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Archive for September, 2008

Feel like you NEED to order an EarthBox at 10:30 at night PST? Feeling confused about whether to get the whole organic set or just the (significantly cheaper to ship) simple box with no soil or fertilizer? Worried that you are going to have to wait yet……..another………day to actually get your container garden going? Well quit fretting! As promised on the website, the EarthBox phone lines are open all day and all night.

After a nice chat with the disembodied voice of Paul (I think it was Paul) late yesterday evening I decided yes on three EarthBoxes, no on the fertilizer and soil (I’ll get my own at the garden store) and no on the EarthBox baseball cap. (I actually considered the coffee mug, but lets see how the boxes work out before we start identifying with them).

The bummer is that it may take up to 2 weeks for my EarthBoxes to actually arrive. But at least they’re on their way!

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So even though what I REALLY want (for no good reason) are these crazy expensive Food Map Containers , what I think I’m actually going to get are these significantly cheaper, less cool looking, but apparently more useful planters called EarthBoxes. They are about $200 cheaper than the Food Map Containers, and they make farming look super easy. A quick web search shows that most people who have used them seem really happy. And I like the fact that they appear to have a sort of self watering function so if we go away we won’t lose our whole crop. I think I’m going to start with three of these. Or maybe even four.

Earthbox rendering.

Earthbox rendering.

And for those of you wondering when I’m going to STOP WRITING about how I’m going to garden and actually START GARDENING, the answer is SOON! Next weekend to be exact.

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Today I researched chicken coops for a story I’m writing for work. My web exploration took me to many awesome urban farming blogs and I started to feel really discouraged. There are so many people out there doing so many impressive things! And what do I have? Two pots of basil, a rosemary bush with some thyme around it, and grandiose plans.

But it’s times like these when I have to force myself to think of Karen. Karen was my best friend in college and we both thought it would be super cool to be in a band. The problem was that by the time  we were in college it felt like all the people in bands had been playing their instruments since high school. Why even play if you were going to be so much worse than everyone else?

But our junior year Karen decided to learn bass anyway. She totally sucked for 6 months, and had to watch her fingers while she played and couldn’t dance and play at the same time and her first few shows were not so great. But not quite ten years later she’s the bass player and lead singer in a band that just toured Europe and all the reviews of her live shows talk about her awesome stage presence.

The point is, you have to start somewhere.

This is Karen. Her band is called Demander.

This is Karen. Her band is called Demander.

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I want this:

It costs $245. And I’m not going to get it. But God, I really want it.

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Urban farming GENIUS Will Allen.

Urban farming GENIUS Will Allen.

A friend just sent me a link to a Chicago Sun-Times article about Will Allen, a former NBA player who started an urban farm in Milwaukee in 1993. The idea was to teach urban kids about where their food comes from and help them learn how to grow it. Fifteen years later,  Will Allen has been dubbed a genius! As Sun-Times staff writer Kara Spak reports:

“For his inventive work in local, urban agriculture, the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation dubbed Allen a genius, awarding him $500,000 to use however he wishes through its prestigious fellowship program.

You can read more about Allen’s organization, Growing Power, here. But let’s just say Allen is a serious dude. According to Growing Power’s website, their Milwaukee headquarters has six greenhouses growing over 12,000 pots of herbs, salad mix, beet greens and arugala (MY FAVORITE!), six hydroponic systems growing Tilapia and Perch, something to do with hoop worms (I have so much to learn) AND an apiary with 8 beehives!

(Full disclosure: I had to look up the word “apiary.” It means “bee yard.”)

A rendering of a Nebraskan apiary that I found in a publication called Bee Tidings!

A rendering of a Nebraskan apiary that I found in a publication called Bee Tidings!

Tune in later to see if I can get up the guts to interview Mr. Allen on which crops do best in container gardens!

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A birds eye view of one half of my patio (deck). Note the shade.

A birds eye view of one half of my patio (deck). Note the shade.

There are reasons I think this whole patio farm idea is going to work out amazing, and reasons I think it is doomed to failure.

Let’s lay it out.

Reasons to doubt:

1. I’m pretty sure I’m working with a northern exposure which means not the best sunlight conditions.

2. Sunlight conditions are further hampered because my landlady likes the “overgrown” look in her yard which means lots of shade. (Although admittedly, some of that shade is provided by a fig tree and an orange tree which both grow adjacent to the deck).

3. I don’t really know what I’m doing.

Reasons to hope:

1. I am fortunate to have a lot of space to spread out. The deck runs the length of the house and is fairly deep.

2. I live in the miraculous city of LA where year round gardening is the norm so starting up the farm in October shouldn’t be a problem.

3. One of the only things that works to calm my five month old down from a screaming fit is showing him plants. He really loves to look at plants. This is a VERY good motivator to have lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of plants around.

It seriously works every time.

It seriously works every time.

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Here’s what happened: A few months ago I came across a story on women farmers of the northeast in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. It was mostly a photo essay and mostly what you would expect—strong and weathered looking women in workshirts (one even wore a denim jumpsuit)—but the final photo was of a young woman wearing her brand new baby on her front.

“[Caroline Pam] left a career in journalism for culinary school and a succession of farm-related jobs, eventually settling down on a farm of her own,” went the caption.

“Holy shit!” went Deborah. “I know her!”

For the next week I ran around telling everyone I had ruined my life by staying with my career in journalism and not going to culinary school and never working on a farm and settling in Los Angeles instead of somewhere in Massachusetts where I could be living an amazing wholesome life farming. But then I started to think that maybe I didn’t ruin my life. Maybe I could start a farm right here!

I don’t currently have usbale dirt, but I do have a pretty nice deck that gets patchy sun. The idea is to container garden as much as I can. We’ll see how it goes!

Recreating Caroline Pam's New York Times photo.

Recreating Caroline Pam's New York Times Magazine photo on my deck.

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