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!

20190528_120804

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.

20190528_121204

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.

20190528_120641

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!

20190528_120708

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.

20190528_114005

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!

20190528_120646

Pick Your Patience (a lesson in seeds)

DSC_4895

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, yesterday and today are the opportune moments to plant root crops.  My potatoes aren’t here yet, but plenty of seed packets awaited.  Carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets, onions, and cloves of garlic were pressed gently into a half inch ravine of roughed up soil and soft, organic garden soil covered the precious seeds.

The most beautiful invention in all the world might be pelleted seeds.  My, how lovely, how easy, to finger each clay pellet holding a single seed and place them precisely one and a half inches apart (give or take a millimeter).

But some of the seeds don’t have such a luxury.  Tiny fragments of what will become food threaten to fall out of my hand in great clumps due to my impatience.  I have found that later in the season I will never thin plants.  I start looking at the great plants all together and wonder in which direction do I start?  Which plants are doomed?  How long will this take me?  And I leave them, only to harvest micro thin carrots and nonexistent beets come fall.  So, I must pick my patience.  This year, I chose to have the eternally sought over virtue during planting.  I listened to a lecture on my headphones and carefully knelt over the ravines.  One seed.  One-ish inch.  One seed.  All the way down the rows.  And, oh how I rejoiced in this!  I am one step closer to inner peace and I will not have to thin plants this year.  Placing the seeds one by one in their distinct rows and spacing was not as hard as it seemed.

DSC_4907

The yard has been separated into Italy, China, England, Ireland, and the Americas.  Ireland is in rainbows with enough room for a mower.  It’s all shaping up rather beautifully.  This climate!  However did this enchanted city escape my search when looking for the perfect place to live and farm?

DSC_4900

Extreme Homesteading (high altitude, freedom, and yoga with frogs)

mountain

Homesteading has become so much more than a lifestyle for us, it has become a part of our very being.  There are apartments with lush carpet and furnaces awaiting, city streets to catch buses on, and jobs that offer weekly paychecks.  Parts of that we miss but not enough to hightail back to it.  When faced with absolute obstacles (such as out of ideas to bring in cash) we just try to pick up a few odd jobs or cut another expense.  We are almost out of expenses to cut.  Which leads us to dreaming about setting up sheds in a mini-village and living there rent free!  We dream of living in warmer places where that would be possible.  High altitude homesteading is not for the meek.  Everything from baking bread, canning, to growing vegetables takes longer and one must know the tricks to succeed at these things.  (A reason I hope my homesteading school will take off!)  So goodness, gracious, why have we actually chosen to live this way?

Papa and baby too

What better way to live than to live fully?  We do that every day when we greet the sunrise, when we start the wood stove if needed, when we brew the coffee in the French press and transfer it to a thermos.  When I can sit down and write until the kids shuffle off to work and breakfast is to be made.  Our granddaughter to be dressed.  Doug goes and milks the goat and feeds the animals.  Sometimes Maryjane and I help with chores.  She gathers eggs, helps feed, and pets the sheep.  We check on the ducks and feed the cats.  We strain the milk, pour some of the fresh cream into coffee, and put it in the fridge to cool.

Maryjane had her two large horse toys set up and was milking them last night.  She had me hold one of them so it wouldn’t kick.  Then she pretended to make cheese.  A homesteader at heart, this little girl is picking up so many skills and she is only two!

sun

I do yoga while looking out across the meadows while an owl looks on from the old willow.  Meditation comes easy with the frogs chirping from the pond.  I place laundry on the line, read books, prepare lunch, straighten the house.  Today we prepare for our first farmer’s market tomorrow.  My book signing is Saturday.  Classes on Sunday.  I play the guitar under the cottonwood.  Maryjane plays in the dirt.

The girls come home from work and we have dinner or sometimes it is just me and Doug.  We play cards, talk, read, write, pray, enjoy the sweetness of home.  We worry, we plan, we pray, we hope.  We make tea.

This year we will try to cut our grocery bill even more by growing, bartering, raising, preserving, and preparing all our own food and drinks.  Our own herbs for cooking and medicine.  We will gather all our own firewood.  I will improve my sewing skills.  We will make our own gifts.  Doug will continue to learn how to build and repair.  We will continue to release what we don’t need, learn to produce what we do.  Maintain our freedom, bask in the pride of a job well done, and live more self-reliantly than ever before.

So why do we work towards extreme homesteading?  Because after the oil lamps are blown out at night and we snuggle into bed, and see the stars through our window, we know there is no other life we want to lead.

Ducks and Mushrooms (not a recipe!)

IMG_3680

The ducks are two weeks old.  They are growing quickly but are still adorable.  They look a bit awkward with their feathers starting to come in; like some strange skin disease is starting to take over.  I love how they don’t look straight up; they tilt their head and look up at me with one eye.  As if they are trying to figure something out or they are highly suspicious of me.

IMG_1004

They live in a swamp.  I tell you, people, no matter how many times I change their bedding it becomes a swamp in moments.  They can empty an entire waterer in no time at all from all their splashing and being rambunctious.  I wake to their constant chattering and their playful sounds as water splashes.  Then the next moment they will be curled up in one ball the size of a kitten sleeping peacefully beneath the red light.  It is endearing.

Soon they will be outdoors in their new coop.  The light will stay with them for four more weeks.  Our neighbors are adamant that they can go out now, that they are quite hardy.  I am more afraid of their cat coming by to have a snack.  I wonder how the ducks will react to the wild ducks in the pond.

For right now they are indoors, tucked away in their anti-cat fortress warm and happy.

IMG_1006

I took a class three weeks ago on growing mushrooms.  The endless supplies of boxed ones from the store were not yielding anything and I am clueless at identifying mushrooms in the wild.  This class would be my first step into the fascinating world of mycology.  I will do a more complete article on this soon.  What I learned in a nutshell was that the fabulous teacher heated straw in a pot to a certain temperature, added wheat that had been taken over by the mushroom spores, and we packed it into bread bags.  The instructions were to keep it around 65 degrees for three weeks.

IMG_1005

65 degrees?  I scoffed to myself.  My homestead hasn’t been that warm yet!  Inside the house it registered 55 degrees.  I moved it to the greenhouse.  55 degrees and a mouse took a bite out of the corner.  He apparently didn’t care for the flavor because he didn’t stick around.  Back inside aimlessly searching for anywhere warm, I looked over at the ducklings.  Next to the duck nursery we put the box holding the spores.  Tucked in next to the warm fowl and near the red lamp, it is perfect.  And the mycelium is spreading all over the straw.  This week it will move to the counter and will try to fruit.  I cannot wait to explain this magical world of mushrooms, much bigger than having slimy mushrooms on your pizza, mushrooms are needed for our very survival!

In the meantime, though, I am going to dream of oyster mushrooms growing indoors….and parmesan and pasta…but not with duck!

The Art of the Cold Frame

IMG_0436

In this lifestyle bartering is a way of life and I was happy to trade an herbalist class for help moving and a homebuilt cold frame.  My friends built this beautiful wooden structure with windows that open and screens.  It is made from old barn wood and even has an old Christian fish symbol burnt onto a board.

IMG_0437

I was concerned that even at the height of day the entire box was not bathed in light.  The southern half was in the shade all day.  It is built so that the back is higher than the front.  The clever builder believed it would still work and indeed it did!  Pots lushly filled with peas, collards, chard, and kale and then promptly died.  The first real freeze came along and froze every bit of life out of them.

‘When the heck do you use the cold frame then?’ I wondered.  It extended the season until the end of October.  We did have that unusual cold snap (A bit of an understatement seeings how it was twenty-two below zero!) at the beginning of November.  Perhaps it would have survived longer in the average late autumn.

IMG_0939

This spring I was ready though.  I didn’t do it too early.  A few weeks ago I planted tons of pots of cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, and Chinese onions and placed them in the cold frame as an experiment.  Most things have germinated and are growing well.  Not as fast as last autumn’s batch but certainly the temperature is right for germinating.  The tomatoes have not come up yet but the ones in the greenhouse are a bit slow as well.

IMG_0938

A very cold night last week prompted me to take action.  I piled bags of soil up around the cold frame (I bet bales of straw would work too) and placed a blanket on top.  Everything is still growing.

IMG_0940

I am still experimenting with this new medium to extend the season but I think it could potentially bring greens and other delicious foods to the table later and earlier than expected.  It is doing a fine job of holding my seed starts as well.

IMG_0439

Remember that in any situation when starting seeds one must keep the soil moist until the plants come up.  They cannot germinate in dry soil!  Don’t overwater seedlings or they will dampen off, which is sad.  Check every other day to see if the top 1/2 inch is dry.  If so, give a sip!  When the plants are trying to germinate they like the hot, humid space but when they get to be plants open the windows of the cold frame on really warm days to let air through.

Plant what you love to eat and watch it grow!

What Is A Homestead and Why Is It So Important To Be Self Reliant?

homestead

“What is a homestead?” my friend asked.  The question threw me off guard, cause, geez, everyone knows what a homestead is.  It’s uh….you know…a place where…I decided to consult the dictionary.

homestead

[hohm-sted, -stid] /ˈhoʊm stɛd, -stɪd/   
noun
1.

a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.
2.

any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.
3.

a tract of land acquired under the Homestead Act.
4.

a house in an urban area acquired under a homesteading program.
verb (used with object)
5.

to acquire or settle on (land) as a homestead:

Pioneers homesteaded the valley.
verb (used without object)
6.

to acquire or settle on a homestead:

They homesteaded many years ago.
 cropped-img_0445.jpg
And that, my friends, did not help me either because, frankly, I don’t own anything.  I do not get to keep this land no matter how much I work it (unless I come into a vast amount of money!) and the second definition pretty well means any house in the suburbs is a homestead!  So, what really is a homestead?  What is homesteading?
 homestead 2
The best way to answer this is to look at the general consensus.  I have many friends who are what we would consider homesteaders.  A homestead is a place where one tries to become more self sufficient.  I wonder why that it is not in the dictionary.  Still rather vague.  Can an apartment with a balcony of vegetables be considered a homestead?  Can a house in the city with a few chickens and a garden be considered a homestead?  Certainly a place in the country with a large garden, goats, chickens, sheep, and cows is considered a homestead, right?  I suppose everyone would answer this question differently.  So, here is homesteading to me.
SAM_0049
A homestead is a respite, a home with land to be able to succeed at becoming more self-sufficient.  This place can be rented or bought.  This place provides a basis for producing what one needs to live.  So, homesteading is the verb here where one works to become less reliant on modern society and more secure in their own home as opposed to spending more time working outside the home and relying on utility providers, grocery stores, et cetera for their needs.  It is possible that this could take a lifetime.  But it is worth the effort.
 IMG_2831
I often hear the argument that it is impossible to be self-sufficient.  I suppose that depends on your definition.  Would you consider the Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” self-sufficient?  I bet you would.  They did go to the general store at times to pick up flour, and cornmeal, sugar, and a bit of candy plus some fabric.  The question would be, if the store was not available, would they be alright?  The answer would be yes.  They would be alright, at least for a time.  Would you consider the Amish self-reliant?  I bet you would say yes.  The home I visited of an Amish family last year was very simple.  They had food stored in a makeshift root cellar (like mine), shelves of beautifully colored jars of produce (like mine), enough wood to get through winter (like us), and propane to light their house, run their stove, refrigerator, and sewing machine.  That is what threw me off!  We use propane to help offset the heat and to run the refrigerator.  It is very expensive and is getting quite nerve-rackingly low.  Are we self reliant?  Not yet, in my book.
 IMG_0065
Why is it important?  I mean, really, what is the big deal?  A lot of folks are not really ready to give up their luxuries.  Our bathroom was 35 degrees this morning.  This is not for the faint of heart.  My bottom is still cold.  But, it’s important to me to become self reliant for two reasons.
 IMG_0443
One: working for other people is too uncertain.  We make our own business, our own crafts, our own classes, and yes we have to have faith that folks will buy or sign up, but we control our destiny and our mornings.  The more we have to be away from the house working for someone else, the less we can do here, so the less self reliant we are.  We must make our living off of our homestead.  Our living is a lot different than what it was ten years ago.  To us a living was over $55,000 with a mortgage, car payments, utilities, food prices, gas prices, and all the other things we “needed”.  Now our living is around $24,000 if we want to be comfortable with wood, homegrown food, fish, necessary items for our business, gas, rent, and animal feed.  That is the first thing folks that want to homestead must realize.  Be prepared to live on less.  There is much to be done at the house.  Canning, home business, chopping wood, year round growing of plants, animal care,  But there is nothing sweeter than not worrying about where your next meal will come from and never sitting in a cubicle again.
 IMG_2784
The second reason it is so important to me to become self reliant is because I need to be able to take care of us and our children if necessary in an emergency.  This could be a wide spread power outage or blizzard, or I often have dreams that there will be a war here.  As much as that scares the heck out of me, I would rather have a house full of necessities and not be wondering how I would get to the grocery store or if we were going to freeze to death.  I do not know if folks realize the folly in relying on large companies for your necessities.  If it all came down to the wire, they don’t give a hoot about your family and it would be quite wise to have a way to access water, heat, food, clothing, and protection.
 stove
Each year we do a homestead checklist and see what we need to do to become more self reliant.  Realize that I do not think that solar panels and their non-decomposing batteries, or wind power with its bird and bat killing capabilities are the answer.  Living with less reliance on oil and gas is our goal.
IMG_0505
  • We have a wood cooktop/propane oven.  A homesteader’s dream?  Yes.  But, I do not want to rely on propane and the small wood compartment does not do much to heat this house.  44 degrees in the living room is just a bit too freaking cold for me.  Our stove can be cooked on, heat a small portion of the house, could heat water if necessary, and is great, however, this year we will secure (somehow) a real wood cook stove that will sit in the living room that I can bake and cook on plus heat the rest of the house.

 

  • Since we stopped eating meat I was able to clear out an entire freezer.  The remaining refrigerator/freezer holds milk, fish, cheese, condiments, and vegetables.  Can one can fish?  Can I can all the vegetables/fruits next year?  How would we keep the milk cold?  Particularly when milking starts again.  I need an ice house.  The back bedroom would seriously serve as a fridge right now though!  We really need that other wood stove.

 

  • We have several wells on the property.  We have a tiny bit of water saved in canning jars, but is there a way to access the wells without electricity?  We are also incorporating a water harvest system this year.

 

  • I have a hand washing unit for laundry and a great clothes line plus a huge drying rack for inside if the electricity went out.  (We haven’t used in a dryer in seven years.) We could live without the television and internet if he had too.

 

  • I grew about a third of the items we preserved this year.  I would like to grow sixty percent this year and plant several fruit and nut trees and berry bushes.  I would also like to try my hand at growing mushrooms.  I will incorporate container gardening, cold frames, and our garden plot to grow everything we love to eat.  I would like to get a green house as well.  That would really boost our production.

 

  • I am kicking myself, y’all, for selling my spinning wheel!  I would like to get sheep and work on spinning again.  I would like to learn to knit this year and make us some fabulous sweaters and socks.  There is so much discarded fabric out there. I have tons myself.  I would like to increase my sewing skills so that I can make more of our clothes.

 

  • We would like to make the fences more secure this year so that we can let the animals graze on the ten acres.  That would cut down on how much hay they need.

 

  • I need to find a way to advertise and promote my classes so that we can pay for things like gas and car insurance, grains, animal feed, things like that.

 

  • We will start cutting our own wood and collecting wood this year instead of paying so much to have cords delivered.

land

Well, I am sure there is more, but that is a good start and each year we get closer and closer to being self reliant.  Maybe that is the answer.  Maybe self-sufficient and self-reliant are two different things.  Either way, there is a great feeling of accomplishment and inner peace while performing simple tasks and caring for those you love on your own homestead.

Wishing you a prosperous and peaceful homestead this coming year!

City vs. Country Farming (which is best?)

There are a lot of pros and cons to farming in the city and the country.  As renters who farm, we are always trying to weigh which is better.  Right now we live in a small town.  We have close neighbors and city ordinances but also have the problems of farming in the country!  Here’s a look at the pros and cons of farming in the city verses the country so that you can decide where to set up shop, or just be happy where you are at!

city garden

Top Three Reasons to Farm in the City

1. Less predators.

Colorado Springs just passed an ordinance that allows goats!  Denver allows goats too.  Chickens are allowed in more cities now.  More and more cities are getting on board with the homesteading movement.  With chickens, one gets predators.  In the city, there may be the occasional coyote running through, but nothing quite like what you get in the country.  Chickens and other animals are generally safe in the back yard of a city lot from foxes, coyotes, and hawks.

2. Less pests.

We have a terrible vole problem right now.  How the heck do you get rid of these dudes?  Every  morning there is a new mound of soil pushed up over the grass and many vegetables in its path simply disappeared.  Pulled straight through the ground to unknown tunnels feeding sumptuous parties of voles somewhere down below.  Ticks me off.  I was not even invited.

The primary pest in the city is squirrels, which really cannot do the damage to a garden that a bunch of hungry deer, tunneling voles, and smiling rabbits can do.

3. Wiser garden planning.

You know when you read a menu that has so many good options you don’t know where to start?  That is how farming in the country is.  In the city you start in the back yard, maybe the front, or with pots all over the deck.  One can get creative with intense planting techniques and make a fabulous urban garden right at home.

farm

Top Three Reasons to Farm in the Country

1. Less ordinances.

The HOA is the enemy of homesteaders and gardeners.  Cities make rules, I swear, just to have something to do.  Out in the country, no one cares, or no one can see!  Either way, don’t ask, don’t tell! If you want to have sixteen goats and twenty five chickens and dig up every square inch for a garden that isn’t pasture, so be it.  Freedom is a lovely thing.

2. More space.

The flip side of the intensive gardening is that it would be nice to have lots of space to grow food.  One could grow wheat, or hay, lots more vegetables, an orchard, and still have room for sixteen goats.

3. The ability to be more self sufficient.

A well makes one more self sufficient.  Not being subject to city water is gold.  Being able to stick up solar panels, or go totally off grid, is an option.  Being able to supply nearly all of one’s family’s food needs is indeed a plus to living in the country.

SAM_0799

Top Three Things We All Have in Common

1. The weather.

The rain, golf ball sized hail, and tornados hit Denver hard this week.  We got a scant three drops of rain.  We could easily have received the brunt of the storm.  Mother Nature is a beast no matter where one lives.

2. Community.

Whether it be a small town of like minded folks or friendly neighbors who want to learn how to grow tomatoes, one can find support, family, and solace in the community around them.

3. Dirt.

Potting soil counts.  Dirt can be found anywhere and if there is dirt, there is life and vegetables!

god made a farmer

There are pros and cons to either place one wants to live.  The key is making the most of where we are planted at the moment!

 

Moving the Farm Indoors

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

SAM_0054

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.

SAM_0055

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.

SAM_0058

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.

SAM_0056

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.

SAM_0057

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.

Vegetables Playing Nice

We hear about companion planting often; combine plants together that are beneficial.  Sometimes they flag down good bugs or bees for pollination, or sometimes they repel insects that enjoy eating their companion.  They like each other.  Basil and tomatoes.  Potatoes and greens.  Corn and squash.  All good friends.  I do companion plant but I do more than that.  Even if I did have a zillion acres, I wouldn’t mono-crop.  Meaning long rows of one plant.  I know in commercial farming that it is considerably easier than digging out the cabbage from the lush onion tops, but I will probably never be that big!  Furthermore, even though I don’t want to mono-crop, I do some companion planting, my real reason for growing plants all together in the same space is…well, space!

3 sisters

Now that we are trying to provide most of our own food and do some market growing, the corn can not leisurely take up all that space.  It best share.  There is a full foot between the stalks.  Squash and melon plants can be meandering around down there keeping weeds down.  There is also room for some beans to climb up the corn stalk. (Sounds like a nursery rhyme!)  This, of course, creates what is known as the Three Sisters, the Native American form of gardening.  Yes, they are beneficial plants for each other but they also save on space.

debs pic2

Any blank few inches of dirt gets spinach, kale, chard, or lettuce seeds added to it.  Baby greens are delicious, good for us, and easy to grow.  They get put everywhere.

IMG0129A

Onions share space with neighbors above ground, namely cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels.  Potatoes share with sunflowers.  We have Irish blood in us, we need potatoes.  When ours sprouted and ran for the hills in the root cellar, we were saddened.  Thank goodness the ones at the store were available.  This year we are planting them everywhere, in barrels, next to the extra row of beans, next to the carrots, and in another large raised bed.

The first set of lettuce and greens that I planted early were sparse and even though I can harvest them still, there is a lot more space in that bed.  I could plant more greens or soybeans, or whatever I have left seed wise.  Probably shouldn’t plant pumpkins, they would pummel the little lettuce guys once they started spreading!  Common sense helps with gardening. (I could use a smidge more…)

dragon carrots

One can also think this way; something growing underground (potatoes, carrots, turnips….), something growing short that is early (lettuce, kale, collards….), and something that takes awhile to get harvested (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beans….), and make them share a bed.  They all have enough room.

Now you can never have to say your garden is much too small.  You can have pots, five gallon buckets, trash cans, upside down tomato plants, and all the vegetables in the garden playing nice and sharing the soil.  Just envision that harvest!

Will the Real Farmgirl Please Stand Up?

debs pic

When I told the owner of Miller Farms, Joe, at his birthday party a few months ago that I wanted to be a farmer, he looked at me with a mix of pity and humor.  Apparently grown women don’t run around dreaming of being a farmer when they grow up.  The rest of the farm hands laughed too.  The grumpy farmer at the farmer’s market asked why I would want to do such a thing?  It’s hard work.  I have never been afraid of hard work.  In fact, I dislike days that there is no work.  I have to keep busy.  I am not afraid of sunrise, dirt, or feeding people.  Only two percent of the population grows all the food for our country.  Scary.  Not crazy about relying on someone else to grow food for me.  Makes me feel kind of helpless.  That is why I garden.  Be it not very well for the past twenty years but I had a slower learning curve then everyone else and no family to teach me.  Just books.  And now Debbie.

Debbie started out as one of my students learning herbalism a few years back.  She received a grant for a greenhouse and grows a myriad of wonderful herbs as well as vast amounts of food.  So, the teacher becomes the student today as I go for my internship and learn which side is up.  Everything in her hoop house survived the below zero temperatures.  I am intrigued.  Her land is a picturesque bounty set against hills and filled with roaming cows and a beautiful old restored house.  Her general demeanor is always kind and upbeat.  A renaissance woman, a Master Gardener, and a friend.  I will learn well in this atmosphere!  http://lookingoutfrommybackyard.wordpress.com is her blog.  I shamelessly stole these pictures off of her blog!

debs pic2

I think I will plant a few rows of wine grapes.  I have two Cabernet Sauvignon vines here I can bring with me to start.  An Apothecary garden that will consist of beautiful medicinal and culinary herbs.  Long rows of three sisters, corn, beans, and squash will grow together and remind us of history.  All of the glorious, unique, colorful heirlooms seeds I ordered back in January in my garden dreaming will sprout and take hold, reaching their heads up to the endless sky, looking out to the mountain range, and will provide sustenance for our family and beyond.

I never want to sell wholesale.  Just as I run my Apothecary.  No wholesale.  No faceless item on the shelf.  No wondering who made it.  I want to hand it to you.  Tell you a funny story about it.  Throw in a free round of cheese to eat with the fresh tomatoes and kale.

Now I am really getting ahead of myself.  I don’t have a goat!