Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Crop Rotations

I am a vegetable gardener.  Not a particularly skilled or successful one mind you; but I seem to be afflicted with the compulsion to grow food in my tiny back yard nonetheless.  I can't help but note the paradox inherent in spending $120 on seedlings and garden dirt and organic soil amendment and fertilizer, etc., etc., in order to grow maybe $75 worth of produce.  And when I harvest the crops, I often don't enjoy them as much as I should.  Instead of confidently saying This is sooo much better than that store bought crap! You just can't get produce any fresher than this, I'm thinking, I hope I got all the earwigs off of these greens...I wonder if you can taste E.Coli...does this salad smell like dog piss? 

Part of me feels like keeping a garden is an homage to my rugged agricultural forebears for whom every crop was a life-or-death crap shoot.  I can imagine my grandpa looking up at the hot summer sky over Northeastern Montana and wondering if his wheat would get dusted out and if it did how he would be able to afford seed for the next years' crop.  I get that look in my eye sometimes too, when I'm stressing over the future of my 100 square feet of arable land.

The back 40. Not pictured: one more 6'x2' bed. The white building is our garage

A lot of genuinely cool things have come of having a garden though.  We've been eating tons of leafy greens for the last several months, which we would have done a lot less of had they not been so close and free (sort of).  The kids love grazing on raw chard, spinach, mustard greens, and peas right out of the garden.  They're not always quite as excited as I had hoped they would be about weeding and watering, but it's definitely a regular part of their day-to-day experiences, like feeding the dog and the fishes.  We collect rainwater and the water that comes out of the shower while we're waiting for it to heat up, and that's been enough to irrigate our crops, so the girls are growing up to be good SoCal water misers.

Last weekend, we had to pull up some of the greens and root vegetables we had grown so we could make room for tomatoes.

Every bit as good as Shrute Farms beets

Kholrabi, which my wife chopped up and pickled, Vietnamese style

We'll keep the peas going for as long as we can

Then I got to work preparing the soil for the tomatoes and herbs I was going to plant.  This preparation included mixing in the worm castings (poop) that we collect in our worm composting bin.  It looks like this:

So naturally, I had to do this:

As far as I know, the kids did not eat any worm poop

And then, as I was talking with the kids about planting tomatoes, I got all reflective and sentimental and crap about how they had grown since the last time we planted tomatoes, and how the gardening cycle would become a tradition, a marker of the passing of years, and a lasting memory for all of us, yadda yadda yadda.

Here's the conversation I had with Butterbean about gardening, or more precisely, what one should wear while gardening:

This is a conversation we had about a year and a half ago:

Here's some video from last year's tomato odyssey: 


  1. I'll be honest. When I first read the title of you post I thought it was going to be about a new form of Crop Circles, which I got very excited about. I was hoping that someone (maybe you) had figured out a way to do animation in crops instead of just static patterns. Maybe using the mechanics of a flip book or something.

    But being able to feed your family with food grown from your own soil is cool too.

    1. Oh. You want to know how to do crop animation? I can totally do that.

  2. I love the "Really, Dad?" look on her face in the photo.

  3. Loved this post. The contrast between your family's agricultural roots on a dry-land, grasshopper-and rattlesnake-infested wheat farm in northern Montana and the SD paradise is beyond belief.

    1. Hey--are you saying we don't lead a hardscrabble existence? We've got rattlesnakes here too, you know! And grasshoppers! (Okay, it's pretty much a paradise.)

  4. She's not gonna be dirty like you when she grows up. P.S. Oh my gosh she looks so grown up!

    1. She's s'posed to wear clothes like that when she grows big!

  5. Deb wants to do this in our yard. After we get rid of the mold inside the house, of course.

    1. I think mold can be used as fertilizer.

  6. So on top of everything else, you can grow your own food to survive. Yet another reason why Beta Dad will survive in the aftermath of the zombiepocalypse.

  7. BetaDad, saving the earth one pile of work shit at a time! Can I say shit on your blog? I hope so, I don't swear much but I think it fits here...
    It's cool that you get your kids involved in this stuff, it's great for them to learn early. We are planning a vegetable garden this year for the kids so I may have to message you for tips!
    Cheers!! Chris


Don't hold back.


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