We might be getting a little carried away, but we are really investing in the garden this year. It is our first full season to garden at the Dodge Road house, and we have been steadily putting the pieces together for a large production zone around a central hangout area. We are building the foundation of our home economy, an idea we have been exploring lots lately. When the external economies collapse, having a home economy to fall back on keeps people from starving to death. It's not nearly so common a practice these days, but I am certain that it will continue to make its comeback!
We hope to get lots of value out of the space we have here, from food produced to enjoyable space to hang out, and for the girls to play. I put in a sandbox, picnic table, and kid pool, and I hope to put in a cob oven sometime early in the summer.
We live on nearly thirty acres, most of which is treeless. A nice winter creek runs through, and the girls enjoy going down to it. It has been warm enough for them to get in several times over the winter. The soil is dark sticky clay, which is very difficult to work with. From the road, it looks like great farmland, but my neighbor told me that this was all once the bottom of a giant lake, to grow in this clay would not be easy. Rather than struggling to roto-till organic matter into sticky clay, we installed raised beds. I scavenged as much plywood as I could, and then I bought the rest of what I needed from craigslist. We got our soil through my friend Reid, who owns a soil and fertilizer business. We have been slowly filling raised beds, and we are going to do mounds for our squash, melons, corn, and sunflowers.
In early April, I put a good amount of effort into getting the fence built, with weed mat laid down underneath it. Our woodchips have been trucked in for us by tree trimmers, at a good rate, and even free in one case. We are always on the make for more. For this sticky clay, I can think of no better thing.
Irrigation will be automated, and I am a bit surprised by what it’s going to cost me to run drip irrigation up and down many beds in the five thousand square feet or so we have fenced in. It will be easy, however, to keep everything watered, and that will be huge if we have another hot year, which seems likely, so far.
I recently constructed some bamboo shade roofs over the pool and sandbox, and over the picnic table. I hope to have another picnic table built sometime early in the summer, as well. We left space for it, and for a cob oven, as mentioned. We have thought about having a small roadside market, and I have been considered calling together a gathering or two. With a cob oven, this would be achievable.
Even though we are only renting this house and we don’t plan to stay here again next year, we really felt inspired to create this garden space, and to invest ourselves in it fully. We are having fun, and we are practicing our trade. We are going to keep account of what all we produce as we get started developing our home economy. I look forward to sharing developments as we go along!
Update! As of late May, things have really been coming along. We aren't totally done installing the garden, but we've got most of the beds done. Now it's about moving in more mulch and planting the last of our summer crops, like melons and squash. We're a bit behind, perhaps, but not by much.
The irrigation system is online, though there's still more to install as we plant the last of our main beds. My next projects, after all the planting, will be to add another gate at the east end and to finish the pool and sandbox area. I'm going to build a deck and a small stone wall around the whole thing so it will look nicer and be easier to use.
Another Update: We are now into July, and the garden has come a long way. We have had some big disappointments as well, with our entire melon crop failing, remaining the same size as they were when planted. They have good soil and plenty of nutrition. It is mysterious. Also, much has gone to seed early. Broccoli has been productive, as have kale and lettuce. We are starting to get tomatoes, but only a few. We got a decent harvest of garlic, and we've had lots of peas. Corn is growing, beans are growing, squash... not doing so well, generally. We've been eating some cucumbers, though they are taking off slowly.
This is our first year to garden in raised beds. Also, we have had strange weather. I have many pictures to update the visuals, but alas, my computer is completely rejecting my attempts to upload new pictures. It's always something. Pictures are here!
We've been busy! It's now mid July, and for all we accomplish, it seems there's always more lagging behind. Laura and the girls didn't much care for the fish pond pool I set up next to the sandbox, and they went ahead and got a big inflatable, which is much more popular and well used. This means more shade roofing, though, which is going in now. We still have to something with the fish pond, so Laura suggests we actually stock it with fish and aquatic plants.
Laura gets numerous gold stars for her steadfast homestead work. She has been making sun tea, often with herbs from our herb patch, and has also been harvesting and freezing peas. We have been eating lots of lettuce, cucumbers, kale, broccoli and peas. We are even starting to get some summer squash.
She has also been making bread, using a bread maker that she got from her mother. There are many things we lack here, as far as home economy goes. We eat lots of eggs, and yet we do not have chickens. The limitations of short term occupancy and lack of space on which to develop long term food systems make it hard to stay motivated sometimes, admittedly. We push on though, doing what we know is right (beautifying the earth, practicing self reliance, maintaining relationships with plants and space) even though it costs us money and energy to keep it going. We trust that we are on the right path and that all will be well.