A Great Farming Book and Why Every One of Us Needs a Garden

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With very little work I am still pulling out baskets of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, squash, and greens from the gardens.  The nights are getting cool enough that tonight I will need to bring in the houseplants.  Crickets still sing for summer as I write.  These gardens have been such a lovely respite.  They didn’t cost much to start or maintain and if I did have more money for amendments it would have been even more prolific.  Each year the soil will get better and better with techniques I have learned over the years from organic gardening and permaculture.  I am still learning.

A garden is not just a hobby.  It is one of the most fundamentally important things we ought to be doing.  To provide really fresh, nutritious food without chemicals and without the oil needed to produce, package, and ship our food from across the world is imperative to the health of our beautiful earth, and in a time of epidemic chronic disease, imperative for our own health too.

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Miraculous Abundance; One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer is a lovely guide filled with inspiration and ideas.  By simply focusing our energies on the soil and improving it we then let nature grow all of the food.  We are the helpers, not the geniuses behind food production!

The author states, “If we want to live sustainably on this planet, a growing number of people will have to reconnect with the land and produce food for themselves and the community….But the farmers of tomorrow will not come from the agricultural class that has been reduced to near extinction; they will come from the cities, offices, shops, factories, and more….Their farms will be places of healing, of beauty, and of harmony.”  The farms will be in front yards, in the country, on balconies; we will have to find a way to feed all of us because the current food model is killing us and killing the earth.  Period.

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Our yard in the city is the equivalent of four city lots, or just under a third of an acre.  We have utilized very little of it this year and are still producing all of our own produce for our week’s meals plus some for canning.  I have purchased the rest of the vegetables for putting up from local farmers, thereby boosting my local economy and putting food up for our winter meals.  I have chickens for eggs in the city and just purchased a goat share so that I can get plenty of fresh milk to drink and make cheese and other dairy products.  I trade classes or spend my grocery money on fresh meat from my friends that are ranchers.  Now I just need to get staples.  I save money, eat better, and support my local friends and farmers.  This is the model that we may all have to follow sooner or later.  Unsustainable systems are doomed to fail, and Honey, if you look at our food and medical systems….better plant some comfrey and Oregon grape root while you’re at it.

But we can do this!  We can support each other and help each other with knowledge and tool sharing, with friendship and bartering.  What can you plant next year?

 

Learning to Be a Farmer

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I love farming books that inspire and make you laugh through antidotes and stories that actually help you learn.  I love Jenna Woginrich and many others that I told you about in my post about farming books.  I started this blog to be one of them.  I would have liked a book that was more step by step.  Like, how much to water.  Basic stuff so that I could actually get further than fried seedlings and an empty chicken coop.  I wanted to write one of those books (via blog) that would inspire, teach, and make people laugh each day.  The chapters unfolding throughout the week.  I appreciate each and every one of you that takes the time to read what crazy stuff we are up to on any given day.  Writers need readers.  Thank you.

So, here are the results of the experiments (some pretty nutty) that we did this year.  It may help you in your garden planning for next year (or make you shake your head in wonder).

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First, water is good.  Okay.  I have discovered that you must water more than once a week and more than a few seconds in order to feed the thirsty plants.  Daily watering (beer in hand) helped Doug and I, not only relax, for twenty minutes, but also helped us keep up with any problems or triumphs in the garden.  We discovered that hand watering saves a ton of water.  We’re talking fifty bucks a month off our water bill.  We also had the opportunity to wave at neighbors, catch up on the day, and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

We also learned that one can water till the cows come home (or goats, in our case) but nothing beats rain water.  We got a great amount of it this year and it was like pouring fertilizer infused water on everything.  Something our desert-like environment wasn’t used to!  Everyone’s crabgrass is still green!

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When the flea beetles went on the buffet and began decimating cold crops, you all chimed in and identified the little gorgers.  Also giving sound advice.  Bill was right though and the flea beetles were acting as the clean up crew.  It was too late for cold crops.  They knew it.  They were apparently smarter than the farmer.  Which leads me to the conclusion that I need to start broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts indoors next year then transplant them out in early spring.  Those guys still aren’t ready to harvest.

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I learned about diatomaceous earth.  I learned that when dousing plants and soil with “natural”, “organic”, and effective bug killers, that the substance cannot differentiate between flea beetles, leaf miners, and lady bugs.  Or bees.  Or all the micro-organisms I have so carefully protected.

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The results of the potato barrel experiment were…um…cute.  Seven tiny potatoes in one, five in the other.  Now, I did notice that the soil and straw were very damp.  Something I would not have had to worry about in past years.  I’m betting quite a few of them already decomposed.  The ones in the ground did great!

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I think mulching with straw is a brilliant idea, and I will do it more than I did this year.  We never did mulch with clothes like I considered.  Worried that I would trip, while holding my beer, while watering, while waving at passerby’s.  I have a cute farmer image to uphold here.

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Goats, in all their cuteness, are a pain in the %# and can get through anything.  We’ll decide what farm animals (home bodies, I am hoping) to get next year.

The fall crops came up enthusiastically, then turned yellow and died.  I forgot where I planted most of them.  The radishes are the only plants that hurried up and became ready to harvest.  Of course, I was tired of radishes by then.  Perhaps fall crops are overrated.

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I love chickens.

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Next year I will use my root cellar check list to plan my seed order.  I may line the porch with five gallon buckets of tomatoes and peppers.

I planted six plants of heirloom tomatoes.  Feeling very smug about myself for growing such a eloquent crop, I watched as dozens and dozens of them became ripe after the farmer’s markets were over.  They are too watery to make into sauce or to can diced.  Next year, I will plant the less cool Roma tomato.

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I have learned to grow where planted.  I have learned that I am a farmer through and through.  Still learning, granted, but enthusiastic, and in love with this life.  Turns out my husband is an unlikely farmer too.  Two kids born and raised in the city becoming the next great farmers….stay tuned…

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