"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Great Expectations -- of being a Farmer

Early spring before the heavy rains arrived. On the far  side of the yellow
yarrow are three Marionberry plants. You can't even see them from here.

Folks who live on a limited income would have a difficult time choosing organically grown, responsibly raised food. For some reason, it's expensive to leave off all those chemicals or keep chicken, pigs and cows in humane conditions. I'm guessing most organic farmers don't raise thousands of acres of crop so they have to get more for their produce than the commercial grower, but I really don't understand why. I'm sure there's a "perishable loss" that has to be absorbed and accounted for whether its organic or not.

But the fact remains that most of us have no idea how to grow our own food -- any of our own food.
Many of us have completely lost touch with that knowledge.

Realizing that IF the economy were to collapse -- and there are more sources expecting that than I ever realized -- I'd be one of those with a sizable piece of ground that grows nothing but grass, trees and flowers.

On the left, new corn sprouts rescued out of the
"swamp area". Right, are some recuperating green beans.
Behind the air pruning baskets are four volunteer plants. 
I'm not sure what they are (?) and behind those are the
six feet tall Marionberries supported by bamboo and twine.

So I decided to try my hand at growing edible stuff. I'm 66, though, and digging up a plot of ground, then weeding etc, does not appeal to me any more now than it did when I was younger, so I sought alternative gardening methods. So far, I'm having limited success.

I had a good crop of onions!

I have blooming okra plants out the wazoo and I have picked a few pods -- enough to fry with some potatoes and onions.

I have blooming squash out the wazoo too -- but no squashes yet. I noticed the blossoms of the squash were falling off instead of setting squash, so I googled it and discovered that squash plants put out male and female blossoms.  Only the females bear fruit.  The first blossoms are male and the female blooms will come later to set fruit. Isn't Nature awesome!

Cucumbers! I do have two real live cucumbers. And I planted some "lemon cucumbers'. They are climbing on the wire cages around the Marionberries and are loaded with blooms but so far I can't see any cucs. I picked one of the two small cucumbers to put in a salad for some old friends.

I have eaten three home grown tomatoes, used four in guacamole and there are three or four on the plants -- but I can only see two new tomatoes. With temperatures going past 90 degrees, they may not set more new fruit. They are blooming, though, so we'll see what happens.

I have blooming green beans plants too, and I've picked a few. I had a handful so I cut them up and sautĂ©ed them with onions, the few okra pods I had picked that day, some cabbage and potatoes.  It was wonderful!

Corn planted in stacked cinder bricks.
And corn! I have 7 visible ears of corn in the making. That should get us through the winter, lol. I planted some more in the low spot in the back yard that gets plenty of sun.  They sprouted in just a few days. Then it started raining again and they were standing in inch deep water for two days, so I transplanted them to an "air pruning" basket and they don't seem to be any worse for wear.

My daughter, Deidre, cut down the boxwood shrubs in front of her window to make more room for growing food.  I planted the rest of that packet of organic corn seeds in that flowerbed. I intend to plant more okra in front of that single row of corn.

Growing food is not easy.  There is a lot to learn. For one thing, I discovered a little too late that all bagged dirt is not equal. So I followed a recipe for garden soil on Larry Hall's site, and re-planted some things and transplanted others. I'm waiting to see improvements.

I planted watermelons in one of the straw bales.  As soon as they  sprouted, something started eating them, so I transplanted them into a grow bag full of cheap  "garden soil" and they sat there without moving one way or another for several weeks.  I added some bonemeal, and some worm castings but still nothing, so I filled another grow bag with Larry's mix and transplanted them again and now the watermelons have new leaves!

All straw bales are not equal either. (That was doomed from the time we got those bales home and couldn't identify the cut side) Out of the six bales, three are growing something. I may not have done the initial decomp correctly. Two of the original four tomato plants I put in the bales have recuperated from nearly dead and are doing quite well, so I added a handful of worm castings and some Larry's mix to the bales and planted bare root strawberry plants in the rest of them.

When I bought the strawberry plants, I intended to plant them in my front yard on berms located on the lower side of swales, but with all this incredible rain the bermuda grass has taken over the berms. Too much intense labor to get it out so I will let it be and mow it.  I'm looking for "easier" out front.

I needed to get the strawberries planted so I put most of them in the straw bales. They already have new leaves! I'll figure out what to do with them in the fall. I might be able to line the bales with cinder blocks and just leave them in place.

 Looking forward to next year on these beauties!

I was concerned about my three Marionberry plants when water backed up in the yard where I planted them, but they don't seem to mind being wet -- or dry. They are six feet tall now and really branching out.

A friend told me recently that when you start gardening vegetables, there's about a 3 year learning curve.  

It's only the middle of June. Texas is just beginning to come back to "hot and dry" so I'm sure more challenges will pop up as summer settles in, but the pecan trees are flourishing with all this rain. There is going to be a nice crop of pecans and much denser shade to give relief to all of the gardens at different times of every day.  My expectations are very high for a bountiful harvest of all sorts of goodies.

But, for me, the best part is feeling more in harmony with all that is. 

"Oh, I love the life within me! A part of everything is here in me." -- John Denver