Wednesday, September 27, 2023

We will Develop All Of Our Meals! And Different Misconceptions I Had About Rural Existence


Littlewoods and me beginning our lawn seeds this spring!

One of the crucial riding forces at the back of the delivery of Frugalwoods used to be our want to depart town and purchase a home within the woods. That came about in Would possibly 2016 and let me let you know, we had A LOT of preconceived notions about what it could be love to are living rurally, a few of which became out to be true and a few of which… no longer such a lot. It’s simple to gloss over the specifics whilst you’re dreaming about transferring to the rustic. It turns into very a lot in regards to the specifics whilst you lose persistent and water for every week within the useless of wintry weather because of an ice hurricane. It’s the ones specifics–the ones robust main points–that experience formed our lives out right here.

A gargantuan assumption used to be that we’d develop all of our personal meals.

Ahead of such a lot as beginning a unmarried tomato plant, I nurtured an idyllic imaginative and prescient people rising all of the fruit and veggies shall we ever need every summer season. There I used to be a few of the rows, making a song to every vegetable, encouraging it to flourish. Then I noticed us within the kitchen–with our kids gracefully helping–as we meticulously preserved every harvest for wintry weather. We then pan to us consuming from our larder because the snow falls and the woodstove warms us with wooden from our land. Little Area At the Prairie with out the problematic gender roles, starvation, abysmal remedy of indigenous peoples, and loss of antibiotics and trendy medication!

Our home within the woods

I’ve a formidable creativeness and along with rising fruit and veggies, I believed possibly we’d lift meat chickens, pigs, goats–why no longer!–and feature a dairy cow for milk from which I’d church my very own butter and make my very own cheese. No doubt shall we supply for all of our wishes and are living out a modern day sustainable, unfastened vary, natural paradise of our personal making. To be transparent, all of this IS technically imaginable. And sure, a lot of other people do it.

On the other hand, It’s not that i am destined to be a type of other people.

My husband Nate and I moved to our 66-acre home within the woods of rural Vermont on Would possibly 18, 2016 and as of late, seven years on, I need to percentage what we’ve realized, re-learned and are nonetheless finding out about rising our personal meals. I’ll percentage extra of our rural assumptions in upcoming posts, that are all a part of a chain on…

Previous Me vs. Present Me: A Showdown

The primary iteration of the “giant” vegetable lawn (sooner than it were given its fence)

April used to be the NINTH anniversary of Frugalwoods and to have a good time, I’m typing down reminiscence lane with reflections on a few of my maximum influential outdated posts. 9 years is a very long time to do the rest and I’m curious to look if I trust my outdated self or if my ideas have modified within the intervening years. Since Would possibly is the SEVENTH anniversary of our transition to rural existence, this turns out the easiest time to mirror on rural.

You’ll take a look at my first 3 Frugalwoods nine-year retrospectives right here:

Now let’s get to debunking!

Rural Assumption #1: We’ll Develop and Elevate All of Our Personal Meals!

Reality Take a look at: That’s a nope.

This drone picture (through Nate) presentations you the structure of our gardens lovely smartly 

The main explanation why? That is an all-consuming, full-time process all through harvest seasons and I don’t need to develop, harvest and maintain meals full-time.

I love to do just a little little bit of a large number of various things, and that incorporates some gardening and a few canning and protecting. 

To just accept this, I needed to let pass of the picture of myself as a really perfect homesteader out right here homesteading away. It’s simply no longer who I’m. I love what we do on our land, however I don’t need to do all of it day, each day. After seven years, I in spite of everything not really feel accountable for no longer rising and elevating all of our meals. I in truth be ok with purchasing meals from our farmer neighbors who decide to this paintings full-time. I love supporting their efforts. Plus, they’re much better at it than me.

Kidwoods harvesting tomatoes into her wallet…

For Nate and me, the entire level of this way of life exchange used to be to let pass of town rat race, the exterior pressures and the societal expectancies.

We needed to not paintings for people and not repeatedly rush round. Rural existence, for us, method pleasure, time, freedom and area. And right here’s the item:

I’ve realized that chaining myself to my vegetable lawn is in point of fact no other than chaining myself to my table and laptop.

A lawn has unending wishes, does no longer care about your time/power/plans and exerts a large number of time-bound pressures. Anything else that saps all my time and effort–and calls for I do issues I don’t have the need to do–isn’t why I moved right here. Over the top gardening stressed out me out. So now, we develop just a little little bit of this and a tidbit of that and we name it an afternoon. Let me let you know the tale of the way I were given right here.

The Kale & Chard Apocalypse of 2018

Detailed in this outdated publish, this used to be the harvest that did me in. Nonetheless early in our gardening experiments, Nate began from seed, planted, weeded, watered and harvested 80 kale and chard vegetation. Sure, EIGHTY.

Me + the child pool of kale and chard

That used to be 70 vegetation too many. As a result of let me let you know: that kale and chard LOVED rising right here. It used to be probably the most a hit factor we’ve ever planted. All 80 of them.

Nonetheless below the myth that I used to be possibly in truth Laura Ingalls Wilder reincarnated, I used to be made up our minds to maintain and save EVERY LAST STALK of kale and chard we grew. I sought after to look if shall we do it–in truth supply for all of our sustenance wishes (insofar as kale and chard are involved).

I spent hours harvesting, washing and drying those vegetables. The leaves have been so huge that I had to make use of our child pool and a number of other massive plastic tubs for rinsing stations. My deficient oldsters made the error of coming for a talk over with all through this debacle and were given roped into serving to (sorry once more about that, ma and pa!). When stuff comes ripe, there are by no means ample fingers to assist. However you by no means know slightly when that ripe day will probably be, because of this you are living on the whims of the lawn.

When we’d harvested, washed and (kinda) dried the leaves, we took them into the kitchen for processing, which entailed:

  • Slicing them up
  • Blanching them to freeze
  • OR canning them in a scorching water bathtub canner
  • OR turning them into kimchi

And we did it. It took DAYS. A plural choice of days. Whilst there have been a laugh moments, it used to be nerve-racking to do with two tiny youngsters underfoot. I used to be exhausted from bending over to reap within the lawn and stooping to clean and status within the kitchen for hours to procedure. And that used to be simply to procedure ONE crop. Extra exactly: ONE harvest of ONE crop.

Tomato sauce produced from our lawn two summers in the past

Absolutely the worst a part of it’s that we didn’t have an opportunity to devour all of that hard-won preservation sooner than a few of it went unhealthy.

Broke my middle to offload it out into the compost, however alas, home-canned stuff doesn’t ultimate endlessly and I didn’t understand how to calculate our intake charge.

After that draining revel in and the demoralizing realization that we couldn’t even devour all that we’d labored so not easy to position away, I determined to modify our homesteading meals outlook. We’re profoundly privileged that we’re no longer subsistence farmers. We shouldn’t have to try this to ourselves. I used to be competing in opposition to an idyllic symbol I had of people that home and develop their very own meals. I’d learn the blogs and books and Instagram posts and I felt force to are living as much as that ordinary.

I’d succeeded in transplanting the tension and nervousness of my place of business process onto my gardening.

I had to exchange this outlook or I’d quickly begin to hate what I’d labored so not easy to allow myself to do.

The place We’ve Landed In 2023

Littlewoods used to be slightly larger than a chard leaf!

It’s taken years and I’m nonetheless running to divorce myself from the self-imposed force to be a really perfect homesteader. However I’m now much more sensible about how I need to spend my time all through the summer season months. I don’t need to be tethered to the lawn. I need to take the youngsters to the native lake with buddies, I need to pass listen are living track at our neighbors’ farm, I need to hike and play. I don’t need to spend 12 hours slicing and blanching huge stalks of chard. I need stability and freedom in my existence.

Lots of you have got requested me to re-start my This Month On The Dwelling house sequence and to be fair, I haven’t as a result of I believe like we’re letting you down as homesteaders! We did SO MUCH paintings our first few years and now, we kinda simply rinse and repeat with every season. The infrastructure set-up of our first years used to be staggering and I’m satisfied it’s over with. I no doubt may just re-start the sequence and mean you can understand how issues are going, however don’t dangle your collective breaths.

Gardening Spaces as of Would possibly 2023

We nonetheless lawn and we nonetheless have a number of various food-growing spaces across the assets, so I’ll element every. I did an exhaustive evaluation a couple of years in the past in This Month On The Dwelling house: The Complete Lawn Rundown Together with Construction Raised Beds. In the event you’re a lawn nerd and need to nerd out, that publish’s for you!

Right here’s the place we plant meals nowadays:

1) 4 raised beds proper subsequent to our again porch.

The completed raised beds again in 2020, with Littlewoods preserving courtroom (strawberries on proper; vegetables and herbs on left; mint in pots).

Nate constructed those again in 2020 and I like them as a result of their proximity to the home. Simple to stroll out and snip a couple of issues for dinner. Right here’s what we’ve finished with them:

Beds 1 and a pair of: Strawberries

  • We planted 100 strawberry vegetation again in 2020 and I will’t say that used to be the most efficient concept. The strawberries draw in each form of pestilence, together with however no longer restricted to:
    1. A longer circle of relatives of lawn snakes who tunnel ‘neath the roots and dad their little headsies up anytime I’m in the market weeding or harvesting. I don’t thoughts snakes, however I’d favor they no longer POP up at me. A extra sluggish way could be preferred.
    2. A complete daycare of child chipmunks who’re a scorching mess in there. Stomping on vegetation, rummaging round within the dust. Mess.
    3. BIRDS. Allll the birds. We put hooped netting over the vegetation, however the chipmunk daycare magnificence knocked them over and ate holes within the nets.
    4. Our personal youngsters. So desirous of unpolluted strawberries that they regularly, robotically, yearly pluck pre-ripe berries, rip vegetation and ruin my suave netting device.
  • Making our personal apple cider with Kidwoods on the crank

    Additionally, since those are raised beds, the soil stage sinks every 12 months. We put a ton of logs within the backside to building up the bottom, however as the ones decompose, you in point of fact want to upload extra soil once a year, which we will be able to’t do with the strawberries in there except we replant all 100 of them.

  • This 12 months, I became any such beds over to Kidwoods, who used to be begging for her very personal flower lawn. Part of the strawberry vegetation in there have been useless and I helped her transplant the surviving strawberries into one part of the mattress and he or she planted flower seeds within the different part.
  • TBD what I’ll do with the opposite mattress, which remains to be stuffed with strawberries (and snake tunnels).

Beds 3 and four: herbs and vegetables

  • That is the place I put our herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, dill and oregano.
  • In addition to our salad vegetables: lettuce, vegetables combine, sorrel, arugula.
  • I birth the herbs and lettuce from seed and I direct sow the remaining.
  • The vegetables can also be succession planted, which means I rip them out once they begin to flower and plant new seeds. If I stay alongside of it, we have now recent vegetables all summer season lengthy.
  • I began carrots in right here a couple of years in the past, however by accident put them proper subsequent to the dill plant and–wouldn’t you are aware of it–carrot leaves and dill glance ALMOST IDENTICAL. There have been some casualties.
  • The program turns out to paintings lovely smartly since maximum of these things is annual and no longer perennial. We added extra soil ultimate 12 months and can want to upload extra once more subsequent 12 months.

2) The “Large” Vegetable Lawn

Kidwoods and I shoveling compost soil into the raised beds a couple of years in the past to best them off

The “giant” vegetable lawn is the place we develop the vast majority of our annual veggies. Annual method it’s important to plant new ones once a year versus vegetation which can be perennial, because of this they arrive again once a year. This lawn is fenced in and has livestock panels–which I put in alone twelve months, may I upload–for such things as tomatoes and snap peas to vine up. A lot more uncomplicated than trellising every person plant. I gently bend the fronds up against the panels they usually take it from there. Extremely counsel.

On this lawn, we develop a rather huge choice of greens each summer season and love consuming recent tomatoes, beans, squash, snap peas, cucumbers, peppers, and different misc vegetation I’m now forgetting. I additionally adore rising pumpkins and gourds for fall decorations, which I feed to our chickens when the season’s over.

That is the lawn the place the youngsters every get their very own row to plant, generally tend and harvest!

  • Every child will get to begin her personal seeds. No matter seeds she needs! We put them in their very own little seed beginning trays and–upon Kidwoods’ insistence–label them through identify. My trays say “Mama.”
  • I birth about 3 trays price of vegetation and I most effective do a couple of of every sort. I’m smartly conscious that we don’t want 89 tomato vegetation (like I did a couple of years in the past… ).
  • We birth all of those from seeds within the spring and plant the begins within the floor in early June–too bloodless to take action sooner than then!
Our seed begins at the seed beginning tower Nate constructed a couple of years in the past. He constructed that infant tower-of-power too!

3) Mr. FW has a tendency our perennial meals state of affairs, which he’s grown to incorporate:

  • 28 blueberry trees
  • 3 currant trees
  • 3 Saskatoon berry trees
  • 3 plum timber
  • 4 cherry trees
  • 10 apple timber
  • 4 cider apple timber
  • 5 pear timber
  • 2 peach timber
  • 4 elderberry trees

I’ll admit that seems like so much. And on the subject of sheer choice of vegetation, this is a lot, however on the subject of how a lot fruit we in truth get? It’s no longer all that a lot.

Right here’s Why:

1. All of these things takes a few years to ramp as much as its complete manufacturing doable.

It takes an apple tree ~6 years sooner than it bears a unmarried apple. The blueberry trees took two years to make an fit to be eaten blueberry. Identical timelines are connected to all of those perennial culmination.

2. Different such things as to devour those candy treats too.

And through “different,” I’m certainly regarding the Suave Varmint Patrol (CVP) who, up to now, have controlled to devour EVERY SINGLE plum and cherry we’ve ever grown. They stalk those vegetation after which, I swear, the minute the fruit turns completely ripe, they seize all of it and take it to their lair(s). We don’t need to use insecticides, construction a fence is just too dear (and would smash the view)–plus an insignificant fence is not any fit for the CVP–and we’ve attempted netting and chicken-wire cages. We will be able to check out netting once more, however all that turns out to occur with the netting is that our kids get knotted up in it…

Kidwoods running on her row within the giant veggie lawn ultimate summer season

Moreover, a flock of untamed turkeys as soon as flew into our blueberry patch–which is enclosed through a fence–after which COULD NOT GET BACK OUT. They’d trapped themselves so completely that after we went to shoo them away, they again and again RAN INTO THE FENCE. Nate needed to pass throughout the fence and herd them out. I simply… what’s there to mention about flight-enabled birds who disregard find out how to fly in moments of disaster?

3. The elements, am I proper?

If the CVP doesn’t consume them, it’s extremely imaginable those culmination’ll die/underproduce because of an excessive amount of solar, too little solar, an excessive amount of rain, too little rain, a overdue frost, an early frost, a too-cold frost, a not-cold-enough frost…

4. Then, harvesting occurs abruptly!

These kinds of perennial culmination come ripe all on the similar time. In different phrases, all of the apples on one tree flip ripe at the similar day. And as soon as the fruit ripens, you’ve were given to select it ASAP. In the event you don’t, the CVP will devour it or it’ll fall to the bottom and be fed on through ants and different ground-hugging creatures. Fruit timber, similar to youngsters, haven’t any hobby or fear on your time table. They ripen when they would like, how they would like. In the event you’re no longer in a position to drop the whole lot and harvest all day lengthy? The CVP will maintain it for you.

5. Holding! Canning! Urgent! Oh My!

Littlewoods planting her tomato begins ultimate summer season

If we’re fortunate ample to return this a long way, if a wintry weather frost didn’t kill the vegetation, a overdue frost didn’t burn the blossoms, the CVP didn’t precise its revenge, bugs didn’t illness the tree AND we controlled to reap all the fruit on that one, best possible, magical, superb day… NOW WHAT?!!!

This, my buddies, is how I’ve discovered myself with a kitchen bursting with ripe fruit and veggies. With such a lot chard and kale I needed to retailer it within the youngsters’ plastic pool. With such a lot of apples–abruptly!–that I will’t are compatible all of the barrels within the kitchen and must lug some all the way down to the basement.

It’s an implausible privilege to have all this meals, however with out an business kitchen and a piece staff and unending time… it doesn’t all get preserved. THOUGH I HAVE TRIED. That kale/chard harvest used to be the defining second that modified my thoughts about how deeply I need to decide to meals preservation. Now, I do what I will.

I not really feel guilt over no longer turning Each and every. Unmarried. Cucumber into pickles. We devour a ton, we give a number away to buddies and neighbors and possibly I make a couple of jars of pickles. However no longer 100 quarts. I did that a couple of years in the past and simply, wow. Folks requested me to thrill stop giving them jars of pickles as items. There’s the sort of factor as over-gifting your preserved meals. Inquire from me how I do know.

Right here’s how I now maintain the perennial meals:

  • The littlest currant picker

    Blueberries are the very best since the youngsters can harvest them on their very own–there aren’t any thorns, it’s very glaring when a berry is ripe and the trees are low to the bottom. Then, all I’ve to do is rinse them and throw them into luggage within the freezer. Simple.

  • Apples are the toughest. Nate or I’ve to do many of the harvesting as a result of they’re so top up within the timber. That doesn’t prevent the youngsters from serving to they usually each get beaned at the head through apples once a year. Apples also are difficult as a result of they require a ton of labor to procedure. I love to make applesauce, apple butter and dried apples, however all 3 require me to first wash and dry the apples, then peel and core them, then prepare dinner them down into sauce or jam, after which scorching water bathtub can the sauce. Repeat this MANY instances till you’ve used up all of the apples (or they’ve long gone unhealthy ready so that you can get to them). We’ve additionally pressed them into cider in previous years–and most likely will once more someday–however that is some other huge funding in time (to not point out provides).
  • Strawberries get eaten recent (most commonly through the youngsters, most commonly sooner than even making it within). Simple!
  • Plums and cherries get eaten through the CVP.
  • Currants are made into jam, which is rather concerned, however we do appear to devour that up and it’s profitable to make it.
  • Not anything else produces fruit but.
Mr. FW + Kidwoods planting extra fruit timber a couple of years in the past

Once in a while we maintain annual meals, together with making:

  • Tomatoes into sauce
  • Cucumber into pickles
  • Beans into pickled beans

All of that is a laugh to do carefully and we do devour it, however carefully. Since we don’t must devour pickled chard stems to continue to exist the wintry weather, we don’t want to make 90 quarts of pickled chard stems. To be transparent: many other people make a selection to develop and maintain all in their meals and that’s nice! Many other people do it effectively and feature very low grocery expenses as a result of it! Now not me.


The general level for each gardener: acceptance. Acceptance that I don’t like being out in a lawn all day OR in a kitchen canning all day. I love to be in a lawn for awhile and I don’t thoughts canning for awhile. I love doing it with the youngsters since I believe it teaches them some nifty talents.

Nevertheless it’s not a race to final homesteader for me. I’ve learned that the force for perfection isn’t restricted to university or conventional jobs–it will possibly take over the rest. Even gardening!!!! So we’ll plant our little vegetation this 12 months and possibly take note to weed and water them. And I may can a couple of quarts of apple sauce. Or I may no longer. And both manner? We will be able to nonetheless be thankful to are living out right here.

How does your lawn develop?


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