Winter is here

So, winter is upon us now. I am glad and kind of relieved. I loved this past summer, but I was too busy to really savor each moment that I was granted. (I didn’t even have time to think about posting blog entries!) Now I have time. Alright, now I have some time to myself. I plan on using that time getting caught up on my correspondences and blog postings. I plan on taking time to reflect on this past summer and share what I learned. A sort of retrospective, if you will.

Here are my gardening companions, Greta and Hannah. They are the only other individuals that spend as much time in the garden as I do! Greta is my garden girl. She sits quietly in the sun watching me work. Hannah is my sneak-thief. She spends her time munching through the garden anticipating what she is going to eat next. I had to chase her continuously out of my green beans and raspberries! And yes, she did learn how to eat the raspberries without getting stuck in the mouth by thorns.

Anyway, I wanted to introduce you to my companions because they have provided me with countless hours of smiles, laughter, and frustration. A healthy mix for a promising summer…


Radical Root

So for my first homage…my hat goes off to Radical Root located in Grayslake, IL. My lovely friends, Alex and Alison, have organically farmed for two years as Radical Root. Before that they worked their way through various internships and farm jobs to gain experience before striking it out on their own. Alison wrote an inspiring article for Mindful Metropolis (pg. 40 Life, etc. section) about how they got into organic farming in the first place. And if you ever make it out to the farm, you will be amazed at their operation. They have grown as farmers and it is great talking with them, you learn so much. Yesterday, I visited for the first time with a friend, and we were given a tour of the farm and then we helped weed onions with a stirrup hoe. Side note: a stirrup hoe is a fantastic hoe great for shallow cultivation of weeds. I never used mine properly until yesterday and now I can’t wait to weed my garden this year! Thanks, Alex. I have NEVER enjoyed weeding before! I wish I had pictures, but of course I forgot my camera. Argh! If you check out their farm blog you will see some great photos of Alex and Alison working on the farm.

You can also find them and their healthy beautiful produce at the Logan Square Farmers Market every Sunday June-October from 10 am to 3 pm and if you are interested they also have a CSA program. (I highly recommend that you join a CSA. You support a local farmer in your economy and you get a weekly supply of fresh, nutritious food that is so flavorful it will ruin you from store-bought food forever!) This year they are also growing medicinal herbs, which is very unique and a wonderful addition to the local food scene. Alison is an herbalist, so make sure to ask her questions about how to use the herbs she grows. She will steer you in the right direction and give you helpful tips along the way! I am hopeful that she will find time this year to teach herbal and homesteading workshops. Keep your eye on this team, they are doing some wonderful things.

Make sure you get to know them, and all your farmers this summer!

DIRT the movie

Finally a movie that tackles the most important and often forgotten environmental issue today, soil. What is it, why do we need it and what will happen to us without it. Let’s stop abusing our soil and start creating more before its all gone.

Catching up

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog. I have been struggling with a couple of things: 1. learning wordpress (I am used to blogspot) 2. deciding what to post  and 3. finding the time amidst packing and getting ready to move in 2 weeks! Even without actually posting on a regular basis, I have been busy working on future blog topics. One such topic is a review of all my favorite farms from the Chicagoland area. I will call it my tribute and salute to my farming family. Another fun topic is how I am going to incorporate fruit trees into my little yard. And I will have fruit trees, just wait and see how! And one last sneak peak into what to expect, I have become the latest “Seymour” feeding and caring for a hungry wild sourdough starter. So, you can see I have been busy “behind the scenes” on Gastrogora, and I promise that I will get posting very soon.

Getting Started

Since we are moving in May, that limits us on growing a few things this year. We are not able to give the cooler weather vegetables a chance to grow before it gets too warm for them. This means no peas or onions, but we are going to still give potatoes and lettuce a try. We are going to grow varieties of lettuce that are resistant to bolting, which means “going to seed” and developing a bitterness due to heat. We will also plant the lettuce in the shade of other vegetables. And for the potatoes, we are just gonna give it a try! I will take a stab at growing scallions, so at least I will have one type of onion. And for the love of garlic (homegrown garlic is amazing and worth giving a try) I will have to wait until this fall to plant it.

I will have to wait until we move to see what transplants I can get my hands on. Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant should be easy to find, but vegetables like Cauliflower, Broccoli and Cabbage can sometimes be hard to locate since they are not as popular for some gardeners.

I have also decided on what seeds to order for direct sowing into the garden. Direct sow just means that as soon as the soil is ready I can plant the seeds directly into the soil. This is one of the easiest ways to grow vegetables. It allows the plants to establish themselves right where they are going to spend their entire life cycle. They will never experience transplant shock, or set backs to water differences, temperature changes (hardening off), soil temperatures, etc. This gives them a stronger and faster chance to develop and grow into an adult plant. Stronger plants also have less pest and disease problems too!

Here is the seed list for this year:

Arugula- Sylvetta

Bush Beans- Bumble Bee (dry bean), Hutterite Soup (dry bean), Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg (dry bean), Tiger’s Eye (dry bean), Empress (fresh-green), Red Swan (fresh-purple) and Roc D’Or (fresh-yellow)

Beets- Bull’s Blood, Chioggia, Cylindra and Burpee’s Golden

Carrots- Paris Market and Danvers

Celeriac- Diamant

Cucumbers- Bushy, Parisian Pickling, Double Yield and True Lemon

Letuce: Gold Rush (green looseleaf), Mascara (red looseleaf), Bronze Arrowhead (red/green looseleaf), Red Leprechaun (red romaine), Forellenschuss (red/green romaine) and Tennis Ball (green butterhead)

Kale- Red Russian and Redbor

Melons- Charantais, Eden’s Gem and Ha ‘Ogen

Potatoes- La Ratte (fingerling) and Desiree (red-skinned)

Scallions- Deep Purple

Swiss Chard- Five Color Silverbeet

Summer Squash- Magda and Round de Nice

Radish- Cincinnati Market

Rhubarb- Victoria

Watermelon- Chelsea

We will also be planting a rainbow of sunflowers, nasturtiums, poppies and violets. Herbs will be transplanted and seeds throughout the entire garden. Once all plants have been purchased an entire list for the garden will be posted. I also hope to keep track of the cost of installing this garden and how I can make the most of it year round for my family’s needs.

One last exciting tid bit. My friend is trying to secure me a plot in her neighborhood community garden! My plans in this garden are to plant a Three Sisters Garden complete with Corn, Pole Beans and Winter Squash.

Corn- Painted Hill (sweet eating variety)

Pole Beans- Gold of Bacau (fresh-yellow), Ideal Market (fresh-green), Sultan’s Golden Crescent (fresh-yellow), Hidatsa Shield Figure (dry bean), Speckled Cranberry (dry bean) and Good Mother Stallard (dry bean)

Winter Squash- Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck

I am moving back to my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and I couldn’t be more excited. My husband and I bought a house and we are planning on transforming our property into a country oasis in the middle of a city neighborhood. We are planning on turning our 1,750 sq. ft. yard into a natural and sustainable food system that includes homegrown vegetables, small fruits and fresh chicken eggs. As part of this transformation and learning experience, we are going to share what we learn and we hope to inspire you along the way!