on doing the things we don’t want to do.

I have struggled with how to write about this. It’s not an easy topic, nor one most people want to hear about, but it is a necessary part of keeping animals.

This is the first summer we’ve let hens hatch their own chicks. I knew when I allowed it to happen that I would eventually have to figure out a way to deal with the inevitable roosters, but as with most things I deemed that a problem for the future.

I also fervently hoped the odds would be in our favor and we would get mostly hens. This hope did not pan out, and of the 6 chicks that have made it to adulthood thus far, 4 were roosters.

On Friday, we culled the roosters. I did it myself and it was somehow easier and harder than I expected it to be. It was the right decision for the flock and the farm and while this is less important, it is still a factor – the pocketbook. Now that fall has descended on the farm the chickens are going through a bag of feed every two days which costs over $200 a month.

It was a less than ideal experience for all involved, but I am happy that the process was smooth and it was over in one day. There are three more chicks and we aren’t sure if they are roosters or hens, but once again I’m putting all my hope that we are 3/3 on hens.


the future.

I ordered what will probably amount to way too much garlic. Almost certainly too much garlic.

I want to plant garlic around the trees in the orchard to help deter pests. I’m also planting a lot of daffodils around the trees because I read somewhere that they will deter voles. Who knows if any of it is true.

I’m on the fence about ordering more trees. I’m unsure of how the trees will survive this winter as it was such a rough drought this summer. My plan has always been to slowly expand the orchard yearly. I’ve wanted fruit trees ever since I moved here in 2011, but put it off until 2018 because I always thought I’d eventually move on. It seems silly to put several hundred dollars in trees in every year for something that can be sold out from under me, but I want an orchard so badly.

I’ll probably end up doing it.

back again.

This summer was strange. And hot, and somehow fast, but ultimately – odd.

I had mentally prepared for my first summer without being in school. I anticipated a calm, easy summer with most days spent tending the garden.

Instead I spent June helping my parents get their house ready to sell, July helping them move, and August settling in to sharing my tiny farmhouse with my parents and searching for land.

We still don’t know if we will buy the farm. There are too many hands in the pot, so to say. Getting four people to agree is tough, tougher than I thought it would be. We have been looking for land but once again, there are too many hands in the pot. The idea was to find a place where I could build a little cottage or cabin and help my parents in their old age whilst building a farm, but finding land that suits all of us and isn’t overpriced has been hard. Near impossible, actually, which led to another option.

I looked for land in the suburbs. Realistically all the things I wanted to do with land were only possible if my parents were onsite in the early years to help get things established, and since that wasn’t looking likely I adapted my vision. I have the tools to be happy anywhere, and I reasoned that I could volunteer at a local urban farm to fulfill my need to grow things.

I very nearly made an offer. Had one drafted, actually, and then I looked at the numbers and realized I didn’t want to do it. I have never wanted to live in the suburbs. None of the yards were big enough, or if they were the kitchen was practically useless. I would have been in an HOA, which goes against every grain in my body.

But what put me over the top was the idea of paying $400 a month in taxes just to have a tiny little yard and a house I didn’t actually want  because I adapted my dreams to what I can afford and manage at the present time.

So I am staying, for now at least. Maybe the three of us will find the perfect living situation, but I am definitely continuing to rent the farm for as long as they will let me.

Several years ago, I saw a nice little card that said: “she designed a life she loved.” It struck a chord with me – and while I don’t have anything with the phrase adorning anything I own, I think about the phrase often. Daily, almost.

I hated the idea of becoming an adult. Loathed it, in fact. When my brother got his driver’s license, I sobbed in the Smitty’s parking lot because I was so scared of not being a kid. I was 10. Six years later when it was my turn, my mom had to force me to take the exam.

My avoidance of adulthood followed me for longer than it should. I floundered through college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted out of my life, and I set myself back in a lot of ways. I started my career at 25 and at some point after that, I realized I can make my own dreams come true.

So I started doing it. I got chickens. Later on, I got ducks. I tried my hand at beekeeping, though that was cut short due to a fallen tree.

I started figuring out what I really cared about. I started focusing on quality over quantity. I spend a portion of my time every day trying to learn about the life I want to lead.

The prospect of buying new land has me in research mode. I know what I want it to look like eventually, but I also know that I need to implement things in phases rather than going all in at once. I know I will always keep chickens. Whether I keep ducks or not will likely be dependent on whether the location of the pond. I want to eliminate roosters and have guardian geese with the layers. I want bees again, although I want to always be sure to cultivate a good environment for the native bees.

I want a dairy cow and a few beef cattle, not only to provide company, but to provide my own food. I want to raise a few feeder pigs per year, again for food. In a total dream world, I would want a few dairy goats and maybe a small herd of sheep. But that’s absolute dream land and even I can recognize those additions might tip the scales into “too much stuff” mode.

I want a closed loop system on the farm. I want to follow the basic guidelines in “Holy Shit” by Gene Logsdon and the general guidelines from Joel Salatin.

I want to be as self-sufficient as possible on my little corner of the world and leave it a better place than I found it.

life, as of late.

We found out a few weeks ago that we will not be buying the farm. It’s a long, semi-dramatic story, but the bottom line is that at some point in the future, we will be moving.

Part of me is very excited about the change. It will be nice to have a blank slate of sorts and I have always appreciated change. The only issue is that we have three people involved in the deal and finding a property that we will all be happy with is a struggle.

But now I’m in a weird purgatory. We could find land in six weeks, six months, or 18 months. It’s impossible to know, honestly. I didn’t have a fabulous garlic crop this season, so I probably should look into buying garlic. But what if I plant it and then we leave before I can harvest? It will probably be a risk I end up taking, but right now I am hesitant to sink any money into something so temporary.

A lot of changes are coming. I have big plans, but until we see the land it will be impossible to know if they all make sense.

current garden battles.

Growing squash is difficult for me. Primarily from squash bugs, though I have a fair amount of trouble with vine borers as well. Last year I had my first successful squash harvest, though I am not sure what to attribute that win to. I did use tobacco ash when I planted the seeds, but I had also done a controlled burn in the garden the fall before, so I may have just eliminated their ability to overwinter.

I am only growing a few squash plants this year. I had originally planned on growing zero, partially because they are so difficult to grow and partially because I didn’t like any of the squash we had grown last year. I do like eating squash quite a bit, so when I saw the honeynut squash and then the 898 squash, I made room for a few plants. I have four vines in total growing, with nasturtium in the middle.

Only one plant appears to be currently afflicted with squash bugs. I have been going out several times a day to do an egg check and kill any that I see. I got rid of a ton of eggs and I’ve only seen a few today, so hopefully I have gotten ahead of the game.

There are caterpillars eating the tomatoes. I had one Pink Arab tomato that was just starting to ripen, but I found a caterpillar munching on it, so the chickens had a nice little snack. I’m trying to spot them and relocate or let the chickens eat them. I found last year that borage seemed to help and there are several large volunteer borage plants around the tomatoes, so maybe we will get lucky and not have a ton of pressure this year.

There are beetles eating one of the grapevines. I’m killing them as I see them, but I just brewed a garlic/hot sauce spray that will hopefully deter them.

There was also a rabbit in the garden sniffing around the squash. If he goes after my watermelon I’m going to be pretty upset.

Speaking of – two decent sized watermelon are growing so far. The watermelon had kind of a slow start this year, but I’m hopeful we can get a few good ones in before the season is over.

The peppers seem to have rebounded. We have quite a few Thai hot peppers in the container plant. The ones in the ground have had a real struggle. There are various other hot pepper plants that are spread around the garden as I removed other items and needed cover.

The eggplant is starting to grow fairly quickly. I would like to get a few eggplants off of it, but it had such a slow start that I’m not sure anything will ever come of it.

Green beans, dry beans, and wax beans are all growing well. I actually didn’t realize one of the plants was a wax bean, so now I need to start harvesting those as well.

on history.

My grandmother was an avid gardener. I always knew it, but by the time I came around her ability to maintain a garden had waned. Some of my earliest memories are of her garden. The first time I tasted (and was subsequently repulsed by) a cherry tomato was in her backyard. I remember kneeling next to her bed of green beans and her showing me which ones to pick. I remember standing next to her bed of irises and admiring how pretty they were.

She broke her hip when I was three or so. I don’t remember any gardens after that. All of her hobbies – knitting, sewing, gardening, cooking – faded away after that. The only hobby I remember her maintaining until the end was crosswords. I was a kid and while I knew she had these hobbies and talked to her about them some, I didn’t know what questions to ask. Or even to ask questions.

My parents are moving and downsizing. My dad has boxes and boxes of old files. A lot of them are absolutely ridiculous – his taxes from 1976, the hospital bills from my birth, printed Mapquest maps from 2006, records of a church we haven’t attended in 20 years and a place we haven’t lived for a decade. But I did find a file entitled ‘Memories’ that contained letters from my grandmother to my parents during the 70s and 80s.

My grandmother was a letter writer, you see. We exchanged letters for a time when I was in third grade, though I doubt I kept many of them. But my dad is an archiver, a hoarder of information. And so I had the opportunity to read a stack of letters from my grandmother.

She grew apples and peaches, blackberries and tomatoes and cabbage. She cited varieties by name and in a few cases, compared varieties. She talked about the weather and how it impacted the garden. She mentioned shooting squirrels. She cracked jokes.

Probably because my childhood coincided with her failing health and inability to do all of the hobbies she mentioned enjoying in her letters, I never saw this side of her. She was the grandparent I spent the most time with, even though she was my first grandparent to pass. Seeing these letters gave me insight into her that I never had before, and also has provided inspiration for my own garden.