Category Archives: wanna-be farmers

wanna-be farmers: day who cares?

It’s hot. Someone on the street told me today was the hottest day Chicago has seen since August 2006. I think that’s a bunch of bull as I can place the brand of sweat trickling down my back to an evening last June when I wanted nothing more than an ocean to live in.

Sweat or not, hottest day or not, something has GOT TO BE DONE ABOUT THESE SEEDLINGS. They’re not doing well. Still not in the planter above. Some got so shook up from the constant temperature changes that they went kaput on me and show no signs of returning. I give up.

Almost. Thursday’s forecast says cooler temps are on their way and I swear to you, even if I plop them in the cheap black plastic containers my arugula are doing so well in (much bigger than the photo above as I have been plucking them to top burgers off the grill almost daily), they will be transplanted.

Excuse me, I have to go shower for the fourth time today. Did I mention it was hot?

Related Posts
Wanna-Be Farmers: Day One
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Six: Failure & Pea Shoots
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Fourteen: Huge Peas & Little Basil
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Twenty-Eight: They’re Growing!
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Forty-Seven: Still Not In The Ground

wanna-be farmers day forty-seven: still not in the ground

Back porch
We are trying to become backyard and balcony farmers. Read previous posts here.

Well. The seedlings are not in the ground. They are, however, outside in trays during the day, and that has to count as progress.

It has been remarkably cold this May. I love Chicago and am no stranger to Midwestern weather weirdness but when I wake up in the morning and check my Accuweather app, the temps are enough to make me want to cry, pull my hair out, move back to St. Thomas, and say adios to this cold weather nonsense. Granted that the high the last three days has been hovering in the 80s… but it dropped down to the upper 50s this afternoon. Nonsense I tell you!

Sad cilantro

The cilantro took a hit last week when the weather patterns pulled the same switch-a-roo. A gorgeous day turned into a very cold night and I plumb forgot to bring our trays inside for the evening. Poor guys shivered out on that porch all night and some of them looked much worse for wear the morning after.

Happy squash

Lucky for us, the majority of our veggies soldiered through the trauma and I’m very happy to report that they are growing every day. The plan is to get them into their raised bed home sometime this week. We’re at the mercy of the weather.

Now, please excuse me while I break out the North Face–in late May–for a walk with the dog.

Seedlings

Related Posts
Wanna-Be Farmers: Day One
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Six: Failure & Pea Shoots
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Fourteen: Huge Peas & Little Basil
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Twenty-Eight: They’re Growing!

wanna-be farmers day twenty-eight: they’re growing!

day 28
We are trying to become backyard and balcony farmers. Read previous posts here.

This growing food thing is all about patience, isn’t it? That’s not one of my strong suits. While every little pot is finally producing little seedlings I’m longing for the day it finally warms up enough to get them outside. Which is kind of crazy, considering we don’t have a place to put them yet. A raised bed, in some form or another, be it concrete or wood or simple plastic bags, will have to take shape this weekend and I’ll have to get my ass in high gear to make it happen. Mother’s Day might be appropriate.

The growing and planting season in the midwest generally falls between April 15th and May 15th, and I recall Mother’s Day being a day of digging holes and filling them with ferns (not sure if there was anything else, to be honest). We would grab a red wagon and tromp a few blocks over to visit Paul and Paulette at Kellner’s Greenhouse in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee to purchase our plants. Kellner’s recently re-opened after a hiatus and if you’re anywhere near Cream City make sure to take a peek. Think of me and my brother and sister running through the various greenhouse aisles with a dog or two at our feet. And parrots. White parrots. Birds were the first things you saw– and heard– when walking into the quiet, kind of dusty garage-like structure that held large desks for accounting purposes. I remember the smell of that building like it was yesterday.

Anyways. Enough nostalgia.

day 28

I brought up bricks up there. Concrete, rather. I’ve kind of got my heart set on a cinderblock raised bed in lieu of a wooden one. Perks: no nailing, no drilling. Downsides: it might be more expensive in the long run, we’d have to water the beds more often due to the porous nature of the concrete, I might break my back loading and unloading all of the cinderblocks we would need for the project. Another cheap idea is to pop everything into buckets and make it all one big container garden. Should have thought of this before we planted, huh?

day 28

No matter. I’m counting on it to all come together. Cross those fingers for me.

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to a feed of this website, or get posts mailed directly to your inbox by entering your email address in the box to the right of this post, right underneath the ReadyMade logo.

Related Posts
Wanna-Be Farmers: Day One
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Six: Failure & Pea Shoots
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Fourteen: Huge Peas & Little Basil

wanna-be farmers day fourteen: huge peas & little basil


We are trying to become backyard and balcony farmers. Read the whole series here.

The peas are out of control! I can’t believe how big they are. In my last wanna-be farmer post, I mentioned learning that you can cut and eat pea shoots, also known as pea tendrils. These bad boys are going to get the big chop tonight and I already miss them. The interwebs say you can’t eat the first cuttings anyways, so that makes it extra hard. I like waking up and seeing how much they’ve shot up overnight and I really enjoy unlocking the door after work and walking straight to my peas. We chat. They don’t talk back, but I definitely get my conversation on. They’ll grow back in a few days but I’ll always remember my first little shoots. Think I can try to put ‘em in water? Dry them out for a memory book? Am I taking this too far?


Two of our seedling trays live on an old white table I found in the alley awhile back. We moved it in from the back porch after our initial planting when we realized we had no space for them to go. Some moving of objects was required to make way for the table but it seems the whole gang is happy here and thankfully, there is ample sunlight for them to bask in.

A few basil sprouts are peeking out, too. Next to the already established peat pot is a new tray with freshly planted cilantro, spinach, watermelon and pea seeds; back-up for the orange rind “pots” we had to toss out. R.I.P.

Our second seed station is on our windowsill, Sway’s favorite place to see the world.

Note: Speaking of windows, did you see that we finally got our windows washed?! Check out the post and see them in all their sparkly glory at ReadyMade.

We’ve got some wildflowers coming in and a few little spinach sprouts pushing their way through the soil. Slow and steady wins the race and I am refusing to sweat the pots that aren’t producing.

How are we doing on day fourteen my fellow urban farmers? How much do you love the peas? How excited are you for next week, when even more vegetable goodness will be gracing these pages? How crazy do you think I am for wanting to preserve my pea shoots?

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to a feed of this website, or get posts mailed directly to your inbox by entering your email address in the box to the right of this post, right underneath the ReadyMade logo.

Related Posts
Wanna-Be Farmers: Day One
Wanna-Be Farmers Day Six: Failure & Pea Shoots

wanna-be farmers day six: failure & pea shoots

wanna-be farmers day 6
We are trying to become backyard and balcony farmers. Read the first post here.

Gross, huh? Looks like our orange half experiment didn’t work out as planned. Over the weekend, we noticed mold popping up on top of the dirt in our oranges. By Monday evening it had spread to the tray and the sides of the citrus fruits. After swatting away a few fruit flies, we decided to call it: the orange experiment had failed. While the mold may not be a huge issue to the plant directly, it was causing me to sneeze and the flies were not welcome in our apartment. The two of us sadly tossed the oranges into the garbage (if only we had our compost bin ready!) this morning and bid them farewell.

BUT….

wanna-be farmers day 6

wanna-be farmers day 6

Check out those pea shoots! Our very first sprouts popped up overnight and made the loss of our citrus seedlings a little bit easier to swallow. Did you know that you can eat pea shoots and tendrils? The entire plant is edible; I was reminded of this while browsing through spring menus from years past at MK. Pea tendrils have been on quite a few of our dishes, and they are commonplace at many Asian restaurants as well.

I’ve learned that it is wise to plant lots of peas to garner a decent harvest and plan to pop some more into our leftover peat pots this evening along with a packet of cilantro I forgot about while doing the initial planting. I’d like to have both peas and pea tendrils, so a much larger planting is required. Peas grow quickly and you can cut the top off once they reach about eight inches; this pushes the plant to keep growing. Apparently, you can keep cutting off the top two to six inches every three weeks and what you snip is totally edible! Pea tendrils taste almost exactly like… well, peas. I remember my first bite of them last year. It was weird to taste a familiar vegetable with a completely different texture and look.

We have two other tiny sprouts pushing through the soil so far. They were too small to photograph but so far, minus the orange issue, our little guys are doing well! Looks like we’ll need to build our raised bed sooner than expected…

wanna-be farmers: day one

spring seed starting

Yesterday morning, I hopped on ReadyMade to see what my co-bloggers had been up to and came across a great post by Chris Gardner on recyclable DIY seed starters. I pondered trying them all but finally settled on citrus peels.

MK juices fresh oranges and grapefruits daily so getting a dozen halved and gutted oranges was as simple as yelling out of my office door. After work, I made a quick stop at our local nursery, picked up some seeds and seed-starting potting soil along with peat pots as a back-up for the orange experiment, and drove home giddy.

The Mister and I opened up a bottle of wine, turned on some tunes, and got to setting up a little potting station assembly line in our kitchen. I pulled out a few thrifted trays to catch the dirt and water. I’d been waiting to use them for something since December and was so excited to have finally found their purpose.

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

We filled each of our vessels with soil and wet everything with warm water per the peat pot instructions. Sticking a pencil into the center of each container gave us a little hole to pop our seeds into. While The Mister planted, I made little labels for our plants with masking tape and wooden sticks.

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

We added a bit more soil to each pot and wet everything again. And that was that; our first day at attempting to grow our own food.

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

While my dad is an urban fish and vegetable farmer who has achieved some pretty serious recognition, and we had a raised-bed garden for a period last year (torn down to make way for a parking pad in our backyard, sadly), I haven’t planted a seed and watched anything grow out of it since elementary school days of styrofoam and sunny classroom windows. I jokingly referenced the styrofoam tradition to The Mister, thinking surely he had done the same as a youth; he told me that this did not happen in Nigeria but that they had a corn festival with a special song to go with it. I think we’ll repurpose the song and sing it to our plants at night!

We have no idea what we are doing. If while reading this post or later posts on the subject you come across something that sounds odd or downright wrong, make sure to leave a comment. Novices we may be, it sure is fun so far.