Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall reflections...

Today another milestone: one year ago I journeyed to Denver with 5 ft of my entire life's possessions, no job, no prospects, a few friends, and ready for new scenery. I'm exactly where I want to be, doing the things I thought I'd be doing, I just took the scenic route to get here :)

It's been a year of adventures! Trail raced in Hawaii. Snowboarded greens to blacks to semi-backcountry. Officially started my own freelance graphic design business. Ran the forests of Ecuador. Went white water rafting and tubing. Turned backyards into urban farms. Biked Lookout Mountain. Herded cattle on foot. Climbed my first 14er. Ran a mud race. Became an aunt. Started tutoring.

It's been a year of great love and heartache. My reasons for moving here were for me, not for a guy, though credit where credit is due… I moved here much quicker and easier with love, than had I been without. Love opened my eyes and my soul, showed me adventures, conquered fears, and when it disappeared, I found love in new forms and found myself again. Everything worthwhile is worth the while.

It's been a year of healing. Per above, healing the heart. There's no drug for a broken heart…can't just run away like most of us have done moving to Denver in the first place :) I appreciate the past, accept reality, and am looking forward to what lies ahead…in the end, everyone should be healthy and happy…not stuck in blame and hurt. Scars still healing from getting doored. My bank account is still healing from my ski bum months. My body is rid of the crappy protein shakes and the stress of competition. I enjoy running and working out and napping and eating meat once in awhile…but all in moderation. Healing means taking a break and resolving from within…not just overlooking the wound and jumping onboard the next thing.

It's been a year of growth. Decided food stamps were too complicated to apply for. Learned how to snowboard. Relearned working for an ad agency with small innovative designs on a tight schedule and budget. Conquered my fear of flying!!! Eating more like a vegetarian and exploring new produce and recipes. Uncovered a new taste for swiss chard. Still learning how to clip-in to my bike pedals…hopefully learned to avoid car doors (see also 'healing'). Transitioned back into the corporate environment, back to one solid brand. Remembering what's really the most important in life.

It's been a year of great company. Leaving Chicago wasn't too hard, but certain moments I felt a million miles away from my comfort zone. Thank God for technology today…I'm immediately surrounded by old friends and family. Gardening was my vent, and as seeds in the garden miraculously just seem to grow, so did my bond with the other gardeners. And GIRLS! what would I do without them?! They swoop in just at the right time, with such perfect empathy. Guy friends, don't sweat, you rock too. 'Iron sharpens iron' and this couldn't be more true…I've got some iron sharp friends that I will be forever grateful for. Thank you for steering me in the right direction instead of drifting us out to sea.

I'm excited in anticipation of what this year will bring. My bucket list includes mountain biking, visiting the western slope and southern mountains, gardening through winter, sharing knowledge with others, and learning and growing where I can. We'll see how the journey unfolds... :)

Let the summer never end!

My first Colorado September! This is my first year missing the pumpkin festival back in the midwest…but I survived…will get my fall fix in a trip to see the aspen colors. Seems like the sun is stronger…maybe because the leaves are falling, or because it's been one bluebird day after another, but it helps transition to these shorter days. For the first time I had to quit gardening early b/c I eventually couldn't decipher the colors of the tomatoes in the setting sun. Living up to my rabbit title, I nibbled on a couple cherry tomatoes…trying to savor the last of these abundant fresh picked bites.

This is where celebrations begin. Enjoying farm dinners from the bounty of our hard labor. This season I didn't eat much besides these greens...and was able to avoid the 'unsafeway' grocery stores :) Now it's a matter of bottling it all up and preserving the goodness for winter months.

Reflecting back, I found myself in the best environment possible in these urban gardens. Better than any bad tv show, ice cream, or drug, the gardens were a true healing detox. Here I was completely surrounded by genuine people, good conversation, besides just the healthy food. Though this wasn't a full immersion farm experience, I might have grown even more this year than I did last.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

wait, what do you do?

Seems fairly ironic that about exactly a year ago I was sadly packing my bags to move back to Chicago, and now I'm packing my office for a new design gig! Going back to corporate...back to layout design. Still freelancing on the side. Still farming. And of course, still lovin' the Colorado life :)

So how do I still farm...and where is this Denver farm? It is a fantastic concept of the CSA (community supported agriculture), that's even more local...the NSA (neighborhood supported agriculture). Located in the Highlands, 12 homeowners have donated their large backyards for us to garden. Homeowners as well as garden apprentices (like myself) receive a weekly NSA share of vegetables, and the rest of the produce is sold in NSA shares and at the Highlands farmers market.

Check it out!

It's an efficient use of space, water and human energy. Veggies are much more useful than a lawn! And it saves me trips to the grocery store where I'm overwhelmed with well-travelled, out of season produce and packaged foods with ingredients I can't pronounce. BTW: I hear the rule of thumb for packaged foods is to only buy if it has 5 ingredients or less. So long cereal...hello real oats!

Anyway, a seasonal update: most everything is now in season, except for asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, and peas. Spinach will come back around in the fall. There's not really any reason to buy anything grown outside the states, except bananas. That's next on my 'to grow' list :)

**Public Service Announcement**

After 5 years of bike commuting, it was bound to happen. Bicyclist's worst nightmare come true: I got doored.

Events like this remind me that we are not invincible. I'm so thankful for insurance coverage. Thankful I still have my eyes and my life. Thankful for my friends who came to the rescue.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

"If we're not growing, we might as well be dead."

Last weekend I journeyed back to Loveland, for a long overdue visit…after all it was my anniversary! To view it just how I remembered it, I was put right to work again! As soon as I hopped into the back of the truck, pounded twice on the side…we were off! That day's mission: to wrangle up 40+ cattle that had escaped the fields by climbing up the steep rim rock. The rest of the full time crew seemed a little uneasy, but I was quite excited for this adventure. Every day something new and unexpected happens on the farm…yet the majority of our culture thinks that the city life is more exciting?!

Back to wrangling cattle. We first had to hike the steep rim rocks, then merge the cattle together…on foot :) Even back to my intern days, I had never done this other than calling them into the next pasture of grass, and maybe a little walking behind them, but never in a wide open space like this. After letting one sneak through a gap in-between two of us…and having the rest of the cattle following in a stampede, we learned to get a little more aggressive so as to not backtrack.

At some point I was left with about 10-15 cattle who had tried to follow their friends back to the top of the rim rock, but I was the only thing in the way of their direct path. It was a pretty crazy feeling to be alone with them for a good 20 minutes…all eyes on me, while some trying to chew on rocks or eat tree bark. Eventually they got bored, one of the cows turned around, and the rest followed, back down the rim rock. Thankfully this is about when the rest of the crew and cattle joined in, and it was all downhill after that.

Til we realized there were still more missing! After securing the recovered cattle, we ventured back up the rim rock, ending up on the other side of the foothill where the cattle were alongside the road. It was a lot of back and forth across the road, thanks to red mailboxes and tempting luscious green grass. But thank goodness for country drivers…and for our friend who chased the galloping cows on his bike! Still no easy task to drive them alongside the road, as we pushed them up against fencing, then suddenly the fences dropped off and the cattle ran back up the now steeper incline of the rim rock. Somehow we got them all back. Safe and sound, huffing and foaming at the mouthes from thirst, and now very tired.

Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed burgers for lunch after all that work :)

And I saw my first live rattlesnake! Poised and ready to strike! Good thing we were in the car. And good thing this was after climbing through all the rattlesnake infested land!

It was refreshing to be back. The scenic fields and my most favoritest intern are so nourishing for the soul :)

Back to the city life…urban gardening is picking up momentum! Most of the spring crops (potatoes, lettuce, arugula, radishes) are planted, so we're weeding lots! Feels like Seattle here with all this rain. Love it for the plants, love it for curling up in bed at night, just a bit messy for bike riding…definitely time for waterproof pants! :)

My compost pile is really growing now that I'm eating more vegetables and, well, eating more at home :) I began noticing its odor and refreshed my mind with a little composting lesson from DUG. If it smells, it needs more dry stuff…like newspaper. Awesome! This takes care of my paper recycling pile too! So I was a paper shredder for a night in :)

I also noticed that most of my plants are outdoor plants, so I put an ad up on freecycle for any sort of plant, dying or alive (got this idea from a fellow apprentice), and met an angel named Fran! She invited me over and told me to bring lots of pots…she'd take care of me. And she went above and beyond! We spent an hour going through her house, she snipped off a few leaves from each of her plants, making sure I had my hands full! And I witnessed actually growing pineapples. Two! This woman is my hero! That is my next challenge for this year…to grow a pineapple!

She tried to give me a sampling of nearly everything in her yard…I only wish I had the yard space to accept the raspberries she offered! She too was from Chicago, so besides telling me all about each plant, we discussed what great decisions we made by moving out here. These discussions never get old!

I couldn't thank her enough for all the plants she donated to me. I only hope that I can pay this all forward someday! And am hoping that I can keep all of the plants alive and growing.

On that note, I'll leave you with this quote I just read…

"If we're not growing, we might as well be dead."

thankful for the changes in my life right now…thankful for the opportunities to learn and develop…feeling more alive each day :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

happy anniversary CO!

one year ago today marks my one year anniversary of moving to Colorado! what a year!

I still get nostalgic thinking about the picture perfect little farming community I rolled up to that Sunday afternoon. The bubble, the helpful, happy, and curious roommates, the scenic plush landscape with lil foxes and owls hiding here and there. sigh...

For the moment, I think I've found the best balance, designing full time now, and urban gardening on the side. Urban gardening is not as overwhelming, and a more realistic environment for today's world. The group I apprentice with, Heirloom Gardens, goes a step further than a CSA (community supported agriculture), naming themselves a NSA (neighborhood supported agriculture). Gardens in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver have been donated by their owners to us, we cultivate, and sell the produce via the Highlands farmers market and CSA shares. I challenge all my friends to find their own local markets or CSA, or even grow their own vegetables for the summer instead of going to the grocery store for produce! You will not be disappointed!

Our NSA started working back in February, planning gardens and starting seedlings in the greenhouse. I feel like winters last forever, yet with all my fun in the snow this year and realizing that garden season starts so early, this winter took off! March and April were spent prepping the gardens by tilling in compost. And this was the first year I was able to plant spring vegetables in an actual yard! Obviously I'm still learning about hardening off transplants...which means gradually adjusting them to outside temps and sunshine, not leaving them in the sun for the first time for 8 hours! I'm also learning that new transplants need a good amount of water in the beginning...not vacation abandonment :) Needless to say, when I got back from Ecuador, the majority of transplants lived (arugula, lettuces, carrots, parsley, cilantro), and the direct seeded lettuces, radishes, potatoes, onions, beets, and peas were coming up strong! And to think before my trip I nearly caved and bought reemay row cover! :)

Back in the NSA gardens, a lot of last year's plants that went to seed have already given us some tasty dinners. Nothing beats fresh arugula, green onions, and beet greens!

And yesterday while we were prepping a garden, Sundari's goat had 3 babies! So we visited them today...too precious! I hope to capture their cute 'mmmmmaaaaa' sounds on video. They are still a little clumsy on their feet, but look so good and healthy. All nestled with chickens in the backyard of a Denver home. Awesome.

Monday, February 7, 2011

happy with today

Welcome to February. Usually the second month of miserable, dreary and frigid days...short days of daylight that seem to drag on forever and ever, and make me wonder if summer ever existed.

Not anymore! Sure, I'm still a summer baby, more than ready for some time in the garden. But here I am, getting plenty of time outside and soaking in extra vitamin D with all these days of sunshine. When snowboarding lessons and equipment seemed to fall into my lap (thanks friends!), I gave it a nervous shot and think I've finally put my C turns together into S's...meaning I'm getting the hang of it :)

It's unreal leaving 50 degrees each weekend to drive an hour for another vacation destination. As per our weekend group discussions in the mountain-top hot-tub...every day feels like a vacation. Even now that my funemployment is over.

That's right, I got a job! A part time design gig, which could turn into a full time job in a couple months. I am one of 3 employees...far from the thousands I was used to in the corporate world :) I'm still getting used to not using a badge...and still getting used to hearing about people here refusing promotions so that they can still enjoy their personal lives. Love it :)

So less perks with this small firm you ask? Nope! This means there's opportunity to help a company grow...and I can still test drive freelancing on the side. And have bike commuted 100 miles for a week in January. Unbelievable :)

...and best of all, I accepted an apprenticeship for urban gardening! At 20 hours/month it won't be as intense as the farm this summer, but I hope to learn different organic styles and expand on what knowledge I have. I can't wait to meet some backyard goats and chickens too :)

Meanwhile back in my apt where I'm trying to save money on heat...it's taking more of a toll on my herb seedlings :( Growth is slow, if not stopped! Maybe I should use heat lamps, but it seems kinda fake and a waste of energy. Guess I'll just have to be patient for the next few months...concentrate on current excitement of riding (bikes and boards), visitors (fam and friends!), and training for some adventure races in Equador. oh yeah!