We obviously aren't as hardcore as the pioneers were. Folks had it hard back in the day. I constantly try to remind myself of this as I complain about bad cell phone reception or the fact that one of the burners on our stove isn't working. I mean ... really.
I do need to work on my perspective, and there really is no one that should be blamed. It is what our culture has grown into. And this is negative, in many ways. But it is also fantastic. Fantastic because of the feedback loop trend that has been capturing many of the largest and busiest metropolitan areas in the U.S. — urban homesteading.
I know, I know. This isn't new. Let's throw back to our friends the pioneers, the Little House on the Prairie peeps that we read about in third grade. We all know that growing your own food, hunting and gathering are the basis of survival. But maybe it takes all of this advanced technology, Facebook, severe carpal tunnel from typing and falling asleep to the whirring sounds and blue light of our laptops to actually get us outside.
I hope we all make more time to mess around and experiment in our gardens, on our fire escapes or on those random peninsulas that run through town — and get our kids out there, too.
For example, the landscaped peninsula that is going in on Ronada and Ramona sounds like a perfect piece to add to that intersection. How about a community garden or something of the like in that space? After all, didn't that neighborhood have the best float ever last year at the 4th of July parade? (I believe kids were dressed up as garden gnomes and they tossed out bags of compost to the crowd. So awesome).
My husband and I have been trying to drown out some of those ever so attractive conveniences and do things the long way. "Does she have kids?" you ask? No, I don't. Yet.
I hear your chuckles. My sisters have three kids each, and my brother has two. I see how busy they are, and I hear about what it takes to get your kids through school successfully, make them into responsible, upstanding and good, hard-working people. And don't forget finding out how to set them apart from the crowd, help them get into a good college, stay healthy, excel at their sport, serve the community, keep up with friends, keep up with trends and be happy.
We are trying to instill in ourselves a way of dealing with all of these responsibilities in a certain way so that when we do have kids, we can plan on laying some of that responsibility on the garden itself, forming unique experiences and lessons to be learned from the radishes, beets, cucumber plants ... and chickens. I see some parents doing this around town, and I love what I see.
Speaking of children, ours are our plants right now. And we have many "kids" growing up in our household: kale, Dino and curly, Swiss chard, watermelon radishes, purple and white spring onions (lots of onions), carrots, tomatoes, beets, Serrano chiles, sweet and purple basil, and flowers to attract the bees.
We installed some drip irrigation systems for the tomatoes, which is easy to do with materials purchased down at Home Depot (they have all of the pieces). Tomato plants cannot be watered from above because of the "rust" that can appear on the leaves, due to the water (some weird fungus). You want to penetrate the roots more directly instead. We have planted Early Girl, Cherokee Purple, Rose de Berne, Gold Medal tomatoes and one tomatillo plant. Don't think we won't be coming to your house with a couple of pounds of tomatoes this summer!
We also plan on keeping chickens, and are designing the coop now. It would be too easy to run to Williams-Sonoma's new Agrarian line for that Taj Mahal of chicken coops. But that would be too easy, wouldn't it? Besides, building it is half the fun, and challenge ... and it's cheaper (sorry, Williams-Sonoma). But it's fascinating how this shows where the market is trending.
And we are fascinated at how fast our plants are growing! The radishes are going crazy, some of the flowers have given up (pansies sure don't like heat!), and new alyssum flowers have been potted to attract the bees. And when asked if we will be keeping bees...? Our answer is probably never. It is incredible to watch and learn from their intricate systems of production, but could you see us chasing a swarm around Piedmont? Yikes.
It is hard to juggle everything (sometimes anything) in our lives. Maybe think about giving yourself some time, getting a head start, asking some friends (with some tools), and working really hard to dedicate a couple of weekends to getting a planter box or a chicken coop built, a vertical or even a spiral herb garden or fire escape plot going.
Perhaps making it a habit to integrate gardening and farming into your family routine would be beneficial to your family dynamic; kids will flip out from the satisfaction they feel after growing, harvesting and eating the food from their garden (get them young!). Teenagers might scoff at first, but if you let them know it's there and make it a chore (in short bursts of time), they might come back around later, and college kids will start coming home telling you how cool their urban homesteading and permaculture classes are.
I can't wait until I hear a neighbor say, "Sorry, kids. Before you go hang out at Mulberry's or text your friends down the street to meet up, you owe me 1/2-hour in the garden. The kale needs to be harvested, blueberries need to be picked, the chickens need more feed or the compost needs to be turned." Once the whining fades away, it might be worth it. Embrace your green space and tune in next time for further stories of our challenges, successes and lessons learned.