Every year for the past thirty years I’ve had a garden, the first few years of that it was plants but nothing edible. And honestly it was more my husband than me that cared. He loved a beautiful yard. His parents had the most beautiful yard and hobby farm I have ever seen. It had never occurred to me before seeing their place that people lived like this still. The entire yard was plants, many ornamental flowers and bushes, but also large amounts of food production with gardens an orchard and vineyard. Near the back of their land they kept their animals. Despite it only being a couple acres they had a beautiful Eden all to themselves that fed the family and then some. Sometime when I find a photo I will share it with you.
The year was 1998ish, our first vegetable garden was a mono crop. Tomatoes. My mother in law gifted us 10 or 12 plants. This produced a bumper crop and I didn’t can then! I remember pushing a wheel barrow full of them up and down the road trying to give them away. The fire was lit. I was hooked. The next year my mother in law taught me how to can. You guessed it, tomatoes! Another fire was lit. I was a budding homesteader.
Jump forward to now, I’ve been playing in the soil and canning 25 years. We have fruit, vegetables and have had layers. I have helped butcher with friends for years (duck, chicken, beef, turkey, venison, fish) and we butcher our own when we harvest it. I have canned, dried, salted, sugared, confit it all and ate the stuff most would never touch.
When we arrived at our current home we started with sand for soil. We had great drainage but no organic matter to hold moisture and little nutrition in the soil. My first gardens were raised beds made from pallet wood and filled with Mel’s Mix, which is a mix from Mel Bartholomew’s book Square Foot Gardening (this is an affiliate link, I do make a little in return for this if you purchase). It was a great book and a great way to jump start gardening in less than ideal soil. At that time I purchased all my starts instead of starting them inside like I do now.
Then I started taking classes from various people who grew locally for market or restaurants. I started attending the states small farm conference and met many growers and made many friends. I then met my good friend Craig. He has a gift for teaching and farming. After going to his classes you can’t help but want to stick your hands in the soil and plant something. He not only grew beautiful and tasty food, he got really into the nutrition of his product. He would send his produce in to be tested for its quality, usually it was well beyond the norm. What Joel Salatin calls, “better than organic.” THIS is what my sickly frail self needed (that’s a story for another time).
I started to focus on soil, nutrient density, and systems (permaculture). Slowly but surely it changed the focus of what I plant. It became not just about calories or what we like, but about quality and nutrition. Now I am not going about this the same way some of my friends do. They are masters who easily are doing doctoral work with soil, plants, animals on their farms. I am a simple farmer/homesteader who strives for the best quality I can produce. But I know I have a superior product to what is found in the store.
Back to the changes.
I went from growing food to growing soil. My needs and wants with food have evolved. We now desire to collect most of our food though hunting, fishing, gathering AND growing. Growing for us and our animals. We desire to eat more seasonally, storing differently than we have in the past (again for optimum nutrition) . This means a shift from mostly canning to low temp dehydrating, confit, salting and sugaring, curing, fermenting, and changing how we eat and when we eat it (we will still can some food for sure).
What this means is growing compost, growing green manures, tree guilds, fruit, vegetables, livestock, tree hay (fodder trees), sugar trees, improving our fields and woods to invite species of all kinds to live and thrive there. It’s Regenerative permaculture, Systems Design, Korean Natural Farming…it’s all of these things… IT IS intentional. And because of this I continue to take classes. I have Nick Ferguson coming to our region to teach (you can listen to me interview him here), I have more classes with my friend Craig, a class on mushroom foraging at the end of this month and more.
I still have so much to learn.
Again I redefine the direction the farm/homestead go. It is an adventure I take with my husband who has been at this far longer than me. Together we toss off the shackles of tradition and embrace change. Maybe we are returning to something as well…
Keep following, some very exciting things are happening but I can’t share yet.
A Note…or two…
1-Thanks for reading. My posts have been sporadic and inconsistent the past two months. I’ve been very sick and very busy (the busy is probably why the sick).
2-Also, all photos are of ME doing things, my photos. No stock photos here. So the quality may not be amazing. I strive to be real and authentic.
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