Monday, April 8, 2013

The Natural Gardener Austin, TX

We didn't take a single plant with us from Golden Hill when we moved to Texas. Letting go of over 150 potted plants was such a difficult experience and up until a few days before we moved I actually thought I was going to be able to take a couple with us. Reality hit when we couldn't even fit our patio set, refrigerator or last remaining bookshelf into our moving container. No plants for us, we are going to have to start completely from scratch. 
Gidget asks, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

Gidget and I especially have been missing dirt and plants so when I happened to be searching through the radio dial one Saturday morning and came across a talk show about local organic gardening, I was overjoyed. If we can't have our own plants right now then we can start to learn about the local problems and successes of our new zone from The Natural Gardener. Listening to John Dromgoole help people with organic solutions to their gardening challenges made me feel like I was back in San Diego at City Farmers Nursery with Bill Tall, my dad away from dad.  

Naturally, I went to see The Natural Gardener nursery at my first opportunity and I was blown away.  If you live in the Austin area and have not been to visit, I highly recommend it, even if you aren't a gardener you will enjoy this little piece of heaven.  

  • Monday - Wednesday 8 am to 6 pm 
  • Thursday 8 am to 7 pm 
  • Friday and Saturday 8 am to 6 pm 
  • Sunday 10 am to 5:30 pm
  • 8648 Old Bee Caves Rd. Austin, TX 78735

Site map
The 8 acre nursery is so large that it helps to consult the map to get around. It was very cold the morning I was there so I only stayed about an hour but I could have easily spent half a day wandering around. One of the first things that caught my eye was all of the beautiful pottery in every shape and color you can imagine.

I picked up a few small pots that claim to be frost resistant.
I went on a Thursday morning and it was very busy. I did not get a chance to meet John himself but the entire staff was super friendly and they seemed to be very knowledgeable. Since my current garden consists of a small balcony with 4 geraniums (that I bought this day from the Natural Gardener) I didn't really have any major questions. I just enjoyed walking around and looking at everything. Next time I will try going on a Monday or Tuesday to see if it's less crowded.
There were many beautiful little gardens like this with native plants and seasonal  color
The variety of gorgeous plants both edible and not was incredible.
This is a red passion vine
I was almost completely overwhelmed and I was wishing I had a scarf and gloves.

I was so happy to see pink jasmine!

So many beautiful plants and I currently have such a tiny balcony
Lots of fruit trees

I cannot express how excited I am about blackberries and all other berries. They aren't easy in San Diego.
This is a magical place to spend some time and it gave me so many ideas about how to set up my own property in the future. 

This is one side of the Microbe brewery. I just love it. I want to sit and read a book. 

There is a beautiful fountain that doesn't look impossible to recreate in my own space.
I don't know if the whole place is a certified wildlife habitat or just this section.
Their vegetable garden was so much fun. It's different than what you would see in San Diego this time of year so it helped me get a better understanding of how the seasons work around here. I've found the "season" is always subjective, it's not like you can set a calendar for the best time to plant. In San Diego I was just starting to develop a helpful instinct about what the weather might do. We're starting all over on that instinct now. It's very different here. 
Gidget reminds me that it rains a lot more, thunders and even hails frozen golf balls here. It's not like that in San Diego. 
They have a mix of raised beds, things going in the ground and some potted plants. 
Corn is already going and it looks like it survived the recent cold.  My mouth waters for corn from the garden.  
Their raised beds are 6 inches. I need to not squat so much so the ones I build will be taller.  
I believe the immediate left was rosemary. The right is oregano! I never made an oregano this big or even close. Wow. 
I love my worms but I will need to learn about composting on a larger scale soon. Looks like I am at the right place.

The animals were my favorite. We can't wait to add hens, a carefully chosen rooster and a couple of dairy goats to our family.

Locking horns

Kidding around

An excellent display of balance.

I would name him Handsome the Horny Goat. But he probably has a great name already. 

Wouldn't give me the time of day.
I'm a complete garden nerd and willing to admit it. If you are too, and if I haven't convinced you to check this place out yet, then you have to visit because there is an entire building dedicated to the Microbe Brewery. There's a polite sign that says employees only but I'm hoping there are exceptions to that rule because I am really excited about learning what is happening in there.
The Microbe Brewery

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Gidget's Garden story

This is the story of how Gidget's Garden started. It's been a 10 year process that the humans involved did not know was coming when it all began. The people were a 27 year old female marketing director and a 39 year old male network manager who met haphazardly at a business function in San Diego. The woman lived in the Seattle area at the the time and the man in Golden Hill, California. 

They fell madly in love at first sight which is a rare and wonderful thing. After a brief courtship the two decided to marry. The woman, Crystal, did not have a hard time agreeing to move from Seattle to San Diego as the weather in Seattle had been particularly bad for the past 27 years and exceptionally good in San Diego. 

The man, who is now known as Farmer D, told Crystal about all of the amazing architecture and beauty that his neighborhood in Golden Hill had to offer. They set a wedding date for less than four months away and Crystal moved to Golden Hill. 

The "Golden Hill House"

Our house circa 2003

Crystal was madly in love and married Farmer D anyway
And they adopted Sierra and did everything they could to embarrass her just like good parents should. 
Life was great and also crazy, just like the first year of marriage should be. But then things took a turn for the worse.

Sunset San Diego

Crystal got very sick and for a period of time they were worried she might not survive. It was a scary and difficult time but they made the most f it. Crystal embraced a much more holistic lifestyle and they traveled all over whenever they could. They went to Italy, Greece, Croatia, Turkey, France, Mexico, the redwoods, San Francisco, Tacoma, Texas and anywhere they could to get the most out of life while they have it. They made a lot of friends in San Diego and during their travels.

A tiny Crystal on top of Paul Bunyun's right foot. 

Even with all the fun, some days were really hairy, to say the least. 
Their family, friends and acquaintances; old and new, have always been such an incredible blessing. They helped so much during the difficult times.

Another dog joined the family; his name is Fleck. 
Crystal went back to school and became a holistic nutritionist and an herbalist. She found healing with natural food, supplements and a more holistic lifestyle. She went to work in the supplement department at Whole Foods for a couple of years but then developed a severe swelling condition in her leg that prevented her from being on her feet for long periods.

One of Crystal's early attempts at getting people excited about healthier foods. 
It didn't take long to learn that they were content with eating healthfully in their own home without trying to force their new dietary habits on others. However some of their friends and family might argue and say it took way too long.

Crystal contemplating the next steps in San Francisco 

Farmer D ready for whatever comes next in Mexico and in life

Traveling got a little old and too expensive so they settled down into a basic and happy rhythm. Crystal did her best to be a good housewife, a role she suddenly embraced completely after thinking she would always put her marketing career above all else. Farmer D worked hard to support her and their pets in all they wanted to do. He enjoyed some rewards because he rarely had to go shopping and never did his own laundry or cooked family meals. Crystal felt so blessed and loved by Farmer D that she gave him control of the remote at least 95% of the time. On their 5th wedding anniversary, they both agreed that marriage was good.

Crystal's Thanksgiving cake 2009

Gazpacho 2007
Crystal wanted a garden and gave it her best completely ignorant effort with limited success. She knew nothing abut soil, sun, water or nutrients so she didn't stand a chance. She also doubted her ability so she did not meet her potential.

Crystal with a Mr. Lincoln Rose.

And then we adopted Gidget. And Gidget wanted a garden more than anything.
"Actually I want a free range chicken farm but so far no one has listened to me."

So Crystal and Farmer D set out to try this gardening thing again. This time with the right help and armed with the knowledge of their previous mistakes. This is how Gidget's Garden was established in 2010.

Mr Bill Tall of City Farmers Nursery in San Diego - The right help.

City Farmers Nursery
The Garden was really successful after a short while and people would walk by from all around the neighborhood to see it.

Front yard garden 2010

Our first Mammoth sunflower head with a garden gnome named Farmer Bill.
Gidget inspecting our compost.
Soon after we had some of our first success we got bit by the gardening bug and couldn't stop expanding the garden.

Here I am taking credit for a lot of people's hard work in the front garden 2011

Gidget was very concerned about quality since her name was at stake.

Per Gidget's request we used the highest quality organic methods and we had incredible success.  
Front summer garden

Lots of delicious vegetables
One of the best things about Gidget's Garden was the avocado tree in the back yard that produced the biggest and best tasting avocados anyone has ever seen. 
Incredible Reed/Bacon hybrid avocados.
Once there was no more space in the front and after realizing how much the sun shifts throughout the year, Farmer D and Crystal decided to start gardening on the garage roof so they had a staircase built and reinforced the roof.
Poor Fleck is too afraid to climb up but Gidget is having lots of fun.
Rooftop garden phase one
We planted a banana tree next to the stairs

Sierra thinks the rooftop is awesome and the perfect escape from Fleck the scaredy dog.
The garden helped us meet so many new people and I was getting invitations to talk to groups about my gardening experience. I rarely pass up a chance to talk about gardening and everything it has taught me. I also wrote about everything I was doing each step of the way here on this blog.

Talking to Golden Hill community garden members
We met some new non-human friends as well.

Before long we had more vegetables than we knew what to do with and a farmers market started just three blocks away on Saturday mornings so we decided to sell some of our extremely local produce to the people in our neighborhood.

Gidget thinks that is a fine idea and is ready to go.
We had a wonderful time meeting new people and telling them all about our unique and extremely local produce.

Market table

Crystal with Free Spirit the clown who is holding an Armenian cucumber

Two ladies after discovering lemon cucumbers and buying one at Gidget's Garden
We kept growing vegetables and we went to the market every Saturday for a year. 

We were overjoyed when we learned we were expecting a baby at Christmastime in 2011 but then our baby girl came way too early because of genetic abnormalities. She was with us for 56 minutes before going home to God and it was the most incredible hour of our life.

This experience was the most difficult thing we have ever been through together. It brought us closer together and made us realize yet again that life is too short to do anything but live life exactly the way we want. We knew we were working too hard and paying too much to live in gorgeous San Diego, the cost of living is just so high. We had talked about moving to Austin Texas for years and we decided to sell our little urban farm and do just that.
Crystal surprises Farmer D with a vow renewal  under Gidget's avocado tree.
We broke the news to the pets and they took it surprisingly well, especially after hearing that we were going have a much bigger garden in Austin.

Gidget surveys her San Diego garden with the now grown and very productive banana tree behind her one last time. 
Sierra's ready to go to as long as she'll still get belly rubs. 

Fleck is just concerned that he won't be able to sleep in anymore. 
We hit the road.

Driving through west Texas
We've been in Austin for almost a month and we are living in an apartment until we close on our new house and garden. We love it here and have already made some new friends. I don't want to say too much about the new place until it's truly ours but it looks like it will be on April 30th. For now Gidget's Garden consists of 4 geraniums and 22 avocado seeds that have little to no hope of surviving here in Austin. It's pitiful.

Our current pitiful garden.
Gidget is getting very impatient, she's not cut out for apartment living.

"Get me out of here! Where's my chicken farm?"
Thanks for reading about how Gidget's Garden got started and we hope you'll check back to see what the next chapters hold. We can't wait to find out!