Friday, August 17, 2012

A Year Older

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm old enough to throw my own party now but not so old that I can't deal with technology. Or so I thought.

I signed up for a Tumblr account and set about creating my page, adjusting settings and uploading pictures. Suddenly I felt old. It took much longer than it should have and I struggled more than I have with any other social networking platform. Could it be that one year older is one year too old?

I don't know but I'm off to get my teenager to explain it to me. *sigh*

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Place I'd Rather Be

It's a beautiful night outside. Last night was beautiful, too. The heat has broken and there's a light, cool breeze.

Last night I lay on the hood of the truck with my back against the windshield, watching the Perseid meteor shower. Our skies here are so clear you can very clearly see the band of the Milky Way across the darkness of the night sky.

For many years I lived in Los Angeles. All day long I was surrounded by noise, soot, and a crush of humanity. I love people and I appreciate them as my brothers and sisters. But my time spent in the big city made me love them less and I longed for solitude. Maybe it's the sign of a true introvert, the need to spend time alone and recharging my batteries.

Today my friends posted beautiful pictures of tropical resorts. "Who wants to be here?" they asked. Not me. I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be than right here, on my little quarter acre full of life. There is less life on it these days, as we continue to do battle with drought. I cleaned out some of the growing beds today, acknowledging defeat. I can't keep them all alive. But I will not give in when it comes to my fruit trees. If I have to water my figs all night long I will.

It will rain again. I know it. Today's rains passed us by as did yesterday's storms. Not a drop fell. But this is still my little quarter acre and I defend it, one bucket of greywater at a time.

Thanks to everyone for their support and their prayers. We're almost to our first Indiegogo goal. As soon as we reach it I'll order the weed barrier and start preparing the ground for next year.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why Bad Things Happen

Last week I started an IndieGoGo campaign to rebuild the Not-So-Urban Farm after the worst drought in 60 years.

We're halfway to the first hurdle - ordering weed barrier. Once that is here, I can start clearing out the old beds and building some new ones from the repurposed parts of the old ones.

I received an email from a friend (which I'm sure was written with the best of intentions) outlining Good Agricultural Practices and how I had obviously got it wrong. It got me thinking about my perceptions and how I think the world works.

I like to think I have some control over what happens in my life. I do lots of research, I work very hard, and I seek out good advice. I do my best to prepare for every eventuality. I believe that if I do this, bad things won't happen to me. My face is in the dictionary next to the word "prudent".

Bad things happen. They happen for imprudent people as well as those who are prepared. They happen to smart people, and people who are not at all lazy. Bad things just happen and drought is no respecter of persons. My careful preparations and exhaustive research can't make it rain. All my water conservation measures don't mean much when there's no water at all.

I have to accept that my hard work may delay disaster but will only go so far to prevent it. I'm not in control. And all the Good Agricultural Practices in the world won't alleviate the need for this campaign to succeed. Please share it freely.  Thanks for your support.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Up with the Chickens

It's now 7:25 am on a Saturday. I've been up for a couple of hours. All the critters are fed with water and fresh hay.

If you had told me back in High School that I'd be up at dawn every day I'd have said you were nuts. But early morning has become my favorite time. It's quiet and peaceful. Maybe if I were on a farm with lots of acres I'd feel peaceful all day long.

Early morning here is damp. There's a heavy dew from the night's humidity. The sunlight is different, too. It's more white and clean. Later in the morning the sunlight is more yellow. Does that make sense? Can you tell I grew up in an artist household?

Early morning is just for the critters and me. It feels like a little private time before the racket of lawn mowers and pulp wood trucks begins.

I'm not anywhere close to where I expected to be. But I love it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I Might Just Faint

Woo Hoo! I got the call this morning. We've been approved for the emergency livestock well. At first I was over the moon. Then it hit me, it's a cost share program.

I have to come up with the full cost of the well, pump, and well house before I can submit an invoice for reimbursement. Very, very scary. Yes, the reimbursement is 90% which is thrilling.

All I need now is $5022. Wow.

Smelling salts, please.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hugelkultur Modification for Sandy Soil

I posted about this with pictures and everything. Really, I did. But that post has gone to blogger Valhalla so I'll try to reconstruct it. Hugelkultur was originally intended to cope with heavy, soggy soils. The branches and logs get piled up and then a berm of soil is raised over them. I have sandy soil and rainfall drains away much to quickly. So here's how I modified hugelkultur to my growing conditions.

I dig a trench about 20 inches deep and maybe 12 inches wide. I don't get worked up over exact measurements.The size of the trench is determined by my stock of logs and the limits of my own energy.

Then I fill it with logs up to the original soil line.

Then I use the excavated soil to build a berm over the log filled trench. Because I'm fighting sandy soil and Bermuda grass, I then over the whole berm with weed barrier.

I've laid down scrap lumber to make a walkway. Then I cut holes in the weed barrier and plant in the holes. These two berms have been planted with potatoes. The logs soak up water and hold it in the root zone, containing runoff. Because the logs are buried deep enough to get little oxygen they decompose in a way that does not rob nitrogen from the soil.

Eventually the logs will break down, giving back to the soil all the good nutrients the tree stored up in its lifetime. While my beds aren't to that point yet, I've already seen a big difference in how often I have to water. I water less because the rainfall stays in my beds, held by the soggy logs.

Meet the girls

This Aine. She's still a little shy.

This is Lucy. She's not.

They will both be bred this fall but right now they're working on their championship eating skills.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gardening without rain.

It's not raining here, again. While my own garden is limping along I am surprised it's alive at all. In an ordinary year, the things we do here allow us to conserve water in a big way. I suppose that's what's keeping the crops alive. Water conservation works really well when there is water to conserve. Here's our favorite low water growing tricks. 1. Hugelkultur. Yes, I've talked about it until you are bored to tears, but it really does work and I'm grateful we built those beds before the drought hit. 2. Plastic mulch. I know. It's plastic. We've tried every plant based mulch and they just don't work for us. We have fine sandy loam soil and an abundance of Bermuda grass. Keeping that devil under control and conserving water at the same time is enough to make us willing to use plastic. Tip - treat it gently, cover it in straw to avoid UV breakdown and you can use plastic mulch for two or three years. Not bad. 3. Use food producing plants with vining habits as ground cover under upright plants. By interplanting tomatoes with cantaloupe the mulch stays shaded and we get twice as many plants in a single bed. 4. Rain barrels. They're awesome. But they only work when there's rain. Ours have been empty for weeks but they sit ready, willing, and able to store water if and when we get some rainfall. 5. Greywater. Greywater from baths and showers is best because it has much less soapy stuff in it. We need greywater that we can harvest temporarily and as low tech as possible. So we hooked up another drain hose to the clothes washer and hung it on an extra barrel by the back door. We collect both the wash and rinse water, letting the rinse water dilute the bad stuff that's in the wash water. It's not a perfect solution. Don't use this kind of greywater more than once a week or you'll build up salts and other nasties in the soil. I only use it on fruit trees and bushes and I make sure to water twice with the hose for every time I use the greywater. Things we have not done yet that would also help... - Drip irrigation. Oh yes, I'd love to run some drip line underneath the plastic mulch. So far the budget has not stretched that far but maybe, just maybe. - Dig a well. I'd looooove to have a well. Using chlorinated municipal water is bad for every plant in the ground. The veggies don't produce well and the forage plants put on new growth at a snail's pace. I put in application for a drought relief well but the conservation guys haven't come out and won't return my calls. Guess all that aid went to the big guys, too. - Pray harder.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where have you been, Amy?

I've been right here, slogging along. You see, my county has been in a drought for most of the summer. Now we're at the very worst level on the US Drought Monitor. Bleh.

Dealing with drought is kind of like slowly sinking in quicksand. You go out to the growing beds early to do the watering, hoping to find that the plants have responded to the watering you did late last night. But they haven't. The blossoms open and then they drop. No tomatoes, or beans, or peppers. Days turn into weeks and the plants stop even producing blooms as the limp along.

It simply is not possible to counter extreme heat and drought with a garden hose. Since there was nothing new to report I didn't post any blogs. I was so sure the rain would come and my season could start just a little later than usual.

But the rain hasn't come. And it's time to move forward because this season's harvest is, as my kid says, toast.

So I started an Indiegogo campaign to rebuild the growing beds and improve the general infrastructure so the farm can be more resilient. With proper weed barrier and a drip irrigation system I think we'll recover from our losses. You see, when the plants don't set fruit, there is nothing to sell at the Farmer's Market.

Here's a link to the campaign.

If it sounds like a worthy undertaking to you please share the link freely and widely. Thanks.

I hope to have something to report before long.