Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter at the Bathroom Farm

Even though my Bathroom Farm is still very much in the planning stages, I am devoting daily activity to bring it into being. The first thing to consider is the space itself which is scheduled to be renovated beginning next week. I will gain needful electrical circuits and a more desirable wall paint. The room is now painted with semigloss paint which will be changed to flat paint to optimize specialty lighting to be installed later. You might think this is all wrong and that a shinier paint surface is better. What shininess does is create warm and cool spots and I am trying to avoid this. Even the snapshot of the bare wall in the Bathroom Farm post below supports this.

I am , therefore, in the process of moving out of the space this week. I will be relocating to another space and although I'm not moving out of this house, it is still moving and disruptive. The snow and the cold in Indiana makes planting season seem like an eternity away. It always does. That's why I have gotten into the habit of forcing paperwhite bulbs inside of the house. They counteract the void formed by removing holiday decorations and make the season seem less stark! It's also a great excuse for a field trip to my favorite local garden shop!

I choose my favorite "anything shops" by proximity to bus routes and lucky for me this one is on TWO of the routes that border my neighborhood, in an urban shopping development just a few miles away! There is also a drug store and grocery store there as well AND a hardware store also selling gardening supplies. Because I have walked my 'green' talk for quite sometime, I am very well acquainted with this corner.

Paperwhites are a real curiosity to people who are unfamiliar with them because I put them in a container with rocks and add water and they just grow. Like any bulb, everything they need for life is already self-contained and because they are essentially a one-time decorative plant, no dirt is required. A few years ago, I learned a cool little trick about growing them I want to share.

Their only drawback is sometimes they grow tall and leggy and can possibly topple a small or lightweight container with their top-heaviness once they bloom. By - get ready for this - adding alcohol (meaning booze) to the water, it is possible to stunt the growth of the stalks and produce a more compact plant! Seriously. This horticulture research was conducted by Cornell University and I tested it out myself on a few occasions and it works great!


My paperwhites are doing quite well as you can see! The gentleman in the photograph is Charles Test who built the 1893 Gothic mansion I live in. He was an industrialist who owned the National Automobile Company and was a great fan of science himself. Counter to the trend in home design of the Victorian era, he built this house with a science lab on the third floor instead of a ballroom! It is a rare residential feature indeed! To compensate for lack of social space, the first floor of the house is designed so the parlor, living room, courting room, dining room and foyer combine into a large space. Social space was absolutely necessary because the original residents valued hobnobbing with their peers highly.

In case you are intrigued by my neighborhood, I've included a link to The Magnificent Ambersons, the first book inspired by Woodruff Place, a town separate from Indianapolis until 1962. One of the minor themes in the book is the emergence and reluctant acceptance of the automobile. Many of the local tycoons building houses here were involved in the Indianapolis automobile industry which produced 2,500 makes and models of cars until it was eclipsed by Detroit. It is also interesting to note that the houses built by these automotive industrialists had the biggest and fanciest carriage houses in Woodruff Place. I wonder how much confidence they actually had in their products!

I have plenty of reading homework of my own this winter and I am starting with this seed catalog from Thompson and Morgan, an Indiana business! I love the selection of container varieties of all of my favorite vegetables. Their information on the habit and size of the plants is clear enough for me to design the wall pockets to suit my needs. I also plan to purchase some of my seeds from Etsy sellers and will pass information along as I learn. This path to increase my personal sustainabilty is a learning experience and it is my goal to inspire people to do the same.

In case you are wondering, the personal production of food is NOT prohibited by the Food Safety bill recently passed by the United States Senate. I received a gracious letter today from Senator Richard Lugar clarifying this. In other words, all systems are "go" with my Bathroom Farm!

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