For most farmers and ranchers, everyday is Earth Day. Talk to any farmer or rancher, they are always worried about the environment, it’s “too hot, too dry, too wet, too much sun, not enough sun, too much wind, too many weeds,” I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. However, there is an actual Earth Day, that people not in agriculture, celebrate and acknowledge. I wanted to participate in Earth Day too, but I had choose between staying here on the Ranch, or going to watch my Boyfriend play in the Chico News & Review Cammies.
Since I’ve been so critical of the CN&R’s ag reporting, I thought it best to practice what I preach and use the ag degree and basic knowledge of plant science I have acquired to lessen my carbon footprint and to celebrate Earth Day by planting some food. I know the Cammies would have been an awesome time, but since I am a rancher, and the environment is life to me, I felt that planting my garden was a better use of my rare day off. Even though all local music is important to me, and I am trying to lead by example, I’m sure the CN&R will forgive me for living the dream.
Every year, in the spring, without fail, I get spring fever. I break the old VISA out, head to Home Depot, and spend enough money to ensure I’ll stay at my in-town job for another year. About mid-June, right about when everything is ready to harvest, the bane of my existence, rats with horns, (the deer) break into whatever ugly, booby-trapped, excuse for a fenced in garden I have, and eat all things. Then they poop on the bare earth and run away into the night, gleefully laughing and burping cucumber burps.
I swear, I’m never, ever, ever going to plant another thing until I have a proper fenced in garden, or greenhouse, or move to town where people don’t have to deal with the damned deer. Every year, about mid-April, the cycle starts again. Sigh.
Hundreds dollars and three years later, I’m getting a whisper better at the deer control. As you recall last year, I went a little crazy buying dwarf citrus trees and planting them in up-cycled cattle supplement tubs. My logic behind the tree planting was the deer wouldn’t eat them! The deer ate them. Several rolls of wire and tree cages later, the deer can’t eat the trees and they just happen to form a convenient fence that does a decent job of keeping the deer out. I’ve also added a wire fence around my raised bed, making it even harder for those damned deer to get in, and next weekend, it’s getting a lid!
Now my grand plan is to continue planting trees as the cattle continue to eat their supplements. In another year or two I should have enough containers to plant a tree fence all the way around my yarden. Until that time, I am continuing with the ugly, booby-trapped ultimate-fail, garden.
So be ready for a blog I will write in a couple of months where I swear I’m going to get tags and have garden-finished venison for dinner.
As a reminder, gardening is hard work. I’m hot, sweaty, sun burned, cranky, and I have a blister. Remember that when you feel guilt about not having a garden! There is a reason why people stopped doing it. Incidentally, if you chop jalapeno peppers the night before, and wear your garden gloves the next day, the sweat from your hands will activate the pepper burn from the night before. And there is nothing you can do about that once it happens (protip: wear gloves when you cut hot peppers! For the love of God).
But on the flip side, gardening is fun! I burned so many calories, I can have a milkshake later if I want to, I’m going to have really yummy veggie’s later this summer (or rather the deer will), and this is an excellent reminder to myself that not everyone wants to or can garden and it is really incredible that we have that choice.
Ok, off my choice soapbox, and back to Earth Day. Like I mentioned above, in honor of Earth Day, I finished my garden (I mean, is a garden really ever finished?), and my boyfriend and I oiled saddles (that way we can use horses to check cows and not ATV’s).
One cool method of gardening I would like to share with you is growing potatoes vertically instead of in a plot. Since I only have a small raised bed in my yarden, I try to maximize my growing space by using a lot of containers. Also anytime I can add to my deer fence, I’m game. You can google this method and find some really great tutorials. I’m going to give you the quick and dirty cheat-sheet here.
I made a cage of up-cycled wire and cultivated the earth inside of it, placing the sprouted Yukon Gold potatoes in a circle in the cage. I covered them in soil and when they sprouted, I lined the sides of cage with paper, and I added mulch to cover the vines.
I will continue to do this, letting the vine grow, building the cage with paper and covering in mulch, until I reach the top of my cage. When that happens, expect another blog about how to harvest them and some yummy recipes. Happy Earth Day!