So You Want to Be a Homesteader- Day 1- Gardening

Growing food is going to top our list of homesteading activities.  There is nothing quite like walking outside to the gardens with a basket in hand, clipping this and that for supper.  Seeing the plethora of tomatoes hanging heavy from the vine or crisp salad greens in various colors.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

You don’t need a large plot of land to garden.  Don’t think FARM quite yet.  Growing for excess is the goal, but it should be the goal for preserving for your own use, not to sell.  Take care of your people first before getting into a farming operation.  I think of all of the vegetables I sold for near nothing and realize that I could have used those on our own dinner table.  Later down the line, if you are feeling pretty good about the whole a crop, then designate an area, but for homesteading purposes, we are only thinking of providing for ourselves and those close to us.

Grow as many varieties as possible.  If one crop fails, you still have plenty of other choices.  And for a homestead, variety is the spice of life.  Tomatoes, peppers, green beans, for sure, but also potatoes, onions, garlic, ice burg lettuce, and lots of herbs!

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Grow perennials.  A good homestead has a food forest in the works.  Crops like Jerusalem artichokes, sorrel, and fruit bushes and vines will feed you without too much prodding year after year.

Don’t forget wild foods.  Leave a big patch of dandelions in the garden for salads and smoothies.  Mulberries will be raining down soon here.  Leaves of dock and mallow are highly nutritious.

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A ginger plant in the kitchen.

You can grow food anywhere.  You can grow a tomato in a pot in the south window over the winter.  You can use window boxes, pots from a garage sale, or the front yard.  You can garden in a rental or on your own land.  It is always worth it to garden, even if you know you will move.  Community gardens, friend’s houses, wherever you can get your fingers in the soil.

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Grow food all together.  Maybe when we get a lot of land I will give in and plant in rows, but right now seeds go everywhere in the garden beds.  They grow together snug and fill our kitchen counters with ease.  Extra seeds get added to beds.  One more tomato plant.  As long as they have the space they need to grow, they are fine.  I keep foods you might eat together, together.  The three sisters- corn, squash, and beans- grow beautifully.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil grow together.  Lettuces among green beans.  Pumpkins everywhere!

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You don’t need to overhaul all the soil.  I have given you many techniques over the years to garden easily and on the cheap.  Start today by digging a little trench across an area.  Sprinkle a handful of bagged soil across the five inch deep trench.  Now put some seeds down then cover with organic gardening soil.  Water every day.  Done.

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A row of corn, sunflowers, pinto beans, and watermelon hide in this trench in the middle of weeds in rocky soil.

Growing your own produce is really, really important.  Up north of Pueblo the farmer’s markets are filled with vegetables that were not grown in Colorado.  No one has figured that out because we have totally lost sense of what grows when.  Think about where your produce trucks in from, how much gas went into it.  From South America to California, that out of season peach is costing us health and the environment.  You can grow lettuce in the kitchen window for goodness sake.  Yes, gardening is at the top of our list for homesteading!

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Growing Comfrey (and all its benefits)

 

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I have great friends who let me learn from them and dig up their yards.  Sandy let me come over and dig up another comfrey plant because the garden center didn’t have them in yet at the time.  I dug around the base in a wide girth so that the plant didn’t know it was going anywhere.  I plopped the whole mass into a three gallon bucket and off he went.  I had joked with Sandy that I was going to plant it in the community garden.  She questioned my morals.  Comfrey will spread everywhere y’all, and you won’t have friends at the garden if you do that.  It stayed on my balcony and is thriving in its bucket!  I will get it in new cushy digs today so that it can spread out at its leisure and the tap root can get nice and long.  I have a great love affair with comfrey.

There was a study done in the seventies with a very small handful of people who all had liver issues.  The study concluded that comfrey harmed the liver.  Now, anytime I hear “studies prove” I question, who put on the study?  (Big pharma in this case) How many participants? (12)  Why would this plant not be recommended by the FDA? (It kills cancer.  Quick.) hmm.

The variety we use isn’t even the same one that was viewed in the study (still not recommended by the FDA), this is a hybridized version but its benefits are still there and continue to astound me as a plant medicine healer.

#1 It can kill cancer, inside and out.

#2 It can heal up broken bones (even severe) in two weeks.  It is stellar when it comes to healing the skeletal system.  Ligaments, bones, muscles, and tendons respond to the healing properties of comfrey very quickly.

#3 It is a garden hero.  In my permaculture class it was a major highlight in gardens.  The tap root aerates the soil, the large leaves can be cut and placed under large plants to add nutrients to the soil and to smother weeds.  My friend, Lisa, sent me an article on turning the comfrey into liquid fertilizer.

So many amazing uses, one unsuspecting plant.

How to Make a Topical Cancer Oil

Combine in a half pint jar 1 part dried comfrey, 1 part dried red clover to 3 parts olive oil.  Loosely add lid and place in sun for two weeks.  Add a teaspoon of frankincense essential oil.  No need to strain.  Shake well.  Apply to suspicious or known spots twice daily.  This oil can be applied to abrasions, bug bites, sunburn, any skin issue for quick relief!  Label and store in the cupboard.  Stays good for over a year.

(I wrote another article on comfrey three years ago.  Click here to read!)

 

 

The Balcony Garden

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I love that seeds want to grow.  That Mother Nature is so efficient and that life wants to be.  That one could plant corn seeds in a five gallon bucket and it will grow.  I love the option to farm in pots.

I feel so blessed and so happy when I am digging in the soil of the community garden.  A place of therapeutic bliss while in between farms.  I know that I can grow in pots as well.  My balcony garden is a place of respite.  I opted to grow more herbs and flowers than vegetables because I have the three plots at the gardens.  I did include a raspberry shoot I rescued, and transplanted sunchokes, which are doing great.  A rose garden adorns my third floor balcony.  Roses are so easy to grow in Colorado.  We have few pests and it loves an east or west facing balcony or garden spot.  I had a vision while we were in California of the rose garden I needed to create.  I have roses growing in the community garden as well as home.

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The six year old geraniums left the shop (against their will) and have joined the balcony.  They think it’s autumn presently, for the nights are so cool, but they will flourish.

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Pots of herbs, and petunias, and lavender, stinging nettles, and the poinsettia from Christmas line the walk and new table.  Bird feeders and a saucer of water entice the birds (when the kitties aren’t around).  I am planting tall sunflowers in each pot to create an enchanting privacy fence.

This is the perfect space for morning cups of coffee and writing.  For lunches alfresco with Maryjane.  For dinners with friends and laughs, the view of the mountains beyond.  It is a nice balcony farm indeed.  Just goes to show, one can grow anywhere!

The Portable Garden

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I have written about gardening in pots before.  I love them and I know how handy they can be.  A half bag of potting soil, a reclaimed three or five gallon bucket (they give them away for free at the bakery counter in grocery stores) with a few holes drilled in the bottom, and a packet of seeds is all you need.

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The sides protect the seeds from being blown away.  Birds and other seed lovers don’t seem to find the loose seeds in a pot.  Water each day if dry a few inches down.  When our friend called and warned us about the hail storm’s imminent arrival we were able to cover the pots.  They were the only thing not shredded!  They could have been brought inside if necessary!  They can be moved into more sun, less sun, or indoors for winter.  Shyanne and I enjoyed a delicious salad for lunch the other day of fresh oak leaf, baby kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and radishes.  A moveable feast!

Moving the Farm Indoors

The farm has moved indoors.  Just in the nick of time, I might add.

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I cleaned up pots from the porch, removed the sunflowers the birds planted, and separated and replanted as needed.  I bought six tomato starts, two pepper starts, and a basil plant from a gal at the farmer’s market.  Actually ended up bartering for it. (Homesteading money!)  I planted them in large containers so they had plenty of root space to use up during the winter.

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The rosemary plant is three or four years old now and tastes better than ever.  The petunias I got from the store on clearance last fall for a few dollars are still doing great in the pots.  I brought in all the herbs I keep in pots; St. John’s Wort, purple basil, oregano, chives, chamomile, sage, thyme, and more.  They will overwinter in the south window.  The tomatoes will shoot up and give us fresh tomatoes in the cold of winter, as will the peppers.

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The geraniums came in as well.  By overwintering them in the house, the monsters are ginormous!  They are a year and a half old and loving their life in the tropics.

I will be picking up potting soil today and planting a bed, I mean a pot, of lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard, which is particularly yummy when you don’t expect to have any!

I used to let my pots die outdoors along with everything else in the garden at the end of the season.  I would repot them the next year with annuals.  This was the seemingly normal thing to do.  I had read about storing dormant geraniums in the garage over winter and bringing them back to life in the spring but never got around to it.

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I thought I had to have a greenhouse, or at the very least, a cold frame, to make the season last longer.  I bought a grow light but can’t fit enough under it to warrant it useful.  So, last winter I placed everything in the south window. (Check out my post here)  It did amazing!  The plants loved the sunny winter light and the warmth from the room.  They thought they were vacationing in Hawaii and rewarded me with fresh herbs, greens, and tomatoes all winter long.  Doug grew fodder for the chickens in another window.  By the end of the winter, there are aphids and everything is looking a little sad for spring (much like myself…except the aphids part…) and wants to go back on the porch.  Which is where they end up all summer and into fall.  But, now they are tucked in for winter.

The morning after I moved the pots in, we awoke to a glistening wonderland where Jack Frost had designed his masterpiece upon windows and pumpkin leaves.  Intricate designs left us oohing and ahhing on our way out to the farmer’s market.  Of course, when we came back home the leaves were black and the garden shriveled.  The plants indoors were as happy as cats in a window.

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I have never been much for indoor plants.  The gaudy green leaves taking over everything and the spiny plants meant to be indoors have never appealed to me.  I know they keep the air oxygenated and lovely.  They just never looked attractive to me.  But here, with a veritable garden spread out in the living room, I am happy with plants and flowers everywhere.  One day I will have a greenhouse but for now, I have a south facing window, and that works for me.