Archive for February 2009

Update Schmupdate

Oh my gosh, I knew putting this planter box together would be difficult, but after all my planning, I keep running into snags. The latest snag? I didn't calculate properly, so I'm short two 28-inch bottom pieces. I can't have 8 inches of open space on the bottom of my planter! So the four 48-inch 2x4s (which should have been 52 inches, but I miscalculated those, too), are now being used instead of the 28-inch ones, and I'll have a little shelf or something sticking out of the bottom of my planter box. I can use it to... Um... Put a basket on when I harvest, or something. Yeah.

I bought a power drill, so I wouldn't have to hammer on my neighbour's ceiling. But 3-inch screws don't screw in all the way without first drilling a hole. So I bought some 1/8-inch drill bits, and now most of the screws go in properly (I should have gotten 3/16-inch bits, but if you just wiggle things around a bit, you get a large enough hole anyway). Unfortunately, after stripping so many screws, my bits are getting stripped themselves... I only have to do a few more, now that the sides are all together--I just have to attach the bottoms, and I think I've given up on putting two screws in per side per 2x4. I'll stop by the store and pick up yet more supplies tomorrow after going shopping at the farmers' market in Dupont Circle.

In a few days, I'm going to pool all my receipts together and figure out how much money I've spent on this garden... See how economically feasible it is, where I could have saved money, and how much a single eggplant will cost at the end of the season. I saw a book called the "$64 Tomato" at the bookstore the other day. I think my veggies won't be quite so expensive (that would imply I only get to harvest five or six tomatoes!), but even a $2 tomato is pretty pricy!

But back to the planter box. I think it'll stay together just fine--I am going to stand in it after it's all together just to make sure. If it can hold my weight, unevenly distributed, it will sure as heck be able to handle 400 pounds of rock and soil evenly distributed among all the 2x4s.

I hope to finish tomorrow, because I feel less guilty doing construction work during the day on the weekend than I do at night during the week!

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Footprints In The Earth

I love taking online quizzes when work is slow. I did one on my Ecological Footprint. If everyone in the world lived as I did, we would need 4.73 Earths to sustain all of humanity--which is about 1.5 Earths less than the average in the U.S. (if everyone on the planet lived like an average American, we would need 6.35 worlds, according to the data on this quiz).

My weak points are the fact that I fly a lot and that I am an omnivorous consumer. In terms of housing, my footprint is about half as small as the average, but my travel footprint skyrocketed because of the air travel (I said 10,000 miles, and that's a conservative estimate). Since I occasionally eat meat (once or twice a week, I guess, now, but I used to much more frequently), I checked off "omnivore," which raised my food score to about two-thirds the national average.

But the Goods & Services category, I'm above the national average! I buy toxic cleaning supplies, things not made from hemp (or other renewable resources), and sometimes I buy things just to buy them, not because I need them or my old one isn't working (some of us just really need three alarm clocks, trust me!).

Now, I went back to change some of my answers. So, say I didn't fly, but I used buses more to compensate (add an extra 4,700 miles to my 1,300 regular bus travel to work per year for trips on the East coast), and I went completely vegetarian with the occasional dairy item. I also pretend-bought compact fluorescent bulbs and started turning my laptop off while I was at work. I was more conscious about shopping only at the farmers' market instead of at the organic-foods store, and I cut down to one big meal and a ton of light snacks a day instead of two big meals and the occasional snack. I cut back on my showers (I really enjoy long ones) and started purchasing soaps and cleaning products from that "green" store on U Street. I started saving money, partially by only replacing things that I can find no further use of.

And voila, 2.74 Earths! These are all things that shouldn't be too hard for me (well, maybe the not flying). There are certain things I can't help (I live in an old, non-energy-efficient apartment building, so I can't really select carbon offsets or renewable power, or even replace the faucets), but those choices cut my Goods & Services footprint in half; my food footprint is almost neglegible by buying direct from farmers and eating mostly vegetables; but my housing and carbon footprint didn't go down as much as the rest (although they did go down). I will not give up visiting friends, so my carbon footprint from transportation will be pretty high (although, since I don't drive, it will still be below the national average). Until alternative energy sources are more readily available and accepted, that's just going to be high. Maybe I could rent some Smart Car or something. But they scare me--I like a lot of metal around me!

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Books Galore

Y'all know I've been on a spending spree since I got my promotion back pay. Not only did I pay for my CSA vegetable share and my wood, gravel, and soil, I also bought a few books.

Friday night, I bought "Local Flavors: Cooking & Eating from America's Farmers' Markets," my first-ever recipe book! I bought it from Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe... For the suggested retail price. I should have done it at Amazon, it's $10 cheaper!

What I did buy on Amazon, however, were these books: "Preserving Summer's Bounty: A Quick & Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, Preserving & Drying What You Grow," and "Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses," by Ricki Carroll, as mentioned in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

I want to learn how to do for myself, right? I love cheese: How much better would it be to make it myself? I am only growing tomatoes so that I can make my own tomato sauce and can it; similarly, that's one of the reasons I'm growing so much basil, for pesto (and drunken noodle!).

I really don't have the best kitchen for this, what with my eight inches of counter space (no lies), but food will find a way.

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The Legend of the Black Bean Soup

Oooooh I so wish I was a food critic... Here's my inexpert analysis of my first-ever Soupergirl Soup, the Legend of the Black Bean Soup. I took notes as I ate, and then I took an "artistic photo." I added a little wilted sprig of cilantro to give the photo a bit of "flavour."

First, the pita chips. They are quite tasty, but since I had them first... The soup near wiped everything else from my brain.

Upon initial wafting, the cold soup smelled like fresh-cut vegetables. A little like salsa. Excited, I heated it up and then looked at the information sheet. Cilantro, lime juice, habanero pepper, tomato, onion... Salsa smell explained! Excellent!

After heating on the stove, the Legend of the Black Bean Soup smelled hearty and meaty, almost a meatloaf/chili or something similar. First taste, however, is nigh indescribable. My tongue and mouth did that oral-orgasm thing where a lot of saliva is released because the food is so incredibly yummy. The beans were perfectly cooked, none of the flavours were overpowering the others, they all blended exceedingly well together. (This lady is a pro.)

I love the jasmine rice in it. I often add rice to my soups because I like 'em thick, but this one needs nothing else! I tried adding some pita chips, and it actually detracted from the flavour of the soup. The crunch was nice, but the soup must stand alone. All ingredients for one and one soup to rule them all! Or, is that not the phrase...? I might be getting confused.

I had to take a break from eating. TLOTBB Soup is so meaty and fresh-vegetably that I couldn't take it! I... I only ordered one pint. Just one. I was going to just try a spoon of it tonight and eat the rest for lunch tomorrow. I had already had dinner... But I smelled it... I smelled it. And I tasted it. And then I was gone.

Mmm, so for next week I'll order two soups, just to make sure I have lunch for Wednesday.

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Trial, Error, And Annoyed Neighbours

I think his name was Ahim, or Ashif... I know it started with an "A" and ended in an "f" or an "m." He lives below me (I live on the top floor of my building). I had placed a few blankets on the floor to be my hammering surface, so it wouldn't be so loud, y'know, or mess up the floor.

After six nails, I got a knock on my door. Well, six successful nails, I should say; I think it was eight, total. He was very nice about it, perfectly nonconfrontational but definitely assertive. He asked if I would be done in an hour. I tried, I really did... But I'm saving attaching the two halves and doing the bottoms for later. I wanted to plant stuff tonight or tomorrow, but I'll wait until the weekend. That's more realistic.

Maybe the fungus gnats will be dead by then!

But to hold me over, here's a photo shoot. It's something of a catch-all photo update, I've had these on my camera for a while, I have just been too busy to get 'em off!

These are the kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, and lentils that I germinated in some water and planted last week. They're all growing quite nicely now!
This is the first batch of granola I home-cooked. It is supremely delicious! Oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries! Seasoned with some cinnamon and agave nectar, magnifique!

Sweet red bean paste anyone? No? But it's oh-so-yummy!

Sweet red bean paste pancake thing, anyone? No? But it's oh-so-yummy! Even more so than just the sweet red bean paste by itself (the pancake batter I made had some vanilla in it). This batch was delicious; my more recent batch was a little off. I tried making the pancake batter thinner so it would be easier and cook more evenly, but it made it a mess and it didn't fold at all, it just cracked. I'll stick with the thick batter next time.

It snowed on Sunday 22 February. Then it sleeted. Hah, outdoors, my plants are fine! Fine-ish. Well, they're alright.

Well, they weren't completely alright. They were looking a little upset. So I thinned the herd... This is what's left of the kale and turnip. Bottom left you can see my lemon basil, and in the front you can see the navy bean all happy and germinated.

Die, flies, die!!!!!!!!!!!

Muahahahahahaha! Note: That orange bottle is clear without the neem spray. It's pretty concentrated stuff!

Always wear appropriate attire when building a planter box. Don't forget: Your plaid shirt should be short-sleeved, so that although you won't get splinters in your hands because of the heavy-duty gloves, you can get splinters elsewhere on your arms when you pick up a load of wood!

Also make sure you have sufficient supplies: seven 40-pound bags of soil probably won't be enough, but we'll see.

Relocate your supplies after rearranging your furniture and set the pieces up in groups of different lengths.

Don't forget to have your plans and then immediately start ignoring them as you hammer away!

Here's the first lengthwise side, complete!

This is the almost-finished planter box. I have to attach the two halves (they are going to be difficult!) and then hammer together the bottom part (which won't be as hard as sticking the two L-shaped halves together will be). Right now, the planter box is incredibly heavy, and my arm is really tired from hammering. I don't use my arms all that much!

I... I tried. I really did. I gave up.

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I'm Getting Some Long, Hard Wood!

Or, I will. Tonight.

Wait, this is a family-friendly blog!

Hehe. It still is... I'm getting my 2x4s and 4x4s tonight, along with my 280 pounds of soil and 100 pounds of gravel. (Anyone else worried about the floor being able to hold up 400+ pounds of wood, soil, rocks, and plants? My building has a lot of concrete, but it is from the 40s/50s, I dunno...)

I sprayed the plants last night with Neem spray. It's 25% potassium salts of oil from the neem tree, 75% "inactive ingredients." I will read the ingredients list later to see what that "inactive ingredients" means. There was a fly hopping around on the soil this morning, but I didn't expect an immediate kill. Besides, in the next few days I'll be transplanting, and then I'll spray again (I know the instructions said once every few weeks, but I want to also make sure the new soil doesn't contain any fungus gnat larvae). Well, actually, I won't spray, because my bottle doesn't do a spray, it jets and effs up the soil a lot. I'll just mix it in the spray bottle and pour. Ingenious!

I also bought carrots, parsley, sage, thyme, ...OMG my favourite song about adultery is on my favourite German radio station! That's Uncle Kracker's "Follow Me" on RPR1, Rheinland-Pfalz Radio 1. I used to live in that region, and I love this station, so I listen to its webcast. This song always reminds me of my mother... I also bought cilantro, and... I don't remember, I was in a euphoric haze of glorious plant shopping. I will sow them later, after I build the garden (definitely not doing my homework tonight!).

...

My coworker Sue just walked in (she is the one who told me "You really need to get a life" when I told her that I wrote a song to my soybeans) and I showed her this blog. She said I need more hobbies. Different hobbies. That I'm getting too excited about food.

You can never be too excited about food! Food is what keeps you going. Food is something you have to put in your mouth tons of times each day, every day. I would rather be excited about doing something that you have to do every day than excited about something you only get to do once a year. My life is never dull as long as there is food in it, because food makes me happy, food makes me excited, and food makes me enjoy life. There is always a new adventure, a new flavour, a new recipe; there is no end to the ways that food can be prepared, or even eaten (chopsticks, anyone?).

Food... You are my life, and because of you, I can live. You may be what you eat, but you also feel how you feel about what you eat. If you eat shit, you are shit; if you don't like shit, you don't like yourself. It's hard to be happy when most of your day is spent hating the most fundamental part of life: eating. And not caring about what you shove down your tube is almost worse; getting so far removed from that life-giving ritual... We are animals. We need to eat. If you only think about it as a survival tactic and just put calories in your mouth, no matter what they are... That's so unromantic. I prefer to put art in my mouth, I prefer to create and savour what I eat, and I prefer to live as much as possible through my mouth.

Hm. Maybe I do need more hobbies. But I love food, I love putting it in my mouth and enjoying it, and I love growing it. There are so many hobbies that revolve around food: cooking, baking, preserving (canning, drying, freezing), hosting dinner parties, shopping, gardening, even blogging! And each of those hobbies are diverse in and of themselves! I can't think of a more prolific hobby to have than the hobby of food!

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Fine, Be That Way!

I have fungus gnats.

I'm going to the store tonight to buy some sort of ged-rid-of-flies solution. The Internets (tm) say that fungus gnats aren't really a big problem, just a nuisance to the inhabitants who care for their houseplants. They are a sign of overwatering and/or more serious problems (my plants, dying? Maybe! Damn.).

Unhappy face!

On a brighter note, I'm getting my wood, soil, and gravel tomorrow night. So, in the next day or so, I can likely transplant (if I bought enough soil! I think I have 14 cubic feet; I have 7 40-pound bags on the way. That's 280 pounds of soil. Oh my effing gods. Hallelujah.).

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A Consumer's Condundrum

The other night, I made some sweet red bean paste and little red bean paste pancakes. Now, the recipes call for you to use a blender or food processor to get the paste, well, pastey, and you're supposed to whisk the pancake batter, too. The end goal of both of these processes is to get uniform, smooth mixtures of paste and batter.

I, of course, have almost no kitchen supplies. I used a fork to mush the red beans and a fork to beat the batter. I looked at it as a workout, and the food turned out excellently.

But... I got my promotion back pay today (lots of moolah, four months overdue), so I said to myself, "Alright, let's go shopping!" as one is wont to do upon receiving a lot of money. I paid my $410 for my vegetable share at Bull Run Mountain Farm and my $260 for supplies from Logan Hardware; I needed 19 2x4s ($5.99 each), 2 4x4s ($11 each, apparently), 2 50-pound bags of gravel, 7 40-pound bags of soil, and some nails (as well as cutting and delivery fees). That's only about $60 or $70 more than it would have been at Home Despot (intentionally misspelled), but I'm sorry, I'd rather give my money to smaller chains than large chains that employ people who don't greet, don't care, and don't help.

Despite the cost of wood (I think that's pricy, but I'm not worried about it--the amount of veggies I'll be growing will, by the end, far outweigh $300 in supplies and seed), Logan Hardware was a pretty good experience; I just gave the manager my list of needed supplies, and he did all the work for me. Simple! Awesome! I will definitely visit there again (not only because it's close to work).

But after that, I decided "Hey, let's go buy a blender, maybe some other kitchen supplies as well!" I thought about Williams-Sonoma, but I decided against it, y'know, 'cause I'm not rich. I went to Bed Bath & Beyond. I even had a list. I was looking for an espresso machine, a food dehydrator, a pressure cooker, a blender, a hand mixer, a colander, and a bread machine. I was just checking things out, right?

I walked in and was immediately overwhelmed by some sort of scented something-or-other. The aisles tower over you, and you can't see what's at the top, because they're easily 15 feet off the ground. Everything is crammed on shelves in aisles that you can barely walk down, let alone pass someone in. A little frantic by the sheer volume of crap to buy (literally, crap), I spent 45 minutes in there just trying to find half of the items on my list just to see the options and prices. I didn't find most of them, but there were a lot of plastic egg microwaver things and ultra-high-tech spatulas.

I ended up walking out of there with a stainless steel colander (which I desperately needed) and some cabinet liner (which I should have bought a year and a half ago when I moved in).

Then I went to Target.

That store makes me want to shoot myself.

And no, they don't sell display models of espresso makers, but they don't have any in the back and they're not getting any more. So what do they do with the display models? Who knows, because the guy I flagged down after 10 minutes sure didn't.

Despite that, Target is a bit better laid out than Bed Bath & Beyond, I will give it that. But I still never found the Men's Clothing section. Or the other half of the items on my list. I ended up purchasing a picture frame for a Christmas present I had received from one of my best friends, BeeBritch; a 1/2-price blender; a bamboo cutting board; and a set of bowls (I only have one left, thought I should get more).

In total, I spent about $400 today. The only part about that that feels good is that the hour or so I spent in consumeristic hell of department stores will allow me to make my own pesto, chutney, and other sauces for canning and storing. I just wish there was a better way to get the machinery at an affordable rate! I like to physically go to a store and look at things, I can't buy this online. But I can't afford the specialty shops... Where's a homemaker's market when you need one?

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"Soybean I Love You"



Written by The Indoor Garden(er), copyright 2009

Music video coming soon to a blog near you.

"You.
I want you.
I need you so bad,
I think I'll go mad,
without you.

Soooyyyybeean!
You're my one and only,
as tall as my knee!
Only you.

I want you.
I want you to grow up,
you to grow up
and get a job!

...but wait.
You can't.
Because, you're a plant.

So I want you.
I want you to grow up,
you to grow up.
So I can eat you!
I'm gonna steam you!
So I can eat you!
With some salt.

You.
Only you.
Only you can make me
be so crazy
about food.

Soooyyyybeean!
I lovvee youuuu...."

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Urban Sprawl



I planted two or three each of the germinating lentils, kidney beans, black beans, and navy beans yesterday. I'm starting to worry about certain plants getting enough light. The soybeans and pumkins are like high-rises, blocking the light down the corridors they tower over. The squash are getting to that stature as well, and the kale and turnips are a wall of green, like suburban rowhouses all in a line, identical. The seeds will germinate, I'm almost certain (the lavender still hasn't; my mom told me they're hard to get going), but now I'm starting to get a good picture of what's going to be in my apartment for the coming months: urban sprawl. The sprawl of leafy vines, the broad spread of leaves trying to soak in every last ray of light, the veritable jungle of vegetation. I am excited for it, most definitely. But I worry about the plants blocking other plants' light. I am growing way too much!

This all comes about because I saw the chickpeas coming in, right underneath the shadow of the pumpkins. Chickpeas are so cute and fuzzy!

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Die Pflanzenfortschreibung


"The Plant Update"

I had German last night. Okay, so we just learned the nominative case, I get it, it's no ecxuse to go making up post titles using a foreign language. But I don't need an excuse!

Anyway, here's an update on the plants! It's slightly cloudy right now, so there aren't as many glamour shots to choose from... I tried, I really did. I need to figure out how to manually focus my camera. It is ridiculous waiting for the thing to decide what I am truly trying to focus on. There has to be a way to do it manually, right? Digital camera producers wouldn't take away the consumer's ability to do for themselves, would they? (I mean, they aren't Microsoft, right?)

Die Pflanzen (The Plants)

This plot has the turnips, kale, Monnopa spinach, and herbs in it, as well as the mushrooms (you can see a few growing up from the sides of the box). The lavender hasn't sprouted yet. I finally realized that the watering schedule for this plot has to be different than the others, due to the soil composition. This is worrisome. Will the fungi continue after I've transplanted my plants? Every little gram of soil in there has thousands, if not more, of little fungal cells, I'm certain. Although I guess that's pretty par for the course; it's good to have healthy, commensal microflora. I just don't know if they're competing for nutrients, and I'd rather they not. And what if they do generate psychoactive compounds? What if I get ergotism??

Here's my favourite plot: the one with the pumpkins and the soybeans (and the chickpeas now, too!). Those pumpkin plants are only two weeks old. I'm going to have to cull the herd soon. Five pumpkin plants in my apartment? I hope I can find homes for them with coworkers... But it's a bit early in the year to be handing out seedlings.

Radicchio, basil, and chives, oh my! I don't know what it is about these little pots, but things that grow in them never do amazingly well. The RBC however (no, not the Royal Bank of Canada, but good guess!), seem to be doing alright. As you can tell on the left, there are only a few little Greek Mini Yevani basil plants, whereas in the first plot pic, I have an entire row of Mrs. Burn's Lemon Basil. I don't know how many I'll need, but two or three is probably good for both. Yevani will just have to get over the inequality. Life isn't fair!

My Correnta spinach! I want to pluck their little leaves right now and toss a salad. But that would be less satisfying than if I allowed them to grow a few more weeks and made a salad then. I will be eating spinach for many moons!

Grow, Envy, grow! I dropped and broke a coffee mug, so I planted some extra soybeans a few days ago. I know I'll want them. I was thinking of bringing them into the office, so I can have a snack at work if I forget to harvest my edamame at home.

This is the closest I got to a glamour shot this morning. I had rotated the plot, so the soybeans are closer to the window (and the pumpkins aren't blocking the light for the peppers). But the pumpkins are blocking my shot (see upper right). I like the layered perspective it gives, and I tried to duplicate it with other photos, but my camera couldn't decide what to focus on and started smoking a little.

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Song Of The Seed

And other fun notes to my plants! This blog started as a handwritten plant journal, chronicling the dates planted, how long things take to germinate, how many seeds successfully germinated, all that statistical stuff. I also write little notes to myself, to my plants...even to the mushrooms.

From 30 January: "I see two germinating spinach seeds!! They will be the first to be eaten."

That one is self-explanatory!

From 6 February: "Soybean is just like 'Ha, winner!' Despite being some of the most recent to sprout, they have the first true leaves. I think they're predeveloped in the seed. Cheaters!"

From 3 February: "I love you my little plants, and I want you to get some chlorophyll before I get home today because you're my turrrrnips and I want to eat you!"

Um... I was singing to my plants, and this is what I came up with. I don't quite remember the original wording (even as I wrote it down the other day, it had slipped from my mind), or even the tune. Soooooo, I recorded myself singing this to different tunes, and it turns out when given free rein, I go for dramatic showtune-style singing that doesn't necessarily rhyme or have even lyrics or anything. It's like speaking and pretending to sing. I am *not* a songstylist in the LEAST, as those who have heard me sing karaoke can attest (BeeBritch, I'm looking at you).

But... At the request of a neighbour, who, for some reason, enjoys my musical talents, I have recorded this and will record all future plant songs for your entertainment. But it won't let me just upload an audio file (or maybe I just can't figure it out), so I had to make a video.

Enjoy!

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I Caved

I made some roasted chickpeas two nights ago, but I had had to soak the chickpeas overnight first (I buy dry organic beans from Yes! Organic Market on Columbia Road, about a mile from my apartment). So after I hydrated, seasoned, and roasted my chickpeas, I immediately didn't do the dishes.

Last night, after doing the dishes (so I could cook and make them dirty again), I found three chickpeas in the sink. They had decided to germinate while sitting in a bowl full of water (or maybe they were in the drain, I'm not certain, I found them only after doing all the dishes). I must have dropped them in there the previous night, when I rinsed and initiated the soaking of the chickpeas.

I planted them next to the Cheyenne Bush pumpkins forthwith and then dug through my cabinets to get all my other dried beans out: lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and navy beans. They are soaking in a little dish of water right now.

I know I said I was done with what will be in my garden... But who can resist viny tendrils of bean love? And these are the items of food I truly eat on an incredibly regular basis. Just toss some in water spiced with wasabi and crushed red pepper flakes and it's a meal! (Some coworkers and friends might argue that statement, but we all know they're crazy.)

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Veggies: I Choose You!

Or Why I Picked What I'm Growing.

There was some thought behind this. Not much, granted: Mostly it was just that I want to eat these plants, so I am trying them out. I have few illusions about what could or could not happen, but you never know!

I have a southwest-facing window that gets about five hours of sunlight a day, and that's in the middle of winter. I'm pretty sure I'll get a bit more during the summer; I live on the 12th floor of my building, and although the other side of the building blocks the first rays of dawn, the rest of the day (8:15 AM and beyond right now), light streams in incessantly. I might get a grow-lamp if I find it necessary, but I think I'm good. The planter box will also be right near the heater, just in case!

I'm pretty sure most of what I chose to grow will do fine. You might be a bit perturbed about the Cheyenne Bush and Summer Crookneck... Those, well, I don't really know what I'm going to do with those. I acted impulsively, I will admit! I like gourds and squash. The plan is to try to train them up some poles and/or a trellis along the back end of the potter, so they will get the most sunlight possible. Shorter plants will be in front, taller and bushy plants further back, crazy big plants at the end on trellises, so there's a sunlight-tier system. I haven't quite decided the layout, yet, but I'm drawing a cute little picture of what I think it'll look like--I will try to scan it and add it later at home. Nevermind, actually, I can't draw. I'll try again after work!

The herbs I will have separately, in a 1-foot-by-1-foot planter that I'm going to make out of scrap pieces of the 2x4s used to make the main planter.

There are a few other things besides the large-ticket items of pumpkin and squash that might be a little confuzzling to some people: lavender? Who grows lavender in a vegetable garden?

To be honest, that was another impulse. I want to learn how to use different types of herbs and vegetables for unique dishes. I had never had a turnip before a few weeks ago, but now I love them! I want to see what I can create using lavender as an ingredient, if not the primary flavouring. I know, cookies, cakes, shakes, lemonades, stuff like that, but what about lavender-stuffed pork chops? Berries with a lavender-sugar glaze over ice cream? These dishes sound delicious to me, and I want to eat them!

I also wanted to try radicchio. I have never had it knowingly, but I enjoy various salad greens and stuff, and they look pretty.

The only reason I'm growing radishes is because they're ready to eat in just a few weeks. I'm so impatient, I want immediate results! I will let a few go to seed so I can plant them continuously.

Oh my gods I can't wait to eat this garden.

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Here's The Philosophy...!

I realize that most bloggers don't post three times upon first starting a blog, especially such utterly long posts, but I have faith in my gentle viewers.

My gardening philosophy... There are so many different ways, reasons, and philosophies about gardening... I'm just not even going to get into that! My thoughts are my own, I will share them, and I hope to learn as I go, but I am by no means pretending to be an expert on anything I say here. My intent, my reasons, my desire to garden, it all stems from one thing: I like food. I don't really want to rant (I say an hour into my rant, which I deigned not to include in this post). Suffice to say, I like my food to be food. I like it not to be full of unnecessary chemicals, nor have used unnecessary energy for storage or travel when perfectly good food is in season and available locally (even in the winter!).

Gardening is, obviously, a thousands-of-years-old hobby. Or, rather, a necessity. For me it's a hobby, not an all-or-nothing endeavour in an attempt to grow all my own food. I just like growing plants, but I'm doing it on a scale I haven't done without a backyard, so it's also an adventure.

I plan on leaving the growing to the professionals, definitely. But my choice of which pros to go to for my consumption is changing. My Indoor Garden is part of it. Getting to know the local producers is another part. Learning about others' experiences is a part I hope to gain as the Indoor Garden(er).

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My Preciousesesesssss

I just want to share my beauties with you, gentle viewers. I obtained most of the seed from the Seed Savers Exchange, but some of them I bought from the Garden District on 14th St. (there were a few things I forgot to order before, and I'm still missing a few things, but I keep telling myself not to buy, no more, I can't fit what I have already!).

All of these photos are from 7 February. (Update--photos disappeared? Perhaps accidentally deleted from Picasa account.)



Here is my spread on the heater near the window.

The Correnta spinach was planted first, at about 1 AM on 28 January.


On the same day, but just a bit later, Common chives, Greek Mini Yevani basil, and Palla Rossa Ashalim radicchio were planted. In the background you can see some winter squash (acorn and another) seeds that I gathered from the squash I bought at the farmers' market in Dupont Circle and used for my so-famous Squash/Turnip/Bean Chili-Stew. I am drying them so I can plant them later!

Hi little basil! What are you doing, growing your first set of true leaves? Oh yes you are, sweet thing! You're going into my drunken noodle, you are a star!

This box was planted two days later (three days, depending on what you consider 1 AM on 28 January to be), with Ace bush tomato, French Breakfast radish, Cheyenne Bush pumpkin, Ailsa Craig onion, Listada de Gandia eggplant, Summer Crookneck squash, Aurora pepper (these will be purple and then mature to orange and then red), Envy soybean (for edamame), and King of the North pepper.

Here's my Cheyenne Bush pumpkins. Only five germinated (so far), and I think I will only keep one plant. Even that will be quite a space requirement. I think I'll have to spread it out across the floor. I might have pumpkins growing underneath my bed.

My pride, my joy, my soon-to-be-steamed-and-salted treasures! In the middle of this photo is the Envy soybeans; to the bottom right is one of the rows of radishes (there are 2.5 rows); at the top left, you can see some of the Ailsa Craig onions coming up near the Cheyenne Bush; and right below the onions are my Summer Crookneck squash. In another two weeks, these boxes will be a jungle; I seriously need to get that planter box in order!

My Envy soybean glamour shot.

This planter box was planted the day after the other box. I had run out of soil, so it has different potting soil, which apparently retains water at a much higher level than does the other soil that I had grown accustomed to. In here, I have Red Russian kale, Purple Top White Globe turnips, Monnopa spinach (a different variety than the one in the pot), Black Cumin, Hidcote Lavender, Russian Tarragon, Mrs. Burn's Lemon Basil, and extra Ace bush tomatoes to share (I'm not a big fan of tomatoes, the only reason I'm growing them is so I can make my own tomato sauces for canning, but seedlings make great random gifts for all those coworkers who love to grow them).

But wait, I didn't plant that...! What the heck? I have been watering the plants once every day or every other day, depending on if I remember to. The plants themselves are happy, but apparently so are the indigenous flora of the cardboard and soil! I wonder if it's edible? (45 minutes later) I think it's a coprinoid mushroom, an "inky cap," on the basis of the gill colour, head shape, vertical ridges in the head, etc. It's only an hour after I took the photo and it's already getting dark in the ridges. It looks almost like this, but I didn't see it as a baby, 'cause I was asleep. Apparently the entire group is not only edible, but also highly prized for their flavour. I don't know if it is, however, a coprinoid, because from the descriptions and pictures, it seems as if they grow in mass bunches. I have just one. Soooo, I'm not going to eat it.

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To Plant Or Not To Plant?

That is no question. First, it doesn't have a finite verb. Second, the answer is just "to plant." No question was ever really needed!

There's no philosophy behind this blog. Well, not much philosophy. I found others' blogs interesting while I was doing research about what is best to plant indoors, what type of wood is best to use to build a garden plot, plant care, soil to use, all those fun things. So far, those blogs haven't really influenced my choices (I bought the seeds before I did research and the price of the lumber will determine what wood I use), but they were interesting and sparked an intense longing to be out in the heat playing in a field. It doesn't help that I also just finished reading "
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," by Barbara Kingsolver and her crew. It stirred up my love of gardening from my childhood, as well as my burgeoning desire to live within the Earth's means to support me (blame Nova Scotia and reverse culture shock for that one).
But with a two-year waiting lists on the local community gardens here in DC, my best bet is just to make my own. And doing it indoors, well, I won't have to worry about deer, thunderstorms, homeless people eating my eggplant, or any of that. All I'll be concerned with is mould and cockroaches!

So here's a little background: I have been living in DC for about a year and a half in my studio apartment. I have the place stuffed to the gills with furniture, so it'll take a bit of creative rearranging to construct and fit a planter box with 2' by 4' growing space. The plan I have is for a pretty wonky planter that will take up 4 feet 8 inches in length and 2 feet 8 inches in width out of my apartment, but we'll see how much wood I can afford (the less impressive planter, with the same growing area but much less of an apartment hog, also uses a lot less 2x4s and no 4x4s).

Going back even further, when I was four or five years old, on our balcony, I had a planter box; oddly enough, about 2 foot by 4 foot of growing space! I was originally planning on recreating that planter box, but I think it'll be more fun to be more creative with it. But anyway, I planted a ton of vegetables in that thing as a child, growing radishes by the score, lettuce by the half-dozen, cucumber, melon, tomato, carrot, and even tried pumpkin a few times. Broccoli never really enjoyed the planter box, but the others only grew better every year as I tilled their remains back into the soil, enriching it for future generations.

I got away from gardening somehow for, oh, almost 15 years.

But now I'm back in full force. I have two whole flats full of plants I'm going to stick in the "ground" shortly (once I construct said ground).

And here is where I will log my joys, my pains, my overwaterings, and the songs I create to describe in graphic ways what I will be doing to my plants upon their maturity (I will work the word "masticate" in as much as possible).

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