A large part of the lure of homesteading for me is the desire to do meaningful work. Lately, I've been feeling the familiar fatigue, the burnt-out, can't-do-it-anymore feeling that comes when your heart just isn't into what you do for a living.
I'm feeling a strong pull towards tilling the land, getting my hands dirty and aiding in the creation of new things. The last time I felt this urge so strongly was at my last desk job five years ago, and the way I solved that was by signing up for a community garden plot. I had forgotten the progression or the decisions that led me to get that plot, but funny it should occur to me now when I'm in the same boat.
Here it is, mid-summer, in all its glory, the only evidence that it ever existed:
I grew an ambitious amount of plants and didn't read anything about gardening or even plan ahead. I figured I'd gained enough experience poking my little fingers into my dad's garden soil and dropping green bean seeds in them for all those years of my youth that I could patch together a garden. I figured he put all that work, what seemed like fuss, into it unnecessarily. I didn't even trellis my tomatoes because I had no idea this was necessary, I just thought it was a decoration.
But it all mostly turned out okay. Actually, it turned out really nice.
It was a gratifying and proud moment getting all the plants in the ground, especially since this plot, maybe 6x10, was densely packed with weeds up to my thighs when I showed up to the first community work day with seedlings in tow that I'd bought at the farmers market and whole-heartedly believed I'd just stick right into the ground, dust my hands off and be home within the hour. I remember thinking, "Okay, but who's going to clear all these weeds for me?" and then turning around to see the other gardeners already burrowing into the soil with their little digging tools, weather-appropriate wide brim hats perched on their hats and pads beneath their knees. "Oh," I thought.
After several hours of digging, scratches all up and down my arms and dirt caked under my fingernails, I packed it up for the day with more a sense of accomplishment than I'd felt in years, the kind you only get from rigorous physical work. I planted zucchini (front) because I'd remember being knee-deep in these at my parents' garden as a kid (they made me set up a stand at the end of the driveway to sell the baseball bat-sized fruits of their labor, and when I abandoned post to shoot waterguns, was somehow surprised this was wrong. I was not naturally entrepreneurial). I planted mint, not knowing I didn't need to given it's invasive tendency, basil, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes that grew well despite the lack of support I gave them, and green beans which did not, as well as ill-conceived potatoes, which I remember my friend Ben uncovering when he was digging through the dirt and came out with a finger-full of watery white potato rot. Seriously.
I knew nothing of composting, except that it was a hippie buzz word around Madison that annoyed me vaguely, or of the importance of pruning and harvesting for the health of my plants. I showed up every few days to water the soil and pluck some weeds out of the ground, but I was a little baffled about what exactly I was supposed to be doing. Other people had adorned their plots with bird feeders and decorative stakes, on which they had written in careful penmanship the names of the vegetables that lay underneath. Some people grew flowers, which I hadn't even considered, and erected intricate anti-bunny systems - all these things you accumulate throughout adulthood, while I was only on the very brink of my own.
But I really enjoyed visiting my little plot and tending to it the best I knew how. And somehow my garden grew, as things have for centuries and centuries, without my constant fussing and fancy gardening accessories. I enjoyed caprese salads, grilled zucchini and cold cucumber sandwiches all summer long. Such a primordial thing, growing.
The gist of all this being that, and I stress this in nearly every post, seasoned as I now am compared to a few years ago, I am continually learning more and more with each trip I make into our current garden: that I should have put up wind barricades, how important clipping flowering growths is, that too much watering is just as bad if not worse than too little. And remarkably, we have had some casualties along the way, but mostly everything goes just fine.
As for how our garden is growing now, we have had a few problems with some wind damage on our herbs in the pallet garden, and the cilantro may be on its last leg. I consulted with my mom, who said that once it goes to seed, or starts flowering, it might be done for. But I continue to prune and water it in hopes it may revive.
Our green beans have suffered from the wind as well - their leaves have all snapped and I'm not sure how to handle this, so have just let them keep growing, thinking that they'll form new, stronger leaves at their bases.
Then vs. now
Wah-wahhh. It's also a way gloomier day today so the lighting makes them look extra pathetic. Their stems are still quite strong though, so I think there's hope for them still.
I feel like I'm writing all these let-downs immediately after talking about how resilient plants are, which is a stupid thing to do. But here is some evidence that most of our vegetables are doing quite well!
Here is our lamb's quarter, which is actually a weed but eats like a normal leafy green. People compare it to spinach, but I think the texture is a little more like arugula.
Also, speaking of arugula, ours is maybe the best I've ever tasted. It's beautiful and fragrant and so delicious. It's peppered in here with the chard, which is gorgeous as well.
We'll have lots of greens this summer, because we also signed up for a CSA, which we thought prudent to do because our means of growing enough for our weekly needs are pretty limited. We'll be picking up our first delivery this Sunday at the Logan Square Farmers Market from Tempel Farms. I'm very excited to find out what we get.
And, in keeping with the opening of this post, the lamenting of the less-than-inspiring nature of the desk job, I though I'd also share some photos of the flower studio I worked at in Seattle, as I keep toying with the idea of starting my own floral design business once we flee to the homestead. As we get closer to vacating the city every day, and are actively searching for land on which to build the homestead and hopefully a business, I keep in mind this little workspace I once used, and think how nice it would be to have one of my own.