Friday, April 24, 2009

Modest Results

We're coming to the end of the main growing season here in Florida and can report a year of a few modest successes, some baffling disappointments and some lessons learned. Setting up the garden, along with the chickens, took a significant investment of time and capital, but the infrastructure is something that won't need to be repeated in the future. Knowing what I know now, would I have done things a little differently? Most certainly! A few of our boxes aren't in the optimal place, we still lack a box deep enough for carrots and other root vegetables, and the blueberry plants are certainly showing a preference for a slightly shadier spot. That said, things haven't gone too badly, all in all. Many of our early frustrations were related more to the chickens and their incessant desire to eat everything in sight, a situation we remedied with a permanent coop last month. Another frustration--small plants that wouldn't fruit--may have been related to our use of city water. We've switched to well water and rain water exclusively, now, and that seems to have improved things, but I'm not sure. Well water may also be the reason that our plants are dying early. Or is it too much sun? Not enough compost? An excess of squirrel poop? Bad vibes? Venus is transiting Cassiopeia? Frankly, there are so many factors that my head swims just thinking about it!

Still and all, we've had some nice produce this year. After years of planting the odd tomato only to see it fail, this is the first time I've gotten to eat fresh tomatoes from my own garden, and they're good! Given how expensive tomatoes are these days, I think we'll break even on the investment in the seedlings. Next year I'll be attempting to grow them from seed as a cost-saving measure, so that should be interesting. Our lettuce performed very well for the second year in a row; we definitely came out ahead there and I estimate that we saved about $30 growing our own (plus, the chickens get all the bad bits, so free feed there). Our cabbages were small but delicious. We saved a few dollars there and have bags of it the freezer for future meals. Chinese cabbage was even more successful, and if you need some I have bags of the stuff! Luckily it keeps and freezes. We harvested seven small broccoli heads, which wasn't too bad for nine plants. Again, the leaves and stems went to the girls to become eggs, so it's an extra win for plants like that. Onions that we planted on a whim are growing nicely, much to my surprise. Peppers of all kinds are growing like crazy. Too bad I hate them! Well, Jeff's happy and it looks like we'll have enough cayenne to dry and grind our own red pepper. Swell! Our English peas are looking iffy--another victim of unexplained early death. Zucchini, squash, cucumbers, cauliflower and a few other things were all losers this year. Maybe next year! Pretty soon I'll be digging the remains and planting our only summer options--beans and cantaloupes--and I have one watermelon vine still living. Pretty low expectations for those, but as I've learned when it comes to gardening, you never really know!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Wandering Attention

Green living, gardening, astronomy, chicken rearing, knitting, Celtic history, hydrogen energy, baking, the Tudors. Well, it just seems obvious that this list would lead to my latest point of attention, which is . . . Steampunk, naturally. I've poked around it for some time, but I confess to a recent explosion of fascination with it. It combines my love of the Dickensian era, the brutal elegance of machines and old industry, ornate design, and science fiction and fantasy in a quite wonderful, almost irresistible way. It's fascinating to posit an alternate timeline that could exist if this invention had had more attention, or that one had come along at a different time. Thinking about it makes one realize how interconnected and accidental our own timeline really is.

Also, the style and artwork from this particular subculture is just delicious. Think "Golden Compass" combined with "Myst" and "The Prestige" peppered with the more curious curiosities of "Antiques Roadshow" topped with Johnny Depp's bowler from the very dark and drear "From Hell." Now add a fanciful flight jacket from an imagined AeroCorps of steam-and-sail zeppelins, a mysterious gasworks, a giant Tesla Coil and gorgeous nineteenth-century penmanship on a copper-infused calling card. Well, anyone who knows me knows I'm in alt-history heaven right there! If you see anything out there in the interwebs or art world that sounds like this, please do send it on. In the meantime, the ladies can have interactive fun with this little Steampunk costuming link: Clockwork Couture

I suppose the men can have fun there, too. Naughty!

And if anyone is at all inclined, I would very, very much like to have one of these Steampunked laptops. My goodness, who wouldn't?

I promise I'll get back to posting about our garden and our new chicken coop soon, but this is so much more interesting than cabbages at the moment!