Saturday, April 25, 2020

It's Not All Unicorns and Rainbows

"A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself."
-May Sarton

As you look at the mass amounts of photos in the recaps of the last three years it's easy to look at those and say, "Man, this James the urban farmer guy has this whole thing figured out, look at him go!"  While I know more than I did when I started doing this, the reality is I still know very little compared to a lot of other people who farm for a living.  There's so much to know and a lot of it can be very specific to the area that you live in.  One of these days when I feel like my farming knowledge is more up to snuff it would be really fun to travel to a different part of the country (or a different country completely) and try and do the same thing just to see if I can do it and if it's just like starting from square zero again.  Behind those great looking photos that you saw in my previous posts is a lot of hard work along with quite a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.  It's way too easy to only focus on the positive aspects of the urban farm and to spin it as a complete walk in the park.  I'm trying fairly hard to put a realistic view on everything that goes into trying to gain independence from the major food system that's in place in the U.S.  As I was putting together those previous posts I realized one major thing was lacking in my photos and also from the recaps:  failures.  Each year there are so many things that go wrong and I generally don't want to remember them but for the purposes of this blog I do want to put extra effort into trying to highlight those as best as I can just to show everyone who may somehow stumble across this blog that it takes a lot more than just throwing seeds in the ground (although that has worked for me in the past).  Going forward I'll be making an extra effort to take photos of things that fail or go horribly wrong (this makes me cringe just thinking about it).  You also probably noticed some out of place photos in those recaps, such as the San Francisco and Panama photos.  You would most certainly be correct in calling me out and telling me that those photos don't have a place in this urban farming blog.  If that is what you're thinking though the thing you're failing to realize and the reason that statement is completely and utterly wrong is that this is James the urban farmer's blog and I'm just going to go ahead and put whatever I want in here and write about whatever the hell I feel like.  If you don't like that then go ahead and find yourself a different blog to entertain yourself, the world will keep on spinning and I'll keep on writing.  As a result, there are probably going to be some posts and photos that seem out of place from time to time.  Deal with it (or don't, I don't care).

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Third Full Season Recap (2019) - Part III

"Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors." 
– Mary Cantwell

Part Three of Three

The never ending harvest continues... (September 2019):

Bags of produce on patio table

I was ecstatic that the onions and dill worked out well, I hadn't had much luck with onions in the previous years and I hadn't tried dill before (September 2019):

Harvest on a table

Eggplant is another item that hasn't worked out for me in previous years (September 2019):
Lots of eggplant this year though!

Prolific Eggplant Plant

Thursday, April 16, 2020

March - Pandemic 2020: When the World Started to Almost End (Again)

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered: "Man.  Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” - Dalai Lama

Honey Bee on Purple Crocus
Honey bee going to gather pollen from a purple crocus in the wildflower yard!

March of 2020 was really just when the U.S. started catching up to the rest of the world with the Coronavirus Pandemic and in true American fashion we took it upon ourselves to show the rest of the world up and be #1 with this pandemic by having more cases than any other country.  America is always trying to be #1, except for things that really matter such as education and healthcare.  We went from seeing Coronavirus as being a far off threat, to watching it slowly creep across the globe, to it hammering normal lives everywhere and bringing the economy to a screeching halt.  By the end of March schools were closed, unemployment skyrocketed to record high levels seemingly overnight, small business owners are left wondering how they're going to keep their businesses afloat, non-essential businesses were ordered to close, states were starting to impose "Stay at Home Orders", meaning you are not to leave home aside from "essential" services or needs, sports were cancelled, churches closed, grocery store shelves were empty, you felt like you won the powerball if you were able to snag any toilet paper or cleaning supplies, hospitals were starting to fill up, shortages of masks and gowns, doctors and nurses were and still are working around the clock and don't have the supplies they need to treat people, morgues are running out of space, panic buying ensues, roads were more or less empty, Tiger King was the talk of the town.  Basically people were freaking out and not sure how to respond to something like this.  It's way too easy to focus on all the negative aspects of what has happened and what is continuing to happen in the world currently, but it's more important than ever to point out all of the good that is happening.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Third Full Season Recap (2019) - Part II

"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden."
– Minnie Aumonier

Part Two of Three

Everything's looking pretty good (July 2019):

Urban farm overview photo

How tall will the sunflowers grow (July 2019):
Seriously, how tall are these suckers going to get, I thought they were only supposed to be knee-high sunflowers?!?!

6 foot tall trellises with sunflowers behind them almost as tall

I will take all of the broccoli please (July 2019):
Have I mentioned yet that I really, really love broccoli?!

large head of brocolli still growing with large leaves

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Third Full Season Recap (2019) - Part I

"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece." 
– Claude Monet

Part One of Three

After the second season the main thing on my mind was how in the world do I keep the weeds under control so I don't have to spend all of my free time weeding (even then the weeds were still sprouting up everywhere)?  A friend of mine owns and runs Micro Farms Colorado where he turns peoples yards into urban farms then gives each house a share of the food and he sells the rest at local markets and to restaurants.  I was down at his place and while we were cleaning up some of his produce we got to talking about weeds and about different ways of managing them and he brought up landscaping fabric and he showed me how he uses it and how it's worked out well so far for him.  It looked like a fantastic idea and fairly easy to set-up and once it's setup you shouldn't have to replace it for at least 5 years (if you get the good kind of landscaping fabric).  It's permeable so water goes through it when it rains, it blocks out the light to keep the weeds from growing and it also traps the moisture in the ground a bit better, so if you live in an extremely dry climate such as in Colorado it keeps moisture in the ground and keeps you from having to water quite so much, which is always a plus!  Once the landscaping fabric is down though you can't really till anymore unless you pull up the landscaping fabric.  Tilling has been something that I've been wanting to experiment with getting away from since it disturbs the soil and disrupts the environment that the organisms, worms, etc. have going on in the soil.  Tilling also puts weed seeds back into the soil, if you till year after year, you'll likely get a lot more weeds than someone who doesn't till (if they stay on-top of the weeds that is).  After two years of tilling and growing vegetables the ground is a lot looser so I wasn't worried about trying not tilling as an experiment to see what happens.  I bought some landscaping fabric of my own, tilled one more time, rolled it out and planted the seeds.  Here's what happened: