21 May 2012

Planting (Co-op Part 2)

One of the first things we did when we were in the planning phase was draw a garden plan. We did the initial sketch with a pen on graph paper, but being the graphic design nerd that I am, I had to come home and make a hard-line version, in color. The grey areas on the plan above indicate a footpath about a foot wide, and the long main path is about 2 feet wide. The guys were initially pretty accurate with the measurements so when they went ahead and put in stakes and twine as row guides, we had a grid just like the plan. The only change was switching the cucumbers and beans to allow for maximum sun exposure, and the door in the fence moved.

After we completed the first phase of work, we met at the local farmers co-op to choose our plants. Even though they had a great selection in their green house, we ended up adding a couple of varieties from another local nursery. We want oodles of tomatoes this year, with the hopes of having a canning party!

A lot of the work has fallen on the guys' shoulders while we've been dealing with illness, but that has worked out fine because of hefty labor that had to be done! They've done so much -- tilling, spreading compost, tilling again, moving many wheelbarrows of mulch, putting up the fence, laying in the soaker hose, planting, and moving more mulch. That pretty much sounds like everything, so I'd say they've done most of the work. They're amazing guys!

Planting community has been a lot of fun (on the days I've been able to go)! Unfortunately, my husband has had to go solo a few times, but we're over our virus invasion so it's back to work. We work, we chat. We work and talk, talk and work. The kids love to pick green caterpillars off of the cabbage plants, and when they're out playing in the yard we take turns keeping our eyes on them.

I'll have to get over there to take current photos in toddler phase, but for now enjoy the baby pictures.

Baby tomato plants from the local farmers co-op
Cody, our "land host"
Mike in his work gear. Handsome, in rubber boots and dickies! 

09 May 2012

Co-op, as in "cooperative."

I know that many people would cringe at the thought of sharing their yard with another family, but our friends, the Yorks, didn't flinch. Well, not that I saw at least! 

They mentioned doubling the size of their garden.
I mentioned helping tend the garden, or purchasing veggies from them.
They said, "let's have a co-op!"

Why not? We're starting small, with just 8 members. 50% of the members are under 6 years of age, but that's neither here nor there. They will most certainly eat their share!
The first thing that we did as a team was rake out the dead grass before spreading the compost. The Yorks managed to get an entire truck load of horse compost for free -- long story, but I'll tell it if you ask me to -- so we worked all morning shoveling poop across the already tilled expansion. There was no need to compost the existing half, as it was pretty nutrient rich from the previous year's composted garden. As a true testament to community, a neighbor offered his tiller for the day. He even went to pick it up somewhere else and dropped it in the backyard for us. Oh, and if that isn't enough neighborly love for you, we also borrowed a couple of shovels from some folks around the corner. All of these folks will surely be getting some vegetable gift bags from us this summer! 

While one family returned the rental truck (used to haul the compost), my husband tilled the compost in, and we went to work on the border weeds. I must say, there is great satisfaction in pulling weeds. I have more work to do, but at least we got most of one side completed. 

The north side weeded and ready for tilling.

Compost down, tilled again, ready for more fence.

There are people that are okay with sharing things with the community, building friendships, sweating a little for someone else, and feeding more than just their own family. We're learning what that feels like this year, and hopefully teaching our children that living in relationship with other people is better than isolating needs and blessings. It certainly didn't kill us, or even hurt us, to work someone else's land. It felt even less painful using borrowed tools and expensive equipment from neighbors. It made it a true community effort.

The only casualty of the day was a pair of faux leather riding boots that I've been wearing for three years. I felt it was time to dirty them up. Or in this case, horse manure them up. Darn, I guess I will need a new pair of boots this Fall! 

By the way, this is the very same friend of the juicing post last year. She's a giver!

07 May 2012

Oh yes, I did.

What do I do with sweetened condensed milk, you ask? Well, a little dab in my coffee for starters. Truthfully, a full teaspoon is heavenly at the bottom of my cup, just before I pour a double from the stovetop espresso maker.

I have to also mention that it stays in the refrigerator door and lasts a VERY long time. I'm icked out by open cans in the fridge, so we used to transfer the milk from the can into a container, then spooned it out. Not much trouble, but the availability of a squeeze bottle truly rocked our world!

Much to my dismay, I found out recently that Trader Joe's carries the squeeze bottle version of organic sweetened condensed milk as a "seasonal item." A season, I must mention, that has passed. Boo, boo, and boo.

My quick-fix? Empty the last can in the pantry, into the squeeze bottle.

Hey, don't mention it.