I really just want to farm.
These are the words that keep coming up for me, day after day. Year after year.
The idea of farming, for me, is something like a seed I have buried but not watered. I watch it and hope for it to break through someday. I obsess over learning how to care for it when it does.
I've danced in front of this seed, whispered sweet affirmations to it, dreamed of the day it would break through that rocky earth and become something real.
But I haven't given it the water it truly needs for it to grow - acceptance and action. I've been collecting knowledge, learning, practicing, but all of that has been encased in the tough little seed pod that is fear.
Part of acceptance is being at peace where I'm at right now. I don't own land, and renting in California has been, if I'm being kind, a series of uprootings. I've been learning, but quietly. Mostly to myself. I want to share so badly, but the fear. Fear of being heard, judged, or even worse, putting myself out there and ....crickets. Fear of not being enough, the trap of comparison.
This fear has been stopping me for too long now. As has the idea that everything must be perfect, real and tangible to exist in the world. And by believing that, I'm missing out on the beauty of the journey.
I realized today that there is so much happening here on this "learning farm" on a daily basis. Stories, lessons, sweet moments that I have been keeping to myself like a fearful dog guarding a bone so furiously it can't even take a moment enjoy it.
So, action. I'm not sure if it's crazy to try and blog every day, but I want to try it. I can always revisit if it becomes too much, but I think it's doable, and needed. Even if I am singing to crickets.
With all that said, here is what happened today on the "farm!" This post is a bit long, but there's a lot to catch up on for a first post. If you have any questions or insight, please leave a comment!
The extreme heat has granted Gozer the cat inside privileges on probation (no peeing inside). He's been very satisfied with this arrangement....if I didn't know better, I'd say smug. Sometime I'll have to share how the horse vet saved his old cat's life.
Brittan bought flowers at the farmers market, despite tight finances. My gut reaction was "not a need, pass". But they've brightened my day since being here. Those flowers had a question for me - why?
Why do we put food as a need, but not happiness? I understand it's not that simple or black and white, sometimes food is all you can afford and that is that. But in this case, we had a few dollars extra and it still didn't register to me as a need until after the decision had been made. The reminder to stop and smell the flowers has been well worth it.
The bell pepper and jalapeno starts are taking off and looking lush. Minor setback with some hungry bugs - I thought they were caterpillars but look who I noticed as I was taking the photo! Can you spot him? Caught the bugger and put him out front. Cutest baby grasshopper there ever was.
So cute. So small! Growing food anywhere for the first time can be challenging with pests and unbalanced soil and systems. It takes time to restore some sort of balance especially if you're in the city or suburbs. In San Francisco, it was a battle against leaf miners and raccoons. In Eureka, it was snails - ton of them! Here, apparently, it's grasshoppers.
I didn't worry about setting the baby grasshopper free because I have the power of chile pods! You can make a wicked spicy spray out of these with not much effort at all, and it really does work. I'll share the "recipe" in an upcoming blog.
I planted several pots full of sweet potatoes, sprouted from the grocery store. While I'll be happy to get some sweet potatoes out of this (the fingerlings I grew last year were delicious and super easy) my primary reason for growing them is for rabbit fodder. Sweet potato vines are a staple feed source for a lot of rabbit farmers in South Africa as the vines are very high in protein, 22%.
Here's the catch - they have to be wilted before feeding. Due to the high water content, a rabbit fed solely on sweet potato vines would never be able to consume enough of it to get the nutrients it needs. So the vines are wilted in the sun, reducing 80% of the water and allowing the rabbit to consume more of the vines. I find all of this so interesting and fun.
The sweet potatoes were the first plants to get a full pot of soil from the new "worm beds" below the rabbit cages. I use peat moss as a base bedding (which I'm hoping to switch to something better as peat moss is not the most sustainable by any means). Hay, pee and poop a la bunny gets mixed in to create an awesome nutritious, aerated compost that I can reach for whenever I need. No waiting time and no giant compost pile as long as I keep planting. And for the rabbit care - no smell, no pellet bedding and no trays, at least for the converted side. I have dreams.
I don't sift the hay out, since it helps aerate the soil and would be needless work (weeds are gonna weed, hay or not). I've heard some people keep the sprouting hay weeds and grow them out for additional rabbit fodder, so I've created a "weed pot" to grow some of the good looking ones out and see if they have rabbit food potential. I've seen quite a few of these sprouting, I'm assuming from the hay but they could be from weeds in the hay.
Any plant ID people know what these are?
I've been trying to recreate my first "seed starting" environment from years ago (along with some more sweet potato slips and some regrown green onions).
With all the moves, I haven't been able to get seeds started like I used to. And there was never such a prolific year as my first, where I started them inside, next to a heater by a window (so convenient) and misted with a water bottle.
That year, I had so many tomatoes sprout! And they all thrived despite a leggy start. I trimmed them to perfection and they turned into the coolest most bizarre looking "tree tomatoes", incredibly prolific for being grown in a 10 gallon bucket. Lunch that summer was almost exclusively tomatoes with salt and pepper. I can almost taste it.
Keeping everyone's toes down through the heat waves has become a full time job. Leaving the house for more than an hour used to be no big deal, but this summer has been humbling. I've always lived on the coast in California and never really knew the wrath of a summer in the valley. It is no joke. Despite our fans and misters, I am out there every hour in the heat of the day, checking for any signs of overheating. So far, so good, although one of my best most beloved does is headed into early retirement for a scare - she made it through the first wave and then lost her heat tolerance. She's inside now, enjoying the house rabbit life until her new owner is ready for her.
As the sun moves, the ventilation and fan directions change, and the misters are subject to the wind - a shift in direction can quickly soak a rabbit's food and hay, or the rabbit's themselves! They seem to enjoy the mist when it's temporary, bouncing around and jumping in their water bowls to complete the look, but it's not good for them to be misted constantly or not have food available (plus they're fed a top quality expensive organic food that is literally painful to see soaked).
Today, the mist went rogue with the wind. Brittan and I spent the first few hours of the day adjusting fans, thought we had everything set up perfectly....and then the wind changed. Came in for the check to these wet little rats bouncing around in their newfound heat relief.
The most prized succulent has made a full recovery. This succulent is about 3 years old and has lived in 3 different places with us. Variegated Haworthia, I have the specific type somewhere in my records. It has always thrived through all the moves, until this last one. The succulents got put on the back burner in the chaos, which is no good for a variegated plant. If you aren't familiar, variegated plants have white or yellow "markings" that have to be managed - the white marks are beautiful but do not produce energy and leech off of the green parts of the plant. This plant had become almost half white, really beautiful, but it needed some of it removed before it reached the tipping point.
All of that plus the heat and neglect had this beauty burnt to a crisp. I thought it was dead, and was so sad for days. It had been through it all with us and was my absolute favorite succulent (it even has a name "The Prince" I know, I know). With some water and shade, it made a miraculous recovery. And self regulated it's variegation - now much healthier and less showy with just a few bits of white remaining.
There is a mourning dove nesting on the patio, can you see her? I named her Vanessa. She has had several babies fly the nest so far, and is always the most adorable sight, blinking down at you or occassionally waddling around on the roof.
We bought a small brisket at the farmers market, and that's what's next on my list after this blog. Crockpot with some onions, carrots and potatoes, nothing fancy and too small to smoke, but bound to be delicious. A nice change as rabbit has become the nearly exclusive protein here. Bon apetite!