Gardening, Life, Self-Sustaining

The Start of Self-Sustaining…Kind of.

I’ve made a decision to really embrace this farm life while I’m unempl-wait…no…a stay-at-home mom. We’re not going to use that ugly “u” word because honestly…what mom is ever not working. Being a mother is a job that is more time-consuming, exhausting both physically and emotionally and demanding than almost any full time job out there. So we’re going with stay-at-home mom. Has a better ring to it than unemployed anyway.

What we’re attempting to do, this lifestyle we’re going after…I like to call it…somewhat self-sustaining. Or aspiring to be somewhat self-sustaining. I’m not going to go to the point where I’m slaughtering my own meat, making my own soap and collecting rainwater to purify it for drinking. But I do want to get to the point of being self-sustaining where we can save money, create hobbies and learn from our endeavor.

I had my hubby (who wasn’t at all displeased by the thought of having to use a tractor) till up a large plot of land for a garden. My garden in town was a tiny thing on the side of my house that had a few perennials and one cherry tomato plant. This one…well…the word ambitious comes to mind. I’ve gone from a maybe six foot by six foot plot of shaded space to a stretch of tilled, manured garden that measures roughly 400 ft x 60 ft. See? Ambitious.

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I’ve had a few tries and fails so far – mostly weather related which is really unfortunate but you learn your lessons when it comes to gardening. My dad’s been starting and maintaining gardens since I can remember and even now he’s still learning, still researching, still improving his craft.

We currently have planted pole beans, watermelon, sugar snap peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, carrots and onions…I think. I might be wrong on the onions. Only time will tell since we didn’t mark the garden. An “adventure in the game of surprise” my husband called it.

I made the mistake of transplanting my cucumbers too early. It was gorgeous for several days in a row  and they were flourishing in the starter pots I had them in so I figured they would be just fine. Then the temperature dropped and four days of cold and rain moved in. Needless to say, they did not fare well. Cucumbers, apparently, do not like cold breezes by any means. I’m going to try again from seed and hope for the best.

I have squash, more spinach, dill and basil started inside and am anxiously awaiting the day they are grown enough to have a home with the rest of the veggies. Tomatoes and peppers will join the mix as well.

Another thing we’re trying our hand at is hatching chickens. Who wouldn’t want to add a little animal husbandry to gardening?

I think we can all agree that the price of food is getting up there. Keeping your family fed with good, wholesome foods isn’t easy. It’s a lot easier to walk into the store and buy a bunch of starchy, processed foods for $20.00 than it is to buy foods that will be more healthy and less processed. That’s just a simple fact of life today.

I was able to buy a week’s worth of groceries on $20.00 once. It was a lot of foods that weren’t exactly appealing – noodles, ramen, canned vegetables, milk, a pound of hamburger, sausage links that were on sale and bread. It was sad to look at but it would keep my family from starving.

And with this whole avian flu thing causing a shortage of eggs, how convenient would it be to just collect our own?

My mom and dad supplied us with the chance to gather eggs – 34 in all. They are now sitting in a still-air incubator at a cool 101.8 degrees under 50% humidity which are the ideal conditions for successful hatching. In 18 days we will hopefully be welcoming these little chicks and have a coop ready for them.

All of these adventures are a bit daunting, to be quite honest. From a gal who has been mostly city-bound for much of her life and working in office situations…it’s a big change.

But, as IMG_1206I walk the lines of our property while my youngest naps, there’s an excitement along the rows of lilac bushes and plumb trees, under the branches of the blooming apple tree, that I can’t ignore. There’s possibility here. There’s a chance for change and a chance to raise my daughters the way both my husband and I were raised – on a farm enjoying the freedom of being able to run, helping with chores and experience the outdoors instead of being glued to the television.IMG_1200

It’s beautiful out here among the aged, abandoned antiques. There’s peace and I can’t help but sit back and enjoy the anticipation of the numerous possibilities – a successful garden, canning vegetables and making jams from the plums and choke cherries, raising chickens for eggs, maybe a greenhouse down the road…and yes…even the thought of having the milking goats my husband is trying to coerce me into getting. There are no real limits to what we are able to accomplish out here in the “boonies.”

It’s just a matter of sticking with our plans and taking the triumphs with the setbacks. Something I need to work on a little. One thing I’ve always struggled with is leaving things to chance and starting projects without finishing them. This could be a learning experience on more than one level for me and show me the importance of not leaving things half done. But, in all honesty, I love the hard labor and the satisfaction of a day well spent in the sun and garden.

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