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

 

 

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3 reasons to drop cable – and 1 BIG reason not to

Here’s the thing about television – it’s been around for decades and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Watching TV is what we Americans do. We come home from work, turn on the TV and it entertains our children. It fills the silences that we are too exhausted to fill with conversation. It connects us to world events, the latest local news, and reunites us with our favorite sitcom characters.

I’m not knocking TV – I enjoy it as much as anyone else. I just think we watch too much. Numerous studies have documented the impact that TV has on our health – all too often through our waistlines.

3 months ago – after many discussions, my husband and I decided that we should get rid of cable. At the time it was because I didn’t think it was worth the $150/mo that we were paying for it. 3 months later – I have a different perspective. Here’s what happens when you get rid of your cable TV:

1- You fill your time at home with more valuable activities.

Watching TV was never my favorite activity, but it was easy and effortless and I find now that it took up time that I could have been devoting to things I actually do get a lot of enjoyment out of. I read more now than I ever have. It’s become my go-to way to fill free time and I love it. Reading is peaceful and I very much enjoy the quiet time after a long day in the office.  I’m also exploring new hobbies – I think I’m going to take up knitting next. It can’t be that hard right?

2 – You find other ways to fill the silence.

I talk to my husband more. Real conversations about our future, our hopes and dreams. We stay at the dinner table, drinking wine, long after we’ve finished eating. We also enjoy listening to music more. We sometimes fight over who controls the music – but I love that he exposes me to new bands and music, and I hope that I do the same for him.

3 – You save $$$ 

I mentioned our cable bill of $150/mo earlier. I don’t think this is all that uncommon – we had all the movie channels and on top of that were paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime as well. We haven’t cut out TV entirely, so we still have Netflix and Amazon Prime and we also added a subscription to HBO Now and Showtime. Even doing so, we are saving over $100 each month!

Do I miss cable? Sometimes. And to be completely honest – there is one thing I must warn you about:

1- Sports

I am a diehard UGA fan. This, I did not take into consideration when cancelling cable in the middle of college football season. Not my smartest moment.

Basically – you just need to find a restaurant or bar nearby or go to a friends house, because you can not watch NCAA football without a cable subscription.

Check out my new dish-free roof:

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We got these new string lights for Christmas from The Parents – loving them so far!

Benefits of a Backyard Water Feature

Our backyard is large – it takes up most of our 1/3 acre lot. I love the wide open space it gives us for a small orchard, garden and plenty of room for our chicken coop.  My favorite part however, is the water feature that we added. Ours is fairly basic and was built in the course of 2 weekends by a friend just starting out in the landscaping business. It turned out really well and is just as beautiful at night as it is during the day.

Our fountain at night
Our fountain at night

We love having a water feature in our backyard, so here a few reasons to consider adding one to yours:

1 – The Sound: The constant sound of water streaming into the fountain from the spouts is relaxing. There’s nothing like it to help mute the noise from the road and lull you into a quick nap on the hammock.

2 – The Fish: We have five really fat and happy goldfish that live in our fountain. I originally wanted Koi, but after learning that Koi are happiest in water deeper than 3 feet, I decided they probably weren’t our best option. Goldfish are often found in tiny bowls and jars indoors, which is really sad because they thrive with more space. Ours were 5 inches when were bought them a year ago and now the largest is over 10 inches. Monsters I tell you!

3 – The Plants: Water Lilies are just gorgeous. We purchased a Colorado Water Lily and were able to split it this spring, so the pretty pink flowers now adorn each corner of the fountain. I just also added some Swamp Rose Mallow to the back of the fountain – fingers crossed that it does well.

4 – The Wildlife: Our fountain is the major water source for our bees, who love to land on the lily pads and sip the cool water during the hottest days of summer. The fountain also attracts birds, dragonflies, and butterflies with the sound of running water. Birds land on the spouts all the time and drink from them, which I love to watch from the house!

5 – Curb Appeal and Property Value: When you look out our back door, the fountain is the first thing you see sitting at the end of the courtyard. It’s a beautiful feature that adds value to our home and makes our backyard an inviting place to hang out with friends.

Can you tell I’m totally in love with this fountain?