Thursday, October 4, 2012

Preparing for Winter

Winter on my BathroomFarm is much different than winter on the outside farm. In fact, it is my optimum growing season. My bathroom has south facing windows so I get a little boost from the sun. The wall my garden "grows up" has a dead air space behind it and a source of heat in front of it and my garden lamp shining on it. The cooler window ledge on the other side of the room is ideal for growing collards, a cool weather crop, in pots on the window ledge.

I started some new seeds for my winter crops and they are hanging in the milk carton "greenhouses" on the wall. Empty milk containers are such a great supply for my garden and I love the built-in handle hangers. My fingers are crossed that the green globe peppers, spoon tomatoes, Minnesota mini melons and the Easter eggplants all get off to a good start.

The seedling on the left is a cherry tomato plant discovered growing rogue on an Etsy seller's farm. I chose it for it's aggressive nature. So far, the seedling looks awesome. If the tomato vines currently growing, but not blooming don't improve by the time this one is ready to transplant, they are going to be pulled up to make room for something that's going to be hopefully better. Space in my garden is too precious to curate plants that aren't productive!

Also from the same Etsian's farm, I'm hopeful about growing very small "spoon" tomatoes. They were hand cross pollinated from two different tiny tomatoes growing in a container and the fruits are the size of a currant. I like that they were grown in a container so hopefully they will work for me, too. I got the Easter eggplants which grow white egg-size, soft-skinned eggplants from a different Etsy seller. I "heart" Etsy for garden supplies!

I moved my cucumber vine from a flower pot into the larger suspended trough container on the wall. There's twine on the wall for a trellis so it will have plenty of room to meander! This vine blooms like crazy but only recently has started producing female flowers. Like the peppers, cucumbers also require paintbrush pollinating because there aren't insects indoors to do the job for me! Because there was some room in this hanging planter, I direct sowed some parsley and cilantro seeds. I'm planning on making a lot of falafel this winter so fresh herbs would be great on hand!

My chili pepper plant which has been producing continuously since last Christmas has once again outgrown its container. This jumbo pot has been sitting outside of the carriage house growing nothing but weeds for a few years. With a huge pot full of extra nutritious homemade mix and regular spritz of magnesium-rich Epsom salt water, I can't wait to see how well this healthy little plant grows!

My BathroomFarm is reorganized and is going to be left to grow into it's next phase of development while I work hard on my Halloween projects. Halloween is like Black Friday for Baisebeige Studios, my textile business. And, shortly after that, there's the real Black Friday to consider. In fact, I start Etsy Holiday Boot camp to prepare for that today. Time is flying on the BathroomFarm!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

My First Year on the BathroomFarm

It's been a year and a week since I planted the wall on my BathroomFarm and it has been a wonderful year indeed. My landlord bolted a flooring scrap for a better nailable surface on the wall of my bathroom during post fire renovations. I filled various beverage containers with dollar store dirt and barely thriving seedlings, hung them up and turned on my homemade BathroomFarm lamp.

This first year has been quite a learning experience which is fine because I am the Queen of Failing Forward and willing to learn from every mistake and try anything a couple of times. I have gone from an inexperienced gardener with not one clue to actually eating food from my garden. I've read zillions of books and blog posts and Googled every stupid gardening question ever asked. And, I keep doing it because I believe that it is 100% possible to empower yourself by gardening even if you you have no yard, no experience, no traditional gardening tools and no money.

The BathroomFarm is designed to be a very low cost, almost no cost venture. Many urban people are finding themselves without a source of fresh food these days and many people are also finding themselves in financial situations they have never expected. That's why I designed my garden with simple and inexpensive materials and use grocery store and dollar store seeds. Food producing plants and seeds can be purchased with food stamps if the retailer accepts them as a form of payment. It was an exciting moment to become a partner with and help spread the word that food stamps grow gardens.

It's true that gardens require more than seeds, so I raised the money to buy things my garden needed (like the materials for my garden light and some products like peat moss and Perlite to make my dirt better) by having a yard sale and earning gift certificates answering surveys online to demonstrate that resources can manifest to support the needs of a garden without stressing a budget. By Christmas, the fruits of my labors were starting show!

I was inspired to learn more and work harder to get more of these positive results. I am studying the needs of each plant and making the conditions as optimum as possible because the goal is to have a variety of fresh food all year long in a compact space. The really interesting thing about container gardening indoors is that plants with proper care can live a very, very long time without needing to be replaced. The only reason many die after one season outside is because of the change in the weather.

Thousands and thousands of people follow @BathroomFarmer on twitter. As soon as they stop laughing, they click "follow" because there are so many good reasons to grow your own food. The price of food is always going up and the questionable quality of food these days has people very concerned. I have a solution for many people who thought a traditional garden was just not possible. I do not believe in *not possible*! Growing bell peppers indoors is not possible, they say. If you need to be really, really impressed, this little pepper is growing indoors and upside down from a beverage bottle upcycled into a wall pocket!

I pollinated that pepper blossom with a paintbrush on the way out of the door to speak at the first ever Indianapolis Food Independence Day event at Earth House. It's such a good idea to come together as a community and share ideas about growing and eating better food as a community because it does inspire positive cultural shifts in the community. The good word about personal empowerment by gardening was further spread in print and online articles in Indianapolis' NUVO newsweekly! Speaking at the event was good, but attending was even better. There were so many great ideas shared that day, I will keep quite busy on the BathroomFarm until the next Food Independence Day.

So here's my year old BathroomFarm and such a wonderful garden it has become with plenty of room to grow. This is probably one of the best and certainly one of the most unusual ideas I have ever had. I'm really proud of the results so far, but, most of all, I just love to let it be. All  gardens are such wonderful things. I grew this myself. From seed. With faith. Just like the real farmers do.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Sow Sunday

While the majority population was rapt with watching the premier sporting event of the year, I joined a group of gardeners and participated in a twitter chat celebrating the kick off of the 2012 gardening season in the northern hemisphere. This is Super Sow Sunday, a special online event of the popular garden chat forum hosted by BGgarden. It does seem to be a bit early to think about gardening, but it is realistic to start seeds indoors and then transplant them after the threat of frost. Although, BathroomFarming is independent of the cycle of the seasons, this is the time of the year to buy seeds in retail stores and a little community spirit doesn't hurt either!

Last year, I started seeds in toilet paper cores well in advance of moving back into my renovated room. This year, I decided to try something different and make seed starting
containers from upcycled milk jugs to put on the wall of my BathroomFarm. I was inspired by Susan Klatz Beal's article:

I, however, wanted to make changes in the design to be able to hang them on my wall.

Many other people were getting their hands dirty with gardening activities while chatting so working on my garden seemed really natural. First, I cut the side open on the jug, leaving the handle intact. I also punched some drainage holes in the bottom as well as a few holes around the opening to loop paperclips through to be a closure. The original design is to cut the top all the way off. But this compromise gives me an easy way to hang the little greenhouse as well as an easy way to open it for watering and tending the plants.

Then, I kept true to the original design and lined the interiors of the bottoms with wet newspaper. I like the idea of being able to use the newspaper to easily extricate the seedlings for transplanting. If I am very clever, I can design wall pocket containers that will make transplanting easier by planning ahead for the shape of the bundle to be removed. It won't be difficult to cut the soft milk carton plastic apart with scissors when I'm ready to do that. I can go ahead and plant the newspaper along with the seedlings in the wall pockets and the newspaper will biodegrade gracefully adding carbon to the soil.

Then, I got my hands dirty and filled the newspaper lined milk carton bottoms with wet potting soil mixed equally with perlite and peat moss. Since I fluffed up my dollar store dirt, at the suggestion of Susan Klatz Beal, my garden has been doing much better! I started some cherry tomatoes and spinach first. The nice thing about BathroomFarming being independent of weather and seasons, is that I can add crops gradually. I think this is my best strategy because container gardening is more challenging than I had anticipated. It would be best to master it slowly and have better results in the long run.

The final step was to close the little greenhouses up and hang the handles over nails on my wall. I edited a picture of my project for the evening and posted in the chat. What an interesting and fun thing to do!

I was also surprised by winning a great gift basket from BBB Seed containing wildflower seeds and heirloom vegetable seeds as well as some personal care goodies! How awesome is that?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cycles in My Sustainable World

Gardening is a world of cycles. Even though it is January, our attention now becomes focused on beginning our gardens for the next year. Every year on Super Bowl Sunday, there is a huge gardening chat anyone can follow at #supersowsunday that takes place while the football game is being played. Even though my city is hosting the Super Bowl this year, I don't feel any deep connection with things athletic, so this chat interests me greatly.

I'm not much connected to the out-in-the-yard gardeners, but do choose to participate somewhat in the usual culture of gardening. Starting seeds as a group and planning a garden online is a great way to participate in the larger culture. The BathroomFarm is a year-round venture independent of the calendar seasons, but I can learn much from the out-in-the-yard growers. I also intend to volunteer in gardens this summer to get more experience.

For all of time, gardening has been not only related to the cycles of the seasons, but also to the cycles of the moon. Many ancient sustainable cultures looked to the sky to better organize their time in the fields. In more modern times, growers look to the phases of the moon and one of the best known references, The Old Farmer's Almanac has moon-based planting information. I love all things moon! Astrologically, my sun, moon, ascending sign, and Venus are all in moon-ruled Cancer. Historically, my childhood was spent rapt in watching the goal of America landing on the moon. When my parents and I were watching my hometown hero Frank Borman read from Genesis while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve 1968, they gave me the tiny gift of a Fisher Space Pen accompanied with the giant announcement that we were going to watch the Apollo 11 launch! One thing that always interested me was that moon cycles were often used to organize time. Everyone's heard that from the new moon phase to the full moon is a great time for beginning new things but what happens for the rest of the lunar cycle?

That mystery was solved when I became acquainted with Rev. Michele McGrew who gave away a simple system for planning time by the phases of the moon in a self-self giveaway. The reality is there is no wrong time to do anything but there are better ways to do everything when moon energy is harnessed. I won a free coaching session with her and was able to discuss these ideas. Do they work? I'll find out! I blocked out one of my planning calendars shown above with the phases of the moon to remind me of time. I have never thought that time was anything but a "made up" parameter, with which now science agrees, so any act of organizing time is personal. My view is to use time and organize time and radiate positive thoughts about time and NEVER, EVER be a victim to it! By using moon phases in BathroomFarming, I can feel attached to a system of cycles. If nothing else, I think people feel soothed by familiarity found in cycles and other patterns.

January 2012 has never been a better time to experiment with moon phase marketing and organization principles! The first new moon phase of the year started on January 23, a Monday. Yeah. I know. I just can't turn off being the oldest living Duran Duran fan. Not real sorry about that either. Enjoy!