I am very, very proud.
It’s October 3rd, and we have met 95% of our produce needs since June.
This has been our first year on the journey towards food self-sufficiency; a project we embarked upon purely by gut instinct, with no real plan or even with a clear sense of objective. No “within 5 years we’ll produce everything we eat” or complex rules about what we would be allowed to purchase and under what circumstances.
I have great admiration for those who have been able to do any of these things; we just have been juggling moving communities, jobs, learning about our new home and land and what plants are even already planted, and I wasn’t really interested in outlining a specific project on top of all that quite yet.
But we did buy this place with the recognition that it came with a lot of established food plants (apples, kiwis, raspberries, currants, blueberries, tayberries, blackberries, grapes) and a ton of potential to expand them. Growing a lot of our food has been on our list of dreams for some time. And I knew I might not be working this past summer, and so I did get serious in my garden planning. Books tend to say sensible things for beginners like “start small” and “master a few veggies and square feet before expanding” and “I wouldn’t advise going bigger than 200 sq ft the first year.” I decided instead to read about how much I might need to grow to sustain us through the year, trying to get a sense of how much I could produce from the space we had, and even wondering if it might be possible to produce enough from our backyard to earn some extra income. In other words, I dove in headfirst!
For the last 4 months, despite many ups and downs, including a not very good year for growing many things, we have eaten almost exclusively from our backyard garden. We bought some cherries and nectarines, and bought a few extra veggies when I cooked for a couple of potlucks and wanted special recipes, but other than that, nothing except some garlic. I’m actually amazed at how straightforward it’s been!
Now I’m starting to look ahead, and wondering how long we might be able to keep this up before I have to resort to the winter supplementation. I know in the long run growing enough year round and storing a few crops is doable, but it won’t be this year. At some point, I’ll have to break down. But when?
One of the MANY things I’ve learned this year is the importance of disciplined succession planting. To really provide a constant supply of food, I need to come up with a planting schedule and, more importantly, stick to it. I’m a great planner. Not always a great follow-though-er. At the moment, I’m eyeing my fall/winter garden plot with a tiny bit of concern.
I still have lots of chard, kale, and tomatoes going strong. The tomatoes will keep going until frost (in eating quantity if not preserving quantity), which around here shouldn’t be for another month at least. The chard and kale will keep going well beyond that. There are 80 lbs of potatoes stored, which will keep us for a while, and at some point I’ll bring in the non-ripened tomatoes and apparently we can keep ripening them indoors as long as they hold out–often Christmas. We’ve got a few pole beans left on the vine, and a few raspberries are still going too. The grapes I’m going to start harvesting today, and they’ll mostly become jelly. We’re hoping to meet all of the Skipper’s jam needs for the year ahead, and between the berries, the grapes, and the currants, it’s looking promising, although the final tally isn’t in yet.
We will have some spinach, lettuce, carrots, beet greens, and new kinds of kale ready for picking in a couple of weeks. We got so much salad out of one planting this summer that I got lazy about re-planting, and as a result, I miss salad! All these tomatoes and no lettuce to eat them with. 😦 I know I could go spend the .99 at the Farmer’s market on a head of greens, but it’s the principle of the thing!
At the beginning of August, I virtuously planted out fall, winter, and overwintering brassicas: brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. I haven’t had any of those all summer either, and I can’t wait! Unfortunately, the first plantings all got eaten. I went to the nursery and bought seedlings, some of which have done well, others of which were likely too root-bound by the time I picked them up, and don’t look so good. But I figured we’ll just eat whatever they come to, even if it’s not much.
Later today, I’m hoping to plant my garlic, and the weather’s been so good (finally!) that I might try a small patch of gai lan and maybe some more corn salad. The Skipper’s also been suggesting that I try planting some lettuce, etc in pots/trays in the unheated greenhouse to see if they will last a little longer. If I’m feeling really organized, I’ll give that a try.
There’s lots that I’ve learned, mistakes that I’ve made, and our mantra around here these days is “next year will be different!” But next weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada, and I know that one of the things I am grateful for is that we have had much food and that we will continue to have food for another couple of months at least. Not the most varied diet we’ve ever eaten, but that’s ok. Next year will be different! 🙂