Sunday, September 7, 2014

First Week of Classes

So I've finished up my first week of classes, and while I can't honestly say that I know for certain how busy I'll be this semester, I know that having only three classes instead of two is really nice. While the workload for the classes seems to be rather heavy, having less of them makes things a lot easier. My initial impressions of my classes are generally positive. All of my professors are engaging and seem to genuinely care a lot about the course material and the success of their students which is always a plus.

In our first Plant Production lab we planted A TON of stuff that we'll be growing throughout the course of the semester. The best part is that we get to keep any of the produce we grow over the season. We planted tomatoes (3 varieties), sweet peppers, melons, cucumbers, squash, chard, kale, several varieties of greens (bok choy, etc), and herbs. For flowering plants, we planted cyclamen and poinsettias. All of these are greenhouse grown, so they'll be flowering and fruiting into November and December. There will be many more things that we'll be planting in future labs as well. In the lecture portions we also discussed plant communication and how plants use different signals such as chemicals to signal to other plants, pollinators, and the predators of pests that might be harming them.

World Food Problems is also very interesting. It's a night course so I only have it once a week for 3 hours, so I haven't had enough of the class to really get an impression as to what the course material will really be like. It's co-taught by an Agronomy professor and an Applied Economics professor, which makes it an interesting combination of the two subjects and gives the class material a lot of different perspectives.

Intro to Entrepreneurship seems as if it will be challenging and work-intensive, but not unpleasant. A lot will depend on the group I end up being placed in for our gigantic project that takes up most of the semester. So we'll have to wait and see on that.

I'm still working at the organic farm until the end of the season, so we're pretty much in harvest mode at this point as we attempt to pick everything as fast as it fruits. Pretty hard with the crops like the tomatoes which seem to never ever end. Not a bad problem to have, but it's a lot of tomatoes to deal with. Otherwise, we've been harvesting potatoes, cucumbers (still), strawberries (as they're a day-neutral variety which fruit later), broccoli, and apples. The best part about the strawberry research project taking place at our farm is that there's always an over abundance of strawberries, and I'm constantly going home with free quarts. Free, organic, delicious strawberries? It's the actual best.

One of the strawberry quarts I took home this weekend.

If you want to read up more about my farm, we were featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today. A lot of the article is focused on the research we're doing, but also talks a lot about how we provide food to several different places on the University of Minnesota campus. :)

I've also started to see a good amount of food come out of my personal plot at the farm this week as well. I took home cherry tomatoes and basil that I used to make a margherita pizza, which turned out delicious. Otherwise, I did get things into the ground a lot later than I would've liked, so we'll see what more I get besides the tomatoes and possibly some peppers. The weather has been cooling off so there might not be much more time for things to ripen up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beginning of the Last Year

Whoo boy, it's getting closer. T-minus 12 days until the start of my senior year of college. How insane is that??? From this Thursday until the end of the month I'll be completely occupied with the Minnesota Marching Band's pre-season training camp (can you say 12-hour rehearsal days?!) I figured I'd do my semester intro post now so that I'm not scrambling to get it done once school rolls around.
I'm only taking three classes this semester (whoo-hoo!) which is down from my usual four. This is the awesome part about senior year. I only need to take six more classes to graduate so three per semester sounds like a mighty fine option to me! I will say that technically I'm taking 5 classes because both marching band and pep band count as classes because I receive credit for them. But honestly, they're not academic classes with homework and tests and all that, so I don't generally count them when people ask me how many classes I'm taking.

So what classes will be taking my time away from blogging and gardening you ask?
First, we have my one and only horticulture class this semester: Plant Production I. This class is all about nursery operations. So I'll be learning about crop data, utilizing economic data, pest management, and governmental regulations in relation to the nursery industry. I'm a little up in the air with how much I think I'll like the class. It's a required class for the horticulture major, so I have to take it, whether I like it or not. It's not really something that's related to the focus I'm trying to take with horticulture (education/sustainable and local food) but who knows, maybe I'll really enjoy it.
Second, I'll be taking Intro to Entrepreneurial Management, another class that I have to take to finish off my degree. Because I chose the "Business Option" in my degree (as opposed to the "Science Option"), I'm required to take so many business-related classes.
Third, and finally, I'll be taking World Food Problems. This is the class I'm looking forward to the most. We'll be talking about food security, food production/storage/utilization in developing countries, and how ethical and cultural values, population and technology affect these things. This is the class I'm taking that is most related to my area of focus in my studies. This is a class that's also helping me finish off a requirement for my Sustainable Agriculture Minor.
And that's it! No fourth class to weigh me down this semester!

Besides classes, I'll be doing band (obviously), working at the farm until the growing season is over, working at the UMN Admissions Office once my farm job is done, serving as Historian for my band fraternity and volunteering time through service projects for the Mortar Board Honor Society. Yay busy life! Hopefully I'll still have time to blog, although it may not be as frequent as my blogging during the summer. But now I must get some sleep so I can have a blast running the farmers market stand tomorrow! Goodnight all!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Leaving/Going Home

The bad part about loving both the city you currently live in and the city that you call your hometown is that when you leave one to go to the other, it's incredibly bittersweet. As I've gotten older, leaving my hometown after spending time at home with my family has gotten more and more difficult. I'm sitting here, it's 12:13am and my flight back to Minneapolis leaves in just over 12 hours. A lot of me wants to just stay here, but I'll be glad to be back in the Twin Cities. I think another thing that's making this difficult is that the end of this mini-vacation to my hometown also means that my summer break is almost over and it's my last real summer break for, well, ever. After I finish this next year and graduate from college, summer break really isn't a thing anymore. How weird is that?

I've only got ten days until pre-season camp starts up for my last season of marching band (during which I will be on hiatus from my blog and related social media, but we'll address that at a later date), and 22 days until my last year, my senior year of college starts. I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around all of these last things that I'll be encountering over the good part of next year.

I haven't posted much at all this week, mainly because I've spent my time enjoying my time off at home instead of on the internet. So I'll probably have a post or two more for you before my marching band hiatus. Since things at the farm are going to get hectic as the harvest season gets into full swing, there will probably be at least one post about those goings-on.
Hope you all have had a lovely week!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Visiting Upper Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula

This weekend I took a trip up to the UP's Keweenaw Peninsula to go camping with my family. We've been making this camping trip for over 10 years and I've always enjoyed my time there. The Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan has a lot of great activities for those who enjoy the great outdoors. My experiences have been primarily set in the summer, where it's generally a lovely daytime temperature in the mid-70s/low-80s, and comfortable, cooler temperatures at night. Whatever your outdoor recreation preferences, this area is a great place to do what you love. I've put together a brief travel guide that touches on some of the great activities you can do in this area, and maybe you'll find that you're interested in adding the Keweenaw to your bucket list.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gone Camping

Hello all!
I'll be out of range for all communication-like technology from Thursday to Sunday while I enjoy a weekend of camping with my family in the gorgeous wilds of the Upper Peninsula. There's no cell service and very little wifi to be found, so there will be no blogging, Twitter or Pinterest for me and I'm looking forward to disconnecting for a few days and enjoying the great outdoors. More specifically, I'm incredibly excited to spend some time hiking and birding while I'm up there. I've got some species I'm hoping to check off my life list. I'll be back in my hometown after Sunday for a week, so I might throw up a post or two about my parent's gardens while I'm there. But this is essentially my vacation from my summer vacation, with no farm work and no alarm clocks, and I'm so so excited to be home for the first full week since January, so forgive me if I mentally check out for a while. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mystery Hawk on Campus: Solved

So as well as being a gardener, my recent trip to Yellowstone brought back my love of birding that I had so much as a kid. I used to sit by sliding glass door that led out to the patio with the bird feeders back home and count chickadees, nuthatches and juncos in the snowy bittersweet vines. It can be a little difficult being an active birdwatcher while taking college courses and living in a house with nowhere to hang a birdfeeder.
But after seeing mountain bluebirds, harlequin ducks and all manner of stunning birds on the trip out west, my interest was peaked again.

eBird, a bird reporting website from Cornell University is my favorite birding tool because it compiles my "life list" of birds for me and I can add notes about where/when I saw them, age, sex, details about what they were doing, etc. It's a pretty neat tool if you're at all into birding. And they use the data to keep tabs on bird populations, so everyone benefits.

Yesterday I was over on the UMN East Bank campus, talking with a friend while she stood waiting for a bus. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a large bird swoop up into one of the ash trees outside of Folwell Hall and immediately got excited. It's not too often that I get a close look at a raptor that's stationary instead of soaring overhead.

Peeking up through the branches, I found my bird.

I'm not the best bird identifier out there so I knew it was a hawk, but not what kind. Going home, my internet search brought me to the conclusion that it was a Broad-Winged Hawk...only to be told to day by a kind passerby on Google+ (who had seen the picture I put up) that it was actually a juvenile Cooper's Hawk. Apparently there's a successful nest on campus with 5-6 young birds that have been flying around campus.

Bird Identification 1-Abby 0.

But that's what I like about birding. If you don't know what bird you saw, chances are there's a nice birder out there who will let you know what it was.