urban homestead

Realization

My office overlooks the backyard, with a big window beside my desk. I choose the location for the natural lighting, but have found that as I work I often stare outside. 

The yard is not particularly well maintained. Just outside the window are a pair of planter boxes, empty now but for the weeds growing in them - a memorial to a failed attempt at gardening in the past. The garden was poorly considered, placed in an area with too little sunlight, a spot chosen for aesthetics and convenience rather than practicality. 

Now, looking out over the weedy yard, I’ve begun to realize some things. 

First: The flowers. 

These are the flowers of my childhood, the upturned heads of the field bindweed 

and the fiery crowns of the globe mallow


These are weeds. Tough, surly, stubborn plants that live in poor soil and thrive under neglect. No one asked for them to be here; no one cultivated them or lovingly cared for them. They merely grow, in defiance of drought and heat and surprise late-spring snow. 

And looking out over these plants, I realize that another name for “weed” is “wildflower.” 

And I think: Why is it that only fussy plants have value? 

Why do we spend time and money and poison on eradicating that which grows here naturally, only to replace it with something delicate, ill-suited to the environment? Why do we reject the tough flowers in favor of the delicate imports, the flowers that meet some arbitrary standard of what a flower should be? 

I never expected weeds to be so political. But thinking, now, on the wild things that have taken root in my garden, I feel a sort of kinship with them. 

Today I weeded 1000 plants. Not just any plants, but 1000 tomato plants. 

To be clear, I didn’t weed around 1000 tomato plants, but rather the tomato plants were the weeds, and I pulled out over a thousand of them.

Impossible, you say. Try me, I reply.

How could this happen? Well, I have tiny tomatoes growing in the aquaponic grow beds. This particular tomato is hardy, prolific and opportunistic. Every time a tomato drops, this is what happens:

One dropped tomato equals a dozen tomato seedlings. Neat, right?

Unfortunately, if not managed, the bed will look like this:

So thus a modern homesteader dilemma; Nothing is supposed to go to waste. Everything should be used to it’s utmost potential. Taken to extreme, each tomato plant should find a home. And really, little tomatoes shouldn’t have been forgotten to drop into the bed in the first place.

I know I can’t be the only one that frets about this. My extreme weeding event allowed me to meditate on this dilemma for the good of gardeners everywhere. Weeding, thinning and forgotten fruit are unavoidable. I am choosing to look at this as a reminder of life’s abundance.  Nature is full of redundancies, and it’s my job to make the most of it. 

Sometimes that means I’m going to have too many tomato plants, and sometimes that means tomatoes are going to be my afternoon snack for three weeks straight. And sometimes that means I’m going to have to pull out 1000 tomato plants before they have a chance to flourish, just so basil can flourish instead.

It’s not just about nothing going to waste, it’s about balance. :-)

FARMERS BREAD

NOTE: This recipe makes up to six loaves. I haven’t tested it, but from the look of it, you may need to use a larger mixing bowl than what you normally use for a stand mixer. ALSO– This recipes requires some time to make. It’s a good bread to make on a day when there’s not a lot to do. 


INGREDIENTS 

  • 7 tsps Yeast
  • 5 cups warm water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup lard, melted
  • 4 cups whole-wheat or multi grain flour
  • 8-10 cups of flour

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a 2 cup measuring cup combine the yeast and 1 cup warm water. Let the yeast work for 5 minutes. (Fresh Yeast becomes foamy at this time)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the remaining water, sugar salt, and melted lard. Add the yeast mixture and stir well. Add 4 cups whole-wheat or multi grain flour, mix well, and let stand for 45 minutes or until bubbly and slightly risen. The mixture will resemble pancake batter. 
  3. Mix in the remaining flour until the dough is easy to handle. Turn the dough into lightly floured counter and knead until elastic (5 minutes). Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour).
  4. Punch down the dough and let it rise again. (1 hour). Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and roll each into a loaf shape. Place into greased loaf pans and let rise for 30 minutes. 
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the load pans immediately and place the loaves on a cooling tack. For best results  brush the loaves with melted butter or lard. 

Serving size 1/16 a loaf. Calories: 83

This recipe makes perfect sandwich bread that will hold up to slicing. USE white flour for a great white sandwich bread. 

Inoculating mushroom logs

Birthday Shiitake!  My present this year was 100 spawn plugs (how romantic).

The whitish stuff means they’re ready to grow.

I used three oak logs felled from Hurricane Irma, drilling holes about 3-4 inches apart.  Then I made another staggered line next to it.  It’s a 5/16″ drill bit, drilled 1 ¼ inch deep. 

The instructions say to pound the plugs in with a rubber mallet, but I used a readily available hammer,  

After all the plugs were hammered in flush with the holes, I melted some beeswax (you can use food-grade wax, too, but beeswax is free for me, so, Yay) and just covered the plugs with a smear of wax.  This helps keep competing fungus out of the hole until the shiitake can establish itself.

I finished one log a week for three weeks. The theory is the mushrooms will flush out in a staggered pattern, making a continual mushroom harvest.  I have my doubts, but it’s worth a shot.

This is the third mushroom tripod in the Fairy Garden.  I think I have room for a few more. :-)

6

The garden is juuust starting to produce for us. We got to try the first of our snow peas and I couldn’t help but check the progress of our carrots. They were too small but still tasty. The golden raspberries I planted have stayed pretty small and it looks like we’ll only get a handful but theyre so delicious. I managed to find a whole cache of the snails that have been attacking my peas. I wish I had chickens as these freeloaders would at least contribute as chicken treats. The tomatoes peppers and corn are all still quietly making subtle progress but i think were still weeks away before they start producing anything.