A Front Yard Gardener's Tales and Adventures

Sunday, January 31, 2010

February Goals and Other Topics

I believe I successfully signed up for a garden blogger's project set up by Mr Brown Thumb (check out my blogroll if you want to read his blog). If I did, Renee's Garden will be sending me a packet of Spitfire Nasturtiums. I'm not quite sure if I signed up in time (they only take 50 and there may be a million garden bloggers), but it will be really cool if I get a packet of seeds in the mail some day soon.

To participate in this project, I will be blogging on the first Sunday of each month about the nasturtiums. It sounds like a great idea: have garden blogger's around the country share their experiences with the same seed. Education is a great thing.

I have some good news and some bad news about my starters. The good news is that the chard and lettuce are looking good. The first true leaves of the chard are coming in and you can see the growth with each passing day. The bad news is about the basil. I torched them. Trying to create a miniature greenhouse, they got too hot, shriveled up, and died. :( So sad. Oh well, I planted them again and they should start to come up in a couple of days.

I started thinking about planting an obnoxious (my sister's favorite word) amount of starters, so much more than I could ever use myself and giving them to friends. Kind of on the lines of Johnny Appleseed, I could have plants all over Boulder. I wish I could knock on everyone's door and ask them if I could dig up part of their yard and plant a few things. Who wouldn't want fresh produce in their yard that they could enjoy??? They world would be a better place if...

I read somewhere that 90% of the energy used to cultivate crops goes towards transportation and packaging. Only 10% goes to actually growing the crops. Think about that the next time you go to the store and buy something wrapped in plastic. Even Whole Foods will shrink wrap a couple ears of (local) corn because they have found that it sells better that way. Instead of having a marketing team figure out how to sell more produce, why doesn't Whole Foods spend that energy (money) elsewhere, perhaps trying to educate people NOT to buy food wrapped in plastic?

Anyways, its almost February. Some goals that I have for this month:
-build a fence around the garden so that the eight dogs who call my front yard their home do not completely destroy the onion and garlic crop
-start more plants inside
-figure out how to utilize the cold frame better (though the chocolate mint and strawberries are loving it right now)
-gain employment, perhaps on a local farm
-read and learn more about horticulture and sustainable agriculture
-spend the month of February eating everything in the cabinets. Julia completely organized our cabinets (labels and all) and we have challenged ourselves to eat what we already have.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Pictures

A funny picture and possible future cover to 'J & J Burrito Safari' as well as latest lettuce harvest that complimented our salad.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Julia's Photo Exhibit

Julia had an open reception for her photo exhibit. She made some awesome cupcake-cakes for the occassion. Check it out!

Her photos will be up until February 28th-ish! Stop by and see them! They are at the Whole Foods at the corner of Broadway and Arapahoe.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Peak Oil and the Disaster that is Industrial Agriculture

Richard Heinberg, Sharon Astyk, and Aaron Newton write a lot about the connection between peak oil and the disaster that is industrial agriculture. They write articles called 'Fifty Million Farmers' and books titled 'A Nation of Farmers.' The buzzword 'peak oil' makes people worried about the future of our planet, but it is too big of a subject for people to really grasp. There is too much information to absorb and too many opinions that it is difficult to figure out who is right and who is just writing a blog. Instead of trying to figure out this mess, perhaps it would be better for people to focus on a smaller, more specific matter: the petroleum based industrial agriculture and the negative affects that this 'advancement' has had on the world.

It is thought that about 17% of all fossil fuel consumption in the United Stated goes towards agriculture, the single largest consumer. Peak oil signals the climax of the industrial agricultural movement as it will be impossible to continue to produce food without soaring food prices. Soaring food prices come from soaring energy prices.

I have read that one day soon, most of the food that Americans eat will be grown overseas where labor and land costs are significantly cheaper. That means, our dependency on the rest of the world will only increase, something that we have fought wars to mitigate. However, I have also read that argument that rising energy costs will force agriculture back to America. So, which one is correct? I hope that most of our food will again be grown in our backyard.

Heinberg sites the Cuban Special Period as a specific example of how a nation can change it's food system when necessary. Below is what he wrote about this topic in his article 'Fifty Million Farmers':

"In some respects, the most relevant example is that of Cuba's Special Period. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost its source of cheap oil. Its industrialized agricultural system, which was heavily fuel-dependent, immediately faltered. Very quickly, Cuban leaders abandoned the Soviet industrial model of production, changing from a fuel- and petrochemical-intensive farming method to a more localized, labor-intensive, organic mode of production.

How they did this is itself an interesting story. Eco-agronomists at Cuban universities had already been advocating a transition somewhat along these lines. However, they were making little or no headway. When the crisis hit, they were given free rein to, in effect, redesign the entire Cuban food system. Had the academics not had a plan waiting in the wings, the nation's fate might have been sealed.

Heeding their advice, the Cuban government broke up large, state-owned farms and introduced private farms, farmer co-ops, and farmer markets. Cuban farmers began breeding oxen for animal traction. The Cuban people adopted a mainly vegetarian diet, mostly involuntarily (meat eating went from twice a day to twice a week). They increased their intake of vegetable sources of protein and farmers and decreased the growing of wheat and rice (Green Revolution crops that required too many inputs). Urban gardens (including rooftop gardens) were encouraged, and today they produce 50 to 80 percent of vegetables consumed in cities.

Early on, it was realized that more farmers were needed, and that this would require education. All of the nation's colleges and universities quickly added courses on agronomy. At the same time, wages for farmers were raised to be at parity with those for engineers and doctors. Many people moved from the cities to the country; in some cases their were incentives, in others the move was forced.

The result was survival. The average Cuban lost 20 pounds of body weight, but in the long run the overall health of the nation's people actually improved as a consequence. Today, Cuba has a stable, slowly growing economy. There are few if any luxuries, but everyone has enough to eat. Having seen the benefit of smaller-scale organic production, Cuba's leaders have decide that even if they find another source of cheap oil, they will maintain a commitment to their new, decentralized, low-energy methods.

I don't want to give the impression that Cubans sailed through the Special Period unscathed. Cuba was a grim place during these years, and to this day food is far from plentiful there by American standards. My point is not that Cuba is some sort of paradise, but simply that matters could have been far worse.'

'Urban gardens (including rooftop gardens) were encouraged and today they produce 50 to 80 percent of vegetable consumed in cities.' That is an amazing fact. What if that happened in America? Think about how much better this world would be if the government encouraged urban gardens. What if every university student had to take a course or two on 'how to farm?' Heinberg worries about the average age of most farmers (over 55) and how some practices and techniques of farming will simply be lost.

The Cuba example has happened in America: Victory Gardens. Thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt (or Michelle Obama, Sr), Victory Gardens produced about 40% of America's vegetables at the height of the movement!(Heinberg) Again, I ask, why was this abandoned. I assume people were caught up in the moment, they were excited about being patriotic and doing their part to help America win the war. And, when we actually did win the war, their gardens were forgotten and 'normal life' began again. Pitiful. Just like after 9/11, a major world event that put the lives and future of Americans at risk, patriotism was at an all-time high. The 'gardens' of freedom have once again been left behind for the desire to drive Hummers and shop at Wal-Mart.

Small-scale farming that relies on human labor rather than petroleum is one answer to the growing energy crisis. The local and organic movement will not only be looked at as a fad or something that hippies think about, but it will be seen as a way to change our food system. It will cut down on the transportation costs and encourage people to eat what is grown locally and to change their diet to coincide with what is in season. Of course, this won't be easy. Just last night I was eating the third or fourth helping of carrot ginger soup that Julia made. I wish she would make cucumber melon soup instead, but she reminded me that it was January.

Through government policies, education, a shift away from petroleum fueled agriculture and a push back towards small-scale organic farming, America can cut down their dependence on Middle East oil. By cutting up the huge agribusiness farms and returning the land to the hands of the people, America can change its food system. In Cuba's example, it was thrust upon the country by necessity. However, one could argue, that necessity has arrived to America as well.

Read Richard Heinberg's article 'Fifty Million Farmers' here: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/22584.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sprouts and Side Garden

The sprouts are looking good. It is interesting that the chard and lettuce is twice as big as the basil already even though it is several days younger.

I also find it interesting that the lettuce we planted in August is still alive, even after all of the snow storms and cold, winter weather. They might actually make it through the winter. Yesterday, I got rid of the kale and turned the soil.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I thought I would share some writings from John E. Ikerd in his book 'Crisis & Opportunity' as he can express what I am thinking better than I can.

'One thing we all have in common is our dependence on the land and on each other.'

'...an acre claimed by urbanization is an acre irretrievably lost from human food production.'

'Many people now know that agriculture has become the number one nonpoint source of stream pollution in the United States...'

'An increasing number of consumers in the industrialized nations of the world want something more than organic; they also want to know where their food is grown and who grew it. They are concerned about freshness, flavor, nutrition, and overall food safety and quality, not just pesticide contamination. They are concerned about the impacts of their food choices, not only on the natural environment but also on the health and well-being of farmers and farm workers.'

'[Rudoplh] Steiner considered the rightness of relationships among the farm, farmer, food, and eater to be divinely determined. He was concerned that food grown on the increasingly impoverished soil of conventional farms could not provide the inner sustenance needed for spiritual health.'

'The historic purpose of organic farming was permanence - to ensure the sustainability of agriculture, and through agriculture, the sustainability of human society... Permanence requires sustainability - an ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future. A system of farming that destroys the natural productivity of the soil cannot sustain its productivity.'

'Deep-organic farming ultimately depends on people making a personal commitment to maintaining the health and productivity of self-renewing, regenerative, living ecosystems, societies, and economies. Such personal commitments require a sense of personal connectedness to people and to place.'

'Deep-organic agriculture is a land friendly, people-friendly approach to farming.'

'Potential positive solutions to farming and living in an increasingly crowded world are endless. The key is the pursuit of harmony through sustainability in farming and living, which requires ecological integrity and social responsibility to ensure economic viability. Mutual respect and consideration arises from the realization that caring for neighbors and caring for the earth, as we care for ourselves, is simply a more desirable way to work and to live.'

Ikerd's book focuses on sustainable agriculture and the need for action. The above notes came from just one chapter, entitled 'Local Organic Farms Save Farmland and Communities.' It is this importance on communities that interests me the most.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kind of Cheated

Yesterday, Julia and I went to The Flower Bin in Longmont to use our $2 worth of Sunny Money! We ended up buying two small herb plants: French Tarragon and Tomillo Thyme.

Therefore, in addition to those two plants, we have about six basils growing, as well as seven kinds of lettuce, two kinds of chard, and one mystery sprout that is probably a squash.

We plan to go back to The Flower Bin come late February/early March to buy crowns of asparagus. I was looking up prices for crowns and they are expensive. I don't think we will save money on this crop this year. But, hopefully we can have a bed of asparagus for a few years.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Victory Gardens

As I search around the blogs not only on this site but others, I can find little information about small scale farming efforts and the importance of such efforts. Sure, everyone knows that gardening is a good way to cut costs, improve your well being, mitigate your carbon footprint, etc., etc. However, it seems to me that people are not taking it to the next level. That level is the one where people are active in small scale farming not just because they like to look at pretty colors, but because they realize that this world is too crowded.

Maybe this is taking the fun out of gardening - labeling it small scale farming and wanting people to think more seriously about where their food comes from. Perhaps.

I was over at a friend's place yesterday and I picked up a catalog of books that were about gardening. One was entitled 'So You Want to Start a Nursery.' Yes, yes I do. That would be awesome. When the time comes (March), I would like to grow more starter plants than I know what to do with and give them to people who can grow them in their own garden. Then, kind of like Johnny Appleseed, my starters will be all over town. I wish I could knock on people's door and ask them 'can I garden in your yard?' It would be fun to go around town, visit various gardens and work on them. It would be really cool if someone would actually pay me to maintain their garden. (I guess that is what a professional gardener does - take care of other people's garden.) In Boulder, there are a lot of rich people that have the money but don't have the time. What if I could sell myself, my principles, and grow food for these people. That would be sweet. But, alas, I don't think I am ready to start knocking on people's doors, asking them for money and permission to dig up their precious lawn. Who am I to knock on some one's door?

Whatever happened to the Victory Gardens? The Victory Gardens started as a movement to save oil for World War II. It was a way that us Americans could be patriotic and proud. Why don't we do that today? Are we not still fighting wars that have something to do with obtaining oil (plus, a lot of other issues)? Why did we ever give that up?

Michelle Obama single handedly increase the sales of seeds when she began her White House garden. She encouraged us once again to garden, just like the Victory Gardens. She goes on Sesame Street because she is an advocate for early child development. She gardens so that her own children (and local elementary students) will be encouraged to eat well.

What if all of our political leaders showed as much initiative as Michelle Obama and those who started the Victory Garden movement? That would be much more successful than me writing a blog or going door to door.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Genovese Basil

The basil started coming up today. It only took 6 days (and not 8-10 days). The lettuce and chard are already starting to sprout as well.

Julia hung up her photos today at Alfafa's Whole Foods. There is a grand opening next Friday 6-8pm. Free cupcakes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Yesterday (01/12/10) I planted another six pack of various seeds.

Three lettuce varieties: Hyper Red Rumple, Merlot, and Arugula

Then some chard: one lucullus and two Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Probably still a little early but I couldn't help myself. I read that you can transplant the chard when the lows average at a minimum 28-32 degrees. Based on the averages for Boulder, that won't happen until the first or second week in March. But, thats why I have a cold frame. Plus, chard is very cold resistant and if there was a colder night, they could be saved with some cover. I could even play around with some of the spare windows I collected and create something similar to that in the photo. That way, if it did snow again, which it will probably do a lot of in March, at least the crops will be safe. The windows will create a greenhouse effect as well and warm the soil slightly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Got a Seed Savers Exchange catalog today, made a little wish list.

Please let me know if you see any red flags or if anyone has grown any of these varieties.

Tomatoes: German Pink, Isis Candy, Moonglow, Nebraska Wedding, Purple Russian, Purple De Milpa

Watermelon: Golden Midget, Moon and Stars (Cherokee)

Pepper: Fish

Lettuce: Lettuce Mixture of Amish Deer Tongue, Australian Yellowleaf, Bronze Arrowhead, Forellenschluss, Lollo Rossa Pablo, Red Velvet, Reine des Glaces

We also plan to grow purple cherokee, yellow pear, green zebra, brandywine, and marvel stripe tomatoes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Gardens

I figures out that I have about 400 square feet of garden space. Here, at 657, I have five different sections: the lettuce patch, the strawberry patch, the wave, the shark fin, and the cold frame.

This is the lettuce patch and the strawberry patch. The lettuce patch did okay last year - we planted it in September. Even after 55 inches of periodic snow, we were able to harvest. It is still growing out there. Because it is located between the houses, it gets limited sun, and I think lettuce is the only thing we could grow here.

Here is the wave. We measured it out and, it will be a little tight, but we are going to grow a dozen tomato plants, a pepper plant or two, some basil, zinnias, nasturtiums and some borage. (Purple Cherokee, Marvel Stripe, Green Zebra, Isis Candy, Yellow Pear, Yellow Taxi, and some others)

The shark fin, nestled next to the rocks. We're trying to protect this area from all of the dogs that play in our front yard. We currently have garlic, shallots, and some mystery bulbs growing in this area.

The cold frame that I was able to build in a day with only $17. I just walked around the alley ways, looking for discarded windows and wood. I am really excited about this cold frame as it will elongate the season, allowing me to start growing outside sooner.

Below is a picture of 301A, our community garden plot, about 250 sq ft of garden space.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I came across an interesting website about the local foodshed around San Francisco. This study found to within a 100 mile radius from the Golden Gate bridge, 20 million tons of food is grown annually. The entire Bay Area population only eats 5.9 million tons! 80 different commodities were studied and only a few do not reach local demands.

Again, Colorado doesn't compare in foodshed capibilites with California. However, it is encouraging to see that even 7.4 million people can be fed locally.



About three and a half years ago, I moved to Colorado from North Carolina. I was straight out of college. Born and raised in NC, I was excited about the opportunity to tweak my lifestyle, I was excited about moving west. My girlfriend, Julia and I would have conversations about how we could live differently once we got to Colorado. We wanted to be unique, try something new. Through all the brainstorming, I never thought I would become a gardener.

I didn't eat vegetables as a kid. I ate poorly, got headaches and I now believe I would have been an inch or two taller if I didn't drink so much soda. My sister can sum up my childhood eating habits with two words, 'plain cheeseburger.'

Julia and I were lucky to get a community garden plot our second year and I feel like we will never give up that plot of land. We started to eat better, grow our own food, bike and walk most of the time. My headaches are gone.


I read somewhere that all of north Boulder used to be farmland, not surprising. The Iris farm and the Hawthorn community gardens are the only farmland left; the deer know this. Some homesteader used to own and operate an orchard that went from Broadway to the mountains, Alpine to Grape. Many of the apple trees in the area are leftovers from his farm. Our friend Brookstar has made a map of all the best apple trees in this section of town. Just don't go to the house where he has drawn a skull and crossbones.

My grandfather, Bruce Sr., is a walking example of what the G.I. Bill accomplished. He grew up in eastern North Carolina on his dad's eight acre tobacco farm. Poor and uneducated, it looked like he would become a farmer as well, probably not making it our of the county. The World War II happened and he entered the war as a medic. When the war was over, he used the G.I. Bill to go to UNC, married his math tutor, and became a pharmacist. It is interesting to think that he left the farm life, said 'good riddance' to a life of manual labor, and, conversely, about seventy years later I have growing aspirations to learn everything I can about farming.

I understand that there is little chance that I will ever own a farm. But, this fact will not stop me from learning as much as possible about the subject. Hell, I might as well learn about something, right? Being in Boulder is a great first step. The people who live in this town are very aware of the shortcomings of American agriculture. That is why they stuff their pockets full of dolla dolla bills and head down to the farmers' market each and every week that it is open. There are more natural and organic based grocery stores then conventional ones. The city of Boulder is one of the only cities in the United States that taxes it's citizens to preserve open space. CSAs (community shared agriculture) thrive here because of the affluent and worldly population.

I think it is important for people my age to take a step back and look at how this world is growing and changing. Inevitably, every one's favorite woods are gone, replaced by cookie cutter houses that have already begun to crumple. Farmland is being lost to the everlasting suburban flight. The globalization of agriculture has gone down a path that only leads to a dead end. Pres Ike, who built the highway system for national defense purposes (he liked the autobahn), paved the way for commercial agriculture and killed the small farm.

Julia and I went to a cupcake place one time in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco (www.karascupcakes.com). A cute store selling incredibly delicious cupcakes, the place was full of affluent moms and their crying children, all of whom were too big for their strollers. A visit to their website, one can easily recognize that the cupcake place has made it a point to buy their ingredients from local farms, most (if not all) of which are organic. On the wall there was a map, listing the farms from where all of the ingredients came from. Similarly, as I was reading a magazine the other day, there was an illustration of a map, depicting all the places a particular restaurant received their goods. I believe they called it a 'foodshed,' a play on 'watershed,' announcing that this is where they get their food. This is their corner of the world.

Everyone should have a foodshed. Local and organic. I know the challenges that non-Californians face when trying to eat only within their foodshed. Here in Colorado, our foodshed is limited because of our climate - it is not Mediterranean. However, it is of the utmost importance that everyone eat as much local and organic food as possible. It is a fact that this world is struggling to keep up with the current population and doomsday predictions have been made about the future of food. People feel powerless and they can't do the math - they don't understand how they can make a difference.

Then how? What can I do? Not much. Or maybe everything. I can be an example, a voice. I can grow as much as I can and eat appropriately. I am a part of a movement, one that I don't fully understand. If people see me in my front yard, tending to my tomatoes, hopefully it will encourage them to do the same. In an altruistic world, a grassroots campaign regarding 'backyard gardening' will bring the people out of their houses and instill the citizens with a sense of community.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sub-Acre farming

I read somewhere in a book lately (either in Crisis & Opportunity or It's a Long Road to a Tomato) where a well-managed farm can produce a 15-20% return (i.e. $100,000 in gross sales, $20,000 take home profit). SPINfarming.com states that 'the aim with SPIN-Farming is to keep expenses at 10% to 20% of total sales. So if you target $50,000 in sales then you should target $5,000 to $10,000 in expenses.'

Why is there such a huge difference in possible income between a full-scale farming business and a 'sub-acre' farm? Land and Capital (and to a lesser degree, paid labor). It is feasible, then, that someone with a backyard can grow vegetables for a profit, if they so desired. It would be rather hard to wake up one day and say, 'hey, I want to buy a forty acre farm and make a living.' Most of us do not have the capital to make that happen, much more the skill set to run a full on farm. But if that same person only desired to never mow their lawn again, changing their manicured lawn into rows of produce, it is realistic to propose that they could sell their produce and come out on top.

For me, I can't dig up my entire lawn. Nancy, the landlord, would probably not like that. Nor do I have the thoughts of selling my produce to other people. I am, however, going to sell it to myself. Lord knows, I will be my best customer. If I can truly become a Spinner, I will be able to save hundreds of dollars by growing my own produce. If my expenses end up totaling $100, I hope that my savings come in at between $500 and $1000.

Let's take tomatoes for example. Sure, it is possible to start tomatoes from seed, but ideal conditions are necessary. It is much easier to go to the Ginormous Plant sale, run by Growing Gardens, and spend $3 for a tall, sturdy plant. A high yielding tomato plant can produce between 10-15 pounds of tomatoes in one growing season. If I am lucky enough to produce eight pounds, then my expenses will be in par. This is assuming a $3.75/pound price, which would beat the local farmers' market.

Genovese basil

I planted five small planting pots of Genovese basil this morning. Hopefully, I will see them sprouting up in 8-10 days. I plan on transplanting all of the successful pots into a larger pot to live in the sunny corner indoors. We still have a large jar of dried basil that Rich gave us back in the fall. By the time we use that all up, hopefully we will have fresh basil to eat.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sprout Salad #1

Did a little thinning to the lettuce last night as a highlight to our salad.

It's Cold Outside

Since it is currently 3 degrees outside and there is about 3-4 inches of fresh snow on the ground, I'll use this opportunity to be productive with some gardening housecleaning.

First, a list of seeds that we have currently: purple cherokee, chadwick cherry, green zebra, marvel stripe, brandywine, yellow pear cherry, yellow taxi, garlic, mammoth okra, rossa di milano, yellow valencia, lucullus chard, violet wave kale, elephant head amaranth, love lies bleeding amaranth, aji amarillo pepper, criolla sella pepper, bolivian rainbow, tangerine pimento, merlot, arugula, green leaf oak, forellenschluss, claremont, hyper red rumple, bright light cosmos, pink and magenta cosmos, nigella blue love in a mist, snapdragons, hollyhocks, dill, mixed greens, cilantro, (the rest are either old or there are not too many left or we haven't had luck in the past, 'others') radicchio, onion, yellow watermelon, delphinium, blue/red/yellow poppy, lemon cucumber, blue sage, lemon bergamot, blue ballat squash, butternut, hopi maxima squash, celeriac di praga, morning glory, stripped toga eggplant, sunflowers, purple dahlia zinnia, mixed zinnia, rainbow inca corn, hopi black blean, garbanzo bean, flageolet bean.

One seed that we do not have any of is rainbow chard. There are a few others on the wish list as well. We will have to obtain these seeds from either Johnny's, Seeds of Change, or Abbondanza.

We also have several different kinds of potatoes (fingerlings, purple peruvian, etc.) in the fridge that we will try to plant.

Harvesting seeds is something we will try to focus on more this year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This farm journal actually started about three weeks ago. I will go ahead and sum up what I have written thus far:

December 16th, 2009 - I built a cold frame today out of mostly recycled materials I found in the alley ways. I knocked on Eric's door to see if I could liberate some discarded windows from the edge of his property. It really wasn't too hard to put together. The size is about 45" x 30" x 11" (depth).

December 17th, 2009 - Cold frame got up to 82 degrees on a sunny, 50 degree day. Put some strawberries we have growing in pots inside as a tester.

December 18th, 2009 - I outlined the dimensions of our gardens as well as the crops we hope to plant. I will do this at a later date so that I can incorporate pictures.

I started three different kinds of lettuce today in a flower box. Abbo Green Oak Leaf (2008 seeds), Abbo Forellenschluss (2008), and Mixed Greens from Renfrow (Matthews NC 2008). As an experiment, I went light on the green oak, medium on the forel., and heavy on the mixed greens.

Brief list of activities to work on
-a crop plan / planting schedule
-master list of seeds
-list of what seeds we have given to people to organize feedback
-harvest estimates / goals

One of my main goals is to grow 100 POUNDS OF TOMATOES.

Read today that Genovese and Italian Large Leaf basil are basic varieties that produces high yields and are excellent for pesto. Because I have never had luck with basil, I think it would be a good idea to stick with the basics.

December 20th, 2009 - Some of the lettuce seeds are starting to germinate already. The seeds that didn't make it under the soil (human error) are popping open.

What is my overall goal with this blog and my farming activities. Currently, as I am unemployed, it is a way to keep my mind active and, since I have time on my hands, it is a great opportunity to learn something new. How far do I want to take this newfound passion? Sure, Julia and I have plans to wwoof one day in Europe and both of us would love to one day own land where we can enjoy a large garden. But is it going to be a large garden or a small farm? Will we ever get to the point where we are actually selling our produce for profit. If so, how do we get to that point? What if I can find a part time job that pays the bills while my other part time job is to garden.

A small scale organic farm. Is that my goal? Why would it be my goal? Farming is hard work, labor intensive, and economically speaking, there is very little margin for error. It is a hard business to crack into and often depends on a large, front end capital investment. Even the cold frame which I fantasized over being created with only recycled materials ended up costing me $17. I'm not even sure I have the back for that kind of career.

What are the advantages? You are your own boss, you control your own fate (to some extent, weather permitting), and you can literally see the fruits of your labor. I am a happy man when I see new growth on a plant, the first tomatoes of the season, or the constant wave of new flowers.

When I was younger, I wanted to be the youngest stock broker, then I wanted to be the youngest real estate agent, making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, well before I was 30. Now, I will be lucky if I make $50,ooo/yr by the time I am 30. Am I okay with it because I am accepting mediocrity or has my lifestyle changed? I don't need the money any more. I don't want to be a workaholic. Are farmers workaholics? Perhaps farming is different because it is a glorified hobby (when on a small scale), only for those who have the passion. Farming is more of a lifestyle, more so than that corporate man who works the same amount of hours. Though, one could argue that you fan make a lifestyle out of being a corporate man...

Then, what is my next step? I can continue to put in hours of labor and perfect the 400 square feet of garden that I have today. I can try to learn as much as possible about this life.

December 21st

I can't wait for spring. I am so excited about planting seeds and then watching our crops grow. I wonder how much money we can save by gardening.

Lots of lettuce seeds sprouting up, looking good. I figured out today that we probably spend about $6 on lettuce a week. I think there are about eight months in the year where we can grow and harvest lettuce. That means, we can save close to $200 a year on lettuce alone!

What if we are able to grow all of our garlic, onions, and shallots. Do we spend $2 a week on these items? If so, thats another $100 in savings.

January 4th, 2010

Back in Colorado, I am happy that our plants and house were well taken care of. Thanks Kristine and Michael. The lettuce seedlings are doing well, however, because they have been kept inside (albeit under a heat lamp), I am a little worried about how leggy they are becoming. Some of the sprouts are six inches tall but most are about three.

There is one rogue sprout: it is very thick, tall, and has two true thick leaves. It quite possibly could be lettuce (I have no idea), but why is there only one? Regardless, I am going to let it grow.


This will be a blog that follows the growth of two gardens (657 and 301A) and the education of a passionate farmer. It will be a blog about two people, James and Julia, and the adventures that gardening/farming will take them.

657 refers to our street number and home of our newest garden. It is shaped like a wave with a shark fin. There is also a lettuce patch and strawberry patch which is located between our house and our neighbor's.

301A is our plot number at Hawthorn Gardens. This will be the third year that we have had this plot.

In all, we have about 400 square feet of space in which we intend to fill to the brim with produce. We will focus on the basics: tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions/shallots, chard, lettuce, and herbs. We will also have other crops: corn, okra, and melons.

I feel that this is only the beginning of my garden adventures. Perhaps one day I will be lucky enough to have acres of land. Perhaps one day I will be lucky enough to wwoof around the world. But, until then, we have our gardens, and we have friends that farm as well.