Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting Started! March 2011

Feels good to be back!

I missed you all, but boy I needed that R & R. Get ready for a lot of photos and updates!

In addition to the day job craziness which is thankfully coming to an end, my friend Cheryl and I are planning our first big urban farm. Lots of seed shopping, planting schedules and starting seedlings, going to community meetings in Greenmount West, figuring out where we're going to get a tiller, researching grants, etc. etc. etc. It's going to be a big summer.

This all got very real to me when I went ahead an traded my Toyota Corolla in for a truck.

I won't lie and say I didn't get stomach butterflies making such a big life change. But with all this compost, straw bales, lumber and more to haul around, the truck is really going to come in handy. As I said, I'm realizing that it's time to make big plans to move forward.

Stay tuned for more news about Boone St. garden!

Special shoutout to our friend Dale in Greenmount West for showing us around his land in early March. Dale has been farming in Baltimore for over 20 years. You can see Greenmount Cemetery in the background behind his newly tilled ground:

His awesome chicken coop:

Greenmount West mural nearby:

March is a great time to purchase your seeds, sketch out your garden layout, test your soil, break ground, and throw on the compost. Growing season is coming!

In addition to the urban farm, Chicken Man and I are still keeping the small raised bed in Remington for our own food needs.

Last week in the hour of daylight after work, I quickly put in carrot + green onion + pea + baby bok choy seeds. Topped it all off with lots of rabbit poo and straw. The rabbits provide perfect compost because you can put it directly on the ground without over-fertilizing the plants. With all the rain we've been having, the seeds were happy and germinating while Chicken Man and I went on vacation!

Where did we go? Belize!

It felt really great getting away from the computer and cell phone and just traveling around for five days. We traveled around different parts of the country near Belmopan, San Ignacio, and Belize City so we got to see a lot of the rainforest and mountains and a little bit of the coast.

We even toured a few farms, of course. Check out these cabbages growing in the shade of banana trees!

There were bananas, papayas, custard apple, plum and other fruit trees on this property- really nice diversity. Growing crops around trees is a great way to prevent your crops from scorching in the hot sun, plus you get a wider variety of food. We even saw fields of teak and mahogany trees, which can take 50-100 years before they are harvested. It was a lot of fun seeing all those different crops.

It is a little sad to think about all the rainforest that was destroyed for orange groves and other monocultures of crops, but I can understand that people have to make a living, and only certain crops enable you to get money for things like school, health care, etc.

One of the places did have a trail with traditional medicinal plants of the rainforest, so we got to see things like allspice berry trees and wild yam plants, which apparently spawned the development of birth control.

Speaking of trees, March is also a great time to start some tree cuttings of your own! This is my first time experimenting with tree propagation, and I hope it works.

Our neighbors have several large fig trees, so I am trying to propagate cuttings from them. There are a few ways to do this.

The easiest method is to cut off about 10-12 inches of a branch and put it in a pot of damp sand. However, I have read that this method isn't always effective. We did dig up a nice shoot coming out of the ground (instead of a clipping from the end of a branch) and put it in a pot of soil outside, so we'll see if it works.

The method pictured above is a low branch that I pulled down until it touched the ground. You can pile up soil around the branch. The rock is holding the branch down so it doesn't spring back up. Supposedly the part of the branch under the soil will grow new roots! This is supposedly a more effective method because the branch is still connected to the live tree. I'll check back in about a month and a half and we'll see if there are roots.

There is a third way to propagate fig trees from cuttings, where a bag of soil is tied around a branch, instead of the branch being covered with soil near the ground. Feel free to do more research on that if you are interested!

The last bit of big news has to do with the rabbits, and if you are sensitive to animal issues, you could probably stop reading here.

Remember how I kept talking about our difficulties breeding Fred and Ethel?

Well, it turns out things were more effective then we thought. As Chicken-Man was showing our neighbor how to care for the rabbits and chickens while we were on vacation, the neighbor pointed into the cardboard box in Ethel's cage and asked, "What's that?"

Turns out she had recently given birth to three "kits," or baby rabbits. Unfortunately, the kits had not survived the birth. Nature happens.

Ethel seems to be doing fine though. Actually, she has been seeming noticeably more happy and animated, but I don't know if that's a result of the pregnancy, spring coming, or the steady supply of cardboard boxes which she loves. Seriously, I had no idea how much rabbits love cardboard boxes!

We will probably try again in a few weeks and see what happens. In a weird way, the death of the baby kits made me a little more okay with raising the rabbits for meat. It sounds cliche to say that death is a part of nature, but knowing that baby rabbits can just die makes it seem less of an issue to raise one for meat.

So as you can see, February and early March have been quite the busy time. I can only imagine what the growing season will bring.

If you haven't had enough of BaltimoreDIY yet, feel free to check out a book review I wrote for Matte Resist's new book How and Why over at the Red Emma's website. As if I didn't already have enough project ideas!

Hope everyone is having a fun early Spring!

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