Sunday, May 20, 2012

Around Here

Around here, I am heading into the final few weeks of the quarter, and summer vacation is so close I can almost taste it. I really love my program, and all of my classes, but it is really hard to focus on schoolwork when so much is happening outside! This is one of my favorite times of year in Portland, when everything is green green green, rhododendrons and iris and roses are blooming everywhere you look, and we wake up to birdsong every morning and the air just smells so flowery and fresh. We've had a two-week stretch of absolutely beautiful warm weather, and this morning it is still warm, but gray and drizzly.

I am taking a little break from the usual pile of homework--right now in addition to my regular weekly heap of readings, I am writing a plan to use community organizing to improve opportunities for physical activity for older adults in East Portland- an area of town that has very poor infrastructure and resources and has generally been neglected by the city. For our Mass Communication & Health class, my friend Laura and I are putting together a media advocacy campaign aiming to get the city to change zoning laws to restrict fast food restaurants near schools, with an accompanying anti-fast food social marketing campaign targeting school-aged kids. This is the kind of stuff I want to do in my career, so it's really exciting, even if it means many hours spent inside rather than outside.

Since the weekends are the only chance I get to spend some time in the garden, I put in a couple hours yesterday, weeding and planting and watering- but really, by now the big rush of spring planting is over and it's mostly just maintenance until we start putting in the fall crops. I am so proud of our garden, it's where I've been putting all my time that isn't focused on school (or Matt, he's a priority :), and while I am missing things like cooking and sewing and knitting SO much, it's nice to see how much my efforts in the garden have paid off. I have done most of the planting, and Matt has been working hard doing most of the maintenance while I'm away at school, and has been taking care of the community garden and the animals too.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
This bed contains onions, green onions, a tomato, carrots, spinach, lettuce, and Alderman (Tall Telephone) peas. I love the yarn trellis Matt built- I think it looks like a suspension bridge. I gave this bed a thorough, and much-needed, weeding yesterday- now the wee carrots won't have to duke it out with a million little invaders.

From now on, I am only ever planting out brassicas with floating row covers over them- that month spent under cover means that we're going to be eating our own broccoli by the first of June! (The broccolis out front that weren't covered are small and stunted, and have tiny heads on them but are essentially bolting). 

The garlic is super tall and thriving. We should be seeing scapes sometime soon. The only real issue with this bed is convincing the peas planted along the back that they should use the fence as a trellis, not the garlic!

We have tomatoes! This is the first tomato I planted out, probably earlier than I should have- it's a Green Zebra, I believe, and is putting on fruit and flowering away!

Kale. Glorious, glorious kale. 

We've trained our marionberry all over the fence, and it's going apesh*t. It was a two foot tall cane when we planted it less than a year ago.

We've planted nasturtiums around the trunks of the fruit trees, they are excellent companions to apples and pears- aphids love nasturtiums, so ideally they'll go there instead of to the trees.

Little parsnips working their way up in one of the beds at the side of the house. They were getting really shaded by our overly enthusiastic rhubarb, so yesterday I cut the plants down to half their size, and they're still big!

Like the rest of the garden, the peppers are thriving. This bed also contains basil, cilantro, and a new planting of lettuce (you'll notice I have marigolds dispersed throughout the garden- they are the workhorse of all companion plants, to quote Carla Emery, and do a fantastic job of keeping the soil healthy and attracting the slugs away from the veggies).

By the front steps, two lemon cucumbers in a pot, and a hot pepper. 

I think we're going to have a bumper crop of berries this year. Last year we had tons, but we were just moving in and this whole section of the garden was massively overgrown. With all the pruning and fertilizing we've done, plus our very sunny spring, I think we might just get the mother lode this time around.

I wish I could take a photo that captures the entire front yard garden, but it's too big! This is just one side- potatoes, tomato, pepper, and along the roses at the back is a row of beets. 

The dogwood tree in our front yard is in full bloom right now- I love this peachy color! One of the really fun things about this time of year is that we had no idea what our trees would look like when they bloomed- we moved in in late June, so this is the first time we got to see the lilacs, apples, Asian pear, rhododendrons, and dogwood bloom! We also got surprise tulips and lilies.

 Look closely- Matt and Maggie are in the doorway.

 This is what our rhodies look like- beautiful, no? We had no idea what color they might be.

Another addition to our backyard- Matt built this fireplace out of bricks salvaged from a demolition site nearby! Looking forward to trying it out.

We've been eating a lot of rabbit! Someday I will write a post that is only about our rabbit experiences, but for now I will tell you that the entire second generation has been successfully butchered, both does have been bred again, and homegrown rabbit has proved itself damn tasty! (Tastewise, it is very similar to chicken, but there is a different quality to the meat- richer, maybe?). So far we have tried it braised with sage and rosemary, and also dredged in flour and fried. Both are delicious, but the frying is labor intensive (and not as healthy). Either way, though, it is incredibly satisfying to eat meat we raised from the very beginning.

This week is an anniversary- one year since Matt and I returned home from our Big New Zealand Adventure. It's hard to believe it's been a full year since then- and what a year! Full of tenuous or nonexistent employment, good friends, the stresses and joys of graduate school, our first forays into the world of urban homesteading, lots of eggs, the bunnies, and many ups and downs. We've been poor, but productive, and pretty darn happy overall. And it has been a year spent in this house that is more home to either of us than anywhere we have lived since leaving our childhood homes. We truly love our home here, and everything we have done with it. It is comfortable, just the right size, affordable, and we are lucky enough to have good neighbors, a really excellent landlord who lets us be in charge of everything on the property, and a roommate who we are extremely compatible with, and who came with a cat that keeps us constantly entertained. Back on the road in New Zealand, camping in a different place each night and enjoying the itinerant life, this is what we dreamed of in the back of our minds, and now we have it.

In just a few weeks, I will have time to do more than write one big post every weekend- I can't wait to be able to settle back into domestic tasks, read something that isn't a textbook, and build some new householding habits like soapmaking. Until then, my friends, thanks for reading my big long summaries of the week!

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