Monthly Archives: July 2014

No Time or Space for a Garden

As you may have read here on this blog, Donna and I have been very busy over the past few months. In the early months of the year we were finding and buying a house. Then we had to move. Of course, the house needs work, and we’ve moved into an apartment for the time being.

One of the things that always interested me was the idea of the urban homesteader. There is, to begin with, a great site by that very name – The Urban Homesteader – about a family living in Southern California who grows a majority of their own food right on their small property within the city limits. That’s definitely hard core.

I’ve also read many things talking about how to embrace the lifestyle as an apartment dweller, which would seem to be one of the few ways to have less land to work than the family above. These talk about embracing a more sustainable lifestyle and growing what food you can.

Well, since most of the spring this year was spent relocating, and the place to which we’ve relocated is an apartment, we don’t have a garden. In other words, as the title indicates, we haven’t had the time, and we certainly lack the space, to have a garden. However, that hasn’t stopped us from starting to embrace the lifestyle.

For one thing, we are growing fresh herbs on our patio. We have two lovely basil plants which are flourishing, two rosemary plants, an oregano, and a cilantro. Donna bought the plants recently and transplanted them into attractive pots. She also has some lovely flowers that seem to attract a hummingbird, which makes us both very happy.

We discussed having some tomato plants as well, but since the patio space is limited, and gets only a few hours of direct sunlight in the afternoon, it seemed like it may not be worthwhile. Also, Donna had some concerns about attracting small critters onto the porch, which she worries may in turn attract snakes.

We’ve also become regulars at the local farmer’s market. We go every Saturday morning and get as much of our week’s worth of fresh produce as we can. We usually also get fresh eggs. This has helped us start to feel connected to the local community, and has also helped us eat better. As a matter of fact, we’ve dramatically cut back on our restaurant meals since we’ve moved.

Hopefully by spring of next year we will be living in our own house with enough space for a vegetable garden. Even if we could purchase everything we wanted locally and organic, I just enjoy having and tending the garden, so I’m looking forward to getting one going again. In the mean time, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy those delicious herbs and whatever we can get at the farmer’s market.

Progress Report – The House, Job, and Apartment

There has been a lot going on over the past few months. To recap, in January we decided we were going to make 2014 a stellar year, I lost my job, and we decided to buy a house with cash. We moved quickly, making an offer in February that was accepted, and closing early in March. We moved to the area in May and started slowly renovating. It’s now July, so where are we at?

With regards to the house, we have made slow progress. All of the carpeting has been removed and discarded. The yard is in much better shape, but not yet completed, and about half the fence has been removed. We’ve spent some money on tools, but so far very little on the actual house.

We’re taking it slow for a number of reasons. We don’t want to sink a lot of money into it right now because I’m still not working. (More on that below) Also, the time spent on renovations has been small in total over the past few months, but hasn’t yielded the results I expected because of the way I’ve been going about things.

Spending a few hours a day leaves me with too much time on set up and clean up for each day, and shifting gears several times a day makes everything take longer. So, starting last week I began limiting my trips to the house to one or two days a week. Last week it was one day. I took care of the lawn and spent the whole day working there rather than a few hours each day. That was the day I got the carpets out and did some other work inside.

Doing things this way is not as much to increase progress in the house as it is to improve my job search. When I send out resumes lately I tend to get some responses. Having the next morning to respond and to look at other new jobs seems to be making things to easier. I can get “right to represent” paperwork or other information back to recruiters more quickly. At least that’s how it seemed last week.

As I said above, though, I’m still unemployed. However, I’ve had some phone screenings, and had one in person interview scheduled, though they cancelled on me at the last minute, and now I’m not hearing anything back from that recruiter. They seemed very professional right up to that point – very disappointing. I’m focusing now much more on this than the house. Once I’m back to work, we should have plenty of money available to contract out much of the work.

The apartment, with the exception of the office, is mostly in order now. We could probably get everything in order in a day with some focus, but we don’t know yet what we really want to do there, so it gets put off.

It feels like everything is starting to head in the right direction. Hopefully soon I’ll be working and we’ll get the house ready and get everything moving along. We still have the big open question about what comes next – do we rent the house out, move into it, or move closer to Atlanta? And, if it is the latter, do we sell the house and buy one or more closer to where we move, or keep it and rent it out? The future looks bright, but it is anything but certain at this point. Stay tuned…

Looking for Fresh Produce – Farmer’s Markets and the West Georgia Farmers Co-Op

Both Donna and I had some familiarity with the South from our past experiences, but neither one of us had any real adult experience with living there, and we certainly had no experience at all with living in Georgia. Most of what we have found so far had actually been mostly in line with our expectations. However, there was one area in which we were very surprised.

Our first trip to the local supermarkets was disappointing to say the least. I knew from past experience, things I’d read and from a discussion with a store manager in Miami, that demographics determined what was sold in a store.

When I lived in Miami, it was tough to find low fat ground beef in the stores near us because the local population was not generally interested in buying it, so the market was too small for the stores to justify carrying it. In NJ we would go to certain stores within a few miles of home, but in different neighborhoods, to find some particular items.

I’d also read that stores mostly put the produce section first and frozen foods last relative to the logical entrance and exit. However, going against the sense this makes is the location of the deli, which is near the beginning close to produce. Store chains have found through trial and error that this configuration gives the best sales. All the stores I’ve been to in the northeast follow this pattern.

However, every store I’ve been in since moving here has produce tucked in the back, near the end. Deli and frozen foods are in the expected locations, but not produce. Also, the produce sections are very small and lack the variety I expect.

For that reason, as well as the fact that one of our goals is to eat fresh, organic produce, we went on a mission to find our best options. We started with the State Farmer’s Market in Atlanta. It’s about an hour away, and it’s huge and almost always open. It is the location for wholesalers and farmers and dealers and anyone looking for large quantities of produce. They also have a meat store and restaurant, but unfortunately neither is open on Sunday, when we visited.

As large as it was, we found it would not be practical to shop at that location. We continued our quest, and found a local store called Farmer’s Market, which had a larger selection of produce than local supermarkets, but the origin of the produce is unclear, and there is no indication about organics. Moving on…

We’d seen signs for the Farmer’s Market downtown, but hadn’t gotten there yet when we heard about a meeting of a farmer’s co-op at the local library. We attended, not really understanding what it was until we were there. At the meeting we met a few local farmers, got information about picking our own produce at their farms, and most importantly we got information about the downtown market.

Since then we have been attending almost weekly, and we’re getting a lot of great, fresh, and often organic produce. The farmers are friendly and proud of their produce. We even get fresh eggs at the market. Getting to know the farmers has been an experience in itself worth a trip to the market. This has turned out to be another great step in the direction we’ve been trying to go. We may not yet have our own organic garden, but we’re moving closer to eating like we do.