I have seen the face of evil and it looks suspiciously like a seed catalog.
Just before Christmas my Baker Creek Seed catalog sent me into an existential crisis. I want to grow heirloom wheat! I want a field of flax! A field of oats! Amaranth! Vegetables coming out my ears! A root cellar to store potatoes and winter squash and all my beautiful jars of canned veg and fruit. I could come pretty close to never having to set foot in a grocery store again. The only problem: I live in a city with a small urban lot. Bookman and I have full time jobs so we can afford our urban lot and the small house that sits on it as well as other things like books and computers. The idea that I’d have to wait until I had saved enough money to retire before I could spend my days growing and preserving and doing something that I really, really love, well, that’s twenty years from now at least. I don’t want to wait that long!
I planned it all out. Buy 10 – 15 wooded acres with a creek running through up north. The internet told me this could be done for a very reasonable $30,000. Build a Tiny House. Dig a root cellar. Sink a well. Install a gray water system and composting toilet so I wouldn’t need a septic system. Install a solar panel system. Learn how to chop wood and manage a woodlot and a wood burning stove as this is what would keep my tiny house warm all winter. Build a greenhouse. Build a chicken coop. Establish a couple of beehives. Start digging and planting. In two to three years, sell my house, quit my job and move. By the time climate change starts ruining the economy, making food more scarce and creating general chaos, I will be happily established and self-sufficient. Also, I will be prepared to survive any other kind of civilization-ending disaster. But all that would be a bonus to spending my days working in the garden and tending my chickens and bees.
I barfed this up all over Bookman when he got home from work. He wasn’t sure what to think of it. He doesn’t want to be a farmer, he said. It wouldn’t really be farming, it’d be more like having a gigantic garden. Well, that was okay. But he still wasn’t keen on the idea. He likes gardening but I think the idea of spending most of the day every day outdoors working in this gigantic garden is not his perfect day.
Can’t we just plant more in the garden we have? he wanted to know. Sure, I said, but it’s not big enough. Well what about the front yard? We can grow stuff out there too. And these chickens you want, what’s that all about? They are good for the garden. Chicken poo makes great compost. And then I really freaked him out by saying we could eat the eggs. But we’re vegan! he protested. Well, yeah, I said, but these would be our own chickens and they are going to lay eggs no matter what and we need to do something with them. But we’re vegan, he said again.
This from the man who plans on going zombie should there ever be a zombie apocalypse. You know, brains aren’t vegan. It will be fine, he assures me, I’ll only eat the brains of vegans. Right. Eating eggs from our own pet chickens however is just too horrifying. Okay, forget the chickens then, we don’t need chickens, I just thought it would be fun to have a few.
But Bookman has no special interest in moving to the country. So I am thrown into making the most of the small plot of land that we have. In a few years we will need to rebuild our slowly sagging detached garage. It will be rebuilt with a flat roof upon which we can grow things. Bookman is fine with this. That’s a few years away though. In the meantime, we have a couple hot, sunny places in the front yard where I am going to try growing okra, cow peas, strawberry spinach, possibly tomatoes and peppers (though I don’t trust passersby won’t help themselves to these) or maybe oats or flax.
At the back of the evil seed catalog is an ad for geodesic dome greenhouses. Portable, space efficient, and one person can put it together in an hour or two. I imagined plopping one of these babies down in the garden in the fall and using it to grow stuff all winter long. The smallest one is just over $3,000 but worth it for fresh food all winter, right? Imagine, fresh-picked tomatoes in January! Except not.
Because I am reading a book about growing food year-round no matter where you live and there is this thing called sunlight that turns out to be really important. I could have a lovely tropical greenhouse but without more than ten hours of sunlight it will do me no good. Turns out plants pretty much stop growing with less than ten hours of sun. Given how far north I live, how low the sun is in the sky during the winter and how short the days are, if I am generous in my calculations, I can eke out eight hours of daylight. So unless I want to run electricity to grow lights on a timer in this beautiful geodesic greenhouse, tomatoes in January are never going to happen. This means there is no point in spending $3,000 on a greenhouse. Part of me is crestfallen — no big beautiful greenhouse — part of me is happy — thank goodness I don’t have to spend all that money.
Still, the evil seed catalog has me planning on buying seeds for all sorts of things I have never grown before. And the book on year-round gardening has me analyzing plant descriptions for extra cold tolerant varieties of things I can grow under hoop houses and possibly in cold frames. I may not be able to go out and pick a tomato in my greenhouse in the middle of winter, but I should be able to pick carrots, kale, mache, lettuce, radishes, and a good many other things.
How I’m going to cram everything in my small urban yard, I have no idea. A dozen acres would be so much better. How I’m going to manage a year-round garden and a full time job, I have no idea about that either. But I will figure it out.
All this because of a seed catalog. See what I mean? Evil.