Monday, April 16, 2012

Hippie Things I Did This Weekend: The Square Foot Garden

Both my training plan and the part of me that wants to someday not suck at road racing said that I should race on Saturday.  There was no shortage of choices:  OSRS Germantown, the Ceraland circuit race just down the road in Columbus, or rarely-seen 30+ woman fields at Hillsborough Roubaix in Illinois.  The only problem was transportation.  Adam wanted to do Ceraland, but that was last-place in my choices.  If I'm going to race road, it needs to be in a group big enough (preferably Cat 4 or at least 3/4 only) to allow me to practice burying myself in the pack and hiding from the wind.  I've still got to get that skill down before I move on to more advance things.  Ceraland only had one girl pre-registered, and even if more were to show up, it would be a small, mixed 1/2/3/4 field, which pretty much means it would have turned into a time-trial for me after about 5 minutes.  My teammate Sarah had mentioned possibly making the trip to Hillsborough-Roubaix, so I thought I could maybe get a ride with her, but I didn't want to be an inconvenience since my race would have started an hour earlier than hers.  As the weekend drew closer and I was filled with indecision, I knew what I really wanted to do: build my Square Foot Garden.

I've toyed with a little garden off the back porch for a couple of years, but I've really been wanting to make the jump to something that was a legitimate food source and not just a weed patch where I'd remember to plant and harvest stuff every couple of months.  I bought the book "All New Square Foot Gardening" last fall, but being cyclocross season, it kind of got pushed aside.  Then the weather got nice and I realized I was under the gun if I wanted to actually get everything planted, so I sat down and read the whole book last weekend.  Then, while spending week trying to commit to race plans, I was plotting my Friday trip to Lowe's to gather supplies.  The plan was to race Saturday and build a garden on Sunday, but it was obvious that my heart was way more into the gardening project, so I decided to just knock it out and improve my road racing skills on some other day when I was more into it.

So after three hours or so of shopping, hauling, and stacking supplies on Friday, and another seven hours of hard labor in the rain on Saturday (would have been a crappy day to race, anyway).  I now have 48 neatly arranged squares of super special "Mel's Mix" soil in which to lay out a lovely food supply that will mature in waves rather than sticking with pounds of ripe whatevers at once.  The main garden is three boxes that are six inches deep with mulched areas in-between to keep Adam from having to mow so much.

Then, in the side yard, I have a 12-inch deep box that will be used for longer carrots, potatoes, and other larger root crops.  I'm also going to put a trellis on the north side where winter squash vines can climb without blocking sunlight from the rest of the plants.

The project was a lot of work, and I think I may have already blown my annual vegetable budget, but it should provide a lot of low-maintenance growing years to come.  Hopefully I can learn a lot this year and add a couple more boxes next year, so that I can produce almost all of our household vegetables myself.  I can't fully explain my motivation for this, as shopping at the farmer's market already provides pretty good separation between myself and the industrial food system, but it will be nice to be able to race on Saturday mornings without the annoying consequence of having to eat grocery store vegetables.  I still don't have an egg solution, since my research so far has shown that, unless you live in a rural area with no restrictions on number of birds or the amount of space you have to move them to fresh grass daily, backyard hens are more of pets with benefits than a real food source.  I guess that it is just an extension of the realization that I've made since I've started buying most of my food from local farmers, that there is so much more to the food world than what you see in a grocery stores and that even "normal" vegetables are so much better in the home-grown form because of the varieties used.  Whether plant or animal, if something has been bred for mass production, it's almost inevitable that compromises have been made in the flavor.  Now that I have my own little backyard lab, I can experience the full range of what different types of vegetables are really supposed to taste like.

No comments: