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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.

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Prepared for Spring?

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Trees

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!!

Being Myself in a World of Pinterest Supermoms

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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.

Lasagna Gardening- How to Start a New Bed

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I Love Lasagna Gardening!!  Okay, now that I got that out there, let me explain to you how to do it.  I will first have to admit that I am somewhat of a lazy gardener, and also that I am extremely frugal and do not have much money or time to put into something that I greatly enjoy.  I was on a mission to find out how I could create wonderful garden beds for the least amount of money and time.  At a used book store, I came across the book, Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanzer.  I lapped up every word and began thinking about my own yard.  When we purchased the house, there had been a garden, but it had been covered with sod.  I was determined to reclaim the original garden spot and make it my own!

Original Yard

My first task was to collect large amounts of cardboard from the hospital that I work at.  After painstakingly removing all of the tape, I began laying the cardboard out on the grass, leaving no spaces for weeds to sneak up through.  I began this project in the fall to leave all winter for things to happen.  After laying out the cardboard, I began piling grass clippings and leaves on top of the cardboard.  I also purchased 10 bales of 3.8 cubic feet sphagnum peat moss because our soil has so much clay.  In addition, my husband and I hauled a truckload of composted manure from a coworkers horses and spread that out as well to add nutrients.  The finished product was pretty impressive.  I spent $90 on peat moss, and everything else was free.

Stage One Lasagna Gardening

In the Spring, we added straw to the walkways and defined each bed to be separated with rows.  I based my design on the wide row system explained in the Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond.  My rows were going to be wide so that I could maximize space and productivity.

Creating the walkways

In the Spring, when it was time for planting, I made sure to add a healthy dose of fish emulsion to each spot as I planted.  I did not add as much as the book recommended- she recommends at least 18″ of material for the raised bed lasagna gardening idea.  I had to work with the material that I had for free, however, so each year I add more grass clippings, more leaves, and straw.  This method is a no-till method, which also appeals to my lazy factor.  I occasionally have to mix the clay and soil a little bit, but the one year that we did till a little bit was a disaster and we had weed central to contend with.  The last thing that we did was add a short fence to deter bunny rabbits as well as the dog.  I have since added a row and filled in the area by the back fence to plant blueberry bushes.

The fence gate

As you can see in the above picture, I initially had grass around the beds, which is now being removed by the addition of more cardboard and straw.  it looked nice initially, but became a huge hassle for mowing and also gave me more weed problems.  I now have the entire area inside the fence as a grass-free zone!  We also added a small amount of sand last year to mix in with the clay.  I think this was a good idea, but now have thistles sprouting up in the garden…….  Have I mentioned that I have a serious issue with weeds?  I will save that for another post!!  Good luck with your lasagna- I am convinced that it is the best way to create new garden space!

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