Garden Harvest in Spite of Madness

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We had a good year in the garden despite my serious lack of attention.  We planted early (the middle of May in Zone 3b) and promptly left to go on a two-week vacation.  We eagerly strained our necks coming down the driveway to see if anything had survived the lack of daily watering and attention.   Everything but the strawberries survived and thrived.  Days turned into weeks and I often found myself neglecting the garden when I should have been mulching, weeding, loving.  I was too busy, though, weeding, mulching, and loving my own three little people plants.  I wandered out into the garden every now and again to see what was happening, but I did not spend the hours upon hours that I used to spend.  Somehow, in spite of my attention, the garden provided us with an amazing abundance of food.  We have canned salsa, canned spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, frozen beans, carrots, and zucchini ready for making relish.  The cupboard has onions, potatoes, and oodles and oodles of roasted sunflower seeds.  The still plywood counter top boasts butternut squash, and the pumpkins are on the stairs awaiting carving.  There is applesauce, spiced apples, pineapple zucchini, and zucchini lemon pie filling.  A bag of still crunchy carrots sits in the fridge, ready for little hands to grab and munch.  The crisper drawer is full of the last of the corn, ready for boiling and rolling in butter and salt.

The garden looks lonely now, covered in brown leftovers and a few remaining pumpkins.  It is hard for me to believe that the garden could have provided us with so much food, for so little work.  It seems a little bit wrong.  Autumn is my favorite season, and this year is no different.  I love to see the last of the produce going into jars, bags, or boxes.  This will be the first year that we will get to carve pumpkins from our own garden- the kids have already picked out their favorites.  I will not say that I am ready for winter, but this year, for the first time, I look around and see what we have done and do not feel so overwhelmed by  all that still needs to be accomplished.

The kids are in bed after a late night by the fire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and watching the stars and northern lights.  The downstairs is almost done, the upstairs just awaiting carpet and trim.  The scented candle burns on the newly installed cherry windowsill.  Our little house on the edge of the field is finally starting to feel like a home.



Garden Bounty

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Somehow, between all of the millions of things we did this Spring, we still managed to put in a garden.  We literally worked every day to get it planted the week before we left for vacation, and then we were gone for two weeks, and prayed that it would still be there when we got back.  We rigged up an anti-deer fence, anti,bunny fence, and watered the new plants.  We pulled in the driveway two weeks later and it was all we could do not to run straight out to the garden and see what survived.  Guess what?  EVERYTHING!  We have munched on snap peas, enjoyed fresh salad greens, and the boys eat the carrots whole.  Zucchini bread, zucchini relish, diced onion, summer squash  boats, radish and carrots dipped in sweet chili sauce.  The boys check almost daily for the emergence of green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and their beloved pumpkins.

I feel like there was some mistake, because the garden that I almost virtually ignored in the beginning has exploded into a crazy jungle of food-producing madness.  I can barely walk the rows between the tomato plants taller than I am and the various squash plants that are creeping across walkways.  I look for deeper meaning and hope that our spirits can grow this wild and wooly with little attention.  I love watching the kids beg me for fresh carrots while I am making dinner.  Looking forward to next year when we can add chickens and maybe goats to our funny farm.  As we enjoyed the cool evening by the fire, I feel secure in the knowledge that God is with us.

Prepared for Spring?

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Well, this is about all I have to post about the garden moving from Fall to Winter to Spring. The trees we planted three years ago are growing quite well to form a privacy screen that will probably be just about perfect by the time we move to our new property! The garden, well, it is just what it looks like- a big pile of straw. Being about 8 months pregnant when it was time to prep for Winter, I decided to go a different route this year. I knew after having one child already, that my time in the Spring will be tied up with other things besides weeding and prepping the garden. I decided to lay down a new layer of cardboard covered with a super thick mulch of straw to complement our lasagna garden. I knew from previous experience that this will not only inhibit weed growth, but also keep the soil nice and moist for planting. We have a heavy clay base, so the straw seems to keep the soil from turning into a big, baked layer of clay that is impossible to till and impossible to plant into. Last year I did not put down such a heavy layer, but where I did place straw, I was able to peel the straw back and have a nice, moist garden bed ready for planting. I am still uncertain what we will be doing with the garden this year, but I want to be ready just in case. At this point, we ar hoping to be transitioning to our new property in Minnesota- but at least this way I can have the option of planting if the circumstances allow. It will be a sad winter without all of our garden goodies!!

The $50 Tomato…..

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Well, this is about it for the year. I got many herbs (basil, oregano, peppermint, sage), a few cucumbers, and a small bag full of cayenne peppers. The few scraggly strawberries never made it past my son’s mouth to hit the kitchen. So I am guessing that my $50 spent on the garden this year may have been better spent at the grocery store.

My biggest mistake was planting too late, but it may not have mattered because it was the every other day rains that took me down. This year, people’s gardens either flourished or flopped and it all seemed to depend on drainage, slope, and soil composition. Our garden is perfectly flat in a perfectly flat yard with primarily clay loam, and an extremely high level of ground water. Most of the people that were able to eek a decent amount of produce out of their garden had a sloping garden with good drainage, and less clay.

Nonetheless, even with a pitifully producing garden, our son ate all of the small handful of strawberries right off the plant, and spent many afternoons helping me water, pick tomatoes, and wander around among the rows. As I think back on the garden and spend my afternoons preparing the beds for next year, I think on how valuable this garden was, even if it did not really give us anything to eat. It gave me time alone doing one of my favorite things. It gave me time with my son to teach him where his food comes from. It gave me perspective and taught me valuable lessons in patience, endurance, and perseverance. Regardless of how much or how little this garden produces, it still gives me so much that cannot be measured in gallons or quarts or jars in the basement.

Being Myself in a World of Pinterest Supermoms



I have been very quiet this summer with my posting, and much of it has to do with our absolute lack of a productive garden. We planted too late, got too much rain, and I just didn’t have the enthusiasm for it this year. Our strawberries were a bust, we got a few tomatoes and peppers, and everything else just died while trying to struggle up through the puddles of rain that fell every two days.

This would have been much more depressing had I not been super engaged in watching this amazing two-year old of ours grow from a baby into a little boy. After surviving the very painful stage of him asking, “Waas that?”, every time he saw ANYTHING, he has now begun talking at an alarming rate and naming everything in sight. This intense time of growth and language development has been absolutely amazing and much more productive than a garden could ever be! I have, however, been thinking about my lack of posts and the reasons behind it and feeling like I need to say something.

We are surrounded with technology of all sorts, and most of this technology (Facebook, Pinterest, etc) is aimed at making our lives simpler, right? Someone posts about some awesome new recipe that you just HAVE to try. You see a post about ten things to do with your toddler and how EASY and FAST they are. You see pictures of a friend with her family and they all look so HAPPY. But let’s face it, this just isn’t reality. The reality is that sometimes we succeed at being organized, successful, and productive, and most of the time, we just succeed at making it through another day! I had a horrible garden this year, and feel like I have nothing to blog about, because my blog is ,after all, about gardening, and sustainable living. But this blog is also about my life, and my life right now sometimes consists of just being thankful that I got out of bed, fed my family, and maybe had some fun! I am not a supermom, but I AM a superwoman! Yes, my toddler spent the first half hour of his day screaming in his room because he refused to have his stinky diaper changed. Yes, we ate cereal and pizza for dinner. Yes, he went to bed with dirty feet and I may do the same. But we made a wonderfully huge mess on the kitchen floor with rice and dump trucks and bulldozers. We cut play dough into a million pieces with a butter knife. He danced around and tried to catch bubbles with his tongue. We went for a walk and talked about life and all the wonderful things out there in the world. Let’s face it, guys, we all suck sometimes- maybe we have a rotten garden, maybe we have a rotten moment, maybe we have a rotten hair day. But at the end of the day, we are ALL supermen/superwomen, because we keep getting up again and again and brushing off the dirt and trying again to be better, to do better, and to sometimes just realize that this is all the better it is going to get for the moment.

So as I try to find the momentum to wrap up this years garden and prepare it for another year, I am reminded that I also need to prepare myself. I need to be ready for the reality that I do not have to do everything, be everything, and have a beautiful garden, family, life for you to see. I can show you the stuff that just IS. So in the coming days, I will take some pictures and try to show what I have done right with the garden that will help me in the future, and things that have blossomed more than I ever expected (the herbs, the elderberries, the privacy screen, and celery!!). I would like to follow-up on our success with lasagna gardening- and how much that has been such a blessing to me, especially having a small child and not enough time for anything else! Most of all, I would like to just share our struggles, our triumphs, and our constant learning on how to get through this crazy life being more self-sufficient, more responsible, and more aware of our impact on the world around us.

A Little Behind!

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Well, it is June 27th, and we finally completed the garden planting. I know, I know, it is super late, but let’s just say that there were a few distractions.   In our quest to follow God’s path for us, we meandered to Texas for a few months to work and play.  Our return was delayed and we drove back into West Virginia on June 8th.  Ideally, I could have planted the garden right away and not been too behind, but maybe the weeds had a little party while we were away.  I am so glad that I mulched before we left.  The soil was nice and loose and moist, and the weeds came out easily, but work, nonetheless, and with a toddler at home, it meant weeding in the two to three hours of nap time each day.  So, the garden is finally planted and weeded and ready to go.  The blueberry bushes have a few green berries, the elderberry is now an official bush, the fruit trees survived the winter, and the garlic is in full production.  My task for today is to set out the little dishes of cheap beer for some slug control.  I always feel a little bit odd at the grocery store with my cart full of organic veggies, fruit, and other wholesome goodness, and then my cans of cheap beer.  The slugs sure do enjoy it though, and least for a few seconds!

I am also very excited about our Thuja trees that we planted for a privacy screen- look how much they have grown since last year!!

Happy Gardening everyone- hope it is productive and fun!

Thuja Trees

Calling all Ducks!

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We got Khaki Campbell ducks our first season here and then we gave them away after the boy was born.  We were feeling overwhelmed with the extra work.  This last summer we decided that ducks were definitely worth the work!  I had no idea how many bugs they ate until they were gone.  Not only did we have less bugs, but as a result of less bugs, our garden did better.  So the last warm day we had, I spent the day cleaning out the duck cage to prepare for our new arrivals.  I have no idea what kind of ducks they even are, but we are going to save them from the chopping block and give them a home in our back yard.  Here is the duck house along with some pics of the old gals, Crackers and Cheese….

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