One of many driving forces behind the start of Frugalwoods was our need to depart the town and purchase a homestead within the woods. That occurred in Could 2016 and let me let you know, we had A LOT of preconceived notions about what it could be wish to stay rurally, a few of which turned out to be true and a few of which… not a lot. It’s simple to gloss over the specifics if you’re dreaming about shifting to the nation. It turns into very a lot concerning the specifics if you lose energy and water for every week within the lifeless 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 vegetables and fruit we might ever need every summer time. 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 youngsters gracefully aiding–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 therapy of indigenous peoples, and lack of antibiotics and trendy drugs!
I’ve a robust creativeness and along with rising vegetables and fruit, I assumed maybe we’d increase 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 might 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 people do it.
Nevertheless, I’m not destined to be a type of people.
My husband Nate and I moved to our 66-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont on Could 18, 2016 and at present, seven years on, I need to share what we’ve realized, 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Outdated Me vs. Present Me: A Showdown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Frugalwoods and to have a good time, I’m typing down reminiscence lane with reflections on a few of my most influential outdated posts. 9 years is a very long time to do something and I’m curious to see if I agree with my outdated self or if my ideas have modified within the intervening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 try 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 Verify: That’s a nope.
The first purpose? That is an all-consuming, full-time job throughout harvest seasons and I don’t need to develop, harvest and protect meals full-time.
I wish to do some little bit of a variety of various things, and that features some gardening and a few canning and preserving.
To just 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 need to do all of it day, day by day. After seven years, I lastly now not really feel responsible for not rising and elevating all of our meals. I truly 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 loads higher at it than me.
For Nate and me, the entire level of this life-style change was to let go of the town rat race, the exterior pressures and the societal expectations.
We wished to now not work for different folks and now not continuously rush round. Rural life, for us, means pleasure, time, freedom and area. And right here’s the factor:
I’ve realized that chaining myself to my vegetable backyard is actually no totally different than chaining myself to my desk and pc.
A backyard has limitless wants, doesn’t care about your time/power/plans and exerts a variety of time-bound pressures. Something that saps all my time and power–and calls for I do issues I don’t have the need to do–isn’t why I moved right here. Extreme gardening harassed me out. So now, we develop somewhat little bit of this and a tidbit of that and we name it a day. Let me let you know the story of how I acquired right here.
The Kale & Chard Apocalypse of 2018
Detailed in this old post, 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 let you know: that kale and chard LOVED rising right here. It was probably the most profitable factor we’ve ever planted. All 80 of them.
Nonetheless beneath the delusion that I used to be maybe truly Laura Ingalls Wilder reincarnated, I used to be decided to protect and save EVERY LAST STALK of kale and chard we grew. I wished to see if we might do it–truly 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 monumental that I had to make use of our child pool and several other big plastic tubs for rinsing stations. My poor mother and father made the error of coming for a go to throughout this debacle and acquired roped into serving to (sorry once more about that, mother and pa!). When stuff comes ripe, there are by no means sufficient fingers to assist. However you by no means know fairly when that ripe day can 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 nerve-racking 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 unhealthy.
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 how you can calculate our consumption price.
After that draining expertise and the demoralizing realization that we couldn’t even devour all that we’d labored so onerous to place away, I made a decision to alter our homesteading meals outlook. We’re profoundly privileged that we’re not subsistence farmers. We do not need to do that to ourselves. I used to be competing in opposition to 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 onerous 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 real looking about how I need to spend my time throughout the summer time months. I don’t need to be tethered to the backyard. I need to take the children to the native lake with pals, I need to go hear stay music at our neighbors’ farm, I need to hike and play. I don’t need to spend 12 hours chopping and blanching monumental stalks of chard. I need stability and freedom in my life.
A lot of you have got requested me to re-start my This Month On The Homestead series and to be trustworthy, 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 might 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 number of years in the past in This Month On The Homestead: The Full Garden Rundown Including Building Raised Beds. When you’re a backyard nerd and need to nerd out, that publish’s for you!
Right here’s the place we plant meals lately:
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. Simple to stroll out and snip a number of issues for dinner. Right here’s what we’ve carried out 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 thought. The strawberries appeal to each kind 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 favor they not POP up at me. A extra gradual method can be appreciated.
- A whole daycare of child chipmunks who’re a scorching mess in there. Stomping on crops, rummaging round within the grime. 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 recent strawberries that they frequently, routinely, yearly pluck pre-ripe berries, rip crops and destroy my intelligent netting system.
Additionally, since these are raised beds, the soil stage sinks annually. We put a ton of logs within the backside to construct up the bottom, however as these decompose, you really want 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 lifeless and I helped her transplant the surviving strawberries into one half of the mattress and he or she planted flower seeds within the different half.
- TBD what I’ll do with the opposite mattress, which remains 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 remaining.
- The greens will be succession planted, that means I rip them out after they begin to flower and plant new seeds. If I sustain with it, now we have recent greens all summer time lengthy.
- I began carrots in right here a number of years in the past, however by chance put them proper subsequent to the dill plant and–wouldn’t you realize it–carrot leaves and dill look ALMOST IDENTICAL. There have been some casualties.
- This method appears to work fairly effectively since most of these items is annual and never perennial. We added extra soil final yr and might want to add extra once more subsequent yr.
2) The “Large” Vegetable Backyard
The “massive” vegetable backyard is the place we develop nearly all of our annual veggies. Annual means you need to plant new ones yearly versus crops which might be perennial, which suggests they arrive again yearly. This backyard is fenced in and has cattle panels–which I installed by myself one year, 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 direction of the panels and so they take it from there. Extremely suggest.
On this backyard, we develop a pretty big variety of greens each summer time and love consuming recent 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 children 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 title. My trays say “Mama.”
- I begin about three trays value of crops and I solely do a number of of every variety. I’m effectively conscious that we don’t want 89 tomato crops (like I did a number of years in the past… ).
- We start all of these 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 feels like loads. And when it comes to sheer variety of crops, it’s a lot, however when it comes to how a lot fruit we truly get? It’s not all that a lot.
Right here’s Why:
1. All of these items 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. Related timelines are connected to all of those perennial fruits.
2. Different issues wish 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 need to use pesticides, constructing a fence is just too costly (and would damage the view)–plus a mere fence isn’t 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 youngsters 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 after 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 how you can 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 consequence 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 suddenly!
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 acquired to choose it ASAP. When 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 like kids, haven’t any curiosity or concern on your schedule. They ripen when they need, how they need. When you’re not able to drop all the pieces and harvest all day lengthy? The CVP will handle 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 all the fruit on that one, excellent, magical, wonderful day… NOW WHAT?!!!
This, my pals, is how I’ve discovered myself with a kitchen bursting with ripe vegetables and fruit. With a lot chard and kale I needed to retailer it within the youngsters’ plastic pool. With so many apples–suddenly!–that I can’t match all of the barrels within the kitchen and must lug some right down to the basement.
It’s an unimaginable 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 need to decide to meals preservation. Now, I do what I can.
I now not really feel guilt over not turning Each. Single. Cucumber into pickles. We eat a ton, we give a bunch away to pals and neighbors and perhaps I make a number of jars of pickles. However not 100 quarts. I did that a number of years in the past and simply, wow. Folks requested me to please stop giving them jars of pickles as items. 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 best as a result of the children can harvest them on their very own–there aren’t 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. Simple.
- Apples are the toughest. Nate or I’ve to do many of the harvesting as a result of they’re so excessive up within the bushes. That doesn’t cease the children from serving to and so they 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 wish 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 occasions till you’ve used up all of the apples (or they’ve gone unhealthy 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 huge funding in time (not to mention supplies).
- Strawberries get eaten recent (principally by the children, principally earlier than even making it inside). Simple!
- 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.
Generally 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 must 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 people 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 wish to be in a backyard for awhile and I don’t thoughts canning for awhile. I like doing it with the children since I feel it teaches them some nifty expertise.
However it’s now 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 may 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 number of quarts of apple sauce. Or I won’t. And both approach? We are going to nonetheless be grateful to stay out right here.
How does your backyard develop?
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