Urban Farm Fails – An Everyday Occurance

The past year of trying to grow our own food as taught me a lot – how important the soil is to plant health, the numerous types of organic pest control methods, and that nothing beats the taste of a fresh heirloom tomato right off the vine. The biggest lesson I’ve learned though – is to expect failure, and a lot of it. For every successful plant harvested – there have been at least 2-3 plant harvest failures.

I had such high hopes for our Lula avocado tree this year. It was finally planted in the ground this spring and grew big enough to bear fruit. These hopes of mine may or may not have included thoughts of guacamole and margarita parties every weekend during summer. Did you know that you can make avocado margaritas? You can – and they are creamy, delicious and insanely addictive. There’s a restaurant in our neighborhood that is famous for these (Austinites – Check out Curras if you’ve never been).

Anyway – our tree bloomed (yay)! And then a few of the blooms turned into tiny fruits- (double yay)! And then all the fruits fell off and died. True story friends. This is about as big as they got:

The tiniest fruit ever!
The tiniest avocado fruit ever!

Our Satsuma tree did a little better – it produced some fruit, but it was all very tiny and not particularly tasty. It was pretty dry in Austin this summer and I don’t think the tree got enough water.

Lesson learned – drip irrigation for everyone. Steven installed drip irrigation for our peach and pear trees a few weeks ago. It has since started to rain again – so we haven’t used it much, but if it proves to be successful and make our watering schedule a little less rigorous, I think we can easily expand and include our other beds and gardens.

We’re currently working on our winter garden beds – we’ve got lettuce successfully going. This tends to be one of the easiest crops for us and grows all winter long. It’s hard to fail at lettuce around here.

Romaine, Buttercrunch, and Red Leaf Lettuce Varieties
Romaine, Buttercrunch, and Red Leaf Lettuce Varieties

You can however, fail easily at other winter crops. For example, take a look at my broccoli plants. They have been destroyed by some garden pest – I suspect caterpillars. We’ve tried Neem oil, but it doesn’t seem to be helping:

The saddest little broccoli plants around
The saddest little broccoli plants around

While it may be hard to believe – you can also fail at cover crops. This year I planted Kodiak Mustard. It’s a “green manure” that is supposed to help increase the nitrogen in the soil. We did everything right – the seeds got plenty of water and grew quickly. But then – the chickens. Apparently these greens are super tasty when small and the chickens needed more dirt to take dust baths in. So – they cleared out several portions of my cover crops. Thanks chickens.

Look at that blanket coverage!
Look at that blanket coverage!

I could go on for a while with a few more fails, but will spare you all the details. Let’ s move on to something positive.

Two things we’ve done well that I’m super proud of:

1- Chickens

Of the 4 baby chicks we brought home from the feed store in May of 2015, all 4 are still alive and well! We’ve been through Fowl Pox, a suspected predator attack in the coop, and an unexpected bout of molting and these ladies remain happy and healthy and are still producing 3-4 eggs every day.

The girls enjoying some fresh melon on a hot summer day.
The girls enjoying some fresh melon on a hot summer day.

2- The Pup

We adopted Phoebe back in May of this year and she’s quickly become integrated into our family and wormed her way into my heart. I was worried about her puppy energy and the fact that she was instantly drawn to chase everything that moved. She chased the cats, the chickens, squirrels, other birds, herself…you get the idea. I’ve heard of so many instances where dogs and chickens just can’t co-exist, that I was worried that we were doomed to lose a chicken or keep the dog and chickens permanently separated.

I read a book that helped quite a bit and we worked with her on general obedience and she’s now responding immediately to commands and has learned that the chickens are not to be chased. She’s turned into a damn good dog if I do say so myself. Look at this face 🙂

Watching the GA Bulldogs on TV- best way to spend a Saturday in Austin!
Watching the GA Bulldogs on TV- best way to spend a Saturday in Austin!

Failure or not – you just have to keep trying. A great man once said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; It is the courage to continue that counts”. Thank you Winston Churchill for those wise words – now, to go vote! Happy Election day all




The Dutch Wine Box

I can’t think of anything but nights with you. I want them warm and silvery, when we can be together all our lives.

-Zelda Fitzgerald

What exactly is a Dutch Wine Box you ask? Well, I shall tell you. It is my VERY favorite wedding gift.

Almost a year ago, I married my very best friend, love of my life, and favorite person in the entire world. It was a very special ceremony conducted by one of our mutual very best friends. Seriously, if I could adopt a grown-ass adult into my family – it would be this guy.

Look at these handsome fellas!

This same amazing and wonderful friend that married us gave us a Dutch Wine Box as a wedding gift and explained the custom, which I am just in love with. His family is from Holland and apparently this is a very popular tradition.

The idea behind the Dutch Wine Box is that when two people get married, they are presented with a wooden wine box (containing a bottle of wine) by loved ones, friends, or family. Ours is handmade, and therefore, just that much more special to me. The newlyweds are instructed to seperate briefly and are each given a pen and paper. The idea is to each write a letter to the other – to be sealed in the wine box along with a bottle of wine. Hopefully the wine box is never opened and the letters remain unread.

My gorgeous wine box – it’s just missing some letters.

However, in the event that there are problems in the marriage – and by problems, I’m not referring to the fight over who gets to clean up the cat vomit on the rug again. I’m talking about the cant sleep, can’t eat, can’t stand to look at each other, don’t want to be married anymore type of fight – then the wine box is unsealed and the couple shares the wine, while reading the letters.

In doing so – the idea is that each are reminded of the love that brought them together in the first place. Passions are renewed and the relationship is saved.

Who wouldn’t want to have that type of insurance card in their back pocket, right?

Here’s the downside to the whole idea of the wine box…in a perfect world, YOU NEVER GET TO READ THE LETTER!!!! Agh – maddening.

Here’s the other thing:

We are quickly approaching our first wedding anniversary – and we still haven’t written these letters! Yes. We are slackers, and we acknowledge it.

So – here’s the idea I came up with. The first anniversary is a paper anniversary. You know what’s made of paper right? LOVE LETTERS! What a perfect solution!

So, you know what I’ll be working on for the next few days. No pressure right? It’s only your entire marriage that’s hanging in the balance 🙂