Urban Farmgal’s Future

Hello, friends! Big changes in my life, as described in the video below.  I’m excited about the possibilities, despite some sadness associated with these changes.

I am in the process of setting up an Instagram account and I need help picking out a moniker.  Here are a few ideas I have so far…feel free to chime in and offer different suggestions to help me figure out what my new online profile will be!

In no particular order of preference:

@thatfieldecologychick

@sassyfieldecologist

@badassbarrebabe

@tricorythodes (this is a genus of mayfly, which is featured in my storybook)

HELP ME!!  PLEEEEEEASE….I need other brains to help me decide.  Suggestions welcome!  The winning moniker may be used for other social media accounts eventually, so I want something I really like and identify with, because as described in the video, urban farmgal’s future is uncertain.

Spice up your day with a little eggplant curry

It should come as no surprise that I love food of all kinds, but I particularly love curries.  I love the way the simple act of combining 7 or 8 spices into an exotic mixture carries the aroma of far away places to my kitchen.  Since I can’t travel to India right now, I’ll settle for a little taste of India at my dining room table right here in Montana.  Plus, it’s a great way to use the CSA share this week!  Want the recipe?  It’s here.  And for even more fun check out the video:

 

More wonders in the garden

Today I noticed a second, astonishing wonder in my garden this year.  The first wonder I noticed several weeks ago–I had a globe artichoke overwinter.  If you are not familiar with the ways of the globe artichoke, allow me to elaborate briefly.  Where I live in Montana, we are a Zone 4.  That means, on average, our lowest winter temperature drops no lower than -30 degrees F.  This year we bottomed out our thermometer at -21.8 degrees F, so I have no idea how cold it really got this year (I think I saw -26 reported for the airport, which is a few hundred feel lower than where I sit).  However, despite the bitter cold (and we had a lot of it this year), we also had a really good snow year.  For about 3 continuous months we had snow on the ground, and a lot of it.  Snow is an excellent insulator, so things that would normally die in the cold can be protected enough with a snow blanket to coax them through a long, bitterly cold winter.  Enter the globe artichoke.  Last fall I dug up several plants, potted them, and tucked them in a corner in the basement.  By overwintering my little babies, I wouldn’t have to start seed in January in order to plant them out in early spring to ‘trick’ them into thinking they had lived through a winter and thus flower (i.e., produce those luscious artichokes) during their first year of life.  For the record, artichokes are perennial plants in warm climates (no colder than Zone 7, which is about 0 degrees F as the average coldest winter temperatures) and they usually do not flower until their second year.  Well, I missed digging up a plant last fall and earlier this spring while removing mulch from the garden beds, I noticed a queer-looking little leaf sticking out of the soil.  “That’s weird,” I thought, “it looks like an artichoke.  Maybe it’s a thistle?”  But it sure didn’t look like a thistle, it looked like an artichoke.  And it was in the bed I had planted artichokes in last year.  Hmmmm……

I watched the strange leaf for a week or so and when new leaves began to appear, it became obvious to me that this was, in fact, an artichoke that survived a bitter cold Montana winter.  HOW COOL IS THAT?!  I yelled to everyone who would listen.  Other garden nerds thought that, indeed, it was pretty cool.  I thought this was the coolest thing in my garden…until today.

Today I was weeding a bed with a bunch of spinach and garlic and I saw this:

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What the…could those really be…?

Now I’m no mushroom expert, but my first thought was, “Those look like morels.”  And then, “That’s crazy talk.”  Fortunately my neighbors, who I know are wild mushroom hunters, were outside in their garden.  I walked across the street.

Me: Hey guys, do you know your mushrooms pretty well?

Neighbor: Well, we know a few edible ones that we hunt for, and a few that you shouldn’t eat.

Me: I have some mushrooms popping up in my garden box and [I was almost too embarrassed to say this] they sort of look like morels.

Neighbor: Well…probably not, but we’ll come take a look.

At this point I am 1) curious as hell to know what these mushrooms are and 2) a little embarrassed to think that I might actually have morels in my garden box.  I mean, c’mon!  I think of them growing in the forest–particularly forests that have recently burned.  Not in a cultivated garden box that housed tomato plants last summer.  Did I confuse them with another mushroom?  Was I a complete and total idiot?  We arrive at the garden box.

Me: See all these coming up around my spinach?

Neighbor: Well I’ll be darned, those are morels!

He plucks a mushroom and turns it over.

Neighbor: There’s another mushroom that looks similar, but that one is detached here at the base (he points to the stem).  These are definitely morels.  Wow!  Where did you get your mulch?

Me: Someone at the gym had some pine needles he was going to set out by the curb and I just happened to overhear him talking about them with another person at the gym.  I asked him if I could have them to use for mulch in the garden.

Neighbor: Wow!  That’s pretty unusual.  Amazing!

Me: Schew!  I thought I was crazy for thinking that they were morels.  Please take as many as you want!

Neighbor: Wow!  Thanks! What an unexpected surprise!  You probably shouldn’t tell any mushroom hunters about these…

Me: Yeah, no kidding!  Some people search high and low for these gems!

My neighbor came back over a few minutes later with a paper bag and cut some mushrooms.  She showed me which ones were the prime ones for eating and which ones were probably too dried out and past their prime.  I am sooooo grateful for them!  I learned something new today about mushrooms!  These neighbors have shared their hard-sought Chanterelles with me in the past, they share garden plants, and garden mulch/compost/soil.  I provide them with eggs, garlic, and now, morels!  We have a pretty nice arrangement, but I always feel like I get the better end of the deal.  I know I shouldn’t feel that way–it’s just farmgal kindness between garden nerds–and gardeners love to share (especially that zucchini)!

I’m not 100% sure the pine needles were the source of the morels.  I have other boxes with the pine mulch and they do not appear to have any mushrooms in them.  I don’t think it was the soil, which is a sheep manure-compost mix I get from a local garden shop.  I don’t think it was the soil the tomatoes were grown in last year–though I should ask the gifter where they got their potting soil, just to be sure.  The pine needles seem the most likely source.  Many of the mushrooms were past their prime, but that means they have already set spores–so I am hoping for more morels to show up next spring!

pile of morels
Pile of morels

I can’t help but think over and over how special my garden is.  Nature is a wonderful, mysterious force, that’s for sure.  What a neat gift to have these much sought-after mushrooms appear in my garden!!  Secret: I have never eaten morels.  Which makes this all the more special.  I am beyond giddy for tonight’s dinner:  morels and fresh asparagus.  I’ve got plenty of spinach in the garden and eggs, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find a scrumptious way to prepare these ingredients.  I’m going to eat like a queen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zipper-dee-doo-dah

This week I taught myself how to sew a zipper into fabric.  This is a task I have wanted to learn for years, but 1) I’ve been intimidated to try (WHY? I ask myself…What’s to lose? Besides a ton of time and all my patience?  Nothing, I guess.) and 2) I wasn’t sure if I had the appropriate gear for my sewing machine, i.e., a zipper foot (more on that challenge below).  This is a natural problem when you inherit a 70 year old sewing machine and you don’t know doodle about sewing or sewing machines, much less sewing machine parts.  Nonetheless, I have slowly taught myself a few things about using a sewing machine and I’m beginning to get the hang of the basics.  Zippers, however, have remained a mystery.

Why was this the chosen week to teach myself to install a zipper?  As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I won a Kindle Fire in raffle drawing at work (thank you employee appreciation week!)–I would never have bought one of the things on my own, but I hardly ever win anything so I thought “What the heck?” and accepted the prize.  [Aside: As a neophyte in the smartphone/tablet world (I still have a ‘dumb phone’) I wasn’t even sure what to do with it.  I turned it on, then turned it off, sat it on the table and just stared at it.  Friends, family, and co-workers assured me this was going to be a great thing–so many Apps!  One thing I quickly learned is that many Apps are for Apple i-thingys or Android devices, not Kindles.  So I can’t put the wildflower App I wanted on there, but I do have a bird App.  Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.] I wanted a way to carry my Kindle and protect it from the elements, and since I’ve been on a knitted bag kick lately, I decided to knit myself a little tablet protector.  And I thought it would be nice to have a zippered liner in the bag to keep my precious little Kindle from falling out.

I finished knitting the bag last weekend, knit a small handle, and all that was left was to sew the liner.  Oh, and to figure out that zipper.  Can I just say, “Thank goodness for YouTube?”  There is no shortage of videos on how to install a zipper, but my favorite tutorial is Made Everyday with Dana.  I must have watched that video 5 times before screwing up my courage, then I watched it while I sewed my zipper into the liner, pausing the video so I could perform the described task, then watching a little more, pausing, etc.  Here was my first attempt:

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It turned out pretty well!  A few minor issues, like sewing the ends of the zipper so there’s no gap, but all in all it turned out just peachy.  There were two problems with this liner that made it unusable for my knit bag: 1) the zipper opening was just slightly too small to fit my Kindle inside and 2) the pattern & label needed to be on the inside of the liner so it would show when I sewed it into my knit bag.  Duh, I didn’t think about that one, just followed the video instructions.  But I have plans for this one:  I’m going to knit another bag and sew this into half of the bag so that it will have a zippered pouch and a non-zippered pouch (unlined).  So no wasted efforts!

So I had a minor setback–I needed to purchase a larger zipper and I needed to piece together my bag inside out so that when I turned it right side out the pattern would be on the inside of the bag.  This time I nailed it:

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The stitching on the inside of the liner isn’t beautiful by any means, but for a second first attempt, I’m pleased with the results.  I’ll be able to refine my approach and future editions of the zippered knit bag will be phenomenal, no?  I dare say they will.

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The broach was just a whimsical little piece that I thought would compliment the bag well and add a little flair.  It has little orange rhinestones in it that match the orange of the bag–something kind of fun and will make it unique from other bags I make in the future.  It’s sort of becoming my signature mark on my bags–either a single button or little piece of old jewelry sewn on the outside to mark it as Urban Farmgal and add to the uniqueness of the bag.  I’m pretty happy with the results!

Now about that zipper foot.  Again, can I just say, “Thank goodness for Google?”  Earlier in the week when I began the Great Zipper Project I didn’t think I had a zipper foot for my machine.  So I got online to see if I could locate a zipper foot that would work with my machine.  I have a Kenmore Model 84 sewing machine–it is bomber but it is old and finding parts for it would be…impossible?  Easy peasy?  I had no idea.

I also had no idea what a zipper foot would look like for it because there was not a picture of one in the owner’s manual.  In my little box of accessories (bobbins, bobbin holders, tiny screwdriver, and the like) there were a few weird-looking pieces that looked like they were different attachments for the machine.  One in particular was sort of L-shaped and had a couple of holes on the side of the flat foot.  On the website that I thought had the best potential for having what I needed, I was discouraged to find that in fact it looked like they did not have what I needed.  But I kept coming back to the weirdo piece and I decided to scan the pictures on the website to see if I could identify it.  Wouldn’t ya know I found it!  And it turned out to be AN ADJUSTABLE ZIPPER FOOT!

AWESOME!!

Wait, what’s an adjustable zipper foot?  Oh, the website has videos on how to use an adjustable zipper foot!

AWESOME!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sewing Parts Online–you saved me!!  After watching the video, then struggling a bit to get my own zipper foot installed and properly adjusted, I was able to sew my zipper.  And now I know what a zipper foot is AND how to use it!

 

Spring fever is sneaking in

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Spring fever is beginning to hit me.

It’s been so warm here lately.  The snow is melting in town and on the lower trails, which means the mucky-yucky season is just around the corner.  Right now the lower trails near town are ribbons of packed-snow-turned-ice laid out on bare ground that sees a lot of exposure to the sun.  As soon as these ribbons of ice melt, the trails turn into a muddy, mucky madness.  It’s best to just stay off the trails until they dry out because the trails are über slippery and ultimately you end up carrying half the trail home with you on the bottom of your shoes.  Not my favorite season.  Sometimes you get lucky and the higher trails are still in good enough shape for hiking and biking and trail running that you can stay high while the lower trails dry out, but there’s usually a period where you just have to either get muddy or hike elsewhere.  Or do something completely different.

Like read seed catalogs and dream of your garden this summer!!

Today I saw bare patches of earth that have not seen daylight since early December.  The snow has stuck around for a long period this winter due to a colder than normal (or recent memory normal) December/January.  I really have no complaints.  It made for good skiing, the roads in town were snow packed and my studded snow tires got put to good use, and shoveling the sidewalk is good exercise (TRUE farmgal fitness right there! No gym needed.).  Not to mention spending evenings sitting by the wood stove knitting and chatting with the Hubby while MaeBelle lays at my feet, happy that her pack is all in the living room with her.  But seeing these bare patches of earth made me think of spring: new growth marking the re-birth that occurs every year after a long winter.  The wildflowers that dot the hillsides make for incredibly scenic hikes in May and early June–probably my favorite time of year in Helena.  But it also made me think of my garden.  A few of my garden boxes are now exposed after having been hidden under the snow for months.  If this weather keeps up, it won’t be too long before my garlic and rhubarb and oregano start poking their sleepy little heads above ground to soak up some sunlight.

For me, spring is going to come very soon because this farmgal is traveling southward at the end of the month, heading back to the motherland to visit family and do a little bit of consulting work.  I hate flying, and my last experience was so bad with cancelled flights and what-not that I decided this time I’m going to drive.  Yes, it’s 1800 miles ONE-WAY to get to my destination, but I have decided to make a long road trip out of it and visit some friends, colleagues, and nature preserves along the way.  And, this is perhaps what I am most excited about, on my way home I’m going to stop in at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri!  I love their catalogs, their exotic seeds, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love their farm set up they have in south-central Missouri.  I’m hoping to spend some time walking around their gardens and gorging myself on photography.  I may have to purposely leave my wallet locked in my car so I don’t go completely nuts buying vegetable and flower seeds (“I’ll take one of everything, please.”).  Then, I’ll pay a visit to the Laura Ingall’s Wilder home in Mansfield.  I was a HUGE “Little House on the Prairie” fan when I was growing up, so this will be a treat.

By the time I get back home, spring should be just around the corner and I can start some seeds in my basement for eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and a whole slew of other goodies I want to grow this year.  I’m really hopeful we can get our fence put up this year to keep the deer out of the yard, and I’d love to put up a greenhouse this year (that might be wishful thinking).  I really miss my greenhouse I had when I lived in Arkansas.  That was my happy place.  I could go out, smell the earth, get my hands dirty, and feel complete and total stillness in my life.  I believe playing in the dirt is good for your health, and there’s even scientific evidence to back it up (though any gardener will tell you that gardening is good for your health and well-being).  So will I be able to play in the dirt by the time I get home from my trip?  Outside?  Maybe.  It all depends on how much more snow we get and if the warm weather sticks around.  If nothing else, I can play in the dirt in my basement and tend to some seedlings until I am able to get my hands dirty in my garden.  I’ll take whatever I can get.

 

Farmgirl Fit

One of my part-time jobs is working at my gym.  I started working the front desk a little more than a year ago then I began teaching barre classes last summer.  Even though the gym doesn’t pay a lot, I do get a free membership (so that’s worth quite a bit!) and, more importantly, I actually really like working there.  I’m not an overly social creature, but I do enjoy getting know to people, especially if they are bettering their health through exercise.  The front desk is a very social job–you greet members as they come in the door and tell them goodbye when they leave.  I especially love talking with new members or people who just come in for a day or week.  I can show them around and offer suggestions on classes to take–I love doing that.  There’s a lot more to the job, but the gist of it is to be friendly and helpful, just like any service job, yes?  One benefit of working at the gym is getting to know so many people from around the community–and many gym members have become friends over the past year.  Today I saw a family I rarely see anymore–I used to see them every Tuesday night when I worked that shift, but since I quit working the late night shifts, I hadn’t seen them for several months.  But they came in the gym tonight right before I got off my shift.  And the mom is going to come to my barre class next week!  So excited!  One final perk of working at the gym: when it’s not real busy, I can knit!  Bonus!

Now that I’m teaching barre, I have really began to focus more on getting fit.  I was already in pretty good shape when I began teaching, but now I’m looking to get serious.  Really serious.  I want to drop my body fat percentage so I can actually see those abdominal muscles that I know are hiding under that little bit of extra pooch around my midline.  Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of discipline in the eating department to get there.  I’m not sure I have it.  I do love my carbs.  So I’ve upped my cardio a little more in the hopes that I can drop some more of the fat and I’m trying to be a little better about watching what I eat.  This means I can’t do what I did last night and make cookies, then eat 27 for breakfast the next morning, after eating 15 after dinner.  Ok, so I’m exaggerating–a little bit.  But I have horked down a lot of cookies since last night…so I gotta be a little better about that.  Oh, and you know what’s most annoying about trying to lose body fat?  You can’t pick where it leaves on the body.  Many women are familiar with this problem.  Our bodies like to store fat on our midsection, thighs, booty, and arms.  After I joined the gym a couple years ago, one of the first places I lost fat was my boobs.  Seriously?!  I’ve never been well-endowed in that department anyway, so to watch my boobs shrink even more just added insult to injury.  Why can’t I just suction the extra fat on my thighs and shunt it to my boobs?  Is that too much to ask?  I think not.

Anyhoo…this month I’m working the desk on Monday afternoons.  In the morning I take a Les Mills class, BodyAttack (my favorite cardio class), then I run home and shower, eat lunch, love on my dog, do a little work, then head back to the gym around 12:30.  I work until 5:00, then I teach barre at 5:30.  I am a huge fan of barre.  It’s a low impact class, so it’s great for people with joint problems.  My classes incorporate cardio, and as one woman mentioned to me tonight, “You don’t have to jump around to get your heart rate up and sweat.”  Absolutely not!  That’s why I love teaching barre.  It builds strength in the core, arms, and legs, it burns fat because we do get into that cardio zone, and it promotes better balance and posture.

Today while at the front desk I spotted a sheet laid out for members entitled “101 Benefits of Regular Exercise.”  I had to have it.  I haven’t given it a thorough look yet, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites on the list.  As I am a huge proponent of the healthy, less stressful lifestyle, some of these really hit home.

Here are some of my favorite benefits of regular exercise, in no particular order:

  1. Helps you effectively manage stress
  2. Helps you lose weight–especially fat (yes, and we know where I lose it from first)
  3. Reduces your risk of getting heart disease
  4. Helps alleviate depression
  5. May protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease
  6. Improves your glucose tolerance (which means you lessen your risk of developing Type II diabetes, or if you have Type II diabetes, you can possibly reverse it and maybe even get off insulin!)
  7. Increases your productivity at work
  8. Improves posture (a HUGE focus in my barre class)
  9. Improves your balance and coordination (another HUGE focus in my barre class)
  10. Helps to alleviate low-back pain (a chronic problem for many Americans)
  11. Enhances sexual desire, performance, and satisfaction (why did this not make the top 10 on the sheet?!)
  12. Helps you to relax (which is but one reason why I am incorporating more yoga into my life)

There are so many more benefits to regular exercise that I think are just as important, but I didn’t want to bore you to death.  But the point of this little exercise it to remind you that exercise has wide-ranging benefits.  One of the hardest parts of exercise is simply getting started and getting into a routine.  If you are looking to incorporate more exercise into your life, I encourage you to take that first step and get movin’!  You don’t have to join a gym, though having the group classes is a big motivator for me.  Would I work as hard at home as I do at the gym in a group class?  Hell no!  There’s no one at home to keep me motivated or held accountable for getting off my tush and getting my sweat on.

A prime example:  I watch a lot of YouTube videos to get new ideas for barre.  I like to keep it fresh and incorporate new moves on a regular basis so we don’t get bored doing the same ol’ routine.  How often do I actually DO the exercises I’m watching on the YouTube video?  This weekend I did my first one.  I’m not kidding.  I have watched literally hundreds of YouTube videos and I am usually sitting on my tush (maybe even eating a cookie or three) and making mental notes on cool things to try in my next class.  Not going to burn many calories that way, am I?  Eventually I do burn those calories, while I’m trying out these moves in my class, but it’s because I’M IN THE CLASS.  Not in my basement.

So, if you’re a loner and have self-motivation, great.  If you need a friend, find one who wants to add more exercise to their life and the two of you can motivate one another.  If you need a large group of people to hold you accountable, then find a gym that offers some great group fitness classes and join!  It may seem expensive (and it will be if you don’t use it), but if you find improvements in your health, then the long-term benefits may include fewer medical expenses (and some insurance companies offer discounts on gym memberships).  And, most importantly, if you haven’t been active for a long period of time, you should probably consult with your doctor before you run off to the gym.  You know, just to make sure you don’t do anything drastic that could cause more harm than good.

And once you’ve made the commitment to start exercising, you have to also make it a priority.  Which means, dear friends, you have to schedule it into your life and STICK TO THE SCHEDULE.  This is probably the hardest part and the easiest out you have for not exercising.  But isn’t your well-being a priority?  Then treat it as such!  If you can incorporate exercise into your routine and stick with it, you will see results.  And once you begin to see results, you want to see more results!  It becomes easier to convince yourself to go to the gym or go for that walk or workout to that YouTube video once you start to notice all that work is paying off.  So don’t give up!  It may take a few weeks for you to notice a change, but it will happen if you stick with it!

Cleaning garlic late is better than never cleaning it at all

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Last summer when it was time to harvest my garlic, I was busy working 5 part time jobs.  When I finally got around to harvesting my garlic, a lot of it was past its prime.  In addition, I had a lot of cilantro, dill, and violet volunteers that made themselves cozy in my garlic beds.  Garlic does not like to share space with others.  I understand.  I need my personal space, too.  Because I was so busy, and in part because I have a hard time ripping plants out of the garden and getting rid of them, I did not weed my garlic beds.  The result was many of my garlic bulbs did not grow big and fat like they have forthe past few years.  My bad.  And so I declared a garlic crop failure for last season.  Not a total failure, but it was a huge disappointment.

I only harvested maybe one third to half of my garlic (out of over 600 plants) last summer because it was so late and many of the leaves were completely dead and straw colored.  Ideally, you should harvest garlic when 40-50% of the leaves are still green, especially if you want to store you garlic long term.  Why?  Each of those leaves on the garlic stem equates to one layer of wrapping around the bulb.  You need a few layers of bulb wrappers to keep your garlic in primo condition while it sits in your basement or cellar.  If you wait until all of the leaves have turned brown, then that means the bulb wrappers have already begun to disintegrate.   Green leaves mean the bulb wrappers are still in good condition.

So I only harvested a few varieties–out of the over 20 varieties I grow– and left the rest in the ground.  When they come up this spring, I will dig them, separate the cloves and replant.  I may or may not get good bulbs this summer by doing it this way, but I figured it was better to leave them in the ground to overwinter than to risk losing all of my garlic to rot or desiccation in storage.  Or worse–I could have eaten all of it!

Hubby was kind enough to help me harvest last summer, late at night when the sun was setting around 10pm, and I threw it all in the basement to clean after it had dried and cured for a few weeks.  Well, for most of the garlic, a few weeks turned into a few months…or several months.  This weekend I made a promise to myself that I would clean the remaining garlic because I risked losing it to desiccation and I should either clean it and eat it or it was going to go to waste.  And I hate letting things go to waste.  Especially garlic.

The nice thing about letting it sit for so long is the outer bulb wrappers are really dry, so cleaning goes very quickly.  But some of the bulbs felt soft and that means it is beginning to dry out.  Drat.  When it hits that state, it’s not good for eating, but garlic is a hardy plant, and if I throw some of those shriveled up cloves in the ground this spring, I’ll probably get a few bulbs out of them.  One of the reasons why I love garlic so much–its will to live!  Glancing at a few of the cloves, I noticed the basal plate is beginning to show some root budding.  And I’m sure if I sliced a clove in half, I would see a small green shoot in the center of the clove.  They are alive, after all.  So I saved a few bulbs that were still nice and big and firm, as well as a few of the not-so-firm, and put them back in the basement.  They will go out in the garden early this spring as soon as my raised beds thaw.  The rest of the garlic I threw into a bowl on my counter so I see it and put garlic in just about everything I eat.  Actually, most of what is remaining I will dehydrate to make homemade garlic powder, which, by the way, may be the best herb/spice on Earth.  But I need to be prepared for the entire house to smell of garlic for about 3 days while it dries.  Another reason I keep my garlic on the counter?  I love admiring the beautiful browns, purples, and pinkish-reds on the bulb wrappers.  Yet one more reason why I am infatuated with garlic–I think the bulbs are downright beautiful.

One of my favorite varieties that does really well in my garden is Duganski.  It’s super-hardy and has a great flavor.  This photo is from my first harvest of Duganski back in 2014.  duganski_compress

When I first started growing garlic, I got really nerdy with my harvest and measured every. single. bulb.  Then I created histograms based on bulb diameter.  I measured every. single. bulb. again in 2015 and graphed the data side-by-side to see if my garlic was larger or smaller, and thus giving me an idea of whether or not that variety was acclimating to my climate.  It turns out that Duganski didn’t get larger in 2015, but some varieties did.  Of course, conditions weren’t exactly the same–the bulbs were planted in different beds, the weather/watering regime was different in 2015, and weeds might have been different between the two years, among other things.  So I won’t say this particular variety doesn’t grow well in my garden, because it does.  In the long run I think having this data will help inform me which varieties will do well here.  And if at some point I need to scale back the number of varieties, or focus more on a few varieties that grow  big for market, then I can make a more informed decision.

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Truthfully, the scientist in me just loves geeking out on data.  It’s too bad I didn’t have any data for 2016, but I will try again next summer and hope I am able to add to my histograms next fall!

Mission Accomplished…though really it’s just the beginning

Now that my Urban Farmgal business is finally registered with the state of Montana (Yay! Small victories!)  it’s time to apply for a TIN from the IRS, open a bank account, and get my business plan finalized.

I’ve been working on my business plan all week and it’s taken several attempts and re-writes, but I think I’ve finally nailed down my mission statement:

To inspire a happy, healthy, & sustainable farmgal lifestyle in today’s busy world.

What do you think?  I have yet to actually run this by anyone outside of my own head, so this is as fresh as it gets.  I know it says ‘farmGAL’ which makes it sound like my target audience is women (and perhaps 90% of my audience WILL be women) but that’s not to say you couldn’t substitute ‘farmDUDE’ or ‘farmBOY’ and still make it work if you happen to be one of those guys running around with a Y chromosome.

Right?  Okay, I’ll sleep on it.

At some point I probably will run my business plan by someone who is smarter about business than me, but for now this is my working mission–to inspire those who visit my website to seek a little slower pace of life, one where you stop to enjoy the small pleasures in life that don’t involve an electronic device (which, ironically, you will get by reading my blogs posts on an electronic device).  BUT!  Read it then go away!  Go read a cookbook and try a new recipe for dinner.  Go outside and go for a sunset hike with your dog or a loved one.  Go take a picture of a beautiful thing, place, or event that brings you joy.  Go pick up those knitting needles that have been sitting in a basket in the corner for years and teach yourself a new stitch.  Go talk to your plants in the garden and then go talk to your chickens.  Don’t worry about what the neighbors think.

And it’s not just about slowing down the pace of life.  It’s about being conscious about your impact on the planet as well.  Think sustainably, then ACT sustainably.  Grow your own food.  Join the CSA.  Don’t go out and buy the newest-latest-greatest-most popular thing that’s in the Sunday  newspaper ads just because.  We humans have placed a pretty heavy hand on Mother Nature, and all those shiny, pretty, new things you see in the Sunday ads require tons and tons of resources to manufacture.  It’s mind-boggling if you think about how many pairs of shoes ONE store carries.  One store!  How many pairs of shoes have you seen in your local Wal-Mart?  There’s probably hundreds of pairs of shoes.  And there are thousands of Wal-Marts and other stores that sell shoes.  Do we need all of those shoes?

That’s the sort of thinking I do these days.   I think about all the shoes.  The purses.  The sofas.  The computers and cell phones.  Think about how much stuff there is to buy.  And not to be extremist about it, but how sustainable is it to keep buying all this stuff?  Do we really need it in our lives?  Does it make you happy?  What if you didn’t have it?  Would you miss it?  And what would happen if it all went away?  Think of it this way:  if tomorrow rolls around and there are no more Wal-Marts or Whole Foods grocery stores, how well off would you be?  How well off COULD you be?  Could you survive another day?  Probably.  What about another week?  A month?

Maybe my little blog can be an inspiration to someone thinking these same thoughts.  Someone who wants to simplify their life and moderate their footprint on the planet.  Someone who just wants to raise chickens in town.  Or someone who would love to grow basil on the balcony of their apartment building just because they love pesto.  All of these things fit into the urban farmgal lifestyle.  I hope to be a source of useful, inspirational information for you to do just that.

So I leave you with these thoughts to ponder as you focus on your farmgal zen while knitting a chicken sweater for your city chickens!

The Launch of ‘Urban Farmgal’

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally happening: I’m launching my Urban Farmgal business.  I’ve been thinking and hoping and dreaming about this day for years, and the time is right.  I’ve been busy this fall and winter knitting bags to sell, I’m preparing my garden for next summer’s bounty, and I’m exploring my options for my cottage food license so I can prepare value-added items to sell at the CSA.  These are exciting times and with the dawn of a new year just around the corner, I thought there is no better time than right now to make it official.  Let the adventure begin!