Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday morning wrap-up: Spring is lion time

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. That expression shows more wishful thinking than reality. In Wyoming, March comes in like a lion and goes out like another lion, or maybe the very same lion -- it's hard to say. March announced itself with snow and announces its end with more snow. This morning it's snowing like crazy in the western part of Wyoming -- and it's headed this way. The NWS has issued a winter storm warning for the Snowy Range which means that driving across Elk Mountain will be hazardous for my wife and her fellow travelers returning from a conference in Green River. I've written about I-80 before. Anyone who's traveled its tortuous miles between October and May can attest to its wintry bite. Even in the fall. Even in the spring. Lion time!

Still, the clock doesn't lie. Spring brings the launch of gardening season. April is the month for preparing the ground and sprouting seeds. May is planting time, although don't rush into it because we're still not free of frost and snow and biting winds. I ventured out to the annual Laramie County Home & Garden Show yesterday at the events center. The building was filled with more home than garden. The Laramie County Conservation District staffed a booth. I stopped and picked up a packet of wildflower seeds, a guide to pollinators and a recreation guide to the Upper Crow Creek Watershed. I didn't know about squash bees that specifically pollinate squash, pumpkins and melons. I will be on the lookout for them this summer. I also stopped by Gitty-Up & Grow, a business that sells raised bed and patio veggie planting gardens. Julie explained that she grew enough tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs in her in her 3-by-2-by-1-foot screened-in patio grower to keep her in homemade spaghetti sauce all summer and fall. Not bad. Look her up here. Most of the other booths offered services for landscaping, barn-building, home-building, sprinkler systems, etc. A grass-fed beef purveyor was doing a brisk business, as was the Tupperware booth nearby. I wasn't interested in most of it. Not that my home and yard don't need help. But I have gardening on my brain.

Wonder what old-time ranchers and farmers think about the grow-your-own-food craze? Millennials are jumping on the bandwagon. Some spend their summers volunteering at farms. Others start gardens on rooftops or vacant lots or even frontyards, which is going to cause apoplexy among some of their lawn-obsessed Boomer neighbors. Denver allows frontyard veggie gardens and proposes to amend its zoning code to allow yard sales of "uncut fruits and vegetables, whole eggs, and home-prepared food products such as jellies, jams, honey, teas, herbs, spices and some baked goods." Obviously some homeowners' associations will not go along with the trend. Property values! But what if you live in a hip neighborhood where keeping up with the Joneses involves lush tomato plants supplanting bluegrass.

Neighbor No. 1 (snidely): I see that you're mowing your grass again.
Neighbor No. 2 (defensively): What's it to you?
Neighbor No. 1 (grabs a purple heirloom tomato from his vine and bites into it): Want a bite?
Neighbor No. 2 (revving up his lawn tractor, pointing at his crotch): Bite this.

Another chapter in the culture wars. Some of us (even Boomers) will see foodscaping as an inalienable right, much like craft brews and artisanal doughnuts. Others will see it as another Agenda 21 plot. Neighborhoods will be grouped accordingly, thus giving us even fewer opportunities to interact with those we disagree with.

In Jackson, where a new company, Maiden Skis, is making artisanal skis and snowboards, there are plans for a greenhouse attached to the city parking garage. It's called Vertical Harvest:
The greenhouse will grow and sell locally grown vegetables to Jackson Hole restaurants, local grocery stores and directly to customers year-round, providing a stable, consistent source of produce at competitive prices. The site for the greenhouse is a currently unused 30’ x 150’ lot owned by the Town of Jackson on the southern edge of a public parking garage in the center of town.
Organizers plan to recruit people with special needs to work at Vertical Harvest. This combines the usual contemporary blend of an innovative project with "doing good." Plus Kickstarter. Sure, Jackson is the hip part of the state where stuff like this seems to spring out of the rocks. But this could be done anywhere. There's a proliferation of mini-greenhouses and high tunnels throughout the state. Bright Agrotech in Laramie makes nifty indoor growing towers that you can put in any sunny room. Creativity and a bit of chutzpah is all it takes. Not surprisingly, you usually find artists in the mix.

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