Free vegetables are one of farming's biggest perks.  Of course, drought and job insecurity are major drawbacks, but those veggies are damn good.

This week in the Rocky Mountain Foothills, we have arugula, bok choy, braising mix, green garlic, pea shoots, radishes, and spinach.  We have much more than that, really (walking onions, lovage, sorrel, and turnips), but this is what I brought home:

 
 
Well, I never intended to become a ladybug wrangler, but the everlasting Aphid War has forced my hand. 

It started with my arugula plant, and a hatchery of baby ladybugs that ravenously tore through the aphid population (thank goodness!).  I know that sounds pretty gruesome, it was, but those aphids were coating every surface of the arugula.  I could stand five feet away and watch little showers of aphids fall from the leaves.  Gross.

Last weekend, at the farmers market, I bought a cilantro start (yaaay cilantro!) and a bundle of chard.  When I started to put the chard into my bag, my friend stopped me, "There's a bug on your chard.

Indeed there was.  Or, rather, an almost-bug.  A ladybug pupa.

 
 
One principle of permaculture design is to cultivate a balanced ecosystem - including as an approach to pest control.  As permaculture founder Bill Mollison said, "You haven't got an excess of slugs, you've got a duck deficiency." 
Picture
via SpiralSeed's 'Permaculture, a Beginner's Guide'
Now, my windowsill arugula is a far cry from a permaculture design, but I did use natural predators to control the aphid infestation.  I didn't have an excess of aphids, I had a ladybug deficiency! 

For the last few months I've continually relocated 'ladybugs' (actually, West Asian Beetles) from our south-facing windows onto my arugula, and happily watched them get fat on the little green buggers.  Lately, though, a couple of the ladybugs mated and left these eggs on an arugula leaf!
 
 
Picture
Red Wagon Organic Farm
I just got offered (and accepted) a full-time job as a farm hand at Red Wagon Organic Farm.

Who knew?  When I was a kid, I never liked helping my mom in her veggie garden (I blame the Michigan mosquitoes for that), though I did always love to eat peas fresh from the vine. 

Then, when I was 20, I was a guest at an off-grid organic (& bio-dynamic) farm.  When I ate freshly picked herbs from that land, I could feel their life force radiate into my veins.  I know that sounds strange, but there's an incredible difference between fresh, local, lovingly-grown food and trucked-in, several-week-old produce from the grocery store. 

Since then, I've become passionate about local food

Well... I'm going to be a farmer.

 
 
There's something so wonderful about arugula.  It tastes like spring and fall at the same time, and pairs perfectly with parmesan cheese...

Though my cold frame experiment went downhill, I salvaged the arugula.  Excellent! 

Fast-forward through a successful container transplant, and I've had windowsill arugula for the last 3 months.  I harvest here and there, and stage periodic ladybug (actually, West Asian Beetle) coups to stave off the aphid infestation.

Lately, my arugula has begun to flower!

 
 
Ever since my multiple failures at cold-frame temperature control (read: crispy fried kale plants, and not in the good, tasty way), I've been sprouting my own greens.

Instead of beating my brown-thumb against the wall when my outdoor crops failed (for the 2nd time), I re-evaluated my purpose in nurturing cold-frame greens: having greens throughout the winter. 

Now, my winter CSA provides leeks and cabbage, but that's about it as far as green veggies go.  So, in the interest of year-round veggies, I've begun sprouting my own micro-greens at home.

 
 
_"...keep our shape soft and our plans mobile..." 
~We'Moon 2012 Astro-Overview

Life has a tricky way of shifting shape, so we must stay ever fluid and change our shapes to suit.  Sudden changes in plan have led me to seek a live-in internship on an organic farm across the country.

My heart is pulled towards the land, and the I'm filled by the possibility of my own growth alongside young tender shoots.  Here are excerpts from my personal statement - I hope it inspires you to move towards your dreams.

"... Several years ago, I was a long-term guest at {an organic, off-grid farm}.  My time there was transformative.  {There}, I learned to move to the rhythms of nature, the cadence of the sun, the smell of wind across freshly turned soil.  I crave this immersion, the connection to the land that farming creates.  I’m called to simplify my focus and lifestyle - I want to sweat and get my hands dirty, to build a stronger community through shared work, and to learn the skills needed to better serve my planet. 

... I want to actively build a network of wonderful people, and I am drawn to those who are drawn to the Earth... I dream of building a homestead based in permaculture, where my family can grow in symbiosis with the Earth... Earth is the basis of all my future goals, as I believe that the health of our planet is of fundamental importance - all human acts of goodness and inspiration rely on a thriving home planet."

 

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