Wednesday, July 30, 2014
We bought this farm 14 years ago. At that time I wanted a place where I could keep most of my show horses at home. Then life took over and talked me out of show horses. First, it was no longer in my tax bracket. Second, I didn't want to travel anymore. In my dream world I would still like to just curl up with Josh, the movie Arthur, Reeces Cups, and Mountain Dew (2L chilled in a champagne bucket) when ever I can. This was an actual date that Josh and I had in our early days. Third, I didn't really like it as much as I did before. I will always love horses. I can't imagine never having at least one - but I don't crave it like I did. I remember watching other horse girls hit the teen years and half of them would stop riding because they wanted to chase boys and be a cheerleader. All I wanted to do was ride and show. But then things in my personal life in my early to mid twenties finally became more interesting that showing horses. I can honestly say that I don't miss horse shows. I can't even dream how that would fit into my life now. Dragging my kids around to make them follow my hobbies??? No way. Even if I had the money, I wouldn't do that to them.
When we moves in here I hated all vegetables. I loved to flower garden in the city house I had before this, but I never grew or really ate a single veg. I remember growing my very first tomato plant next to my house. I buried my little plants, put some cages around them and told Josh to eat what ever he wanted to eat. I didn't trim them or water them or give a hoot about them. I think the next spring they where still in the ground - all brown and way dead. A few more years passed. I planted roses and daisies and other pretty water wasters, but something was building in me to start branching out.
I think it started with me wanting some strawberries. I have no idea how I heard of Square Foot Gardening, but it seemed like a good idea. I didn't want to spend much time on my garden. AHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Seriously!!! I remember saying to a friend, "I have plenty of space but I like the idea of Square Foot Gardening because it it will not take up much time weeding and being BORED in the garden." BORED IN THE GARDEN???? I really talked like that. Bored in the garden? Never. Weeding had become something that I could zone out and meditate while doing for hours if I could. I actually set the timer on my phone to make myself stop. Now I say stuff like "OK - you only get 45 mins to weed then you have to stop."
With my little square foot garden I put in three 4/4ft beds and one 4/8ft tomato bed. I grew my little plants with minimum success but I was happy and learning. I think I had that for two years before the bug really bit down hard. I needed a real garden. A Cottage Garden. A Kitchen Garden. A Potager. Something with plants thickly planted and working together. I needed to dive in. Thank God Josh loves to eat fresh veggies enough that he was 100% in. I planned and planned and planned again. I had it all figured out. And in our usual fashion, my Josh took one look and it and knew it made no scenes. He made it actually happen. I fought him and made him reuse the beds that I had already made. Of course in retrospect he was right. Dammit. He usual is, and it drives me crazy.
Now I had blow up the amount of usable garden space that was available to me. I went from 80 square feet to around 450+ square feet of raised bed space. I thought I was big stuff. Then I planted that garden and quickly ran out of room. Where would I grow melons? Pumpkins? A billion more tomatoes? I needed another garden. The next year I was too broke to make a new raised bed garden. That meant having a traditional in the ground garden. Which I thought I was too cool for, yet went for it anyway. 18ft by 96ft was the original measurement. I never measured it since the first time. Since it has no defined boarders I bet it has actually gotten bigger over the years.
The front garden - the Cottage Garden is my love. I always wish it was bigger, but then I might not love it as much as I do. It is just the right size for me to keep it pretty and under control. If I work too much and let it go a little too wild it takes me a day or so and it is back under control. It's just right.
The back garden or the Orchard Garden. Damn that orchard garden. It has always been my bad kid. It really illustrates to me that growing veggies in the ground is way harder than raised beds. But just like my bad kids - its totally worth it. It is a great place for me to grow large scale things in the quantity that fills my freezer. I try to put things back there that are ugly or take up lots of space. I like to eat tomatoes but the plants themselves take up tons of space. If I planted them up front they would take up almost my entire Cottage Garden. This year last second I decided to plant 30 tomatoes out back. No problem. Plenty of room. The pumpkins are going insane back there. Every year I draw out a plan of how I am going to convert that garden into partial raised beds and partial open vine space. Then I never do. This year Josh has really helped me with the weeds back there. He goes back there with the weed wacker and pushes those puppies back. As the pumpkins start to take over they are shading out the weeds from coming in. Between the Jurassic sized leaves on the pumpkins and weed killer Josh its all under control - today. Call me back if we get some hot weather and tons of rain.
Once I lost myself to gardening I learned a new term - homesteader. And that is me. My title has been found. And I am so excited to find a bunch of other geeks that love gardening and growing food. The girls wanted to show in 4H and we all fell in love with goats. Then I discovered Babydoll South Down sheep and I fell in love again. Grad school is stopping me from having a huge flock right now, but the day will come when I have 10+ ewes breeding away for me each year. I make lists of expenses and needs for that flock. I doodle and dream about them. They are coming eventually - sorry Joshy. Egg chickens has been a fun adventure for me. I enjoy the love that develops between me and my pet chickens. They are such lovely little ladies. The horses have whittled away to just one old retired gentleman and my mini donkey. That's just right. No show horse worries. Just a happy fat old man living in the pasture with good shelter and plenty to eat. He doesn't even wear a blanket in the winter. The dog is higher maintenance.
Every year I want to try one more step. I still have not reach my limit of the amount I think we can handle. Pasture chickens, beef, veggies, pasture pigs, fruitfruitfruit and more fruit. I love it. And because of my selfish choice to buy a horse farm I have plenty of space to live out my little homestead dreams. My horse barn has been converted one stall at a time into a chicken coop, then a goat pen, then another goat pen. This homesteading thing owns me. I love it. More please.
What's on my plan for next year? Remember - grad school is getting in the way.
Add a new horse pasture
Make a barn quilt
Add some cut flower growth areas
Some small projects -
goat hay feeders, goat portable pen, mailbox remodel
For the future? Dream big.
Meat chickens and turkeys
Solar and wind power
Re-do the pond
Much more fruit