Do you guys read Julie's blog? Well, if you don't, you should. Because from time to time, when she isn't too busy farming and raising her little long-haired boy dude and hanging out with her husband, she writes these pieces that are like golden eggs, laid by some magical goose. Not only are they shiny and pretty, beautiful images and evocative words, but inside there's the rich and nourishing wisdom.The girl can write out a moral, emotional, or physical dilemma like only a few can. She doesn't necessarily offer the answers, but rather poses the questions that yield them.
In recent months, I have thoroughly enjoyed her thoughts on slaughtering one's own animals, making your path even as you change, on people's insensitivity to boys with long, lovely locks and today, on patience, learning and frustration and farming.
Her posts always evoke dormant thoughts in me, or resonate on a deep level. It's not often that something comes along on your mundane journeys through the internet, from email, to news, to facebook, that actually alters your perception, or wanders down some unused pathway in your brain.
It struck me, as I read her latest post, that this discussion of balance, of patience and urgency, is the perfect topic for this season, the moment when day and night are equally long and summer hangs in the balance, ready to charge down the hill; arms open, warm, smelling of wet earth and blossoms, her yellow skirts swaying.
It's the season of planting and calving, of chicks and kids and babying along fragile plant starts. It's Growing Season, delight to farmers, homesteaders and gardeners.
Unlike Julie, I've never wanted to be a bona fide farmer. I've always known that my dreams for living off the land were small, manageable, not wild and ambitious and juggernauting. Having known small-scale farmers most of my life, I never had the dream of being one, because I've seen what it takes and I don't have it in me. One needs a real passion to want to be a farmer. I don't have it, not for that pursuit.
However, like Julie, I am a really impatient person. One that wishes to know already, to be good, not to practice, or cram, or wait. And like Julie, I often project this impatience to my experiences, counting that which I do not know and have not mastered and forgetting to account for all the things I have learned, all the things I am good at, or all the things that I, god forbid, am still learning.
And of course, for a while now, I've been interested in growing some of our own food, trying to be a little more self-sufficient.
In her latest post, she also talks about their accomplishments, about the eggs their fowls have laid, the Kombucha they've brewed, the bread they've baked. Lessons learned, sometimes, in spite of the impatience to master all of it already.
In that spirit I thought I would list the many things I've learned since we started this homesteading adventure, most of them, it bears noting, through trial and error, countless mistakes, messes, hard work wasted, or so it seemed at the time. Compounded though, those mistakes make up the bulk of my knowledge about growing a little bit of your own food. And those mishaps are what makes the triumphs seem that much more glorious.
-Grow what you eat. Basics first. Don't try to grow everything. Grow what you eat.
-Save yourself some heart brake, grow brassicas and peas and green beans and zucchini. They are forgiving and you'll end up with something to eat.
-But also grow flowers. I've never regretted flowers, but I have regretted not having them. Be practical, but fanciful.
-Grow herbs. They're expensive in the dry goods isle and cheap and easy in the garden.
-Fermenting is more fun than canning, but canning has its place. There's nothing like opening a can of homemade tomato sauce in midwinter. Nothing.
-Screw jam. Freeze it, or do one days worth, but sweating in the kitchen over a stove in August for a week is not worth some sugary stuffs.
-Mend your fences. When you see they need mending. Not the day after the deer eat everything in your garden.
-Everything dies. In a long enough timeline the survival rate of every fowl turns to zero (the Tyler Durden school of animal husbandry). In my experience this timeline is anywhere from birth to three years. Do your best, mourn your losses and learn from your mistakes.
-What you can't grow, buy, or trade. Strawberries for preserving, tomatoes for canning, cucumbers for pickling, there's a farmer out there who has these in abundance.
-I can learn anything. No really. The idea of chickens, or bees, or kicking cows, may seem like a wild, impossible idea, especially from a city apartment, but it's not. You do it, you f*** up and it becomes second nature.
-The novelty of making/ growing/ preserving your own never gets old.
Oh and plant your favas with the "eye" down. Every spring, I have to look that up again.
Happy Equinox Folks!
Care to share some lessons you've learned?
ps. This is not traditional gardening garb. I noticed I needed to toss some more favas into the ground and I didn't feel like changing. My friend Candace gave me this perfect Equinox cardigan, it's like spring in a garment.