Archive for the 'Gardening' Category


It was a wild and crazy weekend… betcha didn’t expect me to say that, eh? Well, wild and crazy in the omigodbusy sense.  The conference that three friends/colleagues/my roommate and I have been planning for over a year finally happened, and it went amazingly well.  We had a pretty good turnout for the public lectures by three invited faculty on Friday, and the closed workshop for anthro grad students on Saturday was really productive and, dare I say, fun.

I’ve spent the last month or so stressing out about the whole thing, and having spent the past two days coordinating the caterers; making sure our three guests were taken care of; planning and hosting and cleaning up after a house party; and moderating speakers, coffee breaks, and commentary, I am now utterly exhausted.  I dropped our last guest off at the airport this morning, and feel like I can suddenly relax. I just can’t forget to send thank you notes and the honoraria to the guests!

I’m going to pile on the vitamins and veggies this week in the hopes of staving off impending illness. Positive thoughts! You get what you give out, right?

Anyway, aside from reading a book for a paper I have to write for Tuesday (did I mention that I’ve been focused on the conference, and have let some coursework slide?! Uh oh.) I finally got around to starting my veggie and herb seeds today. I also finally got around to hanging the shop light I bought to help them sprout.  I actually bought the light three (!) weeks ago, when Doc was in town.  It sat in the corner of my living room until Thursday, when I spent the day frantically cleaning for the Friday party for our conference guests… it then got whisked downstairs to the tool room, where the plants will be spending the first 6-8 weeks of their lives.

I used old cardboard egg cartons and some purchased seed-starting soil mix (next year I hope to have enough homemade compost to start seeds and to spread around the garden!). I planted: amaranth, eggplant, broccoli, butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin (heirloom green), bell peppers, sweet basil, lime basil, rosemary, lavender, epazote (Mexican herb), chamomile, and catnip (of course).  I’m also sprouting four varieties of heirloom tomatoes, a mix of hot peppers, and (attempting) chile de árbol from the seeds of the dried chilies in my cupboard. We’ll see how that works. Sprouts will get transferred to flats in about a week.

There was a moment of extreme frustration when I could not envision a way to hang the shoplight downstairs.  I wanted it low enough to hover over the flats of seeds, but I had no way to break the very heavy chain I had sitting around (left from a discarded bike tire-chain project… the snow melted, and I didn’t have the right tools/ variety of chain anyway. next year.) or hooks to hang it from the ceiling.  It got to the point where I might have broken the lamp if I kept going, so I set it down and moved on to the book for a little while.

Then, sitting on the couch and reading my book three hours later, it hit me! The chain is really long, so I was able to rig it through the hooks on the lamp, and loop it over two nails set into the ceiling beams at an angle. I was actually about an inch off (the lamp dangles a little too far over the edge of the table), but it still works– the flats of seeds are illuminated 🙂

pictures later… maybe when the plants start to sprout.


AND she can use a drill!

One (two?) more frame(s) to go, and then I have to put the plastic on… it’s actually incredibly simple to build these things! Maybe I’ll even post step-by-step instructions… 😉

It’s rainy out right now, so I may have to wait until it slows (so the drill doesn’t go haywire, ya know?).





Growing Things

When I was a little kid, in about 5th grade, I planted a pumpkin patch in the side yard.  The back yard (though really big) was heavily wooded and had all sorts of viney things that were not conducive to growing the traditional vegetable patch. The side yard was less-so, though there were patches of poison ivy lurking.

The pumpkin vines grew really well, and produced big orange flowers, but never any pumpkin fruits. I was sad, and concluded that I generally fail at growing things.

That, however, did not deter me. I grew herbs indoors (also largely a failure), and even tried corn in buckets set out on the driveway (my parents humored me and my little projects).  Needless to say, we did not harvest much bounty from my early suburban gardening experiments.

Now older and (slightly) wiser to the ways of plants (pollination, anyone?), I have a big backyard that gets full sun for the majority of the day.  Shortly after moving in, my mom came to visit and helped me build six 3×3′ raised beds for vegetables.

Unfortunately, my current occupation (graduate student) means that I’m out of town for 3-4 months of the growing season.  In Michigan, that’s pretty much the entire growing season.  So I’m experimenting again with some indoor herbs. I planted lemon basil, parsley, and chive seeds in small pots, and bought sweet basil, lemon balm, and thyme seedlings.  My seeds took ages to germinate, and I was afraid that I had failed again. But no! They are now thriving (relatively) in the ample sun provided by my sliding glass door.  The cats love it, because it makes them feel like they’re outside (or so I tell them):


Outside, my last roommate planted a killer summer veg garden while I was out of town. The broccoli is still growing:


I’m also experimenting with a winter greens garden… My friend Shannon Brines lives around the corner and helped me out by planting some kale (last year, still going crazy!) and a mix of arugula, mache/ vit, and escarole (this year).  The arugula has just sprouted, and I’m hoping it will get a root system established before the heavy frosts roll ’round.  That way, it will over-winter and I can have a small harvest come April:


I planted some chard, beets, garlic, and carrots myself, and plan to put in some cabbage soon.  All of these plants are cold-tolerant and can withstand mild frosts (some even improve in flavor with the frost!) but would stop growing soon due to cold temps and short days.  To help these little guys out (and to prolong the growing season until the end of November-ish) I’m building passive solar greenhouses of the sort that Shannon describes on his website.

I’ve spent weeks planning and procrastinating these darned things.  After some careful calculations, it was determined that I’d need about 9 feet of “bendy material” for each rib to build the frames over each of the raised beds. I went to Home Depot and checked out their PVC piping… my stepdad had recommended 1/2″-inch as being reasonably bendable.

It only came in 10′ pieces. No, they couldn’t cut it. Okay! 10 feet it was.

I’m sure the guys at Home Depot had a pretty good laugh at the chick who crammed 21 pieces of 10’x 1/2″ PVC pipe into her little hatchback.


I was thrilled, when I got home, to see that the carrots had sprouted:


Now I’m off to measure and drill and cut and nail these things into frames over which I can drape my 6mil clear plastic sheeting! This may end up being a multi-person job, but I’m going to give it a shot.  Will update as I go, with photo documentation of what I am sure will be some amusingly frustrating exploits.