My two main mentors for urban food growing are Novella Carpenter of Ghost Town Farm fame, and Joan Dye Gussow. Their books tell the story of their own urban and suburban farm endeavors. Novella created such a great harvest in her empty lot in Oakland, California that she decided to take an entire month where she ate only from her farm. It was no easy feat. And Joan, after years of growing her own food, worked herself up to eating mostly from her garden year round. She built in cold storage for her potato harvest, and canned things in mason jars. I love both of these authors!
Struggling with my true nature
I am no snooze at canning things and have gotten pretty good at some fermenting (beer, kombucha) but my growing needs some work. At best I am a random grower, placing plants around the yard or patio and then forgetting where they are or what they are. At worst, not a grower at all since I often get too busy with other things and my free time is spent elsewhere and plants don’t survive.
Optimism while living in a rural area
While living on the family ranch temporarily, I wanted to study how to grow all my own food. My first step was to consider what I eat so I know what to grow. My idea is to do this only for myself and then add on sharing with others as I get better at it. If I have extra, wouldn’t that be cool, I can always pass it along. Here is an incomplete list of things that I eat every week:
- marinara sauce
- brussels sprouts
- sweet potatos
All in all, most things on the list are something I can eventually create, forage, grow or figure out a good substitute (except the coffee and the chocolate, two of my favorite things). This is good news! I worry that my many and varied diet causes this to be a much more complicated problem than it could be.
I was pleased to find out that I can actually grow a shrub in my area that will provide black tea. I am looking forward to trying that. Also, I am trying to figure out the livestock issue. Livestock, I know from experience with goats and chickens are another level of commitment. You have to be around all the time to take care of your livestock, and I am notoriously not around all the time. Is there a way to raise livestock that takes care of itself? Yes! wild animals. So, I have to learn how to hunt – eggs, deer, fish, wild turkeys, wild boars. OK, I’m game. But how to get my coveted dairy? I love cheese. These questions will have to wait.
Reality Check Update
Update: I’m not sure what I was thinking when I first wrote this post, but, yeah, even a weeks worth of groceries for just myself is pretty far out there. Also, I’ve moved to an apartment since this amazingly optimistic post where I don’t have access to land where I can grow and keep livestock. I am looking forward to exploring the fishing and foraging more though.
Here are some pictures of the project in progress – you will recognize some from the garden I have been working on in previous posts.
I have a mini greenhouse on the deck where the broccoli rabe is doing well in the milk cartons. I hope I can get a harvest directly this way.
Update: Yes, the harvest was great. A couple of meals from these!
These have dirt and cauliflower seeds in them in hopes to get them started early for February or March planting amongst the broad beans in the garden.
Update: never got seedlings from these.
Some of my garbanzo beans started plants. I’m hoping they will do well in my climate.
Update: these fizzled out probably because of the cold weather.
I have a garlic bed. I put a lot of ideas in this one bed. Lots of sticks, soil and horse dung. Then I added leftover fava beans and am encouraging one dandelion to grow. It is my random guild (companion planting).
Update: I will look forward to seeing if any garlic remain. I moved and took apart the garden.
Broad Beans (aka Favas) have flowers! I don’t eat a lot of the beans, but maybe I will try a fava hummus if I get enough.
Update: Also, unfortunately, these beans didn’t get to mature. Blergh.