In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


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The Reveal

Two days ago, the forecast called for temperatures to drop into the 20s. In fact, the low hit 16 at my house. I had only two layers of row cover on my winter bed… Each layer is maybe good for 4 degrees, so it might not have been enough protection since I’d prepared it for “just” a low of 20.

Last night the temps reached 26. To be safe, I left the cover on all day yesterday. I finally removed it today, once the temps had warmed above freezing.

Voilá!

Winter gardening - following our first hard freeze

The beets looked pathetic – we’ll see if they bounce back in a few days – but everything else seems to have survived ok! A few burned leaves here and there, nothing life threatening! Much better than I was hoping for, given how cold it really got.

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The Official End of… Wait, What?

November 10, and we still haven’t had a serious frost in my immediate area. (Average date of first frost locally is October 15.) Got close a few times, but even my cherry tomatoes and pepper plants are clinging to life.

No more. Tonight, the temperature is forecasted to drop as low as 20. According to the radio reports, “Gardening season is officially over.”

…or is it?

Meet my winter raised bed! This is my latest (and so far, most serious) attempt at a “four season harvest”. Blame / credit goes to Nikki Jabour’s book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, which I found particularly inspiring as fall reading.

I planted the bed with cold hardy crops – shorter greens (like spinach and upland cress) on the edge of the bed, taller plants like kale and leeks in the center.

I’ve engineered wind breaks to help protect the box further – wind burn being even more damaging to plants than low temperatures – and tucked it in for the night with a double layer of row cover.

The pea gravel anchoring the fabric edges gave the tightest closure we’ve ever achieved. Landscaping staples always seem to leave slack which eventually loosens in the wind and allows deadly drafts.

Here’s hoping for mid-winter bounty!

P.S., the full list of plants is as follows: spinach, upland cress, beets, turnips, radishes (including daikon), lettuce, leeks and kale. I also planted carrots but they failed to germinate.


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Ceci N’est Pas Une Diet Blog

I know, I know, I’ve been blogging about food and diet a lot lately.

Just a reminder, this is NOT a diet blog, even though it looks like one from time to time.  Or a lot, even.

This is a personal productivity and effectiveness blog.  It’s an exploring-ways-to-be-more-awesome blog. It’s a getting the most out of the short time we have on this planet blog. Finding ways to do things smarter, not harder.

The best way to know if things are getting better, is to have metrics that you can record over time. This allows you to make small adjustments, measure results, and then change accordingly to see if the numbers are reflecting the desired change. To do this effectively, you need to have a good starting baseline.

One my consistent failings in all my year’s gardening has been tracking yield. My beloved journal/calendar/diary keeps me straight on timing, but I have no way to know if things like succession planting or different vegetable varieties is really impacting my yield.

This year, I’m committed to better tracking to establish that baseline. To that end: behold! My first measurable garden output of the year!

Asparagus fresh from the backyard

Asparagus fresh from the backyard

(Note this is not “subsistence farming” or even significantly impacting my grocery budget – this much asparagus sells right now for probably 5 USD or less.  Frankly, if it’s in season for your home garden, it’s in season for the farmers around you, and they have economies of scale which allow them to sell the same produce for WAY less than it costs you to grow it yourself. But a backyard garden is noble and worthy for other reasons… probably that will be (yet another) future blog post.)


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Garden Progress March 2015

For some reason, I feel more urgency to garden this year than I have in the past. I was blaming the lingering cold and snow – nothing like being unable to start working to make you feel like you need to work!  I mean, it’s almost April. I am so. Far. Behind.

Then I checked my garden calendar from the past two years. Each of them, 2014 and 2013, had snows after March 21st. And in neither year did I even plant the first peas before the first weekend of April. So. This frantic feeling like I’m falling behind has it’s basis in… what? Possibly the shiny new detailed WVU Extension Service 2015 Garden Calendar I picked up for free at a local shop. (Local-ish, I’m near zone C in their map.)

The Calendar says right that I should be seeding things in cold frames or low tunnels, planting onion sets, seeding peas and radishes, and well, everything besides what I am actually doing: blogging about everything I haven’t started doing.

The fact that I did not “put away” my garden last fall is contributing to the panic because I am even farther “behind” considering all the clean up work I had to do. On the other hand, when I finally inspected the garden, I realized all was not lost!

Two caraflex cabbages survived the crazy winter in the cold frame. (The two left most plants in the photo – I still haven’t figured out what the rest of that is.)

Life lurking in the cold frame

Life lurking in the cold frame

I had a “low tunnel” – my first attempt at one – covered in plastic for most of the winter, though a bad storm in February shredded the plastic and exposed all the plant life. Somehow, parsnips (top) and leeks (bottom) survived the ongoing cold.  And yes, in the upper left, those are two carrots I pulled from the bed intact.  No, I didn’t try to eat them!

Life after the winter

Leeks and parsnips oh my!

This is all that remains of my strawberries. This is what happens when you don’t cover them with straw and deer netting (the netting you see there was added last week). The cold and the marauding deer population took their toll!

Nearly empty strawberry bed.

All that remains of my strawberries.

 

I have started some seeds indoors. Following the WVU Calendar. Apparently I started these tomatoes TOO soon though. I’ve got at least a month and a half before these guys can be planted in the garden, and they are already out of room under my grow lights.

Tomatoes outgrowing my grow rack

My tomatoes…compensating for my other inadequacies.