multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

These Two Hands – Our Year In Review – Part 4 June 19, 2014

Filed under: Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 10:50 pm
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Truth is, be careful what you ask of me, assign me, challenge me or give me.  These two hands splayed before me can do anything.

Disclaimer:  Except knit.  It’s a crazy thing.  My cousin and I were both taught how to knit by our paternal Grandmother.  My cousin is an award-winning, knitting camp attending (ok, show of hands, who knew knitting camp existed?), master knitter who has photographs of her work published in knitting books.  Me?  I can knit.  Scarves, just don’t count my stitches or expect any awards.  To be fair, I am an award winning pie maker and this same cousin can’t make crust, even though we were both taught by the same woman, our Grandmother.  Let’s call it a tie, I just want to be honest, I can do anything, just with varying degrees of accomplishment. Best believe, I will give whatever is presented before me my best effort.  If I call it a scarf, accept it as a scarf.  Give it to the cat if you hate it.

As a corporate recruiter, in addition to regular every day career placements, my day job includes travelling to our US and Toronto offices and 15-17 universities throughout the year.  At some point I tallied I travel 57 days a year.  Manageable, and I get to meet great people and see some fantastic places too. Most of this travel happens in the spring.  If you’ve kept up with the series, you will agree, this past spring was emotionally difficult.  Pushed to my limits, I needed a big project, a big distraction to deal with my life, my emotions.

I’m not sure my husband was fully aware that I was serious when I asked if he had any thoughts or comments to my brilliant idea to ripping out half of our front yard and putting in a vegetable garden, but he agreed.  He doesn’t like watering or mowing the lawn so he was happy to have less lawn.  Excellent.  The catch was that he put me on a tight budget that allowed for irrigation and soil and seeds, but no labor.  If I wanted this garden, I had to do it myself.  I called a contractor to get a quote to remove the sod. My husband laughed at the quote with a hearty, “No!”  Being a kind hearted guy, my husband did buy me a new shovel.

Yes, I have a husband, a daughter and three boys, but all quickly disconnected themselves with any garden responsibility.  Think of The Little Red Hen story, I am The Little Red Hen.  They know the story too, and helped just enough to say they did.  My husband dutifully went on every Home Depot run and gave me instruction on how to cut, glue and fit PVC.  Yes, I dug sod, I went battleaxe on gigantic tree roots, I dug out the pattern and I moved all the compost and wood chips from the street to the garden.

Five hundred square feet of sod removal is how I managed my stress, my workload, my sadness, my emotions, and my pain.  My vision of my garden was my therapy.  I ached.  I hurt.  I had blisters.  I was filthy.  I collapsed into bed and slept solidly every night.  Exactly what I needed.

My project proved Sponkanites to be a curious, opinionated bunch.  No wonder I love it here, I fit right in!  Everyone that passed by had a question or a comment on what I was doing, why I was doing it and what I should do differently.  I met and conversed with so many, including the preschool chain gang that marches by every week on their walk around the neighborhood.

My design is an unframed raised bed in a keyhole pattern, providing twelve 4′ x 8′ beds.  My kids say it looks like sunglasses.  All of my previous gardens have been hidden in the back yard.  This garden, located in the front yard, had to be more than some rows of dirt.

It took me over two months, not quite three months of inconsistently working.  The garden is in, see for yourself:

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The plants are growing, I just haven’t taken any pictures yet.  We’ve eaten lettuces every night for weeks.  I have red potatoes, artichokes, rainbow chard, cabbage, kohlrabi, romanesco broccoli, regular broccoli, cauliflower, kale,  haricort vert, shelling peas and sweet peas, bush beans, fava beans, lima beans, zucchini, patty pan squash, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, 7 kinds of tomatoes (10 plants total), tomatillos, sweet corn, pumpkins, jalapenos, red and gold sweet peppers, eggplant, popcorn, leeks, carrots, beets, arugula and mixed lettuces.

I have yet to plant my radishes.

Slacker.

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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!

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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!