Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Day on the Ground

Beginning the general layout with stones, boards, and stray gutters marking the boundaries.
I can finally get my hands in the dirt, doing the fun work of homesteading…happy to be done with the planning phase!  First, I had to test my measurements and plans and see if they would really work.  Pencil and paper is so great – you can make anything look like it will work.  I did some adjusting – narrowed the paths to cut back on the amount of bricks needed, which of course also expands the productive space available for planting.  The good news is – the general concept fits and works.  Next step was buying the lumber.  We bought 2x8's…went over budget a bit, and by a bit, I mean double!  Not a good start in the budget department but otherwise a productive and fun day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Raising Quail

I’ve done a little digging on the plausibility of raising quail, and I’m feeling hopeful.  It seems they are a pleasant lot to raise but that they are very susceptible to predators (yes, even the stray cats could probably get them). This means that letting them roam freely puts the poor little guys at risk.  So, if I want to raise quail, I’ll need to pen them and only let them run around while we’re outside to protect them.  We do want them to have time to walk around the gardens for their sake and because they will eat little bugs that would otherwise eat our vegetables.  This setup is all very doable, but here’s the catch:  Muncie has a “no poultry” ordinance for residential zones of the city.  People are currently working to get this overturned.  Please help by signing the petition at  I’m hoping they’ll get the ordinance overturned before I build my pen and purchase my quail, but if not, I’m not convinced that there isn’t a loophole here.  I mean, really, how can you ban birds?  They are everywhere from the sidewalks, to the Redbuds, to inside my house.  Just because I may eat my quail’s eggs, she’s suddenly not allowed?!? 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Seed Varieties

Amaranth: Seeds can be ground into a high protein, gluten-free flour.  Young leaves can be used in salads.

Here’s what I have so far for my top picks on seed varieties:

Beans: 1st choice - Cobra (a Climbing French that is said to have beautiful blooms); 2nd choice – Purple Cascade (also a Climbing French but with purple beans instead of green beans).

 Sugar Snap Peas: 1st choice – Super Sugar Snap (a climber with good production and flavor…dwarf varieties seem to be preferred by many, but I want the bountiful climbing look)

Beets:  1st choice – Boro; 2nd choice – Bolivar (both known for good flavor, texture, and looks)

Chard:  1st choice – Bright Lights (multi-colored stems for visual appeal)

Quinoa:  1st choice – Rainbow (a multi-coloured variety recommended for home growers); 2nd choice – Tamuco

Amaranth:  1st choice – Hopi Red Dye; 2nd choice - Burgandy

Varieties still open for input: garlic, cucumbers, lettuce, peanuts, potatoes, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, onion (the rest of my plants will be acquired as starts, so we’ll worry about those later).  Let me know if you have suggestions for seed varieties for the ones I haven’t decided yet.  I’m looking for beauty and flavor as much as possible! 

I will be transitioning back to the States over the next couple weeks, so bear with me if blog entries are less frequent.  I will continue to track this journey into Learning to Live Local on Less once my hands are in the dirt at home!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To-Do List

1.    Prepare garden layout for optimum plant pairing and natural pest control.
2.    Choose which variety of each vegetable to plant.
3.    Investigate the plausibility of raising ducks or quail for eggs and meat.
4.   Find and purchase seeds.
5.    Relocate compost piles
6.   Remove unwanted slab path.
7.    Overlay the ground with sheets and towels.
8.   Put a “bricks wanted” ad on Craigslist.
9.   Purchase materials for raised beds.
10. Build raised beds.
11.  Purchase topsoil and fill beds.
12. Sow seeds.
13. Purchase and plant starts for plants that are too late to start from seed.
14. Dig small pond.
15. Introduce vegetation and animal life into pond.

That should have me off to a good start.  Add to that upkeep of the front and side yards, and I think I’ll be able to keep myself (and my family) occupied.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sheets and Towels?

What will happen if I lay old sheets and towels down as the barrier between the current sod and the raised beds?  The fabric would meet the criteria of being impermeable by weeds and plant roots but permeable by water and moisture.  And they will disintegrate over time, so I won't need to worry about removing them someday.  A brief internet search tells me that this approach is not very common…nothing turned up indicating anyone condemning or condoning the idea.  It sounds like an easy, safe barrier to me.   And I’ve been wanting to cut down on the number of linens in my house…completely unnecessary!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Enthusiasm is Contagious

Lego Garden

It appears my enthusiasm for transitioning to edible landscaping is contagious.  My son built me a garden out of Legos, and my husband has agreed to building raised beds.  Not only that, but everyone is excited (or at least willing) to help with the upkeep of the vegetation.  My boys can’t wait to be allowed to dig in the dirt, and my husband (unsolicited) has agreed to putting an hour or two in weekly on the project!  I can’t think of a better family activity.  Ok, I’m not sure their enthusiasm quite matches mine, as I can imagine each of them picking several other family activities ahead of gardening, but I’ll take what I can get!