A years worth of food (2016)

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Baskets of beans

There are good reasons to garden revolving around food security, ethics and reduced environmental impact which matter a lot to me. Some of these issues come with a rabbit hole worth of depressing information that can suck me in. Discovering more about all the nasty ways corporations are dissecting our worlds to make a profit does not leave me feeling empowered or even motivated. Part of me thinks I should write about these things but in all honesty, they leave me wanting to put my head in the sand and ignore the issues entirely.

So, positive reasons to grow my own food include flavour, variety and quality (for example, I grow the best cabbage I’ve ever eaten). Gardening also gets my family outside and covered in soil. Just spending time being still surrounded by nature and I notice things I wouldn’t normally see (like ladybug sex).

Food production is also a constant human problem that will always need to be solved. It’s an old problem, going back perhaps more than 10,000 years. It’s also a current problem urban dwellers mostly avoid. And, it’s a futuristic problem if we’re going to go off an inhabit new world (this is where my geek-dome comes in).

So on to the numbers: In 2016, I grew 120 kg of food, less than 2015 where I grew 196 kg. The biggest difference was I purposely didn’t grow many squash (I still have squash in my kitchen from 2015). I also got a full time job in April which combined with being a grad student made planting everything I intended to difficult, as a result many things didn’t get planted or harvested (my bad).

All the below, works out to feed a person requiring 2000 calories a day for 50 days – a few days less than the 62 days worth of food from last year. That extra 12 days of food was likely all squash, so no loss really.

Eggs – 149 (just over 12 dozen), these numbers are low because I sent the hens to a farm in the spring (a real farm, honest).

Roots – 6.1 kg (down from 13.54 kg in 2015), I never got around to planting carrots. I do however still have plenty of beets yet to dig up.

Greens – 5.2 kg (down from 10.49 kg in 2015), this year I lumped the kale and collards in with my brassica category.

Oniony things – 9.3 kg (up from 3.75 kg in 2015), there was a bumper crop of onions and shallots.

Sprouts – 1.8 kg (up from 0.99 kg in 2015).

Brasicas – 14.3 kg (up from 0.5 kg in 2015). I had tones of broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

Peas/beans – 4.1 kg (up from 2.6 kg in 2015)

Herbs – 2.6 kg (up from 1 kg in 2015)

Fruit – 11.1 kg (down from 16.6 kg in 2015)

Mushrooms – 0.8 kg (up from 0.5 kg in 2015)

Tomatoes – 33.6 kg (similar to 2015)

Peppers – 2.4 kg (down from 4.8 kg in 2015)

Cucumber – 5.6 kg (up from the pathetic 0.5 kg in 2015)

Dried beans – 12.9 kg (up from 5.75 kg in 2015)

Potatoes – 2.8 kg (down from 33 kg in 2015, but I planted them as an afterthought)

Squash – 2.5 kg (down from the ridiculous 67 kg from 2015)

Amaranth – 2.1 kg (got almost nothing in 2015)

Sunflower seeds – 1.4 kg

Popcorn – 1.2 kg

a saga of imperfect timing

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I captured a shot of this guy while on a recent trip to our local butterfly gardens – I love its eye.

In April my PhD funding was scheduled to officially end. My awesome supervisor had scrounged extra money for a few more months, to the end of the summer at most. But, I was suffering from financial angst, i.e. a fear of being unpaid which would quickly become a problem. I’m progressing on my dissertation, its mostly just writing now. Most of my first draft is done, but I expect to be revising for quite some time. I knew I was very unlikely to finish before my funding ran out. The best case scenario I could come up with would have me finish early fall. Timing that just didn’t match my funding.

To abate my financial angst, I started dabbling in freelance writing, actually found a few paying gigs (I discovered a secret talent for creating logic puzzles). It was an interesting experience, but there was no way I could earn ‘enough’ doing it in the short term.

I planned a massive garden as groceries cost. We turned most of what was left of the front lawn into food garden – effectively doubling the annual veggie beds at the house. Plus, there was my parent’s garden to plant and I signed up for an allotment with some friends. Because I wasn’t busy enough, when I came up with an idea for a novel last summer I decided to start writing. It’s a science fiction who-done-it with lots of plants (and butterflies), and writing it has been a fun diversion from dull academic writing. And, my busy three-and-a-half year old deserves plenty of my time.

In the midst of everything, a job in my field came up. I got it and with rather short notice started in April. It’s a perfect fit for my skill set and has removed my financial angst and much of my free time. It’s all good – however, adding full time work onto my already full plate left me overwhelmed. I had to let some things go (unfortunately this blog was an early casualty). I dialed back my garden plans, backed out of sharing an allotment, and gave my chickens to a friend with a farm (a literal farm, not a figurative one). I stopped freelance writing and cleaned up many of the ‘experiments’ I was running around the house.

I’ve managed to keep puttering on my dissertation. I no longer have to be in a rush, hopefully I’ll be done in a year. Surprisingly, I’ve finished a first draft of my novel and am puttering away on the second. It turns out, for me writing fiction is a nice late evening task. I like my story and am planning on self-publishing it, maybe late fall.

The garden is looking organized, beds are dug over, sprinklers on timers are set up and plenty of things are planted. I lost a few pepper plants due to not re-potting them in time, so I just bought replacements. With my husband’s help we are in good shape to finish planting in the garden. Plus, we’ve created a small plot for my daughter which she has chosen to fill with strawberries and flowers. I’ll try to keep posting updates here, but I don’t promise to be regular for a while.

The 2015 harvest numbers

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A picture to remind everyone of summer

I finally worked up the energy to tally the harvest from 2015, I grew 196 kg of food! My harvest works out to enough to feed a person requiring 2000 calories per day for 62 days – not too shabby. Out of curiosity I went back an calculated calories on my 2014 harvest and was able to feed my hypothetical person for 38 days, so I’m improving. Hopefully, the 2016 harvest will produce even more calories (that’s this year’s goal). As for what my harvest was worth, a rough calculation resulted in $1150 worth of produce, $50 more than the 2014 harvest (I may have calculated my 2014 harvest based on organic produce which I didn’t do this year).

So for those who like the numbers here they are:

Eggs – 489 (over 40 dozen). Also added two new hens to my flock (Licorice and Stout), so I’m expecting an eggy spring.

Roots – 13.54 kg. I didn’t plant as many different type of roots last year, just carrots, beets, and radishes. I also planted celeriac for the first time and haven’t harvested them yet.

Greens – 10.49 kg. I’ve lumped all my green leafy things into one category here. I grew kale, collards, lettuce, chard and an assortment of Asian greens.

Oniony things – 3.75 kg. Mostly garlic and leeks, might try actual onions again this year.

Sprouts – 0.99 kg. This I do in the house and is usually pea shoots, chive sprouts (from my own seeds) and fenugreek sprouts. I’ve experimented with other sprouts and these three are my favourite.

Broccoli – 0.5 kg. This is all purple sprouting broccoli I harvest in the spring. I didn’t get a lot, but the taste was awesome so I’ll aim for more this year plus my husband has convinced me to grow Brussels sprouts.

Peas/beans – 2.59 kg. There were fresh peas and green beans, I’m thinking of adding snow peas to the mix since they’ll be ready sooner in the spring when not much else is available.

Herbs – 1.02 kg. I grow parsley, chives, basil and rosemary. Will expand herb production this year.

Fruit – 16.58 kg. This was the first year I got ripe melons and they were awesome, but I didn’t get any apples. I’ve also included all the berries that made it into the house (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and tayberries).

Mushrooms – 0.48 kg. From a kit I got at last year’s seedy Saturday.

Tomatoes – 34.11 kg. More than last year! I experimented with some new types but for my garden and taste buds black prince and old German varieties work best.

Peppers – 4.76 kg. I grew both hot and sweet peppers outside and got a huge harvest.

Cucumber – 0.3 kg. All I can say is cucumbers just didn’t work for me last year.

Oca – 1.23 kg. I wrote about these here.

Dried beans – 5.75 kg. I wrote about these here. I’ve since eaten several of my varieties and am enjoying how different they are, so far the snowcap beans are my favourite.

Potatoes – 33 kg and Squash – 67 kg. I wrote about these here. We ate the last of these last weekend, since I love potatoes its going to be a long wait until this year’s crop.

I also harvested a bunch of oddball things I’ll cover in another post. Plus, I’ve saved all sorts of seeds to use this year. Finally, last year I planted a bunch of fruit and nut trees, more berries (including a grape vine) and my perennial plants are getting established – once all these are producing I expect my urban harvest will increase massively.

the grand re-configuration plan – an update of sorts

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Some rain-soaked rocks

The rain and wind have conspired to turn my backyard into its winter monster-mud-pit state. Mud gloms onto my boots every time I wander out there creating a slippery mess. It’s not cold in a Canadian winter way, which is why I live where I do, but it makes being out there messy. Garden work is possible – and this is why we built raised beds. Carrots, leeks and celeriac still reside in the ground well above the mucky level, but mostly the beds are empty so I can enact my grand re-configuring plan.

We’re changing the beds from orderly rectangles into more of a keyhole shape – since we’re working with bricks, the end result will be more like two big c’s. This should optimize my growing space while reducing the weed-whacking-requiring paths. A cunning plan that requires me to move a lot of dirt and bricks, so hopefully we’ll get a few days of light-to-no rain in the near future so I can get to work.

I’ll post before and after photos when I’m done.

Garden on the first of April (no fooling)

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The back garden on a rather grey morning. The grass is getting long, but I can’t mow it yet as it is still rather mucky in a monster mud pit kinda way.

There is lots of activity starting in the garden – garlic and chives (I’ve been harvesting these for a while) are already well on their way. My winter greens are bolting; the kale, collards, corn salad, parsley and wintercress are all about to flower. I’ve started lots of lettuce and mustard greens which are doing great. Unfortunately, my early peas have been decimated by slugs, I’ll have to start more this weekend. Here are some pictures:

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It looks like the overwintered broad beans are a success – they have out grown the slugs and are now flowering.

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The ramsons I was given last year are now up – I’m not going to harvest any this year to grow a bigger patch. I’ll be moving these to my food forest in the fall.

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The alpine strawberries are flowering

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There are more mushrooms to harvest

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The asparagus I planted this year is putting up shoots – my first food plant (ie not tree or bush) in my new food forest. It will be a few years until I get a harvest.