April 18, 2009

Mega-Farms

Our six-month old is fighting a cold and fever right now...and that translates into a total lack of peace for all of us. Finally, this afternoon, my wife suggested we take a drive. Duh! We used to do this all the time with the other kids when they were younger. Did we forget this little gem of advice because it's been so many years or just because we're idiots? I'm guessing both. But I'm thrilled she remembered when she did.

Sarah Grace calmed down within the first mile and my wife and I spent the next hour or so exploring some of the back country roads south of our little town. Here's what I learned along the way.

There are basically three types of farms in Illinois:
  1. The small homestead (1-20 acres)
  2. The family farm (100-1000 acres)
  3. The mega farms (1000+ acres)
It's this third category that bites my backside. There were times when all I could see (and I'm not exaggerating...for a change) in one particular direction was a single field growing a single crop. Horizon to horizon. And in central Illinois, that crop is either going to be soy beans or corn. And neither one of those crops is likely to see a dinner table anytime soon, at least until it's been processed through at least five different plants or factories and never in it's original vegetable form.

In these massive one-crop fields, you won't find trees. But you do find chemical-saturated topsoil...and its already some of the best topsoil on the planet without all the extra crap. You also find genetically modified crops. Nothing but 'em, really. We're in Monsanto's back yard, really.

All in all, our trip made coming home to my garden a pleasant reminder of why we're doing what we're doing.

All for now. Baby's crying...again. Maybe it's time for another drive.

April 14, 2009

Raised Beds and Coldframe

Alright. We finally have plants in the ground here at Casa GrowingSimple.

We were planning a Spring Break trip to Florida to see family, but the transmission in our van poo-pooed that idea for us. So my boys and I spent the weekend building two 4'x8' raised beds, mixing the soil (no doubt, the hardest part), filling the beds, installing the coldframe and planting a few plants -- all before the cruddy cold rains rolled in on Sunday evening.

Here's a video of the beds and a little of the work we did. WARNING: this video was all shot by my five-year old, Seth, so the footage is a bit jumpy. Think Cloverfield.


video