A note for all of you (readers, that is): I’ve been woefully absent from the blog for a long time, and I appreciate all the e-mails asking after my well-being (and also asking when-the-hell-are-you-going-to-start-blogging-again?!). This hiatus began as we ramped up for our big move (and downsizing) from house to loft, and it’s extended to post-move for the simple reason that I’m feeling the need to get settled. To find the zen I was seeking when we hatched this plan last August. I’m not delusional. I’m Type A, so zen is relative. But there’s definitely been a shift in the way I view life, time, being, doing. So I’m going with that a bit longer and seeing where I land.
For the rest of the summer, I’ll post as I can and stay active on the Spoonfed Facebook page, but I won’t resume regular posting until after school starts. At that point, though, watch out! I’ve been percolating a whole lot of thoughts and posts while we get settled. (Apparently shedding most of your stuff frees your brain for other things.)
One thing I have made time for amid the move is gardening. Or at least my new version of gardening. Planting our balcony was a priority even as I dug through boxes to find my underwear. So I’ll share here a piece I just wrote for my “Rooted” column in the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal. Thanks, all. Happy summer.
When we traded the big house and yard for a downtown loft, everyone asked about the garden. What would I do without a garden? I’d thought about that when we’d decided to move, thought about the many years and countless hours and endless pleasures I’d found in my gardening life. But also the many years and countless hours and endless work. And it was all good.
And now that we’re here, it’s still all good. Our balcony is planted with tomatoes and herbs. Lots of herbs. I couldn’t resist when visiting the markets and the old instincts kicked in, so I bought another railing box to accommodate the extras. There are four now, plus the two big tomato pots. And a small pot of nasturtiums. And two other pots waiting to be filled. Visitors marvel at the abundance in such a small footprint. (And I could go vertical still.) But this is exactly how I envisioned it. Life against the brick. Green amid the urban. My gardening fix without the stress I’d begun to feel in recent years.
Yet as much as I’ve felt the burden lift, I worried about our daughter. Tess is 8. She’s grown up with a big yard, big gardens, lots of space to plant and play. Tess was excited about the move, enthusiastic in the way that kids are when they’re getting a new room and stuff to go with it, but also excited because the loft would give her a (shared) rooftop deck and a view in the spirit of the big cities she loves to visit.
Of course the anticipation of moving can be different from the reality, so I feared a backlash. Or at least a lot of sulking. But Tess has embraced loft living, the newness of it and the fun perks, like mud puddles in the parking lot and riding the elevator at whim. And gardening on a small scale. Her scale.
There’s a terrarium on her windowsill. And seeds sprouting in the kitchen. She picked out pots for the balcony (but is still deciding what to plant). She did lament the loss of trees right outside her window (the better to see squirrels up close), but she plays in nearby parks and communes with the birds and butterflies that find our balcony and windowsills.
Our move puts us within walking distance of both our favorite (producer-only) farmers’ market and our favorite natural-foods store — both urban as well — so local eats are within easy reach. There’s talk of a garden on the roof, and we’ve already started u-pick rounds for the season.
Things don’t feel all that different. And yet they do. In that simplified, more time, less stress way that we craved when we made the move. Boxes remain. We’re still settling in. But there’s a calm I haven’t felt before. When a worker in our building questioned my T-shirt with the words “Farm Girl” — “Did you grow up on a farm or something?” — I answered no, I’m just a girl who knows and loves her local farmers. And is thankful that they do all the work. So I don’t have to.
I am in love with your view, and so glad you’re continuing to garden in your new place. Looking forward to the beginning of the school year (for, Ahem, “multiple” reasons), and new posts from you.
I love your blog and I’m looking forward to the new posts.
Aw, thanks, Jamie and Kristi.
kindred spirits, we are. i too took a hiatus from blogging and moved to a new house this year. and i cherish my farmers, because they do valuable life giving work to my family, and a kind of work i don’t know how to do, nor have time to do. i want a t-shirt that says “how may farmers do you have?” that’ll get people thinking. just getting back into the swing of things. i also had a side order of very sick kiddo to figure out last year, that’s mainly what kept me from blogging. http://foodwithkidappeal.blogspot.com/2012/06/i-feel-much-better-i-blame-kefir.html
Jenna! I’ve been reading your return posts and meaning to comment. What a harrowing year you’ve had. So glad everyone is on the mend (in multiple ways). Looking forward to more from you. And I think you’d like this bumper sticker I have on my car: “Who’s your farmer?”
I really enjoy your blog and commend you on your downsizing and simplifying. Your posts always make me feel better about fighting the good fight in regards to how I feed my kids. Often in this tiny rural community we live in, I feel all alone in my nutrition beliefs. Thanks for being supportive of all of us trying hard!
Ashley: Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m encouraged by feedback like this, because it shows the strength in numbers. If enough of us take charge and speak up, we can change things for the better.
Before I was a farmer, I gardened on a little rooftop, so I have some suggestions if you want to maximize your yields in a small space (and perhaps you already know these things, but I always love talking gardening).
You can graft a tomato plant stalk onto a potato plant root system so that you get not only tomatoes up top but also potatoes under the soil. I would try a fingerling variety like Peruvian Purple (bright purple throughout the flesh and quite tasty!) to avoid stunted larger potatoes.
You can plant peas or pole beans in a window box (or even vining cucumbers or baby-sized melons in a larger container) and let them climb your balcony railing to take advantage of that space. When the peas are spent, the pots are perfect for cutting lettuce, a couple of kale plants, or even shallots.
Try strawberries in hanging baskets to utilize upper regions! I’m growing, and would highly recommend, an everbearing variety called Mara des Bois which is bred from alpine strawberries and has high fragrance and flavor.
Even carrots can be grown in containers; if you have ordinary or shallow pots, try Tonda di Parigi, a delicious 1-2″ variety, or get a deeper container and go for standard size varieties. A single kohlrabi in the center of the pot can be both ornamental and delicious.
On a side note… I haven’t seen you at the SWFM at all this year. We’ve missed you!
Wow, Kira, thanks so much for these great ideas. I’ll definitely pick your brain more! I’ve been at the SWFM every week. Just haven’t needed any of what Fred is selling. 🙂 But I’ll stop and say hi tonight!
We actually will not be there tonight. I’ll chat more with you later about that.