Years ago, while I was living in Denver, I met a garden farmer who had been working at it for ten years. She said she was "just starting to feel beyond beginner" and I laughed, thinking she was kidding. This year marks six years since I began learning about growing food and now I really understand what she was talking about. I am still very much a beginner, especially since it is just one year since I'm settled where I can really put down roots.
Some homesteading activities have been easier for me "practice" than others. I am regularly brewing kombucha, the red wriggler worms are happily reproducing while producing "black gold" castings (fertilizer), and the chickens - born in June - started laying mid December (first egg on my father's 92nd birthday - I gave it to him). Sometimes the biggest decision in my day is, when faced with my kitchen "waste," deciding whether to feed it to the worms, to the chickens, or to the bacteria in the compost pile.
But it doesn't all come easy and natural for me. I haven't yet installed my rain barrels and, believe it or not, the one area that has been the hardest for me to get into is the veggie growing. I would rate my intrinsic motivation - the level at which from my gut I really want to do it - as medium. But while I am not drawn to "being in the garden" with hands in the dirt as some people are, I have a strong commitment know how to grow food. The thing is, when it comes to organic garden farming, the only way to Know is to Do.
Problem analysis being my fallback m.o., I went to work to figure out how to help myself get motivated. I determined that one big obstacle for me is that there are so many variables, I continually have to ask myself "What should I be doing this week?" and without knowing the answer, I start browsing and surfing and find all kinds of links and advice. But information out in Webland wasn't helping me "do." What I needed was a guide or a To Do list - someone or something to tell me what's next. I am so mindful about so many things and yet I yearn for Mindless Gardening.
Not finding exactly what I needed online, I decided to make my own. Using resources such The Week-by-Week Vegetables Gardener's Handbook, Mother Earth News, and Eliot Coleman's books on year-round organic gardening, I have started developing a week-by-week calendar to answer the question "What should I be doing this week?"  It is anchored by our anticipated last frost date and integrated with green labels into the calendar on my iPad mini. I have set it to "repeat every year." I am looking into how I can share it.
February and March are big months if you want to grow your own veggies from seeds. It is actually way easier than you think, especially if you have a reminder each week about what you should be doing. If you want some help getting started, The Home Grown Institute is offering an Up Close & Personal workshop on February 24 focused on starting plants from seed. And it comes with perks - in addition to checking out the chickens and worms and new backyard sized green house we just built (see photo), you get to take home your own kombucha SCOBY, and can be part of the beta test for the Mindless Gardening calendar share. For more info, visit
Sarah Gabriel is the managing Director of The Home Grown Institute and is evolving her own homestead as a small demonstration site. Mushrooms are up next.
Get Motivated with Mindless Gardening
Monday, January 7, 2013