Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Looking back

Today while looking through my blog, I realized that I have written 204 posts. When I started it, I never thought I would write that many or end up having 112 followers. It started as just something to do on the now gone Yahoo 360, but I brought it here when I realized that no one ever read it but a handfull of Yahoo friends. I transferred some here and started writing regularly. Sometimes I would post 3-4 a week, and sometimes I would miss a few weeks alltogether. I like looking back and seeing the accomplishments here at home, and reading the comments from all of you followers. It's been a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to writing more this year.
My subject matter tends to jump around quite a bit. I started off sticking with the garden/homestead idea, but that's not all what I am about. I want to write and share all the things I enjoy, read about, or am passionate about, which leaves some entries with 12 comments and some with none. I've considered going back to just the gardening and homesteading for this blog, but I have decided not to. It's not all I do, so it won't be all I write about. The only place I can write freely about all of my interests is here. I frequent several online forums, but never quite fit in. The typical "suburban homesteader" sites are all about being pretty, and I am not. The hunting places are all about that trophy deer, and I'm about putting food in the freezer. The eco-green places want to talk about small trendy things they do that they saw on tv, where I want to go off grid and live like it was 1884. I'm too homestead for the survival folks, and too survival for the homestead folks. My only outlet of openly talking and sharing my life is here, and here it will stay.

Today I'll start with something I have never really talked about in just one post, and thats why we garden. I've talked about gardening hundreds of times, how we do what we do, and what we do with the produce, but I have never really said WHY. Well, there are several reasons. The first and foremost is not having to go buy something I can simply grow myself. I dispise the thought of going to the store and buying cans of green beans when I can spend a little time planting seeds and have the ability, like last year, to can 60 quarts of them at home. I can't imagine not looking out this window at all that we have planted and at the vegetable garden space and remember what it was like to go have to buy everything, I just can't. The work isn't all that hard, and the end results are amazing. I will never not have a garden simply for this one reason.

Reason number two is I know what is in my plants or what has been sprayed on them. NOTHING. We use no fertilizers other than compost. We use no pesticides or herbicides. I know that my tomato's came from my own backyard and not from Mexico where they are sprayed with chemicals that are banned in the US. Most produce you see at the stores is picked and shipped unripened, and sprayed to make them ripen in transit. This why you see big red apples and tomatos that taste like nothing, they aren't ripe. In the past, I have bought tasteless tomotos, dyed apples, and green onions with a slimy god knows what in the center of the stalk. I don't want to eat that, or anything else I have listed.

Another reason is to simply live simpler and save money. With a few dollars in seeds, and my time (which i DON'T put a price on), I can grow and harvest for myself a large amount of food that I would normally have to buy. Someday I would love to add up everything we harvested last year and compare it to what it would cost at the grocery store. Besides the cost of the food itself, we are saving money on gasoline and wear & tear on the vehicles. I find it insane to spend $3 in gas to get $10 worth of groceries. I have no need to go to the store for potato's, I just walk out back and dig some up...just like everything else.

Along with our goals of living simpler, the garden helps us towards our goal of being as self sufficient as we possibly can. By not relying on the stores to buy fruit or vegetables, we're one step closer. We grow what we eat, and we can, freeze, dehydrate, and store everything we grow. Trips to the store are usually less frequent, and normally just for basic items. Each new thing we raise or plant in the ground is one less thing we are reliant on the grocer for. That alone is worth the effort we put into our garden and plants.

My last reason I wrote a bit about in a post a few days ago. With everything I grow and eat myself, I am sending a message to the big boys. I'm telling the grocery stores I don't need them. I'm telling big agriculture the same. And I am telling the chemical companies we won't buy their product or anything treated with it. With the population exploding, we rely on the grocer more and more since there are only a handfull of people who produce their own compared to the total population. This pushes the grocer to need more, which pushes the farmer to produce more, which pushes the chemical companies to make and market products which help the other two. Being out of this loop gives you freedom. It gives you independance, and it tells them we are not all going to fall into their trap. My garden is a big " * you" to all of them.

As I was proof reading this entry, I had another reason and wasn't going to add it, but decided that I will. I know it's far fetched for a lot of people, and sometimes even for me, but I'm going to include it anyway. While reading some of the preparadness and survival wesites I frequent, I see a lot of people talking about learning gardening for those big SHTF scenerio's they are all so fond of talking about. Many of them plan to have gardens after some giant disaster, and there are actually companies that sell garden seeds for long term storage, marketing them as basically a "survival garden in a bucket". While I don't think much about giant disasters or such things, I do know that I have the skills, the means, and the know how to have my own garden if one of their scenerio's would ever come true. Now I don't see anything like that happening, but in case it ever does, I'll trade ya some potatos and onions for that case of .223 ammo, LOL.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Staring out the window...

Today is the first whole day I get to spend at home in over a month. The side work and odd jobs have kept me fairly busy, and our weekends have been spent visiting family and buying the sale items to restock the pantry. I've already done the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, put away laundry and sat to take a break before I take some tools back out to the garage and run the sweeper in the living room.
It's a warm day again, maybe in the mid to upper 40's. I'm sitting at the kitchen table looking out over the backyard and the FINALLY receeding snow. We had a record snowfall this year for February, totalling 31.7 inches. Counting other accumulation and drifts, we had spots close to 4 feet deep by the garage, chickenhouse and the woodpile. I do love winter to a point. Watching a nice slow snowfall is beautiful and a wonder of nature, but I really have to say I'm sick of it. We haven't had this much snow in a long long time, and we haven't had this much snow on the ground consistantly in more years than I can remember. Yea...all fine and dandy, but I'm done. I'm sitting here looking at the garden area, and the snow is melted just enough that I can see the contours of the raised beds, when a week ago it was a flat area covered in 3 feet of snow. I want this snow GONE! lol I want to get outside, get my hands dirty, and start the garden for the year. Of course, I can't do very much since we aren't even close to being out of danger of frosts, and with all this snow melting and the impending spring rains, it's going to be a mudhole. But I don't care right now. I'll pop on the rubber boots and get something accomplished at the first sign of open soil warming in the sun.
We have lots of plans for the garden this year. We'll be adding things we don't normally grow and adding more of things we grow little of. We'll be cutting back on a few others, while doubling or tripling 1 or 2 basics. I plan to find more older railroad ties and make more seperate beds just for greens. I plan to make another one just for carrots and celery. We'll double the onions and potatos, and cut back on my hot peppers. We'll be taking another shot at growing brussel sprouts since we have been eating so many lately, and I want to grow larger amounts of spinach and other like greens to process and can or freeze. This year will be all about producing to store, whether that would be canning, freezing, dehydrating, or basement storage of root crops; but also about growing more healty vegetables to eat during the growing season.
I'm also taking another look at growing wild edibles like dandelions, lambs quarters, and some other greens that people normally see as greens. These I want to plant around some trees and other area's in the front yard. They may look like ornamental plantings, but they are actually something edible. I've grown far past the point of caring about growing flowers and such just because they look pretty. Pretty has no use to me unless it is edible, just the same as grass in the yard. I see no point in wasting space just to plant things that are attractive to the eye and not the stomach. There are hundreds of edible plants and flowers out there that look just as good, if not better, than things we all normally stick in the flowerbeds with no concern other than how they look. I'll be doing a lot of research between now and "official" spring, and planting things accordingly. Of course Lisa will have her few small areas for some flowers that she loves, but I want to slowly do away with a lot, replacing them with edibles and herbs.
Since I mentioned herbs, the plans for the 30 foot circular herb bed out front are still on. We'll plant edible herbs, herbs for using as spice, and some medicinal herbs in that area. I'll be adding a small (4 foot) pond to the center of the area, hoping to attract frogs and toads to take care of the insect problem for me. I want this area to be something special. It won't only be for growing and cultivating herbs, but an area that stands out as a beautiful example of how something useful can be planted rather than a flower that just sits there and looks pretty. The pond can attract frogs and toads, and the herbs themselves can attract honey bees and hummindbirds. I want to start another area to grow a fairly large quantity of stevia since we have been using it as a sweetener more and more, but I have to find the right spot and make a bed for them. Being the same as everything else; when the snow melts off I will walk around the yard and pick out the perfect spot. Arrghhhhhh melt already!!!!!
So once again, our little homestead will be growing in production. I love looking back over the past nearly 11 years at this place and seeing how we have grown from a small 20x20 vegetable garden to where we are now and what the new plans are. I love knowing that each year we rid ourselves of more useless grass and palnt another area for things that are edible. With everything we add, we have the need to buy less, we eat better, and we're sending that message to the grocery stores and big agriculture. We don't need you, we don't want you. We can do for ourselves!

Well...enough for now folks. I'm off to get these tools to the garage, so another egg check, run the sweeper and plan dinner. I sure hope I can find something in the freezer to make LOL.

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