multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

Grow Food Not Lawn March 23, 2014

Springtime.

This weekend was dedicated to prepping our garden. Unlike established gardens, we, having moved last year at the start of summer, had to start our garden at the very beginning, by digging. Springtime in our house starts with sod removal.

This isn’t a small backyard garden. In California, I always had a 200 – 300 s.f. backyard garden. This will be my largest garden at 570 s.f. with the added challenge of being a front yard garden. My mantra is grow food, not lawn. Front yard gardens are tricky because they are exposed, accessible and open to comment from your neighbors.

Lawn. My new nemesis.
570 s.f. of sod removal.
There are options to dealing with sod than just the manual labor of removal. I solicited some quotes from local landscapers that were too pricey. I could have rented a tiller but I didn’t want the potential of weeds being propagated by tilling the front lawn into the soil. Truth be told, big reartine tillers scare me. I could have just built and placed raised beds on top of the sod but that still leaves pathways that would need mowing. No thanks. Grow food, not lawn. Grow food, not lawn. Grow food, not lawn. Stick to the mantra.

570 s.f. is just half of our front yard, the smaller half, on the northeast side. Our back yard has trees with minimal sunlight. Our front yard gets fantastic sun all day long, the perfect spot for a garden. The other half of our front yard has a future as our dwarf fruit tree mini orchard. Maybe this year, maybe not. For now, we’re just focusing on the northeast side.

Day 1, Saturday. Sunny, clear, blue skies and crisp. I made breakfast, suited up and headed out to dig. Just me, my shovel and 570 s.f. of front lawn. Only when the first wheelbarrow load was full did I realize the wheelbarrow had a flat tire. Argh! My husband came out to help and told me he’d pick up a new tire intertube when he went out in a couple of hours. Until then, he and our two older boys helped shovel sod and pile it up for two hours. Our daughter joined in the action too. We managed to clear and 11′ x 19′ space within a four hour window. I was thrilled with the help and excited with our progress. My triceps, hamstrings, shoulders and back ached! Check out this progress!

progress

Day 2, Sunday. Another spectacular day in Spokane.
My husband repaired the tire, then took the boys out for a few hours. Our daughter studied for her last final.
Today I was alone, just me, my shovel, wheelbarrow and all my neighbors out walking, stopping to inquire and give their two cents.
I removed some sod, but my focus was to deal with the giant mound of sod we removed and piled yesterday. What to do with all this sod is the issue with sod removal. My plan for the sod is to compost. To start, I stacked the sod to create the walls of my compost area. Better than pallets or spending money on a premade compost bid. After another four hours of work, here’s my progress and compost structure. Yeah!

photo 1 (2)

photo 3

I was wrong to report that my body ached on Saturday night. Tonight gives new meaning to body aches and pain. I’m not sure if my pain is from two days worth of manual labor or the thought of the work still ahead. I have only just begun.

My garden plan is awesome and my vision for garden greatness keeps me motivated and excited to get outside tomorrow after work and continue the hard work. My digging this weekend provided soil samples to submit to Spokane Conservation for soil analysis. Spokane Conservation is a great resource that will tell me what amendments are needed in the soil. Considering I had successful gardens in Southern California with heavy clay soil, the rich,beautiful, dark, non-clay soil in my Spokane yard will make a bountiful garden.

What am I growing? Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Corn, Popcorn, two types of Summer Squash, Butternut Squash, 3 kinds of Onions, leaf and head Lettuces, Spinach, Arugula, Beets, Carrots, Leeks, Pumpkins, 3 kinds of Beans, two kinds of Peas, six kinds of Tomatoes, all the herbs, Kale, Chard, Potatoes, 3 kinds of Peppers, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Artichokes, Blueberries, Blackberries and Raspberries.

Our eight year old, our youngest, refrained from helping this weekend. He said, “I only like planting a garden, not digging a garden.” Who doesn’t? Smart[alec] kid. This isn’t a Little Red Hen story, this is a full family effort.

Grow food not lawn!

 

Michigan March 7, 2014

You can take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take Michigan out of the girl.

As if this trip to my sister’s memorial service isn’t emotional enough, I didn’t anticipate the flood of emotion from recognizing city sign markers driving into town, under an hour away from my grandparents home. It has been an easy 20 years since I’ve visited central Michigan, Branch Township, where I spent weeks of my childhood summers at my grandparents’ home, eighty acres in the Manistee National Forest.

My grandfather drove a yellow Scout. Whenever we went to Reed City, Big Rapids, Irons, Baldwin, White Cloud or Ludington, we didn’t take the main roads and highways. My grandfather drove dirt roads, typically named some-number Mile Road, or two tracks, stopping along the way so my grandmother could harvest some anti-itch orange flower she’d boil and make ice cubes or shake chokecherries or crabapples out of the tree so she’d make into jam, or so he could catch a snapping turtle to make into soup. I kid you not you uneducated city folk. A trip to town was always an adventure.

It was the 70’s and my grandparents were into their CB and police scanner. We all had CD handles. Did you?

Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine (somehow it was always channel 19). What were our CB handles? I know my cousins will piece it together for me tomorrow. There was Buckeye Ike and Buckeye Rambler. My mom’s was Katydid, I think. I can’t remember either of my sister’s CB handles. My brother was Kingfisher (uh huh, sure) and all I can say about my CB handle is that I’m consistent, Aggravation. Right? No shit.

Michigan.

Pine trees, walks in the woods, ferns, deer, bluegill and bass fishing, Troutorama, Blue Moon and Mint Chip ice cream, sand dunes, French fries in coon fat, playing cards, sun tea, snowmobiles, tractor rides, ATVs, mopeds, wild blueberries, sassafras, wintergreen, mushroom hunting, jam, pie, fish fry, homemade noodles, boating on the lake, building forts, 2 miles to check the mail, two tracks, deer blinds, salt licks, outhouses, main house, cabin, hammocks, chipmunks, which way: the front way or the back way, quilts, crochet, knit, old typewriter, Harlequin romance novels, cookbooks, jam, the ladder to the basement, then the back porch, lake house, slide shows, cousins, aunts, uncles, family.

The last time I was here, not counting funerals, on purely social accounts, was when I was 21, maybe 22. I took a month and drove across country, National Park hopping and camping, mostly by myself, with the exception of 4 days at the start with a friend. That was 23 years ago. Some things never change. Michigan may have changed, but not in my heart.