Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cabin Fever

I can't believe it was just nearly 70 degrees, and now the temperature has dropped into the high 20s today, bringing sleet and snow and winter weather advisories. I am suffering from cabin fever, and I am desperately ready for spring! I ordered heirloom seeds on Sunday from my Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. catalogs. I put a rush on the Seed Savers Exchange order, where the bulk of my seeds will be coming from, so I should have them by Thursday. I know I've ordered far more seeds than I'll need, but I'll share with my gardening friend, Michelle. Plus, if I stagger the plantings, I can get 2 or 3 harvests out of some of the crops.

The next thing I need to do is take a calendar and start marking planting dates. I'll start many of my early season plants indoors--peas, tomatoes, and the like--but I don't want to start them too soon, so I need to sit down and do some date estimating. That sounds like a good weekend project.

What are you doing to get ready for spring planting?

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Taste for Spring

Yesterday, the temperature rose close to 70 degrees after several days of cold, wet, Midwest winter, and there I was, cavorting around town without even a jacket! Well, not cavorting actually, since I'm just recovering from whatever nasty respiratory bug has been going around, but I was certainly slightly bouncy. The sun was welcome as a beloved sister one hasn't seen for a year, and the gentle breeze that caressed my exposed skin put me in a mood to begin planting--although it's still a bit too soon. I did, however, buy a clearance-priced terrarium set-up (grow-light and all) and a seedlings heating mat in preparation.

After reading Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, I'm determined to spend a year trying to grow as much of my own food as possible and buy the rest locally or trade with others. Unfortunately, I won't be able to raise my own poultry like Kingsolver did, since city definitions of livestock prohibit such an endeavor, but I will do my best to seek out animal products where the animals have been treated humanely, fed naturally, and are raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. My cohort in gardening crime, Michelle (My Grandpa's Garden), will be keeping me on task this year (in a later blog, I'll post about the sad state of my 2007 garden, but until then, you can get a small taste of it by reading Michelle's comments about my teeny tomatoes).

I've always enjoyed gardening; playing in the dirt is relaxing and productive. I get great joy from watching the plants grow, and even greater satisfaction from eating the fruits of my labor. So why the push to buy locally and grow my own food to sustain me through the year? Several reasons, actually:

  • Buying locally is healthier for the environment. When food is shipped from other states, much more fuel is consumed--and more carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere--than driving to your local farmer's market.
  • Growing my own food organically and buying organic food and livestock products is healthier for me. I have Stage IV breast cancer, and estrogen feeds the cancer. Since herbicides and pesticides operate in the body much like estrogen does, I would like to keep them out of my diet! Additionally, many livestock farmers inject livestock with hormones to promote maturation, and I am trying to keep my body a hormone-free environment. Staying away from antibiotic-injected animals also means (I hope) that I am less likely to develop antibiotic-resistant infections.
  • Growing heirloom vegetables and herbs means that I am contributing to keeping a variety of species alive and on the market and is more intriguing--I'll be growing choggia (ringed beets), zebra tomatoes (striped tomatoes) and chocolate beauties (chocolate-colored bell peppers) this year, and I'm looking forward to taste testing these different varieties!
  • Studies suggest that organically grown food has higher nutritive value than non-organic foods.
  • Growing, trading and buying locally means I get to socialize with people who have similar interests.
  • Being outside will mean that I will absorb more Vitamin D.
  • By avoiding hybrids whenever possible, I can collect my own seeds to plant next year.
  • I suspect (although I'm certain I'll find out whether it is true) that growing your own food is more economical than purchasing the same food in the store.
  • Home-grown food just plain tastes better.
I have lots of other reasons, but just can't think of them right now.

So...I invite you to play in the dirt with me this year! I'll use this blog to chronicle my experiences, good and bad. Feel free to drop by to offer advice, share your own experiences, or pass along ripping good gardening tales!