Semblance of winter, geeked out gardening


ignore the mystery bites on the leaves, these little fat white blobs in the photo above are the beginnings of new meyer lemons, growing in my bedroom next to the only south facing window on the house. it’s an interesting process, hoping i am not overwatering, wondering how they will turn out, curious what little buggers are gnawing on a couple leaves while i’m not looking. someone said i should get a paintbrush and help pollinate them when they were flowers, but when i did the flowers fell off – guess i was too late. either way, my li’l dwarf meyer lemon, planted in a galvanized steel pot from ikea, seems to be growing! supposedly this is when they are all being harvested in the real world, but i harvested my one lemon a couple months ago and with the slow growing cycle of lemons (i heard it was 10 months?), who knows, they might just get the spring and summer sunshine – can you imagine fresh lemons in july? well, first i’ll make sure they get past this funky embryonic stage 🙂

the weather in stumptown is so strange. january and it is close to 60 degrees while most of the rest of the country freezes. we are getting plenty of precipitation, which is good for the water supplies, but the fact we’ve only had one good freeze is worrisome. we tend to have every-other-winter like this, and actually this is more typical of winters growing up here in the northwest, but as a grown-up with a garden, i find myself getting more and more attuned to the weather…especially in winter where there’s not much to do besides watch the weeds grow and pick up dog poop out of the back yard!

so yes, i’ve decided to geek out in the gardening arena of my life. not to the excel spreadsheet level of my ohio sista, but still, i bought graph paper, i snagged a binder and some sheet covers, and i created my first ever garden planning binder. excited? wanna see? well i’m going to show you anyways.

okay, so first i took on the ridiculous task of measuring my back yard. i’ve got a mysterious shape to my property on a street that is composed of your typical 50×100 urban residential lots. well, see that little part that sticks out in the top left corner? i call that the ‘party hat’ of my lot. looking at the city’s website (portlandmaps dot com is SO cool), i found out a while back that back at the turn of the century, the old trolley car tracks went diagonally through what became my property (my house was built in 1925). Although it still doesn’t make sense why they’d put a little triangle on the lot. hmm. ANYHOW, so picture me solo, with my tape measure, going across the various corners of my back yard. i also wanted to include my new raised beds that i built, and include where my porch is, garage, and the former dog run that each day looks more and more like future-chicken-condos. and at the end, of course, i am about four or five feet off somewhere. but, in my own words, i just said fuck it cuz i wasn’t about to start all over. so i stick this on the back page of my binder so i remember that i did this – close enough! SO…

for my binder cover, i then did a close up graphical representation (ooh doesn’t that sound smart) of my raised beds and the other two areas that i have allocated for this year’s garden. you see, y’all, if you haven’t been reading my blog long, i had two awful ailanthus altissimas in my yard for the first 3 1/2 years of owning this house, or as i call them, trees from hell. (they politely nickname them ‘tree of heaven’ in the science world, and are the trees referred to in ‘a tree grows in brooklyn’ – please tell me you all read that when you were a kid, if not, do it. now.). anyhow, so when my weird employment, or lack thereof, situation finally ended and i got my gubament job offer, the first thing i did? call a friend? no! jump for joy? no! call my arborist? BINGO! and eight hours of solid climbing, sawing, chipping, and grinding later, i had my gorgeous blank slate of a back yard. fuckin’ a. seriously y’all, it changed my whole attitude. why? last year my garden was a ‘driveway garden’…yes, terribly cute, but terribly lacking for the harvest i was seeking. but i admit, it was fun, and attracted some friendly passers-by at times.

so now i’m starting to get real. i am going to do as much as i can without making my backyard look like one giant veggie garden. why? because while your backyard is good for growing your own food, it also needs to be your sanctuary. you need to have places to chill, an area to BBQ, a few soft places to walk around barefoot, and yes, you still have a 12 year old rottweiler who needs a place to go potty, and to rest her belly on hot summer days.

so with this close-up, i decided to plan exactly what would go where, utilizing a bit of the ‘square foot gardening’ methodology in determining how much i could really cram in each area, along with the concepts of planting mutually beneficial veggies so that the bad bugs will stay away. and, yes, there will be room for marigolds-as-guard-dogs, which i’m planting in the little holes of the cinderblocks that make up my raised beds. i fucking hate marigolds. i think they are ugly, ugly, ugly. but if it will do the trick, i’ll sigh, roll my eyes, and plant them. i have heard that there are others, but always heard marigolds are the super power. if anyone has a better recommendation, let me know.

by the way, the close-up isn’t the geographical representation of where these things will be – meaning, the two long sections at the bottom are actually in two different areas of the yard, border areas along the north and east fences. and the circles are actually pots, with locations to be determined. yes, i’m contemplating the dwarf kiwi idea. anyone ever tried those?

okay so i’m not going to show you every freakin’ page of my garden binder, just a sampling. so i ordered the territorial seed catalog in hopes it would inspire me to do more by seed. didn’t do the trick. but i’m going to try a few things again this year by seed, doing the direct-sow into the raised beds of carrots and a few others, and see if this year something happens. you see, i’m not one with a lot of attention to detail. i don’t measure my gardening soil versus the amount of compost versus whatever else they tell you to put in there. i toss it in, stir it up, and hope for the best. not that i’m careless, i just know myself and can’t do everything perfectly, so each year i focus on a few things and figure in 10 years it’ll be instinctive. kind of like going green – if you try to do everything at once you’ll go nuts. so slowly integrating practices until they become habits, that’s a sweet way to do it in my opinion. ANYHOW, on the right side is my favorite magazine, Urban Farm. bless the creators of Hobby Farms for creating something for us city kids. this is their second issue and i’ve got a huge crush on it. if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s at barnes & noble and whole foods and a bunch of other places. yesterday on my lunch hour i was over at b&n reading magazines (my way of saving money on my magazine addiction is reading them at lunch at the bookstore – i’m sure they love that), and moved the UF’s up to the front row. tee hee. note: i will say that Organic Gardening is finally getting better – it’s been revamped and is not a scrawny little publication only for the OG nerds, it’s much more user friendly so goobers like me can understand and get inspired as well. 🙂

and speaking of OG, in my binder i have some ideas cut out from there for different ways to stake my peas and beans and tomatoes this year. they talk bamboo, but last year my buddy cut down my evil holly tree from my back yard (man did walking barefoot suck last year with those sharp bastard leaves all over the ground! and yes, i do realize i’m swearing too much in this post. guess i’m a li’l excited talking about gardening.), and what didn’t make it to the yard waste were the long skinny branches. being lazy, i tossed them to the side of the house, thinking eventually i’d get a saw and cut them up for my neighbor to use in their firepit (that i’m wildly jealous of). nope. they sat there for 6 months til i saw this article. so i tossed them in the garage to dry out and voila! hopefully they will make up in their new life for what evil they did in their old life, bwa ha ha.


so that’s it – a little piece of what i’ve been working on as a solo urban homesteader grrl. last year was one hell of a rollercoaster – sheesh, the whole DECADE was! i got married, lived in seattle, san diego, santa barbara, got a dog, got divorced and finally moved back to portland. i bought a house, changed jobs more times than i care to admit, lost two grandparents as well as my father, and detoxified myself of individuals, genetic and other, who were no good for my spirit. i learned the art of chocolate. i became a better photographer. i walked the beaches of barra de potosi solo and swam in the ocean. i created gardens. i planted roses. i became a bike commuter. i made the most amazing friends a girl could ask for. i started blogging, reviving my love of writing in a way i never could have imagined. i bared my soul. i learned more about myself. i forgave myself. i finished college! i learned to relax. i fell in love. i fell out of love. i learned that i am okay, i am good, i am loved – just as i am.

the picture above is inside my bathroom cabinet. when i bought my house, it was formerly owned by a preacher and his family. the first day, when i walked into the empty shell, i opened the door and saw this message staring back at me. i’ve left it there. while i don’t believe in ‘god’ and don’t believe in religion, i believe in individual spirituality and that messages are everywhere if we just open our eyes. this was left for me, and has guided me, reminded me, comforted me.

january sixteenth. eight days left of being thirty five. now, time to get my arse out of this chair and get out into the misty winter air. drink coffee, pick up prints, buy frames, and not think about gardening for a whole day. why? it’s photog day. in eight days i will have my first solo exhibition. and i could throw up just thinking about it.

ciao amigos y amigas :)))

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