Monday, July 15, 2024

We’ll Develop All Of Our Meals! And Different Misconceptions I Had About Rural Life

Littlewoods and me beginning our backyard seeds this spring!

One of many driving forces behind the start of Frugalwoods was our need to depart town and purchase a homestead within the woods. That occurred in Might 2016 and let me inform you, we had A LOT of preconceived notions about what it will be prefer to reside rurally, a few of which turned out to be true and a few of which… not a lot. It’s straightforward to gloss over the specifics whenever you’re dreaming about transferring to the nation. It turns into very a lot in regards to the specifics whenever you lose energy and water for per week within the useless of winter due to 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 vegatables and fruits we may 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 helping–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!

Our homestead within the woods

I’ve a robust creativeness and along with rising vegatables and fruits, I believed maybe we’d elevate 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 may present for all of our wants and reside out a modern-day sustainable, free vary, natural paradise of our personal making. To be clear, all of this IS technically potential. And sure, loads of of us do it.

Nonetheless, I’m not destined to be a kind of of us.

My husband Nate and I moved to our 66-acre homestead within the woods of rural Vermont on Might 18, 2016 and right this moment, seven years on, I wish to share what we’ve discovered, 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 sequence on…

Outdated Me vs. Present Me: A Showdown

The primary iteration of the “huge” vegetable backyard (earlier than it acquired its fence)

April was the NINTH anniversary of Frugalwoods and to rejoice, I’m typing down reminiscence lane with reflections on a few of my most influential previous posts. 9 years is a very long time to do something and I’m curious to see if I agree with my previous self or if my ideas have modified within the intervening years. Since Might is the SEVENTH anniversary of our transition to rural life, this appears the proper time to mirror on rural.

You possibly can take a look at 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!

Reality Examine: That’s a nope.

This drone photograph (by Nate) reveals you the format of our gardens fairly properly 

The first cause? That is an all-consuming, full-time job throughout harvest seasons and I don’t wish to develop, harvest and protect meals full-time.

I prefer to perform a little 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 wish to do all of it day, day by day. After seven years, I lastly 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.

Kidwoods harvesting tomatoes into her pockets…

For Nate and me, the entire level of this way of life change was to let go of town rat race, the exterior pressures and the societal expectations.

We wished to not work for different individuals and not continually rush round. Rural life, for us, means pleasure, time, freedom and area. And right here’s the factor:

I’ve discovered that chaining myself to my vegetable backyard is absolutely no completely different than chaining myself to my desk and pc.

A backyard has countless wants, doesn’t care about your time/vitality/plans and exerts a variety of time-bound pressures. Something that saps all my time and vitality–and calls for I do issues I don’t have the will to do–isn’t why I moved right here. Extreme gardening pressured me out. So now, we develop just a little little bit of this and a tidbit of that and we name it a day. Let me inform you the story of how I acquired right here.

The Kale & Chard Apocalypse of 2018

Detailed in this previous publish, 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 vegetation. Sure, EIGHTY.

Me + the newborn pool of kale and chard

That was 70 vegetation too many. As a result of let me inform you: that kale and chard LOVED rising right here. It was probably the most profitable factor we’ve ever planted. All 80 of them.

Nonetheless underneath 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 may 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 huge that I had to make use of our child pool and several other large 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 pop!). When stuff comes ripe, there are by no means sufficient palms to assist. However you by no means know fairly when that ripe day will probably 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 anxious to do with two tiny youngsters underfoot. I used to be exhausted from bending over to reap within the backyard and stooping to clean 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.

Tomato sauce produced from our backyard two summers in the past

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 ceaselessly and I didn’t know the best way to calculate our consumption fee.

After that draining expertise and the demoralizing realization that we couldn’t even devour all that we’d labored so exhausting to place away, I made a decision to alter our homesteading meals outlook. We’re profoundly privileged that we’re not subsistence farmers. We don’t have 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 reside as much as that customary.

I’d succeeded in transplanting the stress and anxiousness 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 exhausting to allow myself to do.

The place We’ve Landed In 2023

Littlewoods was barely larger than a chard leaf!

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 life like about how I wish to spend my time throughout the summer time months. I don’t wish to be tethered to the backyard. I wish to take the youngsters to the native lake with associates, I wish to go hear reside music at our neighbors’ farm, I wish to hike and play. I don’t wish to spend 12 hours chopping and blanching huge stalks of chard. I would like steadiness and freedom in my life.

A lot of you’ve gotten requested me to re-start my This Month On The Homestead sequence 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 definitely may re-start the sequence and let you know the way issues are going, however don’t maintain your collective breaths.

Gardening Areas as of Might 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 couple of years in the past in This Month On The Homestead: The Full Backyard Rundown Together with Constructing Raised Beds. When you’re a backyard nerd and wish to nerd out, that publish’s for you!

Right here’s the place we plant meals nowadays:

1) 4 raised beds proper subsequent to our again porch.

The completed raised beds again in 2020, with Littlewoods holding courtroom (strawberries on proper; greens and herbs on left; mint in pots).

Nate constructed these again in 2020 and I like them due to their proximity to the home. Straightforward to stroll out and snip a couple of issues for dinner. Right here’s what we’ve performed with them:

Beds 1 and a couple of: Strawberries

  • We planted 100 strawberry vegetation again in 2020 and I can’t say that was one of the best concept. The strawberries appeal to each kind of pestilence, together with however not restricted to:
    1. 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 choose they not POP up at me. A extra gradual method could be appreciated.
    2. A whole daycare of child chipmunks who’re a scorching mess in there. Stomping on vegetation, rummaging round within the filth. Mess.
    3. BIRDS. Allll the birds. We put hooped netting over the vegetation, however the chipmunk daycare class knocked them over and ate holes within the nets.
    4. Our personal kids. So desirous of contemporary strawberries that they frequently, routinely, yearly pluck pre-ripe berries, rip vegetation and destroy my intelligent netting system.
  • Making our personal apple cider with Kidwoods on the crank

    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 are able to’t do with the strawberries in there except we replant all 100 of them.

  • This 12 months, I turned one in all these beds over to Kidwoods, who was begging for her very personal flower backyard. Half of the strawberry vegetation in there have been useless and I helped her transplant the surviving strawberries into one half of the mattress and she or he planted flower seeds within the different half.
  • TBD what I’ll do with the opposite mattress, which continues 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 could be succession planted, which means I rip them out once they begin to flower and plant new seeds. If I sustain with it, we now have contemporary greens all summer time lengthy.
  • I began carrots in right here a couple of years in the past, however by chance put them proper subsequent to the dill plant and–wouldn’t you already know it–carrot leaves and dill look ALMOST IDENTICAL. There have been some casualties.
  • This technique appears to work fairly properly since most of these things is annual and never perennial. We added extra soil final 12 months and might want to add extra once more subsequent 12 months.

2) The “Massive” Vegetable Backyard

Kidwoods and I shoveling compost soil into the raised beds a couple of years in the past to prime them off

The “huge” vegetable backyard is the place we develop the vast majority of our annual veggies. Annual means you must plant new ones yearly versus vegetation which can be perennial, which suggests they arrive again yearly. This backyard is fenced in and has cattle panels–which I put in on my own one 12 months, 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 reasonably large variety of greens each summer time and love consuming contemporary tomatoes, beans, squash, snap peas, cucumbers, peppers, and different misc vegetation 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 youngsters every get their very own row to plant, have a tendency and harvest!

  • Every child will get to start out 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 identify. My trays say “Mama.”
  • I begin about three trays value of vegetation and I solely do a couple of of every variety. I’m properly conscious that we don’t want 89 tomato vegetation (like I did a couple of years in the past… ).
  • We begin all of those from seeds within the spring and plant the begins within the floor in early June–too chilly to take action earlier than then!
Our seed begins on the seed beginning tower Nate constructed a couple of years in the past. He constructed that toddler tower-of-power too!

3) Mr. FW tends our perennial meals scenario, which he’s grown to incorporate:

  • 28 blueberry bushes
  • 3 currant bushes
  • 3 Saskatoon berry bushes
  • 3 plum timber
  • 4 cherry bushes
  • 10 apple timber
  • 4 cider apple timber
  • 5 pear timber
  • 2 peach timber
  • 4 elderberry bushes

I’ll admit that feels like loads. And by way of sheer variety of vegetation, it’s a lot, however by way of how a lot fruit we truly get? It’s not all that a lot.

Right here’s Why:

1. All of these things 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 prefer to eat these candy treats too.

And by “different,” I’m certainly referring to the Intelligent Varmint Patrol (CVP) who, to this point, have managed to eat EVERY SINGLE plum and cherry we’ve ever grown. They stalk these vegetation 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 wish to use pesticides, constructing a fence is just too costly (and would spoil the view)–plus a mere fence is not any match for the CVP–and we’ve tried netting and chicken-wire cages. We’ll strive netting once more, however all that appears to occur with the netting is that our youngsters get twisted up in it…

Kidwoods engaged on her row within the huge veggie backyard final summer time

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 totally 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 neglect the best way to fly in moments of disaster?

3. The climate, am I proper?

If the CVP doesn’t devour them, it’s extremely potential these fruits’ll die/underproduce attributable to 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 unexpectedly!

Most of those perennial fruits come ripe all on the similar 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 timber, very like kids, don’t have any curiosity or concern on your schedule. They ripen when they need, how they need. When you’re not able to drop the whole lot and harvest all day lengthy? The CVP will handle it for you.

5. Preserving! Canning! Urgent! Oh My!

Littlewoods planting her tomato begins final summer time

If we’re fortunate sufficient to come back this far, if a winter frost didn’t kill the vegetation, a late frost didn’t burn the blossoms, the CVP didn’t actual its revenge, bugs didn’t illness the tree AND we managed to reap all the fruit on that one, good, magical, wonderful day… NOW WHAT?!!!

This, my associates, is how I’ve discovered myself with a kitchen bursting with ripe vegatables and fruits. With a lot chard and kale I needed to retailer it within the youngsters’ plastic pool. With so many apples–unexpectedly!–that I can’t match all of the barrels within the kitchen and should lug some all the way down to the basement.

It’s an unbelievable privilege to have all this meals, however with out an industrial kitchen and a piece crew and countless 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 wish to decide to meals preservation. Now, I do what I can.

I not really feel guilt over not turning Each. Single. Cucumber into pickles. We eat a ton, we give a bunch away to associates and neighbors and possibly I make a couple of jars of pickles. However not 100 quarts. I did that a couple of years in the past and simply, wow. Individuals requested me to please stop giving them jars of pickles as presents. There’s 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:

  • The littlest currant picker

    Blueberries are the simplest as a result of the youngsters can harvest them on their very own–there are not 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. Straightforward.

  • 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 timber. That doesn’t cease the youngsters from serving to and so they each get beaned on the top by apples yearly. Apples are additionally powerful as a result of they require a ton of labor to course of. I prefer 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 instances 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 doubtless will once more sooner or later–however that is one other large funding in time (to not point out provides).
  • Strawberries get eaten contemporary (principally by the youngsters, principally earlier than even making it inside). Straightforward!
  • 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.
Mr. FW + Kidwoods planting extra fruit timber a couple of years in the past

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 carefully and we do eat it, however carefully. Since we don’t should eat pickled chard stems to outlive the winter, we don’t must make 90 quarts of pickled chard stems. To be clear: many people select to develop and protect all of their meals and that’s nice! Many of us 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 prefer to be in a backyard for awhile and I don’t thoughts canning for awhile. I like doing it with the youngsters since I believe it teaches them some nifty abilities.

Nevertheless it’s not a race to final homesteader for me. I’ve realized that the strain for perfection isn’t restricted to high school or conventional jobs–it will possibly take over something. Even gardening!!!! So we’ll plant our little vegetation this 12 months and possibly keep in mind to weed and water them. And I’d can a couple of quarts of apple sauce. Or I won’t. And both method? We’ll nonetheless be grateful to reside out right here.

How does your backyard develop?

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