Who knew that when I started learning to live on my 2 1/2 acres almost 20 years ago that my lifestyle would become…dare I say it…popular?
As an executive at a multinational corporation, I was literally laughed at whenever one of my peers found out about my hobbies. I was odd man out, you see.
I hated golf. I really couldn’t stand the pretensions of the “oenophiles” I was forced to travel with. And I really loathed back stabbing, expense account dinners where the targets of the next round of lay offs were discussed as we plowed through enough wine and food to keep at least one of the “peasants” gainfully employed for 3 months.
I loved (and still love) raising my own fruits and vegetables. I own chickens and if my husband ever loosens up a bit, will have a goat or two in the back yard, as well.
My life in the dirt began when I tripped over one small book one Saturday morning. The Victory Garden by Jim Crockett. Almost 50 years old, Crockett’s book is still hailed as one of the best books for beginning gardeners and it still has pride of place on my gardening book shelf.
Over the last 30 years, with the help of books like Nancy Bubel‘s Seed Starters Handbook, I now raise all my own seeds. This past summer every plant in my garden — 5 varieties of tomato, 2 types of pepper, 2 of cucumbers and 2 of eggplant and zucchini – were all started in my basement along with butternut squash, lettuce, spinach, basil and parsley.
Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and Patricia Lanza’s book on Lasagna Gardening, helped me expand my knowledge and increase the size of my garden 5 fold. I use cold frames in the spring and fall and a combination of raised beds and row cropping to increase my yield. And I learned a whole lot about what I can raise and what I can’t.
I’m aces with tomatoes — all heirloom or organic seed — from Grow Italian or Territorial Seeds. My blueberries yield over 60 quarts every year and my Montmorency cherries are a close second with 50 plus quarts. Pear trees are just starting to bear fruit and the pluots are eagerly anticipated every summer.
But my fig trees are good one year and not so good the next. And the peach and apple trees bear really bad fruit – spotty and buggy. Cantelope grow beautifully in my soil but taste like dirt. Broccoli Rabe comes up fast and easy but flowers before I can harvest it.
Potatoes love the soil but always fall prey to Colorado Potato Beetles and wire worms.
Knowing what I can’t grow upset me when I was a younger gardener but this old girl understands that knowing what she can’t grow is even more important than knowing what she can. Why?
I no longer waste time or space on those veggies and fruits that just are not going to produce. I spend that time honing my skills at growing and harvesting the myriad of foods that like my soil, my weather, my temperatures, wind and rain.
So as winter approaches, I spend time gazing at the pill boxes full of seeds that are resting in my refrigerator. I plot and plan what I will grow and draw a garden diagram I know I will never follow. And I spend quiet hours re-reading the books by my old friends that have helped me create this sustainable life of mine.
And every day, I give thanks for being able to live as I do, in harmony with the natural world.