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Dreaming of Spring, part ii

When we last left our heroine, she was making lists. So. Many. Lists.

I was a list-making machine.

In retrospect, I think the lists were just me stalling until I could take the leap and acknowledge that we were going to spend quite a bit of our hard-earned cash on his garden and commit to growing enough food to not only provide fresh food throughout the summer, but also get us through the winter.

I cannot stress enough how terrifying that whole idea was. We about to gamble on something we had no idea how to do, let alone no guarantees it would succeed. Even if we somehow managed to do everything right, we could still fail. If we failed, we not only lost money, but we might not have enough money or food to last us through the winter. We had a little bit of savings left, and our house was just barely livable - we had one room insulated and drywalled, with the plywood floor painted. Our business was starting to give us enough to pay for our truck gas, the company’s expenses, and a little left over for groceries. Winter would see a downturn, we knew from our research, so we couldn’t count on much income between November and March. We would have to live on our savings and try to live as frugally as possible just to survive.

Scary. Probably the most afraid I’ve ever been try something. And it was farming, something our ancestors had successfully done for generations.

I’m happy to report we grew enough to get through until spring, when my husband was offered an awesome job (even if it was an hour away) that allowed him to work from home a few days a week. We continued to run and grow our business, and we grew our own food every year after that.

That was 20 years ago.

I have learned a lot since then, but the concern - will it grow - is the same each year The only advice I can offer to help with the fear is to just take that first step, which you are doing if you’re still reading. I find experience tempers that fear, and I take a deep breath and start my list making.

Yeas, I still keep lists, and they change from year-to-year. Some seasons I only have a few minutes a day or even a week to work in my garden, and those are the years I stick to my planting table and a few containers. I did this when we spent a summer living downtown in the city due to work. Some years I have days or even weeks without interruption and those are the years when the exterior of my home looks like a small jungle. Only you know how much space, time and effort you have to give to your garden. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to garden size. It all depends on how many people you have to feed, how much you want your garden to supplement (or replace) your grocery budget. These past few years, and most likely again this year, will be a smaller garden for a few reasons:

* Family obligations. Our travel obligations have been steadily increasing. With older kids and aging family spread out across the country, we find ourselves on the road more often than not in the summer months. Sports, family events, college all fight to deprive us of our little homestead’s comfort each summer.

*Health constraints. Living with an autoimmune disorder is never easy, living with multiple ones makes it a harder every year to commit to a big garden. We now have a smaller garden that produces more of the main things we eat and an ‘indoor garden’ in winter to produce our herbs and greens.

* Local Agriculture. We are blessed with many producers within a reasonable distance from our farm, as well as a year-round farmers market in our little town. We love supporting our local farmers. From milk to meat to veggies, we know small farmers are a dying breed. We are hoping that our weekly purchases help support these small businesses and in turn they provide us with healthy, organic, local food. We love going to our local farmer’s market and co-op. It’s a chance to explore new foods, meet up with friends, meet new friends and learn about farming. There’s nothing I love more than grabbing a cup of locally roasted coffee and filling my market basket with tasty food for the week.

* The future. As we move toward retiring to a sailboat. We plan on living mostly off-grid and sustainably, as well as in a more global manner. We understand that we won’t be able to grow much on our boat (if anything at all – though heaven knows I’ll try). It might be a few containers of veggies up on deck, a pot or two of basil and chives on a window ledge, or if I can figure it all out in time - a hydroponic setup that provides us with the bulk of our veggies and herbs. Either way, we’re learning what we want to grow as essentials, and what we can buy or forage in port.

Each of these reasons on their own would be enough to justify a smaller garden, but combined it just doesn’t make sense for us to have acres of gardens – even though we could do large-scale production if we wanted to. As we grow older, we find our needs change, and adaptability is crucial to growing older not only wisely, but well.

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