Sunday, December 29, 2013

It's Been Too Long

Hello all! I've returned from the busy-ness that was my fall semester and I know that, first of all, I must apologize for being gone for so long. I've accomplished a lot in the last couple of months and in my next few posts I hope I can share that with you.
Classes were, overall, very successful. I really enjoyed my Horticultural Marketing class and my Fruit Production class. We went on a lot of field trips for these so I'll be doing posts with the pictures and information from those. Also, in the Fruit Production class, we had a semester long project where we created a system plan for a fruit farm of our own creation. There were some parameters for where the farm was to be located and what we could choose to grow, but otherwise there was a lot of creative leeway with it that I really enjoyed. I'll be doing another post on that project and hopefully I can get it uploaded to the blog so you all can take a look at it.  I also had a Agricultural Biochemistry class and, while not really my cup of tea, was an interesting class in that it applied chemistry to plants more than my general chemistry class of my sophomore year. My last class was an online, general management course and there's not much that's noteworthy about that, so I won't even bother. But I ended the semester with a 3.8 GPA so that's pretty exciting.
Besides classes, I was pretty busy with my third year with the Minnesota Marching Band and pep band. That and work took up almost all of my spare time that I didn't devote to homework so, sadly, blogging fell to the bottom of the list. My marching band also traveled to Houston for the Texas Bowl on the 27th, so even my winter break up until now has been busy. If anyone wants to see our halftime show from the bowl game, here is a link to our video page. Enjoy!
My next few posts will cover some of my field trips for classes, the fruit farm project I completed and a few other things that aren't as garden specific. I'll also do a post about what I've got planned for the coming semester (hopefully more blog posts than this past semester).
Hope you're all still reading and having a wonderful holiday season!

My marching band on the field at Reliant Stadium for the 2013 Texas Bowl.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Treehouse (and Fall Semester Class)

Hello all! You haven't heard much from me lately, and I do apologize, but between moving in to a new apartment, preseason marching band camp and the start of fall semester classes, I've been just a tiny bit busy. Thankfully my roommates and I have successfully completed our move into our new place and have survived the first week and a half of class.
I'm really really happy with our new living arrangements. Two other girls and I have moved to the upper level of a duplex just a short distance off campus and our space is super cozy. We all have our own rooms and the living spaces are pretty much full to the brim with plants. It probably doesn't help that two of us are horticulture majors. It's rather common among people in the marching band to name their houses, so we've decided to call our new place "The Treehouse", mostly because there's a lot of greenery inside the house and out (as you can see in my second picture). Also, it's entirely on the top level of a house, so the elevation makes sense with the name as well.

Our main living room. The window is southwest facing so it's nice and bright here during the day. 
A view out my window. Another reason why we call it The Treehouse.

Our garden's been bountiful, so we made a few things into a lovely centerpiece.
Our dining area has some nice big windows too.
One of the most exciting things about the start of this semester is the start of actual Horticulture courses. I've had a lot of the prerequisites to do up until now, but this year I actually get to go in depth with horticulture material. My first class bright and early in the morning is Agricultural Biochemistry. And while chemistry is really not my thing, this class is taught through the Horticulture department and is aimed toward those of us studying plants. This way we can learn the facets of biochemistry that is directly relevant to our studies. My second class is Viticulture and Fruit Production for Local and Organic Markets (which is the longest class title ever!) This one is really exciting because we'll be learning about how to run an organic fruit or viticulture operation. We'll be visiting a fruit farm, developing a plan for one of our own and learning all the necessary steps to starting up an operation of that kind. And, fun fact, but one of my professors is the person who helped invent the Honeycrisp Apple! I also have Horticultural Marketing, which is quickly turning into a very interesting and thought provoking course. We analyze not only different marketing strategies and their uses, but how those things apply to the horticultural market. Lastly, I have an online General Management course to fulfill a requirement for my business track within the horticulture major. So look for some posts regarding those horticulture classes because I'm sure I'll have a good amount to talk about. 

What better way to start the fruit production class than by the professors handing out apples!
Zestar Apples are delicious! 
And finally, I'll leave you with a little entertainment for the day, I've included a link to our first marching band performance of the year! Have fun singing along with all our karaoke tunes!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

First Harvest!

So I visited the vegetable garden for the first time today since I got back to the Twin Cities and it's HUGE!! The tomatoes have turned into an absolute jungle and had to be strung to their cages because they were trailing everywhere. Still no ripe tomatoes but there's tons of green ones. The zucchini and pumpkin plants have shot up, as has the lone sunflower.

Our jungle of a tomato patch. The huge zucchini and pumpkin plants are behind those.
Victoria with our super tall sunflower.
The most exciting thing however, was our first harvest! We got a bowl of snow peas, a bowl of beans and an absolutely MASSIVE zucchini. We've got two more zucchini's that will be ready soon as well, but the one we picked is a monster. I took it home and made two loaves of chocolate chip zucchini bread with it and I still have most of the zucchini left over. Thankfully my aunt and grandma can put it to use and make some of their own zucchini recipes. 

Our harvest of beans and peas.
Me with the MONSTER zucchini!
About a third of the zucchini made this much bread.
And with that update, only one shift at work stands between me and a few days up in northern Minnesota with my boyfriend and his family. Lakes and cabins are one of my favorite things about summer here. :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rant Time

Alright guys. I don't rant much, but you'll have to bare with me for just a short little post because I really need this out of my system.
So I'm a Horticulture major, Food Systems focus, with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture. Kind of a mouthful, I know, but I'm excited to wrap my last two years of school up with that mouthful. I tell this to a good number of people on a regular basis because, when you tell people you're in college, that's the first thing they'll ask you.
The second question is always "What do you want to do when you're done with school?", to which I answer with something along the lines of "Well, I really want to work with urban agriculture, community supported agriculture groups, co-op groups, things like that." And the most obvious statement in my answer is usually the word "urban".
Now here begins my rant. Once the conversation gets started with those first two questions, it'll run along quite fine and then I'll get a statement that goes something like this: "Oh, well you should get yourself a big piece of land and get yourself a farm going on that." And I'm sitting there wondering if that person really heard anything I just said in my first two statements. I'm not saying anything against larger, more traditional farms in this. I really admire that lifestyle, honestly. I just recognize the fact that it's not for me.
But this statement that I hear from people when I describe my goals to them is, in fact, the reason I want to pursue this career so much. I want to prove to them that I don't need a big plot of land way out in the country to be able to feed myself, feed whatever family I might have in the future, and teach others to do the same. I want to change the way people think about food production and agriculture so that, when they hear those terms, their brains don't automatically jump to rolling fields of corn, wheat, or some other bulk crop. (Again, not that those aren't a very important part of agriculture, because they most definitely are!) But I want to get people start thinking outside the box more and realizing that they don't have to depend solely on their local grocery store or corner store for every single thing they put on their tables.
So when people say I would love having a big piece of land with a farm like it's the easiest assumption in the world, I like to look at them and say "No, that's exactly the opposite of what I want to do." Because studying horticulture and sustainable agriculture isn't just about taking care of me when I'm finished with school. It's about taking that 82% of the US population that lives in cities or suburbs and showing them what they can do with some dirt and seeds, and showing them what they can put on their tables from their own backyards. And it's showing people that they can take care of themselves and their families if they just step outside their box for a while.
End rant.

In other news, the UP of Michigan has been REALLY COLD (for summer anyway) for the days I've been at home. We had a couple sunny days where the temperature was bareable, but today it's been low 50s and raining. Pretty gloomy. But, on one of the nicer days earlier this week, we did a bit of blueberry picking and, despite the cooler temperatures, it seems to be a great season for it!

I also got an update from my gardening partner back in the Twin Cities that we've had the first (tiny!) harvest from our garden. Two jalapenos that we're probably going to make our guy friends eat for a challenge. Mostly to find out if they're good and how spicy they are!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Garden Update

Hello everyone!
My apologies for not posting too much this summer. I wanted to wait to give you a garden update until some tangible progress had been made. I went over to help put up a fence the other day and it seemed as if most of the growth had happened in the week since I'd been there last. We've got tons of flowers on the tomato plants and even a few small fruits. The pepper plants have shot up like rockets and the pumpkin has really taken off.

Quite a bit of growth since the last time I took a picture! 

Baby Roma tomatoes are just starting to show up.

About a third of the height of these peppers was probably achieved in the last week or so,

The pumpkin looks a bit upside down, but we were in the process of re-positioning it so we could get the fence up.

The nasturtiums are looking healthy too.

The snow peas are just starting to climb their trellis.

Our row of beans and the beets in front of them are growing a bit more slowly, but they're getting there.
After these pictures were taken, up went a fence to protect things from the rabbits. We had a young sunflower get it's head chopped off the night before, so we decided we'd better protect the rest of our crop.

In other news, my seasonal greenhouse job ended a few weeks ago. I'm a bit bummed to not be around plants all day anymore, but I gained a lot of really good experience and I learned quite a bit about caring for flowering annuals as well as how a successful greenhouse business is run. Getting internship credit for my major was a real plus too.
I go back to Michigan for a visit later on next week into the following week, so hopefully I can help my mom out in the garden back home, or just have time to take some wildflower photos to put up in a post.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Finally Gardening!!

This week I FINALLY started gardening again. My partner in crime returned from studying abroad and we're using her backyard for our vegetable garden shenanigans. Earlier in the week we planted our young plants and today we got all the seeds in. We're starting a little late in the season, but hopefully with a bit of luck and some nice weather we can be harvesting toward the end of the summer.

What we have planted:
-Five Roma tomatoes
-One heirloom "Striped German" tomato
-Two mini-belle peppers
-One banana pepper
-One jalapeno pepper
-Bush beans
-Snow Peas
-Marigolds around the tomato plants

We decided to save space and do our herbs in containers. We have:
-One pot of chives
-Two pots of basil
-One pot of mint

We have super sunny location, so I'm excited to see how things turn out!

The Roma tomatoes are the plants I started from seed, as are the two mini-belle peppers. Three of the Romas are still pretty small and I'm hoping they make it and start growing more soon. I don't think they enjoyed their extended time in too-small pots on my windowsill.

In other news, two of my African violets are blooming gorgeously, and two others are starting to as well. I'm in the process of rooting a lot more cuttings from other African violets (not my original ones with the white/pink center flowers) in hopes of getting some more plants with different flower colors.

More updates to come from the garden once things start progressing. We should see some seed germination in (hopefully) about a week and a half. But right now is the waiting game, so cross your fingers for some strong seedlings and good weather!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


While the Grow Write Guild prompt asked about changes to your garden, as the closest thing I have to a garden at the moment is my houseplants, I decided it would be best to write about those instead. 
Back in the fall of 2011 I moved out of the house and into my a tiny closet of a college dorm room. The only greenery I took with me was a small clay pot with a spider plant stolon taken from a large plant back at my house in Michigan. Over the course of a year, I went from one plant to three, to eight, to twelve. Now that I'm in a large apartment, my plant count is currently at eighteen houseplants; that count not including the five tomatoes and three pepper plants that will soon be going into a friend vegetable garden. 

My collection began with that little pot that is holding up a
 few of my books and was soon joined by another spider plant.

My plant propagation class soon bumped my total up even higher.

My hibiscus plant was one of the biggest additions.

My first African violet has now become four African violets
through propagation and division.

Here is two of those new African violets with a bit of a
view of the pothos plant.
Also added to the mix has been two orchids, a snake plant and a pothos taken from one of my mom's pothos plants at home. Soon I might have even more African violets from a propagation project I'm working on right now. And I love each one of my plants and dote on them all the time. Each new plant is exciting in the way making a new friend is exciting. Thinking about it, my "garden" of houseplants has gone from a sentimental attachement to home through a spider plant, to a horticulturalist and plant geek's garden of misfits, propagation projects and friends. And I'm quite glad it's turned out that way, even if I sometimes look at my little corner and wonder just how I came to have so many plants. 

Current houseplant "garden".

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blooms of Campus

It's a little sad that I'm only posting this now. Last year, I was posting "What's Blooming on Campus?" back in April! Thankfully, the weather is finally acting like summer and campus finally got some color. Below the pictures I've got a bit of an update on what I'll be up to this summer and what you can expect to see from me through my posts!

White Magnolia

Pink Magnolia
Apple Blossoms
Tulips are springing up everywhere on the St. Paul campus.
Yellow and red tulips.
An adorable crocus variety I found blooming on the West Bank.

Finals are also finished with so I actually have time to blog now! I passed all my classes (hooray!) and now all I have in front of me is my job at the greenhouse, being a tour guide for the university, and gardening with one of my best friends once she's back from studying abroad. So you can expect vegetable garden posts from me this summer, as well as some other Twin Cities gardening related topics. I'll be getting back into Grow Write Guild posts as well. My next post will hopefully be one of those. :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spring! Spring?

So Minnesota has decided it doesn't remember what season are anymore and, despite the few days of gorgeous, spring-like weather we had last weekend, yesterday brought almost a foot of snow to the southern part of the state. Thankfully, the Twin Cities didn't get any and instead get to enjoy chilly, cold, gray weather. I'm sure all the plants that got excited and sprouted during the warm weather are rather confused by this point. Frankly, I am as well. Last year, we had daffodils by the beginning of April, and this year we're dealing with 30 degree days at the beginning of May. Doesn't really make much sense.
Thankfully the St. Paul campus has some color to offer up in the form of the adorable little scilla flowers that blanket the more wooded areas.

In other news, last week I started my greenhouse job and am having a really good time. Just being able to work in a place filled with plants makes even the more simple tasks enjoyable. We do a lot of rearranging displays, watering and lots and lots of sweeping. My favorite task so far was when we got a new shipment of  moth orchids in and I got to help unpack the boxes, tag them and set them out on display. It was like a mini Christmas, pulling plant after plant out of the boxes, all with amazingly vibrant colors. They were right in mid-bloom and absolutely gorgeous. Some of the larger varieties included some giant, pure white blooms, a white variety with purple spots on the petals and a purple center, one with yellow-green petals and a purple center and rich, dark purple ones as well. There were tiny ones too, some bright pink with yellow edges, purple with darker centers and peach colored ones with gold centers. I've probably ranted enough about orchids now... Anyway, I've found I have to learn things in a really short amount of time, and by no means do I know even close to half yet. But I have another full weekend of work starting tomorrow, so we'll see what that brings.

I'm planning on filling another Grow Write Guild prompt for my next post, but I'll probably be pretty busy until finals week is over. So probably somewhere around the 17th or 18th I'll try to have that up.
In the meantime, I leave you with more scilla carpet pictures. I hope spring is proving to be a lot...springy-er than mine!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Fantasy Garden

One of my favorite things over at Gayla Trail's "You Grow Girl" website is the Grow Write Guild prompts. Every two weeks, there's a new prompt for those times when you want to blog but you've got writers block.

This week: Describe your fantasy garden.
At first I was slightly unsure what to write. How can I even begin to describe my fantasy garden? I would make a blog post so long, no one would ever put up with me long enough to get to the end of it. So what I've decided to write on is somewhat of a spin on the fantasy garden idea. It's basically what I'd do if I won the lottery (after I paid off my college tuition). What I'd love to do is take big, old, abandoned houses in whatever city I end up living in, and turn them into "Garden Houses"
The first step of this would be, of course, to reclaim the house, revive it so it's livable again. Revamp, refurbish, renew and make it something beautiful again. It wouldn't have to be perfect. Quirkiness is a virtue, in my opinion. And the whole point of the project would be for the house to be in an urban setting. Learning to garden in urban environments is, I think, something we're going to have to do a lot more of in the future. 
Next would come the fun part. Gardens everywhere. Gardens in the yard, gardens in window-boxes, hanging baskets off the house, a greenhouse in the back, seeds starting in a sunroom, potted plants inside. And the ultimate goal would be a place that would be able to have classes on sustainability, how to start a garden, how you can successfully feed your family from your garden. 
One idea that I've thought about is having upstairs rooms to rent out, preferably to gardeners, horticulturalists and horticulture students that would help with the management of the house. Another idea would be having a seasonal cafe or market which uses some of the produce from the gardens around the house (either to sell or put in cafe meals) to help raise money to help run the house. I'm no businesswoman so I'm not terribly sure if that idea would make any sort of money, but hey, this is just my fantasy. But mostly I just want to help people grow food, especially if fresh produce is not something they see often in their diets. 
The whole idea would be to take something old and forgotten, fix it up and make it into something full of life again and to spread that life into the neighborhood around it. It could be a center for community outreach, and help be a place groups could plan new gardens in the area and expand outward. I think any area of a city looks better with more green and I think it makes people feel better too. Maybe it's not the solution to all the problems some neighborhoods face, but it might make life just a little bit better.
So my fantasy garden is more of a fantasy project. And I'd probably need tons of money to make it happen without it being a huge risk. Regardless, this would be years and years in the future if I ever make it happen. Until then, it'll live happily in the corner of my brain where all my crazy ideas come from.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Belated Blog Birthday!

So this should have been posted yesterday, but, being my crazy self, I was never actually at home with access to a computer. I opted instead for an adventure across the city to see a movie and girls night with friends. But, it was indeed the one year anniversary of my blog's beginnings yesterday. In the year that followed March 30th, 2012, I've managed to go from thinking I'd take my life in the direction of English or politics, to discovering I can actually make a major/career out of plants, and then go from "potential horticulture major" to "declared horticulture major". I've also accumulated a good number of plants in that time period. Slightly crazy right?
I really want to thank all of you who've at least given my little blog a read or two in your weekly blog perusing. I'm not the most consistent of bloggers, but I always try to make time for it even when school is insane. So thank you to all of you who've kept up with me and left my a comment or two every so often. It's so nice to connect with other people who share a love for growing things.
On top of all this, I would like to wish you all a Happy Easter. I hope your holiday was joyful and sunny. :)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Conservatory Trip: Year Two

It's that time of year again! Today I bring you a massive pile of pictures from my trip to the Como Conservatory where they're putting on their spring flower show just in time for Easter. If there's one thing that never fails to make me overwhelmingly excited, it's a trip here.

Of course, the first thing you see when you walk in is the soaring glass ceilings of the palm dome. I love just standing and staring up at it until my neck gets sore. The place also has a fragrance that makes me wish you could bottle up air and keep it for a gloomy day. It just smells like plants and earth and life.

Underneath the dome.

We walked into the sunken garden and found that this year the color scheme was a gorgeous dark red and purple with dark pinks as well. The place was absolutely packed, even though it was almost time for the conservatory to close. There were lots of little kids too, probably off on spring break now. 

The spring flower show in the Sunken Garden.

I loved the dark pink of these tulips.

These lilies were slightly fuzzy!

Adorable crocuses.

The Calla Lily was probably my favorite flower of the whole show.


They never fail in having gorgeous ranunculus blooms.

Gorgeous double-petaled oriental lilies.

I loved the small magnolia trees. They had them in pots surrounded by ranunculus flowers.


Vibrant pink hydrangeas, some of which had light green centers.

I had fun messing around with editing techniques on my foxglove photos.

These orchids had roots that take nutrients from the air, as opposed to soil. So all the spiky things you see above the orchid are it's roots.
Colorful bromeliads.
I'll probably upload all of my pictures on my Google+ account sometime this week, so be on the lookout for that! Otherwise, I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend!