Be Relevant

Relearning everything we've forgotten.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It’s so simple it’s difficult

That is how I feel about life in general sometimes.  You ever sit around and contemplate something to the extent of brooding over it so it bothers you and all of sudden the answer comes to you and you want to laugh at how simple the answer is? 

On the plane ride back from Italy I was sitting in the chair and noticed how big my stomach looked.  Granted I was slouched with extremely bad posture in coach seating but still.  I don’t have a six pack yet I’m not in the spare tire area either.  I have a little something that if I stand up straight and think about it goes away.  But of course I have to obsess over it.  A year ago I didn’t look like this.  A year ago I was close to a 6 pack. 
My first action was to complain to Mel.  “I’m getting fat.”  Mel being ever supportive said that I wasn’t.  Yet this didn’t make me feel better and I commenced to worry about getting fat.  I spent a good 2 days feeling like crap worrying about eating better and not getting fat.  Then it dawned on me.
Start working out again and stop worrying.  Now this might seem comical and very logical but honestly I was so focused on the problem – I put on some weight – and worrying over the unrealized future – I didn’t want to get fat – that I couldn’t see the solution.  Which of course is to eat better, start working out, and most importantly stop worrying about it.  Very simple indeed.
This brings me to two more points.  First, much of our unhappiness in this world comes from us.  I truly believe that all of our happiness is inside us and it is up to us to realize it.  Granted this is much harder to do than say and I am daily trying to remember it.  Trying to realize my happiness becomes extremely difficult during hour 5 of staring at Excel spreadsheets and making endless power points.  Second, it’s not the actual acquisition of something that brings us true happiness.  It’s the journey.  I’m constantly making the mistake of saying “I’ll be happy when we get our farm.”   But what about now?  I can’t be happy now? 
“My job makes me unhappy.”  Find a new one, hopefully your dream one.  It’s exciting to work toward a goal like that.  Plus making the physical and mental steps toward it alleviates the worry you feel.  If you have nothing to worry about how can you not be happy?
I used to worry about money.  Every paycheck was spreadsheet hell as to where money was allocated.  If I wanted to do this then the money had to come from over here.  Sometimes money was spent months in advance!  So I got out of debt so that I wouldn’t have to make payments if I fell on really hard times.   I also drove down my expenses to the bare minimum.  I actually need very little to live off of and all the rest goes toward starting up our farm or bad times.  Worry gone.  Every day that I got closer to being debt free made me happy. 
The fact that this sounds easier than it is isn’t lost on me.  In fact that’s the reason why we get stuck in these situations.  Why there is so much unhappiness in the world.   Most of the times the answer is so simple it’s difficult.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back From Italy

I haven't posted in a while but that was because we were in Italy for Mel's sister's wedding.  Since we were there we took the opportunity to do some sight seeing.  We started in the small town of Rovigo then went to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, and finally Rome.

Today is the first day back and we have to pick up the dogs, pay attention to the garden and rabbits, grocery shop, laundry and down load pics.  I'm renewed though which means I'm going to be posting quite regular here.  I hope to get some pics up tomorrow of the trip.

Two big pieces of news though that I'd like to share with everyone.

This month we just passed the financial goal we set for ourselves for the purchase of land for our future farm.  Now just to find the land!!

Also while in Venice, Mel agreed to marry me.  I got down on one knee in St Marco's Square and luckily she said yes.  This officially makes me the happiest man in the world.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everything Starts with a Dream

I dream of having a farm in the mountains on the East Coast.  It has good soil but if it doesn't we'll make it good.  There's abundant water and we supplement that with clean rain water.  There are seasons with which we plant and live by.  Spring for renewing, summer for hard work, fall for preparing, and winter for rest.  We grow organically with the goal of providing the best possible food at a price everyone can afford.

 It's a family place.  A place were we build a home and raise a family.  A place were our family converges to celebrate all that life has.  A place were our parents can come and rest and be with us as we raise the next generation.  Several generations live together and are good stewards of the land.  The wildlife is abundant, we'll make sure of that.  The land will be better after us - not before us.  

I dream of days working outside and watching what we've built grow over the years.  A sustainable business that improves the community.  Creating community is what the farm does.  It will bring people together and, over time, teach others.  

I dream of fruits and vegetables, nut trees, bees, chickens, pigs, ducks, geese, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, and ponds filled with fish.  To everyday bare witness to the cycle of life and death.  To watch nature at its finest.

I dream of having a farm in the mountains on the East Coast.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tennessee Here We Come!

It's not 100% official but it looks like we are gravitating towards Tennessee as the place for our farm.  Not quite sure where exactly but we are looking.  Which is a lot more narrowed down then we did have it.  The top finalists were Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

It will still be a couple of months before we even know when we'll be heading out there.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Serendipitous Timing, Garden Maintenance and Black Soldier Fly Larvae Creep me out

Well La Milpa Organica has closed down.  Apparently there were some labor issues with the state.  I don't know the whole story and since it was their private affair I didn't pry.  Yet that is serendipity at its finest.  I had just blogged that one needs to hop on the phone and call their local Farm Bureau for a place to volunteer.  I'm right there with you!

I called Tierra Miguel Farm and I am going to start volunteering on Saturdays.  It's an hour drive each way but since they are closed Sundays its roughly the same amount of driving I was doing.  La Milpa was 30+ minutes each way.  They are looking for some projects that I can do that are in tune with my interests but experience is experience.  Plus they are a Biodynamic Farm and I really want to learn.  When I know enough about biodynamics I'll post some stuff but right now it is a mystery.  So Saturday at 9 am - very excited.

Knocking out some much needed garden maintenance.  A lot of people in this world are so worried about doing things the wrong way that they never do anything.  This cannot be said about me.  Honestly, I have just begun to accept that the first time I do something I am going to mess up.  It is a real treat when I don't.  So what have I messed up so far this year on the garden?  At first I started with poor soil, small pots, and overcrowding.  I had a few successes - the potatoes, green onions, garlic and sunflowers being the best.  Then I made the broccoli leggy.  Leggy means that it got too tall before it really started to form.  I had hung baskets on the inside of the patio railing.   This only gave them a little light so the seedlings grew 3X the normal size to get to the light.  This made my broccoli unhealthy and open to attack by the imported cabbage moth.  Who is back by the way.
Look at the legs on that one
I solved all those issues and then I left the lettuce in the hot sun too long.   We were having those really cool mornings then we got socked with a week of sun and heat.  I should have covered it with shade cloth.  It didn't hurt the lettuce because my soil was good and retained the moisture.  But when it gets hot like that it bolts, or goes to seed.  It will also become bitter.

So now all of those are under control and I now know what to look for.  I just planted some Romaine Lettuce, Thyme, Lemon Balm, tri-colored Cauliflower, more Broccoli, California Poppy's, Nasturtiums and some assorted Carrots.  I'm stoked about the purple, white, and green cauliflower and the orange, purple, yellow, and white carrots.  Next week I'll start up some more green and red leaf lettuce.  One thing I haven't been very good about is Succession Planting.  That is planting so that as I harvest it I have some to replace it.  The key to this is a Garden Journal!  Good record keeping is essential to allow you to learn what works and what doesn't.  I'm not that good at keeping records.  My checkbook stays balanced for 3 days after payday and then I'm reconstructing all the spending at the end of the month.  I never learn.  Yet a Log for your garden is essential.  It really does take your gardening to the next level.  Even if you only have a window sill garden, knowing when you planted what will help you grow more effectively.  This will undoubtedly translate to higher yields and lower over all costs.  Both of which are good in my book.

While I was messing about with planting I decided to put some worm castings on top of my soil.  Here was the plan.  I have a big soil tub that I mix soil with composted steer manure.  Then as I fill up my pots I mix the soil with compost.  I press the soil down to smooth it and to create a seed bed.  I then seed the pot according to the plant spacing required.  I then lightly cover the seeds with a layer of soil to the depth indicated on the package.  I water thoroughly.  Next I was going to add a layer of worm castings but my bin is way too wet and my castings look like mud.  Finally, I top it off with hay that my rabbits kick out of their cages.  Later I'll add some rabbit manure to the surface to slowly leach out as I water.  Rabbit pills, as they are called, are pretty high in Nitrogen.  I didn't try and add worms to the pots as I am trying to build up the number of worms I have plus this mud issue. Plus I haven't refined my potting mix just yet.

Back to the worm bin.  The mud is just nasty and the problem is that my bin is too wet.  I never water my worms.  The combination of the black bin with the yellow top insures that moisture stays built up in there.  So I have over fed them.  As the food breaks down it releases moisture.  It is all this moisture that is turning my once beautiful worm castings to muck.  The solution is simple - stop feeding them for awhile and leave the lid off to dry out a bit.  In a couple of days this should be back to normal.

While I was digging around in there I saw these.
BTW see the supposedly compostable potato chip bag all in one piece after months of sitting in here???
Yikes!  They creep me out.  I have never seen Black Soldier Fly Larvae before.  Apparently, these guys are great at composting too.  I was so worried that I had gotten something in the bin that I didn't want.  But these guys are good to go in the composting world.  They even have their own blog - Black Soldier Fly Blog.  No matter how beneficial they are they still creep me out and I'm not about to handle them bare handed.

Mulching my pots.  I use the hay my rabbits kick out of their cages.  I'm cheap I know.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Burning Needs - Documentary I can't wait to see.

Burning Needs feature doc - new trailer from Adam Wakeling on Vimeo.

This documentary was projected to be completed earlier this year but seems to still be in production.  I can't wait to see it.  It deals with alley cropping, which is the idea of planting between rows of trees.  The use of this type of agriculture helps prevent erosion and increase crop yields per acre.  In some extremely clever uses of this system leguminous trees (trees that are in the bean family) are used for firewood and fertilizer.  The trees grow rapidly allowing it to be cut down to a stump 4-5 times a year.  The leaves are then used as a mulch that will slowly release nitrogen.  The smaller branches are used as kindling with the thicker, stronger branches used as stakes for plants such as tomatoes.  Lastly the thick trunks are used for firewood.  Talk about sustainable!!

Here is the link to the Inga Foundation which is the parent site developing the film.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nematodes have a sense of humor too!

Maybe they're trying to tell us something
Nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil.  They do various things to different plants but the Root Knot nematodes will cause damage in your carrots.  They will cause forking in the carrot and, if the carrots are left in the ground for a long time like we did, cause large galls like this.  They also attack both the tap root and secondary roots causing them to have large knots or spheres on them.

It doesn't harm the taste of the food and in some cases creates some interesting carrots.  But if you were commercially growing them you wouldn't be able to sell them for top dollar.  

Rotating crops is a great way of preventing the nematodes from one season to another.  Also interplanting with marigolds are supposed to help prevent them.  There are also nematode parasites that you can purchase at gardening stores and online that you release around the base of the plants as part of an Integrated Pest Management system.  Lastly, I saw something on YouTube a while back and if I find it I'll post a link.  Mushroom mycelia actually create tiny nooses that the nematode swims through and it tightens down on it.  Then the mycelia feed off of it and in the process kill it.  

If you have a small home garden you may not worry that much about it.  At least you get some entertainment out of them!