I have not been updating my blog because I have been busy with life, work, and reading. I know, excuses!
Really though, I have been reading quite a bit lately. As my job is slowly nearing its finale, I have realized that I need to focus now, more than ever, to stretch a dollar. I need to save as much as I can and try to live a life that is more simplistic.
I am not saying my current situation is complicated, not at all. No, what I am saying is I am trying to rely less on others and more on myself. As I read more and more about simplistic living, I felt like I was missing out on something. These people have the right idea. Granted, those writing these books often are the extreme ones, but something can be learned from them.
In one book, a lady was living completely off the grid. No running water, no electricity, just completely relying on a wood stove to keep warm and candles or lanterns to have light. Everything was grown on site, with only small purchases at the local grocery. That sparked something in me. I am not going to sell my house and live out in the woods without a refrigerator or electricity, if that is what you thought. I am simply thinking about adopting some of the principles used in the books.
For instance, growing your own food. That is a stellar idea. I love vegetables, I just really dislike paying the inflated prices associated with them. Their pricing is a direct reflection of gas prices. The higher cost for petrol, the higher the cost from fruits and vegetables.
I started researching gardening and there is a ton of information available. The thing that I had to do was weed out all the bad information. One thing that is stressed above all for new people to gardening is to start small. It is easy to try to jump in with both feet and convert your backyard to a farm, but if you take on too much too fast, it will kick your butt. You will literally be shaking your head when the crops die due to bugs that you did not see. Plus, each plant has different requirements, so where you plant things really matters. For instance, if you are planting lettuce, it does like full sun. However, if you are in a warmer climate, you are better off putting it in a part sun location to help shelter it from the heat. You do that, and it will thrive. Things like that matter.
A part of me wanted to get started on the garden, while another part of me kept saying “start small”. What was that little voice in the back of my head trying to tell me? Was it trying to tell me to just build a small 4’x4′ raised bed in the backyard? No, it was telling me to just keep it small and simple. So what is smaller than a 4×4 raised bed? Pots of course! It tends to be warm down here in the southern US, so I have to think about this. Warmth and a pot means quick drying soil. I would have to be on top of the watering or use a pot that is bigger than required to help retain moisture during the heat of the day. No, that would not work.
So as I racked my brain, I quickly remembered my failed attempt at growing herbs. I gave them full sun, but apparently not enough water, or too much water. Heck, I cannot remember. All I remember is that it seemed that the sun was harsh on my herbs. Due to that failure, I racked my brain on how I could keep things simple, yet have the plants thrive. Well, if I take them out of the heat, that is one variable I could omit. Of course! Indoor gardening!
Image courtesy of ApartmentTherapy.com
I did a search and the screen blew up with thousands of results on the topic. It is an excellent idea and is one way I can easily control pests. I have space in the loft for a garden. I need to organize up there anyway, so a small shelving unit would work great to not only organize the area, but serve as a shelf to house some plants. As I researched the topic, there are many ways to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on this. Sorry, but I plan on keeping it simple. One lady created an indoor garden for less than $200, and that garden was bigger than I plan to start with.
Keeping the thought “keep it simple, stupid”, I decided to omit the shelf for now. I have some spare lumber in the garage and I have a small bookshelf in the loft. The bookshelf is the perfect height, it comes up just above the window ledge. That allows the plants to get some indirect natural light (north side of the home). I have read that southern windows are best, but I cannot put them there. I cannot put plants in the bathroom or in the guest room because I want to try a garden. I have to try to work with what I have. So up in the loft it is. Plenty of light due to the big windows. Toss in a growing light set up on a timer, and I think it will thrive nicely. With the spare lumber, I can build a small frame to help hold a growing light. This tiny frame can sit on top of the bookshelf, and I can just put my plants on top of there as well.
The location has been found! Pots are going to be simple. Due to the airflow restrictions in the area, I will use clay pots. For one they are robust, secondly they breathe some, and third they look halfway decent. Of course, cost is everything. Since this is kind of an experiment, the name of the game is cheap!
Research has informed me that herbs and certain vegetables grow very well indoors. A small list I have includes spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and radishes. Those do very well for the beginner. Maintaining the “keep it simple, stupid” mindset, I will pick only two items to grow. These plants all are easy for the beginner. Now with spinach, those tend to be a bit more picky, so I ruled that one out (even though I really like spinach). Thinking long and hard, I have come to the conclusion that I would prefer lettuce and possibly tomatoes or cucumbers. That would give me two plants. The goal here is to grow what you will use, not grow just to grow. If you are growing something that you do not intend to give to a friend or use yourself, then it is a waste of time. Grow what you will consume, that is the whole point of this. I am leaving the window open on what plants to grow because I will be limited by what seeds my local store has in stock. Apparently mint is easy to grow as well, so I may toss that in there for fun.
Now people can get fancy with the red vs. blue bulb debate. I am not fancy with this project. I will not buy numerous bulbs to suit the growing cycle of plants. Sorry, I am too cheap. I do not need the stellar results associated with this dedication. I simply want to reap some rewards with my first harvest, not take over the loft with plants and equipment. Saving money is the key. Due to my desire to cut costs, I will be using a florescent tubed lighting system. It is more energy efficient than incandescent blubs, cooler, and provide good lighting. I couple that system with a light timer that gives 8hrs of rest (once the seedlings sprout), and I think I will be in business.
Image courtesy of Love-Indoor-Gardening.com
I know lettuce tends to have a harvest time of around 45-80 days, depending on what variety you get. So if they are doing very well after 15 days or so, I can start a new cycle of them. There is a method to this madness, and if it works, I am determined to master it. Tomatoes, especially the Tiny Tim variety, only take about 45 days until they are ready for harvest. Talk about a quick return on investment! Only 6-weeks! Most of these simplistic gardening plants are between 6-weeks and 10-weeks until they are ready to be harvested. Mint takes a bit longer in that it requires 12-weeks. That is okay, three months is not all that bad.
I just like the idea of indoor gardening because it takes the weather out of the equation. I can grow a huge variety of plants indoors all year long. That is the goal. To hopefully get to a point where I can grow a salad in my loft. If I can get my rotations right, we could easily eat a few salads a week with my harvest. Of course, that would be way off in the future. For now, if I can make one bowl of a simple salad in about 2-3 months, I will consider this endeavor successful.
Plus, I love plants. My loft could use some greenery to help brighten it up. Also, all the plants will look quite great from the street. That will give a great appearance (not that I care what others think of me).
I was thinking about taking my bicycle to get my new supplies, but I do not think I will. My main concern is the fluorescent growing lights. They are very fragile. Until I have a means of transporting them safely by bicycle without risking them breaking, I will use my car to transport them. Now if I find a nice and small growing light that can handle the two or three plants I intend to start, I will do that option. I know I cannot go too small with the light, because plants do require a TON of light.
Mental note, when the roof needs to be replaced on the house, get two or three solar light tubes installed. For those who do not know what those are, let me explain. In simplistic terms, a collector is installed on the roof. This reflects sunlight from all angles and throws it down into itself. This light is then reflected along a highly polished tube that runs to a diffuser. This diffuser will spread the light all over the room, thus lighting it when the sun is out. That would help light up the house as well. They are relatively cheap and omit the need for extra lighting during the day, thus saving energy costs. For an indoor garden, that would be extra vital natural light that the plants so desire.
Yeah, that is what I have been up to lately. I know I rambled on and on, but honestly I think it worth it. Bicycle commuters tend to think more towards green options than standard car commuters. We love how we do not pollute the air (unless you had Mexican for lunch, hahaha…okay, okay, bad joke, I know), and we also do not like smelling the exhaust fumes while we are on our bikes. We just love the simplicity behind it and knowing we are saving some money on gas; and possibly other reasons. It just gets you thinking. A person who takes a bicycle instead of a car likes to look for alternatives. If this garden works, then I will have one more alternative at my disposal. I may add to it and get a decent “off season” garden going in the loft. If it is successful, I may try my hand at a small garden in the backyard.
Not only will I get to enjoy great food, but I will also get good exercise. Anyone who has gardened before knows what I am talking about. Bending over, tending and inspecting the plants for pests or diseases, watering, fertilizing, all that is hard work. I plan on keeping the plants organic in all ways. The fact that I will get to see my hard work rewarded in a short period of time makes it all worth it. Plus, it is a hobby of time that will give a return on investment. Cycling is similar in that I save money, keep in shape, and I am more relaxed when I arrive at my destination. My exercising, it helps keep my body in good shape, thus (hopefully) reducing the amount I get sick or injured due to a weak body. I am just wanting to move my hobbies over to more useful ones. I love music, I hope to start doing that more than playing games or surfing the internet.
So between my cycling, (soon to be) gardening, music, drawing and reading, I think I have a nice arrangement. Plenty of time to reflect inwards and also to be at one with nature. Nature has so many gifts for us, it would be a shame not to enjoy them. The smells, the sights, and the tastes are all wonderful. Plus, who does not like getting dirty? I love it. If the small garden works out, I may expand it. I do not want to go overboard with it though. This is just to help offset possible grocery costs, which will only get higher and higher as time goes on. Besides, who would not want to be in a home that smells of fresh herbs? That would just put me in a great mood! Maybe one day we will get a tiny herb garden in the bedroom to help keep the air smelling very nice. Can you say natural fragrances?
Ride on and live well my friends.