I know it has been almost a month since I posted, but school has kept me quite busy. I have finally gotten both beds tilled and filled with plants/seeds, though last time I was out there it didn’t look like any of the seeds for certain things (lettuce, chard, green onions) had come up. I also found out that apparently where I thought the boundaries of my plot are and where the actual boundaries are are two different things. It turns out that basically my beds were in between two half-plots, so I ended up shelling out another $7.50 to rent the other half of the plot. There are only a few feet between the fence that I thought was the edge of my plot and the actual edge of the plot, so I’m not sure what I will do with that space yet. I will probably plant a few green beans along the wire fence so they can use that as a trellis. I already have a few green bean plants, but I figure I can always blanch and freeze them. Here are a few pictures of the garden.
Both beds – plenty of room to add compost in the future, because unfortunately there is never any available at the garden right now.
Tomato/Pepper (mostly) bed. The wire support is somewhat difficult to see but it looks kind of like a house and is about five feet tall.
A closer view of the wire support as well as the central support. The holes in the fencing are somewhat small for my hands, but I figure I can always use my wire cutters to make larger gaps as needed.
The other garden bed.
Hopefully the wire support is not going anywhere!
One of my tomato seedlings…you can tell it’s super tiny!
Tomato transplant from a vendor at the farmer’s market – you can tell it’s kind of leggy, but as of this writing it has some flowers on it, so hopefully I’ll have tomatoes soon!
Tomato transplant from a different vendor at the farmer’s market – you can tell it’s super stocky and healthy – I don’t think I’ll be getting transplants from anyone else in the future!
All of these were taken about a week ago, so I have done a few more things since. The garden bed with the pole teepee now has a wire house as well, though it isn’t as tall. There are also bean and cucumber sprouts that are looking good. Some of the broccoli appears to be fine while some of it is bug-eaten, so I’m not sure what’s up with that (all the same variety). I will probably attempt to save seed from one of the plants that seems to be resistant, if I like the flavor (if I can get a head at all!), of course. The tomato plants from the last picture are about three times that size now and seem to be flourishing. I am hopeful that I will have decent tomato harvests before winter sets in (the average first frost date for my area is in the middle of November). We will have to see if the cucumbers and green beans have time to grow before the cold comes. As it is now it is getting down into the sixties at night, though it is still in the mid eighties during the day.
I have also been saving potatoes. I never finish a whole bag before they start to get soft, so I throw them in a bag and keep them in the bottom of the fridge. I know technically you shouldn’t save grocery store potatoes because they aren’t certified as disease free and they’re often sprayed to prevent sprouting, but none of the seed potato companies that I’ve found will ship before March, and here potatoes have to be planted in mid-February, and I want some different varieties. So far I have some saved from the farmer’s market that would have been harvested back in May, as well as some grocery-store fingerlings. The garden will have a couple of varieties available in the spring, but I want lots of options. One of the women in charge of the garden keeps mentioning a feed store that has seed/transplants, so I will have to go there at some point. I still need spinach seeds. I will probably sow some lettuce/spinach on my apartment balcony to keep close at hand (and much easier to prevent bugs that way!), but I will have to get some more potting soil. Out there right now I have three chocolate mint plants (I was hoping two could be indoor plants, but unfortunately they did not do well at all, one actually is completely dead but I’m hoping the two next to it will spread back into that container), a rosemary plant, and a flat-leafed parsley plant. I really don’t use that many herbs in my cooking, but I do occasionally use rosemary or parsley, so I like to have them on hand (though the garden co-op does have a large herb garden that I can take from as well). Perhaps in the future I will expand my herb repertoire.
I recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and I have to say it was extremely interesting. It is one of those books that I had heard about all the time in my readings about homesteading/sustainability, etc, and it was very good. After reading it and watching a few other documentaries, along with learning more about the industry in my animal science classes I have decided to give up supermarket “Big Ag” meat and poultry. That’s not to say I won’t have it at restaurants or whatnot, but for home use I won’t buy it. There are a lot of great local resources for meat and poultry and I just have no interest in supporting CAFOs in that way. That said, it is more expensive to buy meat now, but I feel like it’s worth it. So far I have tried local chicken breasts, bacon, ground beef, flank steak, ground pork, and pork sausage and it has all been so much better than the stuff I used to buy in the grocery store. At first I was a bit leery of the chicken because the farm that I get it from does not have it USDA inspected (so it is labeled “for animal consumption only”), but really, they will let you go and watch them process chickens if you want to, and my feeling is that any farm that is that transparent, is probably a heck of a lot cleaner than a huge processing facility with Keep Out signs everywhere. Joel Salatin also mentions in his book Everthing I Want To Do Is Illegal that his backyard processed chicken was compared by a neutral third party to supermarket chicken and was found to have 25 times less bacteria, so I feel a lot safer eating my “for animal consumption only” chicken than I would eating supermarket chicken. In addition, it is so much tastier and juicier that it would be worth it just for that (though of course the lower bacteria and the better care for the chickens are great reasons as well). That’s not to say that everything at the farmer’s market is automatically better, though. I have tried bacon from two different vendors and without naming names, one farm’s bacon is absolutely fantastic while the other’s ended up in the trash because it was absolutely terrible (this is the first time I have ever tried a bite of bacon and thrown it in the trash rather than eat it). It is also interesting to me to note the difference between the local products and their grocery store equivalents. For example, this week I couldn’t make it to the farmer’s market so I ended up buying USDA organic, 100% grass fed ground beef from Trader Joe’s for $6.99/lb. The ground beef that I get from the farmer’s market that is also organic (though not USDA certified organic) and 100% grass fed and it is $8.50/lb. While the farmer’s market ground beef doesn’t have a fat percentage on it, just by looking at it I can tell that it is leaner than the Trader Joe’s (which is 85/15), and in my opinion, it is much more flavorful. When you’re talking about only a $1.50/lb difference, why wouldn’t you support the local farm? There probably wouldn’t even be that difference if it weren’t for the fact that that particular vendor does get its meat USDA inspected, which means higher overhead. To me it’s a no-brainer to support the local farms, and that is going to mean some trial and error (such as the bacon – from now on I won’t get it from that other vendor), but it doesn’t mean that I am giving up anything. The vendor that I get most of my meat from doesn’t just have pork and beef, they also have lamb, duck, chicken, rabbit, and alligator. I could probably buy a different thing from them every week for two years and still never have the same thing twice. In addition, if I want a specific cut at a specific size, I call them and ask them, and then they bring it for me to the farmer’s market the next week. I can ask the person running the stand for something that does well in a slow cooker and he’ll give me suggestions. You just can’t put a value on that kind of personal interaction, if you ask me. If it means I eat less meat, I was probably eating far more than I needed to before anyway. To those of you who live in California, you probably have local farms that are doing the same thing, and I would urge you to seek them out, because as all the sustainability big names say, you vote with your dollars.
Anyway, sorry for the rant at the end, but it is so important and so few people even realize that there are options outside of the grocery store!