Glad When It’s Gone

As my family and I were stuck in Denver traffic the other day (nothing new) and I gazed out upon the wasteland of chain stores and restaurants, shopping malls, asphalt-encased surfaces and buttloads of vehicles, I couldn’t help but observe an emerging inkling of relief about this whole impending multi-crisis doom thing. So if the shit really does hit the fan and global warming combined with peak oil, lack of a sustainable food system, and our government’s adamant refusal to seek alternatives for the future basically end most of civilization, at least all of  this ugliness will disappear as well. Hell, I may not be here to see it, but my soul will rest easy. God, I’ll be glad to see it all gone.

This is a new feeling for me. Mostly, I just walk around with a tinge of sadness about the planet going on without us and the possibility that my family and those I love will possibly be some of the ones who don’t make it because I can’t for the life of me figure out how to knit socks and my canning skills aren’t up to snuff.

What kind of society have we become where our whole existence is based upon buying things and living nearer to the places where we go to buy more things? Where we actually like everything the same – same restaurants in every town, same big box stores, same crap food on the shelf of every grocery store? The economy is in the pooper, but hey, I just gotta have that 102nd pair of shoes. Sorry, little sweat shop workers, but at least that 8 cents you made for the day is better than nothing. Hell, we may not have a planet to live on, but at least I’ll have enough clothes to make it through to armageddon.

Yet I have trouble reconciling this whole dichotomy of the evil shopper/consumer and the nice neighbor next door. So allow me to include myself with the rest of the wicked consumers. I’m no eco-saint. Sure, I try, but my efforts are mostly along the lines of “10 Great Things You Can Do to Save the Planet!” Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!. Use baking soda to clean your sink! Limit showers to 5 minutes! Hang your laundry on the clothesline! You get the idea. I’ve made a bit more effort than most of my neighbors with our “urban farm” and in keeping some food and water in storage, but in the end, we all buy our underwear at Target, folks.

After all I’ve learned, even if we green our lifestyles, trim back consumption and raise enough food to feed ourselves, the dark days are coming anyway. We’re just biding time and making some attempts at a smidge of a possibility of having a future, but unless there’s a cooperative government and a back-up infrastructure in place, things are likely to get pretty ugly.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m so depressed, I think I’ll go shopping…

I wish…I wish that we could have greener, more self-reliant, self-sustaining communities with local food systems in place and greener energy. I wish we could be more cooperative and willing to share resources and skills. I wish we had a community center where we could gather to sew and preserve food. I read about communities that do. There are even small groups here in Denver but they’re such a tiny segment that their outlook seems unlikely to infect the entire population. I guess everyone else must be too busy hanging out at Walmart.

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Couch Potato Revels in First Frost

Wow. Can you tell that weeks pass between me being active on this blog? Last post – wicked heat. This post – first frost. Hmmm. I confess, my husband and I have been spending too much time watching past seasons of Weeds after the kids are in bed.We don’t have cable t.v. and most of our tube time is kids’ movies. I wish I could say we didn’t waste any of our time in front of a t.v. screen, but most nights you’ll catch us watching at least part of a family DVD – maybe even pushing the envelope of kid-appropriate material with a little Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. We’re just so frickin’ tired after a long day of school, work, playing…the usual. Perhaps one day our car will proudly display a “Kill Your Television” bumper sticker – if our future reality still involves cars.

 My three year old, Bodhi, is finally staying down when I get him to sleep at night. Miracle of miracles! All of my precious writing time, reading time, time to be otherwise productive – this magical “time” for which I’ve been waiting nearly seven years is spent in my pajamas, eating some form of sugar and watching a show about dealing pot. Lovely. Guess it turns out I’m just too tired for productivity. Good news – we’ve run out of seasons of Weeds to watch and haven’t found a good substitute yet. I may be forced to stop wasting my life.

First frost hit this morning. I’m relieved. Still have much to do put the gardens to bed and finish up the new herb bed. To till or not to till? I’m opting for till. Then, of course, plant garlic in a week or two. But the production and harvesting parts are over. My winter greens never even came up – save one. A few beets are still out there to pick. I’ve already pulled up two beds of tomatoes. I’ve just been so fed up with the productivity of our garden this year. I’m ready to be done! Planning for a better year next year. Not all was a total loss, but this was definitely not a good year. Raspberries and beans were probably our most productive crops. Soil tested fine, so I’m not sure what’s up. I need to get some stable manure and a few bales of straw to mulch the garden over winter. 

Now I just have to convince my three-year-old, very reluctant garden assistant to go outside with me. Candy, anyone?

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Farmers who avoid the outdoors

Written Aug 25:

We have become a family of urban farmers who only emerge in the early morning and dusk to harvest, weed, plant a few winter greens, give the garden a little extra TLC where needed, and then retreat back into our “cave” to escape the heat. It has been blastin’ hot for weeks. I’m talking 90s. And in Colorado, we don’t have the humidity, but the sun here is intense at higher elevations and just bakes our skin. I’ve even managed a few sunburns this year when I wasn’t being particularly careful about sunscreen.

I don’t like that I’m not getting outside, but the kids don’t even want to go out until we get afternoon shade. And believe me, I’ve tried to shoo them out the door because they’re driving me flippin’ insane being inside all of the time. Most of our outdoor activities like taking a walk or a bike ride have been reserved for the evening. 

I know if we were “real” farmers, this outdoor avoidance simply would not be an option, but as long as I have a 2-going-on-3-year-old, I kind of have to be where the kids are unless I want to re-enter the house to find the furniture in shreds or that the kids have decided to make a “mixture” in the living room from accessible pantry ingredients that will most decidedly include food coloring. So, I do a bit of gardening here and there when the kids are preoccupied in the house, but honestly, not much. 

Something positive must be said on my behalf, however. I have been much better this year about using everything I grow. I’ve put away  a few things for winter – frozen green beans, frozen tart cherries, canned apricot jam, dehydrated local peaches and apricots. Our potatoes are about ready for harvest and I’ve got to come up with somewhere to store them. What I wouldn’t give for a basement!!!

Our garlic harvest was magnificent and I’m making plans to expand our crop and maybe even sell some in the future. The garlic I see at the farmer’s markets is pretty puny and unappealing. I could probably make a little extra money with dried flowers and garlic if I had access to a bit of land. We’re starting to give some serious thought to buying a couple of acres and a house, but so far haven’t found anything even remotely in our price range. I may have to enlist the help of a real estate agent. 

Other decent-sized crops: beets, lettuce, raspberries (fabulous), potatoes

Crop failures: squash and pumpkins – all varieties. You would think that a woman who has gardened for about a decade now could manage to successfully grow a zucchini, but not this year apparently. I’ve hear the same from a few other experienced gardeners. The heat? Too much potassium in my soil? I don’t know. I’m going to have my soil tested for the first time this year. I’ve always just amended the garden with a couple of inches of compost and sometimes manure, or top soil. I occasionally use organic fertilizer, but not more than once or twice in a growing season. Who knows? The climate here in Denver can be pretty harsh on vegetable gardens – extreme sun, usually drought, extreme temperature changes. 

More crop failures: greens – collards, kale, broccoli, various asian greens – first eaten by cabbage moths, then infested with aphids in clumps so thick they could not be washed off. Cabbage – eaten by tiny pests I don’t recognize. Most could not be salvaged and were composted. Next year, I’ll use floating row covers. I’m trying fall plantings to see if they fare any better, but so far, after two plantings, my seedlings have failed to emerge (weather still unseasonably hot!). Tomatoes – small harvest. Enough for fresh eating, but nothing else. Even with 13 tomato plants! The plants are all pretty small in comparison to previous years, so I’m a bit perplexed. Bad batch of compost?

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Nearly a year goes by…

I just checked the date of my last post and am appalled that nearly a year has passed since I’ve written anything here. Well, actually, it’s not been a year since I have written, but a year since I have successfully finished a piece and edited it sufficiently enough to post it without worrying that anyone reading it would think that I was a complete moron without a single functioning brain cell in my head (this last bit it actually close to the truth since I’ve had my children and been breast feeding for 6  1/2 years straight). At any rate, I’m hoping to be back. 

My youngest boy had given up his nap over the summer, but now that I’m getting up at sunrise to get his older brother off to school, he’s started to get up earlier than usual and is lapsing back into napping. This results in him staying up until 10:oo p.m. or later and definitely eats into my newly found “me time” at the end of the evening. We’ll wait and see…I’m hoping somehow, somewhere, there will be some time to write.

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Wild Earth Cottage ~ Organic Urban Farm

I believe I’ve decided on a name for my little homestead in the city. It’s wordy, as am I, but balanced. Almost everything is planted, with the exception of some bush beans and ornamentals. Next year, I’ve promised the boys their own little garden patch to do with as they please. My little farmer boys sure are cute.

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Family Bed Hell

My youngest son, Bodhi, is right now on his own in his brother’s room having his first  “quiet time.” I put him in there after he flailed awake when I laid him down in my bed for his afternoon nap. He is supplied with a snuggly (his penguin, Darth Vader), books, and sleepytime music. At least the crying has stopped for the moment. I’m desperate. 

See, I have been nursing the guy to sleep for all of his nearly two and a half years and we do family bed, so there’s no crib involved. I guess you could say that we practice attachment parenting, though lately, he’s a little far too “attached” for my liking. For the past month or so, he falls asleep for naps easily enough, but either he wakes on his own 10 minutes after I lay him down in bed, or he does this flailing awake thing the moment he touches the mattress. So, on top of a non-existent nap, he has also been taking up to two hours to nurse down at night. On the nights that we don’t have the long bedtime ordeal, he’s awake 20 minutes after I lay him down and I have to repeat the whole nursing process over again. It’s driving me frickin’ nuts.

I know the kid is tired. I know he needs a long nap. When he has gotten a nice long nap (say 1 1/2 – 2 hours) in the past (fond memories), he wakes happily on his own and wanders out of the bedroom to see what I’m up to. If he has a brief nap, he wakes crying and will cry for quite a while until I go in to get him. If I catch him quickly enough, I can usually nurse him back to sleep on the couch so that I can read or watch a DVD – anything to at least escape mentally while my boy is sprawled asleep and nursing on my lap. 

A few times, I have refused to nurse after a lengthy time (a half an hour or longer) and have just held him and rocked him and after a long intermittent crying jag, he has fallen asleep after another hour or so. Once, he has fallen asleep in my bed with me rubbing his back after another hour and a half nursing ordeal. 

I don’t want to give up the nursing and I actually don’t mind that he’s up 2 -3 times a night for a quick nip, but he’s gotta take a nap. That is my only time to myself to actually think non-mommy thoughts. I’ve read the “No Cry Sleep Solution,” and the “No Cry Nap Solution” by Elzabeth Pantley and they sound promising, but I haven’t stuck with any one method. I’ve consulted Dr. Sears. But basically, they all say in the end something along the lines of “Remember, your little ones are only little for a very short time. Enjoy holding your baby while you can.” Ok. Ok. I get that. But, christ, I need a break! When my idea of a good time has become 2 minutes in a bathroom alone so that I can pee, we’ve sunk a bit too low. 

My first boy was a terrible sleeper too and between the two boys, I’ve been up many times every single night for nearly 6 years. I’ve come to accept the night time wakings. It’s the nursing marathons that need to end and the long naps that need to begin. Speaking of which, he’s been quiet for a while, so I’d better stop ranting and check on him…

But far be it for me to dissuade you from being an attached parent or bringing your kids into the family bed.  As long as you don’t mind someone clamped on to your nipple for three or four years and not sleeping, it’s really a great experience. Really.

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Ready, Set, Garden!

My seeds and tubers are finally all ordered. I still need to research one more fruit tree (self-fertile?) to order to add to my other orchard items – 2 more rhubarb, 2 more raspberries. If all goes well, we should get our first harvests of raspberries and gooseberries from last year’s plantings. I don’t really have plans for the gooseberries except maybe in a pie. My great grandmother Bessie and grandmother Mary Helen used to make a gooseberry pie now and then from wild gooseberries that grew near their property. I think I even recall picking and baking one with my grandma one time, but I don’t have any memory of eating it. The varieties I ordered said they were good for table eating too, unlike most sour varieties. I hope this is true.

Our apricots won’t produce for a few more years yet and harvest is always iffy given the usual late frosts. Nature’s got to have her way. Last year, there weren’t many flowers on fruit bearing trees at all – no crab apples or plums, for the most part. I  think the squirrels are a bit desperate because of it. I’ve been helping those critters along with some sunflower seeds and peanuts and an occasional handful of walnuts or my son’s leftover breakfast and half-chomped apples. I’d rather feed a hungry creature than the compost. If I had chickens, they would be benefiting from much of the still edible scraps my kitchen generates. 

Chickens. My two attempts to eat eggs were failures. I ended up with nearly a full dozen hard boiled eggs that had to be tossed after sitting in the fridge for a month and a half.  I could always give eggs away – or eat them when the mood struck. I just want a few hens for pets that could roam around our backyard muttering to themselves in that cute chickeny way – brrrrpppp, brrrrpp.  We saw a small flock at the zoo in Colorado Springs this weekend. My husband is the only one opposed to having chickens because of the extra work involved. Of course, I would never order them from a hatchery. I don’t want to support the hatcheries because they kill most of the male chicks. Most likely, I would take a few hens off the hands of a farmer who didn’t want them anymore. My CSA, two years ago, made an offer to it’s members who were looking for hens. And, there’s always Craigslist. 

Though I would love bees, I think they are probably not a possiblity because our backyard isn’t large enough to accomodate them and the kids and maintain a safe distance between both parties. I’ll continue to research and maybe consult a beekeeper. 

My seed orders are already arriving and I need to get busy and organize them and put together a gardening calendar :  when to plant out what, when to start seed indoors, tentative harvests, etc. As usual, I’m sure I went overboard and ordered way too much. I need to get better at saving my own seed, so I need to research with what vegetables and fruits this is feasible in the small growing space I have. I know I can save tomato seed, even though I grow several varieties, and still be relatively sure that the seed will be “true” because tomatoes are self-fertile/self-pollinating (not sure which term is the most accurate). 

I’m being ambitious this year and have plans to deconstruct the raised beds in my backyard. I think they just don’t work in my drought-prone climate. The water seems to seep rapidly out of the soil in the bed and the soil ends up like a brick. They were supposed to allow me to have loose, loamy soil so that the veggies (especially root crops) could really dig in, but that has not been the case. If anything, my beets and carrots have suffered. So, if I have the time and inclination, more sod will get dug up around the beds, the wood frames of the beds will be ripped apart and the 12″ of soil will be spread out a bit and dug in with whatever native soil is beneath. I just can’t decide on a pretty shape for the new uncontained garden to take. 

To the drawing board…

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