The garden, the homestead, the good enough

I spent two hours working in the garden today, and was ready to go to bed when I was done, and I had hardly accomplished anything.

First of all, this deep mulch method? Makes a lot of sense for transplants, but seems very fiddly for direct sowing. How much mulch to put over the seeds so that they can still come up, but so that the mulch will still conserve water? Also, it’s very hard to see tiny sprouts or small transplants in that sea of crisscrossy hay.

My first idea was to assemble some cold frames, to help warm the soil before transplanting the sweet potatoes. They’ve been mostly staying alive in glasses of water for two weeks, but I’m not sure how much longer they can do that. And if I put soil in those glasses, I’m not sure I’d get it out again at transplant time — can’t squeeze them like paper cups or cut them apart.

Anyway, I got a bunch of fairly small single pane windows through freecycle, thinking to stick them next to each other on top of some cans or something. But then I thought maybe these windows are old enough to have lead paint, so I better take the glass out of the frames. I got two pieces of glass out successfully, and was busily scraping off paint, and as I carefully shifted the glass around to get to another spot, it broke. If it’s going to break that easily, it’s not worth my time to make cold frames with it. Oh well. I swept up and disposed of the paint scrapings, and went out back.

Next, to prepare some nice raised beds for the sweet potatoes. I figured I’d put them in the back of the garden, and started digging. Heavy soil there. Fertile, yes. Crumbly, not at all. My rake just got stuck in it. So then I shoveled on some compost and tried to mix it all together. I’m sure eventually it’ll blend, but I couldn’t make it happen with shovel or rake. I just dug it and tossed it as much as I could and then smoothed it out somewhat.

Discouraged by now, I turned to the other corner of the garden, to prepare a raised bed for the carrots. Much easier to dig here. Made a really nice bed, put mulch back all around, and realized that I’d forgotten about the broccoli transplants next row over. I found several still in the soil, but I’d accidentally raked up the nicest ones when I was pulling the mulch away from where the raised bed was going to go.

Sigh.

(Doing things the right way is supposed to be easier and more satisfying, isn’t it?)

I started sowing the carrots. They only made it halfway up the row. Eh — put the beets in the other half. May I mention that somehow I find it discouraging to grow vegetables that only produce one result? Tomatoes, you get a bunch from one plant. Same with cucumbers, peppers, beans, etc. But carrots and beets and broccoli? One. Well, broccoli theoretically produces a few side shoots, too.

I tried to stick one uprooted broccoli back in the dirt, and spread the mulch back around it and the others, and quit. My back hurt, and I was thirsty and tired.

Ridiculous, eh?

I felt like I’d done oh so much work, and that was just for one planted bed and a little prep work on another. I didn’t even have energy to water the carrots and beets — tomorrow.

I still have much more to sow and transplant. I need to make tomato cages, once I get hold of some woven wire fencing. (Don’t need the 330 ft. roll from Lowe’s for $130 — 30-36 feet will do, thanks, so posted on craigslist and freecycle.) I need to put up the bean poles and create some kind of cucumber trellis.

I lost my first garden diagram and drew another one, and I hope I have room for everything.

And while if all goes well it’ll produce a lot of food, it’ll only be a tiny percentage of what we need for a year’s eating.

Is it worth it? I think so… I hope and trust so. What I grow won’t have any pesticides, won’t require any gas to transport to our kitchen, will be fresh and in season. What I freeze or ferment or otherwise store will not be in BPA-lined cans and will hopefully preserve most if not all the nutrients.

I have to remember how what we’re doing, as small as it is, is still progress in the right direction. We were at the grocery store yesterday and walking with Amy it struck me just how much stuff there is in the store that we walk right by. I was constantly answering Amy’s “Can we buy this?” with “We make that ourselves” or “That doesn’t have good ingredients in it to feed our bodies” or the like.

I also have to remember that, as frustrating as it is, there are in fact things that I can’t do, or don’t have time to do, and that — gasp — I can’t do everything. I have to choose what I do myself and what I get elsewhere and what I do without.

Meanwhile, the peas are two inches high, the mixed greens are on the second pair of true leaves, and most of the broccoli is still alive even though most of the leaves have been eaten by something I have yet to identify. Haven’t seen cabbage moths yet, and can’t see anything on the plants. Something’s getting the blueberry leaves, too, it seems — there are some nice-sized ones on a sprout low to the ground, but the tallest stalk seems to get stripped and keep putting out new tiny leaves. Oh, and there are cherries greening and tiny peaches and apples forming, and lots of flowers and berries starting in the strawberry patch.

Good enough.

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4 thoughts on “The garden, the homestead, the good enough

  1. Hang in there, Marcy. Getting the soil easy to work takes a long time. Each year you learn something new. it doesn’t happen all at once. And some growing years are better than others!
    The perfect homestead is somewhat like the perfect mother. It aint so! (Just when you’ve got it figured out something changes!)

    We haven’t even planted here yet. Its an unusually warm and early spring but traditionally Memorial Day is the earliest time you should plant in our area and husband has discover over 23 years June 10th is a better date and everything catches up anyway!

    We also plant peas in late July for a fall crop. I never grow broccoli, although I love it because there are some many things(bugs) that eat it in the spring.

    Nonetheless, each year we plant in hope.

  2. I’ve heard broccoli makes a good fall crop because its pests aren’t active then. I was planning to try some in spring and some later. Might try to find that bacterial powder (BT?) to deter pests, too.

    Last night I dreamed I saw tiny worms covering the broccoli plants, and wondered why I hadn’t seen them before.

  3. After a frustrating day like that, I always think of the fall and the curse (sweat and toil and weeds, etc.) I wonder if we will still work in the new heavens and earth, but without the frustration. Like maybe we will plant gardens, but it will be challenging but not backbreaking, and without the wasted energy that comes from things not working out as we plan them. But yes, here and now I agree there is grace in the “good enough” — hurray for a garden and fresh veggies!

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