Tuesday 13 June 2017

Gardening Adventures
Adventures... and sometimes mis-adventures... in gardening

Posted by at 7:33 PM

My title is “adventures in gardening” but I really wanted to call this “the mis-adventures of gardening, and growing an “orchard”, and fumbling with grapevines, and attempts at foraging”.

But… that would be an awfully lengthy title and it doesn’t really have the catchy phrasing that might encourage you to stick around and read anything I might have to say.

So I decided that the term “gardening” is simply going to have to suffice at the moment. It will need to cover the entire gamut of my outdoorsy attempts at becoming just a wee bit self sufficient where our food is concerned.

Living off the land

Ok, a little bit of an exaggeration. We are not living off the land. But I hope to be doing just that in small ways eventually.

Last spring we were in the process of building our home so did not have the beautiful luxury of waking each and every day here on Granite Ridge. However, we had already taken a few steps toward our goal of growing food on this acreage even before we broke ground and set the walls of our home.

Nothing fancy in the steps we took, and our goals were not so lofty that we would even remotely believe that we could sustain our family through what we wanted to produce here (I truly envy those families that are so self supporting and capable!).

My little family simply had the desire to feel close to the land that we have grown to love and to have a hand in creating at least some of the food we enjoyed together.

Sometimes reality is far from the ideal we spin in our minds

Like so many ideas that my husband and I have had throughout our many years of planning and dreaming of life on Granite Ridge the pictures that I create in my mind do not seem to find their way to our reality.

Last summer while the kids and my husband set fence posts for the would-be-garden, I stood near by and envisioned all of us in our work boots nurturing tiny seeds into thriving plants. I dreamt of canning the abundance that we would harvest from our garden, and of serving decadent treats to guests while explaining that we grew most of the ingredients used to create that treat they were just then enjoying.

I was looking forward to that sense of accomplishment found in doing something productive. We would tackle this goal as a family with a focus on being responsible with the land we’ve been given and healthy with the bodies we are caring for.

Reality hasn’t turned out quite like the idyllic vision in my head.

Mistakes and setbacks, yet loving the process of learning. Not really loving all the grass and weeds you can see in our garden. Why is it htat the things you don't want in your rows are the very things that seem to thrive? I have a summer full of weeding ahead of me!

Yes, I still desire the perfectly grown fruit and veggies, the pristine weed-free rows in the garden, and the abundance of quality family time they could offer us. But, I know that life does not work that way. Schedules are conflicting, our teenagers are busy, obligations call us in different directions, and a lack of knowledge and time interfering with the best intentions and dreams.

I have learned a long time ago to be grateful for the little successes we do see, for the time we do have together, and to use the failures as a lesson on what we can improve on next year.

So, my dear friends… I would like to offer you a glimpse into what has been happening here on Granite Ridge over the past couple of months and hope that you stick around to see how things come together (or...perhaps fall apart) as the growing season progresses.

None of this is perfection. None of this is ideal. What you will find here is a woman with good intentions and a desire grow things!

If you are in similar muddy boots as I find myself in, then let's learn and grow in our knowledge together.

If you are a well seasoned gardener ready to share your secrets then I would love any advice you’re willing to offer!

Let's garden!

Our poor garden has the strangest soil I have ever seen. Truly, it is clumpy and wet solid mass under a hard crust that covers it all. And the rocks! Wheewy! I could build a second house with the amount of rock we pull out of the dirt each time we attempt to plant anything!

We began this adventure in the garden with a row of onions and a row of garlic. Both seem to be handling the soil pretty well so far.

I am curious to see how this garlic will do through the growing season though.

I do know enough about gardening to realize that planting garlic is best done in the fall. However, we were gifted a bag on garlic cloves from friends last October and unfortunately did not have a garden prepped enough to plant at that time. Those little garlic cloves were tucked into a drawer and rediscovered last May when we began planning out our spring garden in earnest. I pulled them out of the drawer and found they had tiny little sprouts developing already. I doubted they would last through the summer and wait for planting so we dropped them into the ground a few weeks ago.

As of today the row shows blades of green that have pushed their way through to the sunlight. Wit's our odd planting time we may have very small garlic cloves to harvest this fall but I am alright with that. What I am most excited about is the possibility of garlic scapes this summer!

Tomatoes. The one thing I thought I could actually grow.

At our last home we gardened many summers and experienced prolific tomato harvests (and honestly, those harvests happened without me even trying. It was not due to any special green thumb. Those tomatoes just grew and grew!).

This year my daughter and I carefully chose 6 little tomato plants from a local nursery. The small plants had bright green leaves and the first signs of tomatoes pushing past the spent flower buds. My husband dug through the rocks of our garden dirt and I placed each little tomato plant into the soil with a silent prayer and a hope for the best.

We added nutrients to the soil and the best plant food I could purchase (at least that’s what the sales lady at the counter told me). Yet, only two weeks later the poor little plants are barely recognizable as the hardy green things we had placed into the dirt.

What we have now is a sad witty plant that is turning yellow.

I have some research and reading to do it seems! And I know we will have some oopses before we see a thriving tomato plant around here. But, I am not giving up yet. There is still hope for these little guys!

Our pepper plants seem to be doing rather well.

Tipsy the wirehaired vizsla has been quite helpful in keeping track of the garden’s progress :)

Apples and cherries, grapes and berries

I am happy to report that our little orchard (yes, I have given myself permission to call it an orchard even though it only has 4 small trees occupying it) is thriving! We have beautiful flowers on the cherry tree we planted last spring, and all three apples trees have new growth.

The grape vines made it through the winter, despite the local bunnies munching on them for their dinner during the chilly months. I am just now starting to see the possibility of grapes on the Concord vine.

Our wild raspberry bushes are all blooming and and the blackberry bushes look as though they are not far behind.

Foraging for food

My love for asparagus has determined that we look into planting an actual asparagus bed somewhere soon. My sweet husband has calmy been explaining to me that we will not harvest enough for a meal with the small little patches we have discovered growing “wild” here.

It has taken a few spring seasons for me to finally believe that he just might know what he’s talking about. I can count on one hand how many spears of asparagus we have actually harvested from our land over the past few years.

While not enough to excite our children I was thrilled when my husband and I discovered two sturdy stalks of asparagus in the patches at the side of our property along the road this season. Those bright green spears were savored bites when we all sat down for dinner that evening. And, as you can imagine… two spears of asparagus does not go far in feeding the five of us!

I know that I just told you how I was comfortable with the failures. I'll also admit to you thought that I've had a couple of real disappointments again this spring.

I am convinced that we should have morel mushrooms on the property, yet year after year the season passes without us finding a single one. This spring was no different and not a single morel was discovered.

The fiddleheads are another sad frustration. We have thriving ferns all over this land yet not a single one that I’ve investigated is the type I am looking for. I am still learning but feel pretty certain in making the important distinctions between ferns. So far nothing growing here is something I am confident enough in to eat.

A friend offered her property for me to scour the many ferns she had popping up along her driveway but I never quite found enough time to head over there and take a look. Perhaps next year.

So, there you have it… a quick update on the outdoor growing operation, and foraging attempts, here at Granite Ridge.

Not perfect and lots left to learn! But we really are enjoying every moment... almost ;)