Today was a down day in our little garden. No beating around the perennial bush, no flowery intro, just a rough down day. We’ve had about 4 days straight of beautiful gentle rain. Which is wonderful for our thirsty little plants, who went for about a week and a half of beating sun. And it was beautiful, gentle, wonderful rain. And I can’t quite put my finger one the cause of my melancholy mood. It might have been the flat tire on the truck, a truck essential to a few of our bigger garden jobs, mainly hauling gravel. Or perhaps it’s that our spring veggies, cabbage, broccoli, etc are stunted and small and there is standing water 6 inches below the surface in our beds because the clay is so compacted. Or maybe it’s the strange black spots on the underside of our clover, or the fact that the cowpeas aren’t grabbing on to the trellis the way I think they should. Most likely the cause of my gloomy mood is that the garden my family and I put our hands into isn’t the perfect Eden I think it should be by now. I mean it’s been like 60 days, shouldn’t it be a lush and fertile oasis by now?! If I can’t cultivate my front yard how will I be able to farm multiple acres?
But this is a learning process, a process full of frustration and low points, mistakes and errors. Something I have historically not handled well. I want to do things perfectly the first time. But sometimes it seems like ...
...the harder I try to solve a problem the worse I make them. Case in point, we have a steep hill directly behind our house, 7 feet approximately from foundation to the base. And it’s eroding, badly. Really badly in some cases. So we planted some juniper bushes on the slope. 24 junipers to be exact. Got them on sale, super exciting stuff in the land of penny pinching. Well during the dry spell it seemed like a good time to trek all along that slope and plant some erosion control! So we spent several hours digging holes and filling, making bowls for the plants and getting them all settled. A week later, the gentle and blessed rain. The first test, how would the junipers fare. And the results, wonderful as far as the plants were concerned. Where I was walking along the steep slope, not so much. My makeshift goat paths turned into piles of mud and mulch at the base of the hill. Areas of the hill that had no erosion before are now riverbeds for rain water. Trying to alleviate my erosion problem and I seem to be making the issue worse. Walking up to the hill and seeing the piles of mud and mulch, the standing water, just the mess that is the “backyard” of our home was just utterly discouraging. All of the sudden every little mess became a sign of my inadequacy. The bare spots in the gravel are a reminder that I can’t fill them until the tire is fixed. The landslide against the hill is a sign that I haven’t dug the 100 foot french drain that will ultimately fix the erosion problem. Our stunted plants raise doubts in my mind of the viability of the two peach trees we bought as an investment in our future and for the memories that will be made under them. It’s days like today that make me question if we have what it takes. Do we try to hard, to little? Are we listening? We find so much joy in parting the earth with our hands, that the lows feel even deeper than the holes we dug for our blueberry bushes. And all of this is on a small scale. What will it be like when we are looking at a 50 foot bed of summer squash, all wilting and discolored from disease? When we find our lettuce decimated in one night by some nocturnal visitor? Just the thought makes me anxious.
And the truth is I don’t have any of the answers, but I know the joy I feel when I’m in this space. Not this yard in particular, but the earth beneath our feet. Whether it’s the 80 year old farm at JuneBug, the altruistic and picturesque farm at The Root Cause, or our own to steep and too compact front yard garden. The joy when that little flower pops up on the cucumber plant or the tendrils on the pea plants grabs on to the trellis the first time, or the squeals from your 3 year old when she sees the bluest blueberries on HER bushes. That joy is irreplaceable. And I guess like any amazing roller coaster the highs are possible because of lows. We will continue to try to figure this out, journal all of our thoughts, issues, concerns, and yes failures. We will munch on peas fresh from the garden, put arugula on our sandwiches despite the tiny holes in the leaves, and do our best to figure out just what the heck is going on with these tomatoes. In reality that is the joy, the uncertainty, untethered from the security that carpet and fluorescent lights bring and the rawness of watching nature make or break your efforts and knowing you really aren’t in control but just along for the ride.
Kyle and Athena
Welcome to our Farmstead Journal. We warmly invite you to read along as we share the day-to-day successes and road-bumps we encounter as we learn organic farming, pursue our search for our own land and our passion for homesteading, plant-based/"veganic" eating and growing, simplicity and our continual journey of learning and growing as a family!