One of many driving forces behind the beginning of Frugalwoods was our want to go away town and purchase a homestead within the woods. That occurred in Could 2016 and let me inform you, we had A LOT of preconceived notions about what it could be prefer to stay rurally, a few of which turned out to be true and a few of which… not a lot. It’s straightforward to gloss over the specifics once you’re dreaming about shifting to the nation. It turns into very a lot concerning the specifics once you lose energy and water for per week within the useless of winter because of an ice storm. It’s these specifics–these highly effective particulars–which have formed our lives out right here.
A gargantuan assumption was that we’d develop all of our personal meals.
Earlier than a lot as beginning a single tomato plant, I nurtured an idyllic imaginative and prescient of us rising all of the fruit and veggies we may ever need every summer season. There I used to be among the many rows, singing to every vegetable, encouraging it to flourish. Then I noticed us within the kitchen–with our kids gracefully helping–as we meticulously preserved every harvest for winter. We then pan to us consuming from our larder because the snow falls and the woodstove warms us with wooden from our land. Little Home On the Prairie with out the problematic gender roles, starvation, abysmal remedy of indigenous peoples, and lack of antibiotics and fashionable drugs!
I’ve a strong creativeness and along with rising fruit and veggies, I believed maybe we’d elevate meat chickens, pigs, goats–why not!–and have a dairy cow for milk from which I’d church my very own butter and make my very own cheese. Absolutely we may present for all of our wants and stay out a modern-day sustainable, free vary, natural paradise of our personal making. To be clear, all of this IS technically doable. And sure, loads of of us do it.
Nevertheless, I’m not destined to be a kind of of us.
My husband Nate and I moved to our 66-acre homestead within the woods of rural Vermont on Could 18, 2016 and right now, seven years on, I wish to share what we’ve discovered, re-learned and are nonetheless studying about rising our personal meals. I’ll share extra of our rural assumptions in upcoming posts, that are all a part of a collection on…
Outdated Me vs. Present Me: A Showdown
April was the NINTH anniversary of Frugalwoods and to have a good time, I’m typing down reminiscence lane with reflections on a few of my most influential previous posts. 9 years is a very long time to do something and I’m curious to see if I agree with my previous self or if my ideas have modified within the intervening years. Since Could is the SEVENTH anniversary of our transition to rural life, this appears the proper time to mirror on rural.
You possibly can take a look at my first three Frugalwoods nine-year retrospectives right here:
Now let’s get to debunking!
Rural Assumption #1: We’ll Develop and Increase All of Our Personal Meals!
Truth Test: That’s a nope.
The first purpose? That is an all-consuming, full-time job throughout harvest seasons and I don’t wish to develop, harvest and protect meals full-time.
I prefer to do some little bit of a number of various things, and that features some gardening and a few canning and preserving.
To simply accept this, I needed to let go of the picture of myself as an ideal homesteader out right here homesteading away. It’s simply not who I’m. I like what we do on our land, however I don’t wish to do all of it day, every single day. After seven years, I lastly not really feel responsible for not rising and elevating all of our meals. I really be ok with shopping for meals from our farmer neighbors who decide to this work full-time. I like supporting their efforts. Plus, they’re lots higher at it than me.
For Nate and me, the entire level of this life-style change was to let go of town rat race, the exterior pressures and the societal expectations.
We needed to not work for different folks and not consistently rush round. Rural life, for us, means pleasure, time, freedom and house. And right here’s the factor:
I’ve discovered that chaining myself to my vegetable backyard is de facto no completely different than chaining myself to my desk and laptop.
A backyard has limitless wants, doesn’t care about your time/vitality/plans and exerts a number of time-bound pressures. Something that saps all my time and vitality–and calls for I do issues I don’t have the will to do–isn’t why I moved right here. Extreme gardening pressured me out. So now, we develop a little bit little bit of this and a tidbit of that and we name it a day. Let me inform you the story of how I obtained right here.
The Kale & Chard Apocalypse of 2018
Detailed in this previous put up, this was the harvest that did me in. Nonetheless early in our gardening experiments, Nate began from seed, planted, weeded, watered and harvested 80 kale and chard crops. Sure, EIGHTY.
That was 70 crops too many. As a result of let me inform you: that kale and chard LOVED rising right here. It was probably the most profitable factor we’ve ever planted. All 80 of them.
Nonetheless underneath the delusion that I used to be maybe really Laura Ingalls Wilder reincarnated, I used to be decided to protect and save EVERY LAST STALK of kale and chard we grew. I needed to see if we may do it–really present for all of our sustenance wants (insofar as kale and chard are involved).
I spent hours harvesting, washing and drying these greens. The leaves had been so huge that I had to make use of our child pool and several other large plastic tubs for rinsing stations. My poor mother and father made the error of coming for a go to throughout this debacle and obtained roped into serving to (sorry once more about that, mother and pop!). When stuff comes ripe, there are by no means sufficient fingers to assist. However you by no means know fairly when that ripe day shall be, which suggests you reside on the whims of the backyard.
After we’d harvested, washed and (kinda) dried the leaves, we took them into the kitchen for processing, which entailed:
- Chopping them up
- Blanching them to freeze
- OR canning them in a scorching water tub canner
- OR turning them into kimchi
And we did it. It took DAYS. A plural variety of days. Whereas there have been enjoyable moments, it was annoying to do with two tiny youngsters underfoot. I used to be exhausted from bending over to reap within the backyard and stooping to scrub and standing within the kitchen for hours to course of. And that was simply to course of ONE crop. Extra exactly: ONE harvest of ONE crop.
Absolutely the worst a part of it’s that we didn’t have an opportunity to eat all of that hard-won preservation earlier than a few of it went dangerous.
Broke my coronary heart to dump it out into the compost, however alas, home-canned stuff doesn’t final endlessly and I didn’t know the best way to calculate our consumption charge.
After that draining expertise and the demoralizing realization that we couldn’t even devour all that we’d labored so laborious to place away, I made a decision to alter our homesteading meals outlook. We’re profoundly privileged that we’re not subsistence farmers. We would not have to do that to ourselves. I used to be competing towards an idyllic picture I had of people that homestead and develop their very own meals. I’d learn the blogs and books and Instagram posts and I felt strain to stay as much as that customary.
I’d succeeded in transplanting the stress and nervousness of my workplace job onto my gardening.
I wanted to alter this outlook or I’d quickly begin to hate what I’d labored so laborious to allow myself to do.
The place We’ve Landed In 2023
It’s taken years and I’m nonetheless working to divorce myself from the self-imposed strain to be an ideal homesteader. However I’m now much more practical about how I wish to spend my time in the course of the summer season months. I don’t wish to be tethered to the backyard. I wish to take the youngsters to the native lake with buddies, I wish to go hear stay music at our neighbors’ farm, I wish to hike and play. I don’t wish to spend 12 hours chopping and blanching huge stalks of chard. I need steadiness and freedom in my life.
A lot of you could have requested me to re-start my This Month On The Homestead collection and to be sincere, I haven’t as a result of I really feel like we’re letting you down as homesteaders! We did SO MUCH work our first few years and now, we kinda simply rinse and repeat with every season. The infrastructure set-up of our first years was staggering and I’m glad it’s over with. I actually may re-start the collection and let you understand how issues are going, however don’t maintain your collective breaths.
Gardening Areas as of Could 2023
We nonetheless backyard and we nonetheless have a bunch of various food-growing areas across the property, so I’ll element every. I did an exhaustive overview a couple of years in the past in This Month On The Homestead: The Full Backyard Rundown Together with Constructing Raised Beds. In the event you’re a backyard nerd and wish to nerd out, that put up’s for you!
Right here’s the place we plant meals today:
1) 4 raised beds proper subsequent to our again porch.
Nate constructed these again in 2020 and I like them due to their proximity to the home. Straightforward to stroll out and snip a couple of issues for dinner. Right here’s what we’ve finished with them:
Beds 1 and a couple of: Strawberries
- We planted 100 strawberry crops again in 2020 and I can’t say that was the most effective concept. The strawberries appeal to each sort of pestilence, together with however not restricted to:
- An prolonged household of backyard snakes who tunnel ‘neath the roots and pop their little headsies up anytime I’m on the market weeding or harvesting. I don’t thoughts snakes, however I’d choose they not POP up at me. A extra gradual strategy could be appreciated.
- A whole daycare of child chipmunks who’re a scorching mess in there. Stomping on crops, rummaging round within the filth. Mess.
- BIRDS. Allll the birds. We put hooped netting over the crops, however the chipmunk daycare class knocked them over and ate holes within the nets.
- Our personal kids. So desirous of contemporary strawberries that they regularly, routinely, yearly pluck pre-ripe berries, rip crops and destroy my intelligent netting system.
Additionally, since these are raised beds, the soil stage sinks every year. We put a ton of logs within the backside to construct up the bottom, however as these decompose, you actually need so as to add extra soil yearly, which we will’t do with the strawberries in there until we replant all 100 of them.
- This yr, I turned considered one of these beds over to Kidwoods, who was begging for her very personal flower backyard. Half of the strawberry crops in there have been useless and I helped her transplant the surviving strawberries into one half of the mattress and she or he planted flower seeds within the different half.
- TBD what I’ll do with the opposite mattress, which continues to be stuffed with strawberries (and snake tunnels).
Beds 3 and 4: herbs and greens
- That is the place I put our herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, dill and oregano.
- In addition to our salad greens: lettuce, greens combine, sorrel, arugula.
- I begin the herbs and lettuce from seed and I direct sow the remainder.
- The greens will be succession planted, that means I rip them out once they begin to flower and plant new seeds. If I sustain with it, now we have contemporary greens all summer season lengthy.
- I began carrots in right here a couple of years in the past, however by accident put them proper subsequent to the dill plant and–wouldn’t you already know it–carrot leaves and dill look ALMOST IDENTICAL. There have been some casualties.
- This method appears to work fairly nicely since most of these things is annual and never perennial. We added extra soil final yr and might want to add extra once more subsequent yr.
2) The “Massive” Vegetable Backyard
The “huge” vegetable backyard is the place we develop nearly all of our annual veggies. Annual means it’s important to plant new ones yearly versus crops which can be perennial, which suggests they arrive again yearly. This backyard is fenced in and has cattle panels–which I put in on my own one yr, may I add–for issues like tomatoes and snap peas to vine up. A lot simpler than trellising every particular person plant. I gently bend the fronds up in the direction of the panels they usually take it from there. Extremely advocate.
On this backyard, we develop a reasonably large variety of greens each summer season and love consuming contemporary tomatoes, beans, squash, snap peas, cucumbers, peppers, and different misc crops I’m now forgetting. I additionally adore rising pumpkins and gourds for fall decorations, which I feed to our chickens when the season’s over.
That is the backyard the place the youngsters every get their very own row to plant, have a tendency and harvest!
- Every child will get to begin her personal seeds. No matter seeds she desires! We put them in their very own little seed beginning trays and–upon Kidwoods’ insistence–label them by identify. My trays say “Mama.”
- I begin about three trays value of crops and I solely do a couple of of every variety. I’m nicely conscious that we don’t want 89 tomato crops (like I did a couple of years in the past… ).
- We begin all of those from seeds within the spring and plant the begins within the floor in early June–too chilly to take action earlier than then!
3) Mr. FW tends our perennial meals state of affairs, which he’s grown to incorporate:
- 28 blueberry bushes
- 3 currant bushes
- 3 Saskatoon berry bushes
- 3 plum bushes
- 4 cherry bushes
- 10 apple bushes
- 4 cider apple bushes
- 5 pear bushes
- 2 peach bushes
- 4 elderberry bushes
I’ll admit that appears like lots. And when it comes to sheer variety of crops, it’s a lot, however when it comes to how a lot fruit we really get? It’s not all that a lot.
Right here’s Why:
1. All of these things takes a few years to ramp as much as its full manufacturing potential.
It takes an apple tree ~6 years earlier than it bears a single apple. The blueberry bushes took two years to make an edible blueberry. Comparable timelines are hooked up to all of those perennial fruits.
2. Different issues prefer to eat these candy treats too.
And by “different,” I’m certainly referring to the Intelligent Varmint Patrol (CVP) who, thus far, have managed to eat EVERY SINGLE plum and cherry we’ve ever grown. They stalk these crops after which, I swear, the minute the fruit turns completely ripe, they snatch all of it and take it to their lair(s). We don’t wish to use pesticides, constructing a fence is simply too costly (and would destroy the view)–plus a mere fence is not any match for the CVP–and we’ve tried netting and chicken-wire cages. We are going to strive netting once more, however all that appears to occur with the netting is that our kids get tousled in it…
Moreover, a flock of untamed turkeys as soon as flew into our blueberry patch–which is enclosed by a fence–after which COULD NOT GET BACK OUT. They’d trapped themselves so completely that once we went to shoo them away, they repeatedly RAN INTO THE FENCE. Nate needed to go contained in the fence and herd them out. I simply… what’s there to say about flight-enabled birds who overlook the best way to fly in moments of disaster?
3. The climate, am I proper?
If the CVP doesn’t devour them, it’s extremely doable these fruits’ll die/underproduce as a result of an excessive amount of solar, too little solar, an excessive amount of rain, too little rain, a late frost, an early frost, a too-cold frost, a not-cold-enough frost…
4. Then, harvesting occurs unexpectedly!
Most of those perennial fruits come ripe all on the identical time. In different phrases, all of the apples on one tree flip ripe on the identical day. And as soon as the fruit ripens, you’ve obtained to select it ASAP. In the event you don’t, the CVP will eat it or it’ll fall to the bottom and be consumed by ants and different ground-hugging creatures. Fruit bushes, very similar to kids, haven’t any curiosity or concern to your schedule. They ripen when they need, how they need. In the event you’re not able to drop every thing and harvest all day lengthy? The CVP will care for it for you.
5. Preserving! Canning! Urgent! Oh My!
If we’re fortunate sufficient to come back this far, if a winter frost didn’t kill the crops, a late frost didn’t burn the blossoms, the CVP didn’t precise its revenge, bugs didn’t illness the tree AND we managed to reap the entire fruit on that one, good, magical, superb day… NOW WHAT?!!!
This, my buddies, is how I’ve discovered myself with a kitchen bursting with ripe fruit and veggies. With a lot chard and kale I needed to retailer it within the youngsters’ plastic pool. With so many apples–unexpectedly!–that I can’t match all of the barrels within the kitchen and need to lug some right down to the basement.
It’s an unbelievable privilege to have all this meals, however with out an industrial kitchen and a piece crew and limitless time… it doesn’t all get preserved. THOUGH I HAVE TRIED. That kale/chard harvest was the defining second that modified my thoughts about how deeply I wish to decide to meals preservation. Now, I do what I can.
I not really feel guilt over not turning Each. Single. Cucumber into pickles. We eat a ton, we give a bunch away to buddies and neighbors and perhaps I make a couple of jars of pickles. However not 100 quarts. I did that a couple of years in the past and simply, wow. Individuals requested me to please stop giving them jars of pickles as presents. There may be such a factor as over-gifting your preserved meals. Ask me how I do know.
Right here’s how I now protect the perennial meals:
Blueberries are the simplest as a result of the youngsters can harvest them on their very own–there are not any thorns, it’s very apparent when a berry is ripe and the bushes are low to the bottom. Then, all I’ve to do is rinse them and throw them into baggage within the freezer. Straightforward.
- Apples are the toughest. Nate or I’ve to do a lot of the harvesting as a result of they’re so excessive up within the bushes. That doesn’t cease the youngsters from serving to they usually each get beaned on the pinnacle by apples yearly. Apples are additionally robust as a result of they require a ton of labor to course of. I prefer to make applesauce, apple butter and dried apples, however all three require me to first wash and dry the apples, then peel and core them, then cook dinner them down into sauce or jam, after which scorching water tub can the sauce. Repeat this MANY instances till you’ve used up all of the apples (or they’ve gone dangerous ready so that you can get to them). We’ve additionally pressed them into cider in previous years–and possibly will once more sooner or later–however that is one other large funding in time (to not point out provides).
- Strawberries get eaten contemporary (principally by the youngsters, principally earlier than even making it inside). Straightforward!
- Plums and cherries get eaten by the CVP.
- Currants are made into jam, which is pretty concerned, however we do appear to eat that up and it’s worthwhile to make it.
- Nothing else produces fruit but.
Typically we protect annual meals, together with making:
- Tomatoes into sauce
- Cucumber into pickles
- Beans into pickled beans
All of that is enjoyable to do moderately and we do eat it, however moderately. Since we don’t need to eat pickled chard stems to outlive the winter, we don’t must make 90 quarts of pickled chard stems. To be clear: many of us select to develop and protect all of their meals and that’s nice! Many of us do it efficiently and have very low grocery payments due to it! Not me.
The ultimate stage for each gardener: acceptance. Acceptance that I don’t like being out in a backyard all day OR in a kitchen canning all day. I prefer to be in a backyard for awhile and I don’t thoughts canning for awhile. I like doing it with the youngsters since I feel it teaches them some nifty abilities.
Nevertheless it’s not a race to final homesteader for me. I’ve realized that the strain for perfection isn’t restricted to highschool or conventional jobs–it will possibly take over something. Even gardening!!!! So we’ll plant our little crops this yr and perhaps bear in mind to weed and water them. And I would can a couple of quarts of apple sauce. Or I won’t. And both method? We are going to nonetheless be grateful to stay out right here.
How does your backyard develop?
By no means Miss A Story
Signal as much as get new Frugalwoods tales in your e-mail inbox.