Thursday, August 18, 2011


I am fairly new to this "homesteading" began last winter for me.  When we moved out here to the country three years ago, I didn't know that is what we were doing...but now I am hooked.

Gardening has always been fun for me - therapeutic.  I learned about gardening from my maternal grandmother.  They had a one acre corner lot in a subdivision, but she was always outside tending to her flowers and shrubs, and the small vegetable patch she had in the backyard by the patio surrounding their inground pool.  I was just a kid, so I didn't pay too much attention to the finer points...but it stuck with me.  When I moved out on my own, I lived in a tiny mobile home in a mobile home park on a tiny corner lot.  No room for a vegetable garden, but I did surround the front of the house with lots of flowers and shrubs.  People would actually stop and tell me how pretty they all were if they were taking a walk by.  When I moved out to NM, we lived in an apartment, but I still had to do SOMETHING garden related.  So I planted some flowers and a cherry tomato plant in pots on the balcony.

When we moved to NC and finally had a house with a backyard, I was able to have a small vegetable garden in some raised beds that my husband (boyfriend at the time) built for me.  And I went CRAZY planting all manner of flowers and shrubs all around the house.  My sunflowers grew over my head - so big in fact, that I could not cut them down after the season was done with my pruners....I needed a saw!  My roses grew big and gardenias geraniums and snapdragons seeded themselves and kept coming back every year...I loved it.

Then we moved out to the country, to ten virgin acres covered with trees.  Perfect - I thought to myself - a blank canvas!!  Little, by little, I started planting things....roses, mums, daffodils...then I found new things like goose-neck loosestrife...foxglove...columbine...which led to more gardenias, dahlias, bleeding hearts, black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, azaleas.  Most of these are still doing very well...the foxglove did not come back this year though...and I have not been able to get the columbine to come back either....and the dahlias struggled last year and gave up this year...but overall, I am happy with my flowers and shrubs.

Enter the vegetable garden.

The first year, we didn't have one - we moved here the beginning of July, too late to start.  The following year, I was determined to grow fresh vegetables for my family to eat during the warmer months.  I staked out my plot - 5 X 20.  My future SIL and I turned the soil (ie., CLAY), my husband rototilled it into smaller chunks, we added peat and compost and dirt (you know, the dark stuff!!).  I planted all my seeds and stood back to announce I was finished planting.....and I saw a river running through the middle of the plot.  The inflatable pool we were filling apparently was not as level as we thought and one side caved in and let loose a waterfall....right through my freshly seeded garden plot!!  I could have sat down and cried....I had a few seeds left over so I did my best to fill in the soggy blank spots and hoped for the best.  Which did not materialize.  It was so hot that the only thing that grew in abundance were weeds.  We managed to get a few beans and a couple tomatoes and that was that.

Summer #2 - I asked my husband to make me some raised beds to avoid runoff when it rained heavily (or when the pool collapsed) so he did.  This also gave us the opportunity to put more dark dirt in there than we could ever hope to till into the clay in the ground plot.  I planted my seeds, and we also planted some transplants from a local nursery (just in case).  Then we had a couple of trips we needed to take for family weddings that spanned from Buffalo, NY to Key West, FL on back-to-back weekends...the kids did not water as well as we had hoped they would so needless to say, we did not get much out of that garden either.  We got a little more than the previous year, but not what I had hoped I asked my husband to build a greenhouse over the raised beds so we could get an earlier start....and (this is one reason I love him so much) he did.

Summer #3 - this summer...I was able to begin planting the end of January - which helped my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) immensely!  Things started coming up all green and beautiful!  I even planted some things I had never planted before - carrots, onions and garlic.  I don't like carrots, but my husband does.  The onion tops died and fell over and when I pulled them out, they were only marginally larger than when I planted the sets.  The garlic didn't get bigger either (although I did use a store bought garlic bulb).  The carrots didn't get very long - now I know I have to "fluff" the soil much deeper for them.  We got a little bit of lettuce, but it got too hot and it bolted....the broccoli looked promising, then it bolted.  We did get about 1/2 pound of red new potatoes (YUM) and one yellow squash so far....we have been getting a cucumber about every 3 to 4 days now for a couple of weeks and just enough tomatoes to have some chopped tomatoes and cucumbers for dinner with a enough left over to have for lunch the next day.  The peppers have just started blooming, so I am hoping to get some in the next few weeks.

So, step by little step, we are getting there.  I am very proud of one thing this year - everything in the garden was planted by seed directly into the beds and they grew.  That is a major accomplishment for me - no seed starting indoors (can't get past the damping off), no nursery transplants...I just wish we could grow enough to save it for later use - you know, enough to can something!!  But we will get there.

The thing that prompted this whole thought process, and post, is the current book I am reading.  "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am sure most, if not all, of you have already read it - remember, I am a homesteading newbie!!!  I found it amazing what they were able to do in one year - and even their children got involved!!  I am in awe...

There is nothing I would like better than to quit my job and do this homesteading stuff full time.  But that is not practical, so all I can do is take it in pieces...add a little here and there....over the winter, I learned to make my own butter, and bake bread.  Two things I never even thought to try myself.  Then we added the vegetable garden....we are getting there.  In the spring, we planted blueberry bushes and added chickens to the mix.  I am not sure what the next step will be....a pig maybe?  We are extremely fond of all things pork :-)

I think a "thank you" is in order to all of you for cheering me on, commiserating with me, and letting me share in your successes and failures.  You are all an inspiration to me and you keep me on the right track every time I think I have gone batty and should step off this homestead train. 

P.S.  STILL no eggs....but I keep hoping :-)

1 comment:

The Apple Pie Gal said...

As I was reading along, I thought "Gee, I wonder if she has eggs yet!?" Errr! They will come!

So I have to say that you are doing an amazing job! Sometimes the trial and errors teach us more than anything in a book. Which by the way, I have NOT read that see - you really do have things to share and I thank you for that!

I can not believe your pool washed your seeds out! So sorry, but I had to laugh. Oh how ticked you had to be!

This was an awesome story to share! I enjoyed it!