting hungry after 8pm I drink a glass of water or simply head to bed (depending on the time).  I realized that often times I would eat when I was up too late.
  12. Journaling is cheaper than a therapist.  It’s amazing the healing effect that jotting your thoughts on paper can have.  Whether its daily frustrations, random thoughts, future plans or what have you, journaling can really help clear your mind so you can continue with your day.
  13. Take time to read scripture or something uplifting. So many people I know say they don’t have time to read.  I used to be one of those people too, but when I saw “15 minutes” in the rules I thought, “I can squeeze in 15 minutes.”  Some days it can feel impossible, but I found if I could squeeze it in the reward is so worth it and often it makes me want to read more.
  14. Random Acts of Kindness are addictive and contagious.  I love to see people smile.  And one of the easiest ways to make someone smile is to be kind to them, but sometimes we can do a million kind things and not even get a glance, or acknowledgement, much less a smile.  Sometimes people don’t respond the way we think they should and that’s okay.  To truly do an Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness it takes letting go of expectations.  Doing it just to do it.  Not for recognition, not for reward, not so we can run and tell someone that we did it or so we can get a pat on the back.  Simply doing it to be kind to someone else.  If we go into it in that manner it will feel good no matter what the response and that feeling is highly addictive.  And what’s better is that once you get in the habit of being kind for no reason at all, it becomes easier and easier to do it.  And I’ve found, that when you are kind to others, that kindness is returned, not from the same people necessarily, but from others, almost as though kindness is contagious.  It keeps spreading until it comes back to you.  Karma, I guess you might say.
  15. I choose friends over rules.  The bond of friendship is far more important than any rule we might put upon ourselves.  If I’m offered dessert, thoughtfully made by my Mother, or if a friend asks, on the spur of the moment, if I would like to join her for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop when I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee, I’ll always answer, yes.

There you have it, eight weeks of life lessons packed into three blog posts.  Hopefully, despite their lengthiness, you found some value, some tidbit to brighten your day or something to make you think.

I wish you a thoughtful, joyful day packed with your own life lessons and healthy habits.

Peace,

Kate

October 4, 2011

What now? Water ’til winter!

As the temperatures drop and the gardening season fades….. wait, WHAT?!?!?

Remind me, what is the date?  What season is this?  It’s October… in Minnesota…  and it was 80 degrees yesterday, its supposed to be 85 degrees today, 80 degrees tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and the day after that.  It’s pretty odd to have gorgeous fall color and 80 degree temps in Minnesota right now, but I’ll tell ya what, I’ll take it!

Honestly, when the cool weather hit a couple of weeks ago I was totally ready for fall.  I absolutely love fall, but I also know what follows it, so if Mother Nature offers a few extra days of summer you won’t hear me complaining!  I’ll be honest though, it’s kind of confusing.  Ummm… what now? Should I be planting or doing fall clean-up?  The answer would be BOTH!

Now is an ideal time to plant spring blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, scilla, crocus…. you get the picture.  It’s also the perfect time to plant garlic!

Okay, so what if you’re really not into either of those and nice weather or not, you’re done gardening for the season?  Then what?  It’s really easy to call it quits this time of the year.  A lot of people are just worn out and their gardens are “done”.  As much as it is tempting to let things go, it’s incredibly important to continue watering trees, shrubs and perennials to help them prepare for winter.

Remember the Water, water, water! post back in June?  Well, here we are again!

Trees, shrubs and perennials are the backbone of our yards.  They provide structure, shade, protection from winter winds and “winter interest” and yet they also tend to blend into the background and get forgotten.  I, for one, am guilty of taking them for granted and almost forget that they need attention, especially in the fall.

The past few weeks have been really dry and dry plants get stressed.  Stressed plants have less of a chance of surviving the winter and a better chance of experiencing winter die-back.  Water gives them strength, helps them better survive frost and winter temps.

So how late in the season should you water?  Water until the ground is frozen (typically some time in November).

Seriously.  Water until you can’t water any more, then put away the hoses and shut off the faucets.  You’re plants will thank you.

Kate