Progress Report

What I Learned So Far…

I learned a ton of stuff in the last year. I started thinking and planning and learning about homesteading in fall of 2019, before the shit hit and everyone went garden nutty. But it was a fun year to learn gardening.

What I didn’t know only 2 years ago is embarrassing to admit. Once, I was given a glass jar of milk by a manager that was helping me shop. He said it was about to be pulled off the shelves because of the date but it would be good for a few more days and he gave it to me free. I took it home and did not understand that it was not homogenized. I didn’t even know what that meant. And I didn’t understand that it was supposed to have the cream at the top and just needed to be shaken. But I thought it was bad, so I threw it out!

Another thing I didn’t understand was how you managed and ate out of a garden. Like what you could just harvest when needed vs. what needed to be harvested at once. Succession planning to help with the pacing and all the different ways you have to learn to preserve your food. I had no idea about canning, fermenting, dehydrating, freeze drying, and storing food. I’m still learning the details of all of this, but now I at least *get* how it works.

I also didn’t understand how and why you started seeds early vs. direct sowing them vs. buying starts. Or things like first and last frost dates, zones, etc. Or how certain crops grow better in the fall than in the spring. It was all just like, when you are in kindergarten and you plant a bean in a styrofoam cup. That was the extent of my knowledge about growing things.

It made me more irritated at the people who just cast me aside when I asked for help to learn to grow food. People who just wanted me out of the Church garden and said, “you just plant a seed and water it. If you need help doing that, maybe gardening isn’t for you.” Obviously there is a learning curve to this. No, it isn’t rocket science, but you need to know some basic things and that takes awhile. Experience is key here. The reason it is key is because so much of gardening is trial and error, and it is ok to fail. Plants want to grow, but there are a lot of variables that are constantly changing, so some will succeed and some will fail every year for everyone. These are things I did not know.

I wish I had taken more pictures of the harvest I did last year. It wasn’t a lot, but from about July to the September wildfires, every time I went to the garden, I came home with a small bunch of produce. Here are some of my little victories from the last year:

First seedlings. The pic shows a starter tray with separate little peet moss cubes of dirt with little leaves coming out of them. I think these were onions. My son accidentally dumped these out on the way to the community garden. We replaced them with sets I bought at the farmer’s market. They did well and we still have onions from this crop to use.
First squash. This grew so well and so big. I had no idea.
We started composting in earnest. We put in all of our food waste except meat into our compost bin along with leaves and yard waste. The can literally never fills up. It composts very nicely and it the easiest thing ever to do.
Our guide dogs hanging out of the way while we worked. My yellow lab is on the left, Nik’s mostly retired Golden is on the right. Little did I know that there would be a pandemic that would shut down the world. This was the only place I was allowed to go.
My community garden got much more lush than I thought it would. Things grew and produced, despite my novice experience.
A little handful of produce almost every day. This pic shows cucumbers, peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes. About a handful each.
Our first almost entirely garden meal. Zucchini pancakes, green beans, and watermelon that a garden neighbor grew and gave to me.
We started incorporating more and more of the food we grew into our meals. I doubt we will ever be food independent, but it does make a dent. This meal is borscht and rye bread that was inspired by my twins’ visit to their bio father’s family who are immigrants from Belarus.
Salsa/Pica de Gallo was a garden goal of my husband, Nik. We did not get a lot of peppers, but this is 100% from our garden (except for the lime juice and salt). I didn’t even bother canning it because I knew it wouldn’t last long.
Cleaning and organizing our kitchen to move from a processed food prep kitchen to a working gardener’s kitchen was a bit of a challenge. My kitchen is small and is not really set up to have a large pantry or counter space to work. But, I think about how the pioneers did it over a wood stove within a one room cabin and I think we are probably going to be ok. Here, I have organized and braille labeled all of my spices and bottles of oils and vinegars.
First fermenting. These are pickled beets and cucumbers. This was a bit of a failure as they were very salty. But we learned about using the right salt and watered them down to remove some of the salt taste. Edible but definitely a do-over.
Bread making was not really made with garden products, but part of eating unprocessed, organic foods. I also have made buttermilk biscuits and pie crusts this year.
First water bath canning was a success. This applesauce was good. It is not too hard to water bath can, just time consuming.
My son, Avery, is a child of the corn. He is standing in cornstalks. This corn grew well but was burnt by the wildfires. Not literally, but we had ash and air quality readings of over 500 for over a week and could not harvest these when they were ripe. They did well but tasted not great.
Ok, maybe they were bored this year, but I was able to get the whole family involved in gardening. On this day, where Avery is driving a wheelbarrow, we all shoveled compost into my bed to prep it for next season. Avery said, “we are all working together as a family!” It was a nice moment after the wildfires had everyone feeling down and crappy.

We have had a few delays this year setting up for our expansion. But I am excited for what is to come. Raised beds are being prepared. Supplies and seeds are gotten. I’m waiting for April 23 for soil, which is not ideal, but we will make it work. I can start some seeds and do some container gardening until then. I want to keep track of the harvest, and do more preserving. I do not have a pressure canner, but maybe that is something we could work on this year. We still supplement with farmers market, azure standard, and other organic stuff, but we have definitely become more in charge of eating high quality, non processed food this year. I can absolutely tell a difference in my health. So, even though my big project is to work on my kidney transplant this year, I will continue to expand my skills and grow more of our food.


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