Wednesday, January 13, 2010

See, I told you dreams come true!

Um.... okay, I've never told you, or anyone else that. But nevermind! Sometimes they do!

As y'all have probably figured out, my family has been unemployed for several months now. We've been managing pretty well, all things considered (thank all the gods for Unemployment Insurance), but it's been hard. Not even so much making ends meet, which was hard but doable, but just the continuous stress of not having any real income. The situation itself is the problem, rather than just the particulars. I think that overall we've dealt with it pretty well--it hadn't been causing significant problems in our relationship (though it was causing problems with our self-relationships, I think), and our children don't really seem to have noticed that much has gone awry. Some of that, I think, is because the lifestyle that we'd been building even when we were employed was low-income, low-input, low-energy, homemade/from scratch, pantry-based, etc. So when we started relying heavily on that lifestyle, it just seemed like the norm to our kids. Score one for adapting in place, eh? =) Actually, that merits its own post, doesn't it? (Robyn makes a mental note.)


All of that is finally over! (Whoa, okay wait, not the adapting in place part, don't worry.) I am happier-than-you-can-imagine to say that yesterday I not only accepted a job, but really THE job. The job in environmental and sustainable activism. The job that is working on helping families and communities learn to live low-input lifestyles. The job that is pursuing new ways to farm sustainably, that has a herd of alpacas, a working CSA and certified organic farm, that runs educational programs for youths on recycling, energy management, agriculture and more, the job.... omg, it's just THE JOB. And... and.... IT'S MINE!!!!

And, from a purely practical standpoint, it's a job that pays enough to be our whole family's income. So, unless something drastic changes, we are currently planning for my husband to become our house-husband, and I will be the breadwinner. As such, and this is the part I just find absolutely incredible, we can keep pursuing our home and lifestyle goals of adaptation in our family (led by Brian), while I will pursue the very same goals on a community scale at my job.

Holy shit.

This does mean that the posting on this blog will probably keep being sporadic. It might also mean that Brian will take over some or even most of the posts, since he will be taking over my old job at home, too, and so he'll probably have more to say about it than I. It might even be a fun ride to watch Brian learning the ropes of how to manage a home--it's certainly an acquired skill set, one I didn't have when I started either. But I do hope to keep this blog alive and kicking throughout, and let you guys out in InternetLand watch the transition as, effectively, Brian and I swap jobs. Should be good times!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thank the heavens for a new Gardening year!

Wow, didn't last year's gardening just suck? Well, ours did anyway. If yours didn't, you can just keep that to yourself....

So anyway, onward and upward, right? We learn from our successes and our mistakes, and remember that Mother Nature can be a right bitch, and that we will only only only purchase Certified Disease-free seed potatoes, we will not use saved seed potatoes from last year, and we will destroy any potato volunteers from last year, now won't we? Yes we will!

So anyway, I'm knee-deep in my Fedco catalog (what, you don't know what Fedco is? Oh good heavens, get thee to the website!) picking plants, daydreaming about how gorgeous my garden will be this year, and reading Thomas Keller's new "Ad Hoc at Home" cookbook, which is its own form of cruelty in these desolate, vegetable-less days. Sipping my husband's latest home-roasted Brazilian coffee. Small joys are key.

Part of my plan for this year is to finally embrace that a large chunk of my garden is almost unusable due to the nearby trees. It's not that they shade too much, since my garden is to their south (though at the height of summer there's a bit of cover, but this is probably a good thing). But a tree can out-compete my little seedlings for water & nutrients any day. Pair this with the fact that at least one of these trees is a black walnut, which will actually poison surrounding plants, and I've been fighting a Sisyphean battle here. So I am going to embark in a multi-prong strategy to deal with the situation.
  1. The 6-ish wooden-sided raised beds I built last year? Yeah, those are awesome. I'm building more of those. Oh yes.
  2. Tomatoes (the most susceptible to juglone poisoning from black walnuts) simply will not be in my ground-based garden. I can't fight that anymore, I concede. Instead, my tomato plants will all be in homemade Self-watering Containers, protected from poisoning and the vagaries of my own watering habits....
  3. I am going to install some kind of barrier between the bottom of the northeast corner boxes and the sub-soil. Now, I must admit, this makes my earth-mother/permaculture/holistic cycles/soil-system side go batshit, but the simple fact is, the trees are taking all of my plant's food & water--these two entities are not playing nicely, and they need to be separated (I'd put the trees in a time-out if I could, but that hasn't proved possible.... yet). So, I will till up that section, move all the soil off to one side, and put down a barrier, then the boxes (which will, of necessity now, be about 12" high), then refill with soil.
And so, I come to the question and answer portion of this blog post. For all you gardeners out there, especially if you've done something like this in the past, what barrier method did you use? I know there are several existing systems that follow a plan like this--the latest edition of Square Foot Gardening does it, for example--but I don't have access to those books right now. In my ideal world, this would be a permanent (or at least mostly-permanent) thing--I wouldn't have to dig it all up and start over every year or two. And it will have to have some kind of drainage, so just a solid layer of plastic may not work (then again, maybe it will--I'm open to suggestions). My two best ideas right now are to either use some sort of permeated gardening cloth, but I worry that this will still allow too much passing back & forth between the boxes & the trees. My other thought is a good 2-3" barrier of large gravel. So what do y'all suggest?