Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gardening Summer 2012

It's the middle of summer and I have hit the high-peak-allergy-time of the year for me.  Every year for about a month I am miserable despite all the natural and unnatural remedies I have tried.  I take more pills and swig down more apple cider vinegar in this month than the rest of the year combined which has the side effected of a very muddled brain and thus - my posting schedule drops off.

At the same time of course this is the busiest part of the summer with a full house in the barn and more ducklings and quail hatching each week and a garden that needs attention.  Yesterday we spent most of the day working in the garden which had been sadly neglected in the heat waves we've been having - think weeds 4 feet high in some places.  DH and I chopped and cut and mulched and it is looking much better.  I figure a few more hours on my part and I will be caught up - finally!  The picture below is what the "garden" looked like when we moved here two years ago.

The front garden - first year on the farm

The first summer I looked out the front windows at the total disaster of the previous owners garden and half-heartedly picked some weeds but mostly I just didn't have any time with moving and life situations at the time to do anything.  It was full of perennials planted willy-nilly, weed trees and a mess of stones, gravel and weeds.  I was able to move many of the perennials out and we chopped down and dug out many of the trees in the fall.

The garden - Second summer at the farm

Summer number two I started waaaaay too late and was stuck with a soaking wet garden that needed roto-tilling before I could even plant a thing.  A neighbour kindly came and tilled it for me but tilling with the wet conditions turned the garden into a concrete block when it dried out.  The few vegetables I did manage to plant struggled horribly and  produced better than I deserved but certainly not plentifully.  We watered most of the summer just to keep things alive which meant filling buckets from the cistern and carrying them to the garden.  Oh-JOY.

The garden - third summer at the farm

Year Three:  that would be this year.  Oh how spoiled I am!  I have a hose now - no more lugging buckets.  Early in the spring we added load after load of cattle manure left behind by our babysat winter cows. We've been adding top-mulch of any kind to the garden by the barrow full as we clean out the chicken and duck pens and finally things are looking up.  I planted a little less than half the garden space - the rest was still being green mulched (that's code for covered-in-weeds-that-I-didn't-have-time-to-pull)  I planted huge sections green beans, beets, carrots, peppers and tomatoes.  I decided to stick to basics. All of those are doing well - a bumper crop on all fronts but still not nearly enough for our family for a whole year which is my goal for the future.

It got me thinking about gardening for the long term as I pulled and planned. I've gardened in the past when we lived in town.  My gardens always looked respectable and produced relatively well.  In other words I am not a COMPLETE newbie and I still had a hard time.

Besides roto-tilling the wet garden I added manure that was not completely composted.  I may as well have bought a bag of weed seeds and sowed my garden with them.  That was a bad idea.  In the city I added cattle manure to my garden that came in a plastic bag from the garden centre - this stuff came from the poop pile in the barnyard.  Yeah - not the same thing at all!  I would guess it needs at least two years of composting before you use it.  Tomato bugs have invaded my patch and eaten plenty of the top leaves off the tomato plants.  I've been picking them by hand - shiver - they are as big as my middle finger and green - YUCK.

The garden - third summer at the farm

As I've mentioned before my garden is right smack in the middle of my front lawn for all-the-world-to-see.  I will admit to vanity - 4 foot tall weeds are embarrassing!  Someday soon it will look nice but it may be a few more years.  That however is not my main concern - getting the garden to a place where it produces useful amounts of food is my goal. Gardening takes time and effort and even with all the best ingredients and techniques you still do not control the weather or the bugs.  If gardening teaches us anything it's that we're NOT in control!

I read a post on one of my favorite forums lately about a young mom who with her husband had moved to their homestead about a year ago.  They were working their "be-hind-ies" off trying to get things done and she was concerned about getting the garden started and how DH wasn't getting to it (because he was building, digging, plowing etc.) or spending time with the two young children because he was so busy.  I felt sad for her.  I know the feeling.  There will always be too much to do - imagine how much more-so if your life depended on that garden!

The garden - third summer at the farm

I would tell her that YOU HAVE TO PRIORITIZE and slow down!.  I've had to prioritize.  I have written plans on pages and pages of things I want to do.  DH has his own priorities.  Some of them are simple, some require help from outside sources.  Some just require lots of time and there's still only 24 hours in a day.

My garden could have been bigger.  We could have had more animals.  We could have decided on no vacation this year. We could work from sun-up to sun-down.  We could stress and fret and worry about it.  We try not too.  I remind myself often that I am doing all I can do.  I still need breaks and even if a huge garden is ideal it is not ideal if I wear myself out trying to get it ready and take care of it.

So I simplify.  I grew less and learned more.  I had less animals but learned more about the ones I have.  I tried a few new things and did some old things better than last year and occasionally I grab a book and sit in the hammock and remind myself that this is the life I always wanted!

It's so beautiful and peaceful and perfect in it's own imperfect way.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love living in the country!!


  1. I think this year has been hard on everyones garden,you'll get it.All things take time and lots of patience lol.

    1. So true annnightflyer! It looks so simple and yet it isn't!

  2. I like the way you wrapped this one up! Good reminder to me. I've not even graduated to a homestead, and I'm guilty of overplanning and stressing. :)

    1. I've written posts on the lesson of the red couch and the lesson of the green fence


      - maybe I'll add to my collection of lessons to remember - the lesson of hanging out in the hammock!! :)

  3. Yep, many people just don't get how hard it can be to maintain a garden. They think you can just throw a few seeds in the ground, water it a bit and you'll get lots of veggies. Not! I've been gardening for years and it is a lot of work...and sometimes no matter how much time and effort you put into it....it still may not work out. Gardening is a lesson in patience and hopefullness. :)


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