07 February 2014

Getting personal - why I've neglected the blog

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I’ve been continually neglecting this blog, and last year I barely posted. This is due largely in part that it was a tough year. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for 3 years now. I’ve been through fertility treatments, which only resulted in a chemical pregnancy last April. I had enough and stopped the Clomid, Ovidrel, progesterone, IUI cycles, and—wouldn’t you know it?—got pregnant the next month (that would be August). We were elated. I started a to-do list for when the baby would arrive. We had names picked out. I started researching the best cloth diapers.

8 weeks later, I miscarried. To say I was devastated doesn’t even scratch the surface. I wanted to die. That sounds dramatic, I know. I felt so much pity for myself that I didn’t think I could function normally. It seemed like everyone around me was pregnant or just had a baby. This includes my beloved sister, who gave birth to my beautiful niece a couple of weeks after I lost my baby (yes, yes …. I know it was still just an embryo, but to me it was a baby). This is where the ugliest side of my human, self-pitying nature came out. Please understand that I love my sister, but I resented her terribly. This made me feel even worse and hate myself even more.

I managed to drown myself in work, coming into the office 7 days a week. Although working helped shift my focus elsewhere, it also made me question everything I’ve done up until this point. I had waited a long time to start a family. I acquired an advanced degree, which consumed my 20s and early 30s and finally got a job that paid above the poverty level. Finally, in my mid-30s, we could contemplate having a baby. I didn’t even consider the idea of infertility, but there it was.

I’m very open about my infertility. I’m sure I make some people uncomfortable, but my openness has also resulted in friends struggling with the same issue to open up to me. They may be less public about it than I am, but their struggles are just as crippling.

I thought that as I moved closer to 40 (I’m almost 38 now), I’d have a family and be much further along in my career than I am. I did the right things a woman who “wants it all” is supposed do. I’m slowly realizing that it’s time to start accepting my life as it is. And, more than accepting it, embracing and appreciating it. I do realize so many people have it much worse than I, and mine are first world problems. This is no small thing. I’m really, really lucky.  



28 January 2013

It's been a while -- and some home DIY

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Every weekend since July I have been meaning to update this blog. Before I knew it, it was January! I left my previous job for another in June of last year, and I've been consumed with work. Now that I feel more acclimated to my new workplace, I hope to revive the blog.  Although I'd love to commit to posting at least once a week, I'm definitely not promising it.

I'm still gardening and cooking (although less than I'd like), and now I (and my husband) have added DIY home renovation to the mix. We bought our home in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia in May 2011, and it's been long enough that we now know what changes we want to make. And there are a lot of them! Among the biggest is refinishing the original wide-plank heart pine subfloor on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Currently, both floors are carpeted. I hate carpet, and the hideous brown color doesn't help matters any.  Here's what the floor underneath looks like.


As you can see, the floors are in desperate need of refinishing. So, we're in the painstaking process of ripping out the carpet and pulling out countless staples, all of which will take us many, many weeks. We will then attempt to sand and finish the floors ourselves. I am not looking forward to the process, but I also really want to learn how to do as much myself as possible.

While the 2nd and 3rd floors can be refinished, our 1st floor is a whole other issue. That's because the previous owner decided to tile the entire floor. That's right - ceramic tile in our living room, dining room, hallways, kitchen, and half-bath. While we'll likely keep the flooring in the bathroom and kitchen, I can no longer stand living with the rest of it. The floors are ugly and freezing cold in the winter (although, they are a godsend in the summer). Since tearing out the tile is a bigger task than either of us are prepared for, we've decided to cover it with a floating wood floor. The biggest issue is that it's not perfectly even, so we'll have to tackle that as well.

Here's a snapshot of the floor in the living room (complete with a cheap, temporary rug). Isn't it awful??


10 June 2012

Landlocked Farm update - June 2012

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Winter squash plants in the foreground (I may have planted them too early). In the background are beans, cucumbers and dill. 

baby fig tree

This is our nightshade bed, since it holds various tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Interplanted are carrots and lettuce.

Beet and brassica bed. Features beets, chard, kale, and, eventually, brussels sprouts.

Sugarbaby watermelon bed. I hope they actually produce fruit.  They're in the most shaded bed, which is far from ideal, but I think it still gets decent sun in the summer. We'll rotate beds each year, so if nothing comes out of these plants, maybe next year!

Raspberry and strawberry bed. One of the raspberry bushes has died. The strawberry plants are nice and healthy.

One of two raspberry bushes. This one has produced a few berries. Still, it's starting to shrivel up, and the other one died completely.

View of the farm.

29 May 2012

home garden update - May 2012

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Some pics from my backyard

Tulips from early spring. now dead. I'm going to be lazy and leave the bulbs in the ground and hope they come back next year.

Things are starting to grow. Tomatoes, peppers, and basil in the bed to the left. In right bed: cucumbers, beans, chard, spinach, kale, strawberries, lettuce, and beets. In the rear bed, oregano, thyme, echinacea, borage, scented geraniums, calendula, German chamomile, savory, chervil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, basil, and cumin (which keeps dying on me). I can't wait until next month when that bed will be lush! Marigolds and nasturtiums scattered throughout all three beds.

Flowers around the border include roses, foxglove, and a bunch of others I forgot to label, so I have no idea what they are.

Strawberry patch.

In the pots are lemongrass (left) and fingerling potatoes (the two on the right), to which I'm gradually adding soil.

Marrjoram, thyme, oregano, stevia, patchouli, rosemary, St. John's Wort, bee balm, mint, and lemon balm.

Tangerine tree and aloe.

This rose bush is at least 10x the size it was last year when I first planted it.

07 May 2012

Landlocked Farm progress

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We're getting a late start at Landlocked Farm thanks to hungry squirrels and meddlesome cats, both wreaking havoc upon any seeds we sow. Lesson #1: start as many plants as possible to avoid seed loss! We'll be sure to implement this next year. Luckily, we've started lots of tomatoes and eggplants, which we put in the ground over the weekend. We're waiting another week or two for peppers, since our seedlings are still rather small.

My partner-in-crime Farmer Dan securing tomato cages. He's also documenting our project at landlockedfarm.org

Spinach and arugula finally coming up. Beets throughout the middle. The cats and squirrels destroyed all the kale.

A selection of the heirloom tomato plants we're growing: Bonny Best, Arkansas Traveler, Early Tomato, and Riesentraube

Compost bin cooking away

recently-planted raspberry vines

small strawberry patch

future site of a fig tree

12 March 2012

Seed starting time

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For this year's seed starting, I'm determined to be more organized. I'm keeping a monthly spreadsheet that lists what I'm planting and when.  With the help of my farming partner at Landlocked Farm, I also set up a seed station that is a little more sophisticated than last year's. I bought an extra shop light and suspended both lights from my basement's ceiling joists. The lights hang from chains, which allows me to raise or lower the lights as needed. Each shop light has one warm-light and one cool-light fluorescent tube.

I use coconut coir as the seed starting medium, and I also cover the seeds with vermiculite. So far, that system has worked great for me, and it allows me to avoid peat moss, which is unsustainable.

I started several plants fairly early--February 10--but it's been so unseasonably warm that I think I'll be able to start transplanting early. I'm so excited to garden! In addition to my backyard, which has 3 raised beds (pics to come), there's Landlocked Farm, which seems like a huge amount of space within the city (900 sq. ft.). It's going to be an exciting growing season!

Seed starting station.  Currently, I only have a few plants started, but I will be adding lots of tomatoes and peppers soon.
I use a plastic spoon to scoop up plants that need to me moved to larger containers.
Marjoram, oregano, thyme, leeks, and rosemary - all were ready to be moved  to larger containers. 



25 February 2012

Urban Farm Handbook Challenge - Soil Building

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Sustainable Eats' first Urban Farm Handbook Challenge is soil building, and it's a three-part challenge.

Step one is to plan for compost. I already had a backyard bin, so I decided to investigate how it was doing. Previously, I had been composting in 5-gallon buckets, but last year I "splurged" on a $40 compost bin.  It ain't pretty, but it's 9 sq. ft., which is the minimum space needed for hot composting, although I suspect the bin may need to be a bit bigger to really do its thing. I've been adding vegetable scraps, dried leaves, shredded newspaper, and spent potting soil to the pile. Since I'm currently taking a woodworking class, I also have access to sawdust. Living in the city means I don't have an abundant source of carbon materials (with the exception of newspaper), but nitrogen-rich materials are never a problem. I don't bother shredding the few leaves I do get or cutting up my food scraps. This means everything will take a bit longer to compost, but it will do so all the same.  When I finally turned the pile (which was long overdue), I was thrilled to see lots of rich, dark compost and that numerous fat worms have made their way inside. I think I'll be able to use quite a bit of the compost in my garden beds this spring.
outdoor compost bin with fresh sawdust 


Compost after turning - can you see the fat, happy worms?

I must admit, I haven't gotten to step 2 of the challenge: buy fertilizer in bulk or make your own. I'm terrible with fertilizer - meaning I tend to neglect it.  I use lots of compost and also worm castings, and my plants seem to do ok. I know this is not good gardening practice, and I occasionally supplement with an organic fertilizer from Dr. Earth. I don't have anything growing yet, but I do plan to fertilize more often this year, especially after reading the comments section. Who knows, I may get an abundance of tomatoes because of it!

The third part of the soil building challenge is to build a worm bin. Again, I got off easy because I already have a worm bin, though I bought it rather than building it. I started out with a large tub, but last year I made another splurge (this time, it really was a splurge) on a stackable bin. It was pricey but well worth it, since it makes harvesting so much easier. I harvested the first castings this weekend, and got 7 quarts out of one tray. Not bad! 
Harvesting bottom tray of worm bin.  A lot of the egg shells, but they'll decompose eventually, so I don't mind.


An expensive investment, but well worth it. 7 quart-size bags of castings harvested from 1 tray!




06 February 2012

I'm taking the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge

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When Sustainable Eats posted the above challenge, I knew I had to sign on. I have several reasons. First, this will be the first full growing season at Landlocked Farm, a former parking lot soon-to-be urban farm. Second, I'm trying to transform my small backyard into a flower and food garden. Third, I want to become as self-reliant as possible, and this challenge will be a great motivation.

So, stay tuned!