Friday, March 11, 2022

Looking Back and Looking Forward: 2021 in Review

Radish mania at the beginning of June 2021

2021 came and went in the blink of an eye.  I swear time moves faster the older I get.  Hours seem like seconds, days seem like minutes and a year passes as if it's the snap of your fingers.  It was another excellent year on the urban farm.  A crap ton of food was grown.  719.19 lbs (326.22 kilos) of food to be exact, which is on-par with last year.  The row covers worked out famously as there were fresh salad greens right up until the end of December.  Both deep freezers are currently still stocked with frozen veggies.  With how long the salad greens lasted, I didn't even start getting into the frozen veggies until January of this winter, which is insane.  I'm actually still going through frozen veggies that I packed in 2020.  Which is very exciting and a great sign that I'm growing way more food than my house can eat.  Each year I'm working towards utilizing the space more and being even more productive than the last.  On the flip side I'm pretty sure I spent more on food at the grocery store this year than I have in the prior years, which is not what I was expecting but it is what it is.  I haven't fully added up those numbers yet to be sure but from an initial glance it appears that way.  That's okay though, this is all one giant learning experience and I know exactly how I can flip that around, small steps each and every day.

It was a great and whirlwind of a year on the urban farm.  The majority of the plants thrived and the ones that did not was mostly my fault.  I chose to not grow corn this year and to expand the squash patch.  In prior years the corn hasn't turned out well and it takes a lot of water, so ditching it in favor of growing more squash seemed like a great idea.  The problem with squash is powdery mildew, which definitely affected all of the squash plants this year.  I haven't figured out a good, natural way of preventing powdery mildew from forming in the first place.  I'm not worried about it though, the squash plants still produce a lot.  It seems like something that will likely work itself out over time as the crops are rotated each year and more compost is put down which is building the soil health.  Perhaps there's a needed nutrient that squashes need to fight off powdery mildew which is currently not present in the soil but time will allow it to build up.  The cucumbers were non-existent and I had to buy some cucumbers from my favorite local farm in order to make pickles this year.  They didn't grow because the volunteer dill crowded them out.  I thought the dill and cucumbers would play nice with each other since they go so well together in pickles, apparently that is not so and dill will crowd out the cucumbers.  Lesson learned, don't let the volunteer dill go wild.  I'll have to keep it more under control next year and there's sure to be even more volunteer dill then.  The cabbages did surprisingly well.  They were in an area that's mostly shaded and is bordered by weeds so I wasn't expecting them to do so great.  They surprised me and grew as they normally do and I had a ton of cabbage.  I grew potatoes in grow bags this year and placed those in an area that has utility lines which is basically a grass strip in the middle of the urban farm (much to my dismay).  The grow bags for potatoes worked out great and was probably my most successful potato harvest yet.  Still not stellar but it's trending in the right direction.  The hanging baskets did well, most had flowers on them and I started them all from seed fairly early in the year.  I also started a bunch of marigolds from seed early on and got those out in the garden as early as possible to help the plants fight off pests, which worked out famously.  This was the least amount of pests I've had in the urban farm thus far!  I circled the firepit with the dahlias which was fun.  The dahlias need full sun so they were very happy and it's fun sitting around a fire while you're surrounded with beautiful flowers.  Beans were planted with the squash, which helped to boost my bean production while trying to keep the squash happy.  I think I need to plant more beans in with the squash next year along with more flowers.  More strawberries were planted to make strawberry patch 2.0.  They are alpine strawberries and were started from seed.  They were quickly overtaken by weeds and sunflowers but they didn't mind and survived.  We'll see what they look like come spring but I'm planning on starting more from seed this year and planting more out there to hopefully build up to a second full strawberry patch over time. The few alpine strawberries we got were very tasty.  Around 12 berry bushes were planted on the west side of the urban farm early this year.  Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  Over time those will act as a wind break but perennial roots also get very, very deep so they will help break up and build up the soil over time.  The handful of berries that we got this first year were very delicious and I can't wait until those plants are bigger and more productive.  The asparagus didn't seem to take this year, I'll try again next year.  I'm going to try and get those interspersed with the strawberry patch 2.0.  Asparagus is delicious.  Oh, I also tried making dandelion wine for the first time ever, and it turned out freaking amazing.  More info on that at a later date.  Who knows what next year will hold but I'm going to attempt to grow passion flowers and maybe even grapes and/or hops will make a grand entrance.  A honey bee hive will most certainly be finding it's way to the urban farm.  I might make some archways for plants to grow up so I can delve more into vertical gardening.  There's a lot up in the air and we'll see what actually happens.  A lot happened on the urban farm this year but even more happened off of it and out in the real world.

I've spent the last two years looking back on past societies and cultures and reading up on how they've dealt with pandemics and how it changed their world.  Which has been fun to do.  Recently, I find myself doing the opposite, looking forward and wondering what future societies will think of this time that we are currently living in.  What will the history books say about our society, our life, our culture, our people.  We're living in such a small blip of time when you look at the history of the world so it's a fun philosophical mind experiment to zoom in and out on different parts of that timeline: past, present and future and have yourself a good ol' fashion think off!  Only time will tell what the future actually holds.  All that I know for sure is what I'm currently working on at this very point in time and what I'm working towards in the future.  I'll get there by small steps each and every day, there's no other way.  There's no point in new years resolutions, although it is a good time to reflect.  Nothing magical happens at midnight at the end of the year.  The next year starts off the exact same as the prior year ended.  The only way to change your life is one small step after another, each and every day, always striving to make the most out of your life.

This year is going to be better than last year, I've made a lot of progress with these small steps and I've made a lot of them.  A whole lot has been knocked off my to-do list.  I've also added a lot onto my to-do list, but my to-do list is no longer as stagnant as it once was.  Stagnation breeds disease, if flowing is constantly happening then that is progress.  Water that is stagnant becomes dirty, slimy and brings mosquitoes.  Water that is continuously flowing stays nice, crisp and clean.  The blog continues to progress, which I have a ridiculous amount of fun with, a lot more than I ever would have thought.  I just added a How to Cook section bringing this to a one-stop shop and a completely free resource showing you how to grow, preserve, and cook your own food.  Even if it doesn't get used a whole lot at the moment, it will be there for the future and if anyone ever wants that information it will always be free.  A lot of people charge fees for this exact same information, but this is basic information that everyone should have equal access to, regardless of their disposable income and it has potential to change a lot of lives for the better, if people want to put the effort into learning those skills that is.  I've been playing around with making more videos, which has also been a lot of fun and is challenging to try and make informative, useful videos that are also fun to watch.  Here is a recent one that was made, each one is better than the last so ... progress.  The audio has been particularly challenging but I think I've got that down now!  Basically I'm just trying to have a lot of fun with making all of this information free to the public and I am successfully having a lot of fun with it.  There has also been a lot happening in the world this year.

2021 certainly started off with a bang and the hits kept on coming with shootings and fire and death all of which hit very close to home for me, some quite literally.  It's been a rough few years in the world and 2021 did not let up on that and it has me very skeptical of 2022, but this year is going to be better than the last year, one small step at a time.  My saving grace in all of this is that I have direct control over how I react to everything that happens.  Nobody can affect how I react except for myself.  I am the only one that chooses that and there's so much comfort in that.  No matter how crappy the world gets, my reaction is always in my control.  I can choose to dwell on the not so great things that have happened in this world or I can simply acknowledge them and move on while also acknowledging all of the goodness that is simultaneously happening in this world.  The shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder that I used to frequent, spurred an outpour of support from the community all looking out for each other and trying to help each other out in every way possible.  The scene at the aftermath of shootings is always surreal and hard to get yourself to go to.  But once you actually go there, there's such an overwhelming sense of goodness whether it be the crosses for the victims that seem to appear out of thin air overnight which the community then decorates.  Or the grief counselors praying and talking with whomever needs it.  Or musicians walking around serenading the sobbing crowd.  Or people putting flowers and notes on the crime scene fencing turning very drab temporary fencing into a beautiful and endless wall of flowers.  Unfortunately this year had more death in-store.

The passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a hard one for me because quite simply I had known him and talked to him quite a few times previously on my journey that is life and he had a tremendous impact on me, for the better.  Arch didn't care who you were, what your social status was, or any of that superficial crap.  He didn't see himself as being above anyone else, despite the fact that everyone looks up to him and he has a Nobel peace prize to his name.  It didn't matter if you were the president of the United States, the Dalai Lama or some random college kid trying to figure out the game of life, he treated each and every person the exact same and with the utmost respect.  He would just sit down with you and have conversations and loved to hear about other peoples lives.  He didn't shy aware from sharing his thoughts or what he believed in.  He also did not care the least bit about your beliefs, which I always found quite intriguing seeing as he's literally an Archbishop.  If you asked him about his beliefs he would most certainly tell you but what you believe did not matter one iota to him and he did not look down upon you if your beliefs differed from his.  He had such a profound impact on this world and he positively affected quite a lot of people, including myself, and he is after all just one single person.  He was the living, breathing example in my life that one person can make a difference.  It doesn't matter what your background is or where you come from.  If you believe in something enough, you can change this world but it won't be an easy road, nothing in this world comes easy.  I can choose to be sad about Arch's transition from life to death and dwell on it or I can open my eyes further and see all of the great things that everyone in the world is saying about Arch, bringing to light the significant impact, he had on this world.  I can choose to look back on his teachings and the life he lived and learn from it.  I can choose to realize that this one single person gave this world everything he had to try and improve humanity as much as possible.  I can choose to dwell on the negative of a great human being passing or I can simply acknowledge and accept it then focus on all of the positive things this great person gave the world.  Arch may no longer be with us in the physical sense but his spirit, teachings, and laughter will live on in the hearts of a whole lot of people in this world which will be a driver for positive change for a long time to come.  A person passes when they are no longer with us in the physical sense but they don't truly die until their name and wisdom are no longer in the minds of anyone still breathing on the earth.  It will be a very, very, very long time until Arch has truly passed.  It wouldn't be a true pandemic year without one more tragedy occurring close to home.

At the end of this year there was a fire that broke out just south of Longmont.  It was a warm day, I was out hiking doing a 9 mile out and back hike (4.5 miles each way).  It was extremely windy with trees literally falling down around me as I hiked, which is always fun and scary at the same time but it keeps you on your toes and living very much in the moment.  When I got to the turn around point I looked back on the trail and saw smoke just over the ridge from where I was.  Wildfire smoke is very distinct, at a glance it looks just like low hanging clouds but then you realize that the big cloud is rising up from the land and it moves quite differently from normal clouds.  I couldn't tell how far away it was but it didn't seem that far away as it appeared to be just over a ridge.  I couldn't see any flames so that was good but with the winds easily being over 50 mph and gusts exceeding 75 mph I knew if I was remotely close, the fire could very easily whip over the ridge and I would find myself in an extremely bad situation very fast.  I hiked back double speed while keeping an eye on the smoke and fortunately my hike ended well.  As I exited the mountains I could see exactly where the fire was and my initial reaction was "oh shit, this does not look good."  I got home and pulled up the local news and found out that the entire towns of Superior and Louisville were being evacuated.  Both of which are fairly small suburbs west of Denver, right up next to the mountains, located just south of Boulder.  Evacuating two entire towns is no small feat with a population of roughly 30,000 people.  The fire only lasted about a day and we got a few inches of snow the day after, which helped put the fire out.  But this fire happened in a very populated area, it was sparked just west of these towns and the 100 mph + winds quickly blew the fire straight into the houses and businesses.  Since August we had only had about an inch of rain and it had been extremely warm so the land was very dry and very well baked.  Take these extreme drought conditions, throw in a spark in the grass combined with the 100 mph + winds and you have yourself an extreme fire in a populated suburb.  All in all the burn area was just over 6,000 acres, which is small for a wildfire.  But there were 2,000 houses within this burn area.  All in all a little over 1,000 houses were destroyed along with businesses, etc. within a 24 hour timeframe.  These families literally only had minutes, if that, to throw everyone in their car and leave.  The families that lost their houses, lost everything as there wasn't time to gather much.  This occurred about 15 miles south of where I live, which in terms of a wildfire is literally nothing.  This fire could have just as easily been sparked 15 miles north and burned down the town that I live in.  I can choose to dwell on this tragedy, how many families lost everything or I can acknowledge that and focus on all of the good that is coming out of this.  The community is once again banding together to help out those who need it.  There's been an outpouring of people donating their time, money, clothes, furniture, food, space, etc. to these families who were just a few days prior celebrating Christmas and are now sifting through the ash and rubble where their house once stood, trying to find any valuables that may be left.  There may be a lot of awful things that happen in this world but there are far more good things that happen.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  It's just a matter of how you choose to look at it and how you choose to react.  Arch was notorious for always giving the media crap on how they only focus on tragedies but they rarely point out all of the goodness in the world.  The good things don't get as good of tv ratings though so they don't focus on them.  The goodness is there if you choose to see it, if you choose to widen your perspective and how you choose to react to everything that happens in this world.  Once you realize that you control how you react and you choose to see all of the goodness in this world then perhaps you'll be inspired to join in and be a part of all the goodness.

Outside of all the craziness in the world, this last year I made a point of doing a little bit of reading, writing, qigong, and meditation each day (as much as possible anyways).  All of that, combined with the gardening, helps tremendously with dealing with all of the events listed above.  I've also been watching a lot less tv and movies but am still watching a fair amount of documentaries, which is time well spent.  There's inevitably still going to be some fun movies from time to time such as Jiu Jitsu.  Props to whoever came up with an alien martial arts movie starring Nicholas Cage and Tony Jaa, we need more of this in our world.  If you haven't watched any Tony Jaa movies then you should probably go watch them, they're amazing.  On top of all of that, I'm really just doing my thing and trying to have as much fun as possible.  Here's to 2022 and to making small steps each and every day to make this year better than last year.

Important Note:  This was written before Russia invaded Ukraine for no legitimate reason at all and could very well be the start of world war 3.  You may be thinking, what good can possibly come out of that?  War brings lots of death, injuries, displaced refugees, etc.  None of which is good for anyone, obviously.  However there has already been an outpouring of help from normal people in the rest of the world to help the new refugees whom are really just normal people, just like you and me.  More long-term, perhaps the entire world will finally realize that they really need to fast track getting off of oil and gas and onto renewable energy as quickly as possible.  Not only is this essential for combating climate change but is a matter of national security for each country - if you get your oil and gas from a large country whom then decides to start a war, well that's suddenly problematic.  The same sentiment rings true for where countries get their food from.  The short term outlook certainly looks bleak at the moment with this new war.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction though and the outpouring of support from the rest of the world is uplifting.  Not to mention the courage of all Ukrainians and their president to stand up and fight for their country along with everyday Russians protesting within their country - the price of which could very easily be death.  If we're lucky this will be a short-lived war with Ukraine still being in existence along with minimal deaths and it will catapult the entire world into being better than it was before.  One thing is for certain, no one knows what the future holds so all we can do is focus on what is in direct control of each of us at this very moment in time.

Produce on Table
Single day harvest from 2021, it just makes you smile doesn't it?!

Garlic Mountain
Mountain o' garlic, I may have gone overboard with garlic this year.

My favorite sunflower that grew this year, it's epic, bold, and different.

Tomatoes getting ready to be made into tomato sauce.

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