Category Archives: Local

Joint Book Review: Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

51QtHln5c0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This month’s joint book review is Locally Laid:  How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm-from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen.  Detailing the process of how the Amundsen family created and developed their vision of a humane and healthy chicken farm, Locally Laid also provides information on the industry, and demonstrates the importance of local businesses with both humor and passion.

Amanda’s Take

I picked up this book because it came highly recommended for being both informative and humorous.  That’s a win for me!

This book did turn out to be both informative and very funny.  It also had the added effect of inspiring me to never raise chickens–at least not on the scale of the Amundsen farm, Locally Laid.  I would rather spend my time and energy on something I am a little more motivated to work on; the closest I have ever come to chicken-raising is watching a friend’s small flock for a weekend, and while educational, it is also laborious and, well, dirty.

A more subtle theme in the book is what it takes to start a business from the ground up–and not surprisingly, it entails a lot.  I really admire the courage it took for the Amundsen family to leave all they had known and take the leap of faith in starting a chicken farm.  They started out not knowing a great deal about the birds, but they followed their passion (or, in the case of the author, her husband’s passion) and learned a lot along the way.

Check out this book for more insight into what it takes to start a business–especially one involving animals–and for a lot of laughs along the way.

Ronnica’s Take

Reading Locally Laid gave me a much more realistic view of what it would be like to raise my own chickens. I don’t know that I ever will, but it’s something that I consider when I dream of growing most of my own food. I’ve always been more comfortable with plants than animals, but I think it would be a good thing to stretch myself in this area…if I get some first-hand experience first.

I enjoyed this book as it was one example of someone seeing a problem in our food system and taking action. I buy the cheap eggs (when I buy them, which isn’t that often), but I can see the merits of supporting businesses like Locally Laid. I’ll be honest, knowing more about where my food comes from is something about which I’ve willing stayed ignorant, sadly.

Ronnica’s Garden Plan, 2016

balcony garden in evening sunThis may be the blog post that I’ve spent the most time on. I know that I’ve spent at least 5 or 6 hours before I even started typing the first sentence.

Clearly, I take gardening very seriously.

Daydreaming about gardening is one of my favorite things to do. Before you have planted your first seed, you can imagine months of produce. Powdery mildew, late-coming spring and windy days do not appear in my daydreams, so the fruit is always abundant.

I think that is one of the exciting things about gardening: you’re always trying to game the weather, elements and pests. What choices will provide the highest yields this year?

What’s New

The biggest new thing I’m attempting this year is to grow my tomatoes and peppers from seed. I plan on completing the transition of part of my living room into a plant nursery in order to make the most advantageous environment for them.

I want to grow my plants from seed for a few reasons:

1. Save seeds. I’ve had a dream to save my own seeds for a while now. In order to do so, you have to have heirloom (not hybrid) plants.

2. Save money. I spent $8.50 for heirloom seeds, instead of twice as much for hybrid plants. If I’m successful in saving seeds, this may be my last expenditure for these seeds until I want to add another variety when I have more garden space.

3. It’s a fun challenge. There’s a reason kids get excited about growing their own plants from seed: it’s exciting.

What I’m Growing

garden seedsVeggies: cucumbers, onions, snap peas, bell peppers, tomatoes (Amish paste), spinach, zucchini
Herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Flowers: lavender, nasturium, likely some others

Last year I only grew nasturium, but I want to up my ante for flowers. They are the best use of my hanging baskets, and I want to grow varieties that will be useful for bees and butterflies as well as good companions for my veggies and herbs.

I still have a couple of weeks before I can start to plant, even indoors. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready!

What are you wanting to grow this year?

Amanda’s Garden Plan

1901644_10101943096750499_2078924995_nYesterday, Ronnica discussed her plans for her garden.  Today, it’s my turn!

Having married into a green thumb family, I am relatively new to gardening, besides growing an occasional cucumber or flower as a child, but I love the idea of growing our own food, and giving the kiddos the opportunity to play in the dirt—with purpose!

Last year, due to a few issues, we weren’t able to dedicate a lot of time to the garden; read:  we didn’t weed and it got a bit Amazonian out there.  While I’m not sure how our garden will work around our family vacations this summer, it’s still our hope to change that this year.

Perhaps to get into the spirit of all that gardening entails, I found myself reading The $64 Tomato, by William Alexander—a humorous read about what hardcore gardening can really look like.  We don’t have anywhere near the two-thousand-square-foot garden Alexander and his family have, nor do we have the passion (or, frankly, energy) for gardening that he does.

That said, we do have about 144 square feet to work with.  Years past have found us swimming in cucumbers (among other vegetables), but a bit lacking in tomatoes (among others), so this year, I’d love to spend time cultivating that which we know thrives in our backyard:

Corn

The only problem with this one is that it takes up a great deal of room and resources and only yields a small amount.  Oh well—crisp, delicious corn straight from your garden can’t be beat!

Cucumbers

As mentioned above, cukes seem to thrive in our environment, for whatever reason.  Our first harvest here resulted in us actually having people over to help us can the extra.  Bumper crop, but again…fresh produce from your own hands just can’t be beat.

Lettuce

I don’t know what variety we will try this year, but being a city-dweller, I will ‘fess up and say I had no idea you pick lettuce by taking leaves off the top and letting it continue to grow.  No doubt there are other varieties that you harvest differently, but I love the fact that I can go out and grab a few leaves for my lunchtime salad.

The only problem with that salad is what we won’t plant:  tomatoes.  This seems to be a garden staple, but they just don’t grow for us (unless you are going for a teeny green look and unripened flavor).  Another veggie that doesn’t make the cut this year but that we have attempted in years past is peas (too much shelling involved).

We have even tried our hand at fruit–specifically blueberries–but didn’t know a thing about caring for them (who knew cross-pollination played such a huge role?).  Perhaps when the kiddos are older!

Fortunately, there is a farmers market somewhere in the metro area seven days a week, so fresh, local, and (usually) organic produce is in plentiful supply.

…but if you have any tomato-growing tips, I’m all ears!

Ronnica’s Garden Plan

balcony container gardenOne of my favorite things about spring is getting to plant my garden. This will be 6th year to plant a garden, but only my 2nd in Denver. Each year has been a learning experience and new challenges have presented themselves. By far, last year’s greatest challenge was getting used to a new climate with a shorter growing season.

I have a strong heritage of gardening. Summers were marked by eating garden-fresh cucumbers (my favorite), strawberries, radishes and beets. Garden onion flavored every dish.

Though this is my 6th year gardening, I’ve never had a plot of land to do it in. Instead, I’ve gardened in containers on apartment balconies. Container gardening has it’s own challenges, but I love the opportunity of taking advantage of the space and light I do have to grow much of my summer veggies (and increasingly, feeding myself year-round).

To add to my inspiration, this winter I’ve been reading several books that have encouraged me towards sustaining myself like Depletion and Abudance and Year of Plenty.

So what am I planning on growing this year?

garden plan
My garden mock-up. We’ll see where everything really goes when it’s time to plant!

 

Please don’t hold me to my plans: I’m constantly changing my mind! Still, this is what I’m thinking:

3 tomato plants
9 cucumber plants (3 per pot)
3 bell pepper plants
3 basil plants
2 window planters of onion
2 pots of carrots
1 window planter of spinach
1 window planter of lettuce
1 window planter of radishes
balcony container garden1 zucchini plant
1 pot of snap peas
Cilantro
Dill
Sage
Oregano

This is the most ambitious garden I’ve tried yet, trying the greatest variety I have ever had. I wanted to increase my variety because that will make it more likely that I’ll not need to buy many vegetables.

I’m antsy to get started, but in Denver, I can’t plant even the earliest vegetables until mid-April. Make sure to consult an almanac or your local agriculture extension office to know when to plant.

Be sure to check in tomorrow when Amanda shares her garden plan this year. What are you plans for gardening?