So how many of you are urban homesteaders?
I’m not sure how strong the movement is elsewhere, but here in Colorado, the idea of growing as much of your own organic food as possible and even raising your own chickens in your backyard is very popular — and not just with hippies.
Last summer, I decided to see how much food Benjamin and I could get out of re-opening one of our veggie garden beds. We have a very big yard, and the south side of the house, which gets full sun all day, was once entirely devoted to growing veggies. But that was back when my kids were little. Trying to handle a huge flower garden, two kids, a full-time job and the veggie garden was too much for me. I paid someone to put down weed cloth and bark the damned thing.
But Benjamin is all grown up now. So last summer, we ripped up the weed cloth from one of the beds and planted the things we like to eat most. Sadly, we did it sort of late in the planting season, so Benjy didn't really get to enjoy any of the results of his hard work. But I did. I didn't buy vegetables from about the beginning of August through October until the first hard frost.
I got a lot of broccoli, green beans, butternut squash, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers out of last year's "experimental" garden, so we're going all out this year. We worried for a while that my surgery would make it all too difficult for Benjy, because there will be a time when he will have to handle it himself. But it will be probably a month before I have surgery, and that's a lot of the growing season. We decided to go for it anyway with a hopeful attitude.
We opened all three beds, and I spent March-May nursing seedlings on my kitchen floor. (It made walking around a bit awkward, but that was okay.)
So this year our garden will include: arugula, broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, mixed spring greens, green peppers, Anaheim peppers, Navajo corn (what else???), radishes, carrots, tomatoes, acorn squash, zucchini, summer squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe.... And I think that's all.
It will easily fit into the space we have — which we hope to learn to utilize better so that we can fit even more next year. And the stuff we grow is not only 100-percent organic, it's so natural that you might even call it “neglected.”
I want to plant some fruit trees to get our fruit needs met. Trees are tricky in Colorado. There were none on the plains, apart from cottonwoods near creeks and springs. And the mountains? Mostly evergreens. But there are some kinds of fruit trees that will grow on the Front Range with lots of TLC. I’m not an apple fan, so I won’t plant an apple tree. Boring. Right now I want sweet cherries, pears and plums. We’ll see how that works out.
And I want laying hens for the backyard, as well as a couple of beehives for honey. Fresh eggs every day? Our own honey? Sounds like paradise to me.
Yes, it's a lot of work, but when you grow it yourself you don't have to wonder what's on it or in it. And then you have a real reason to compost, which we already do. You can form your own happy little ecosystem.
There's a big "re-skilling" movement in our town. If you don't know how to can veggies or freeze food or quilt or sew or darn socks or whatever, you can take classes to learn to do these things yourself. It's kind of strange because my grandmothers could do all those things. My grandfather grew most of the food for his wife and six kids out of their backyard. But my generation — I'm a Gen-Xer — comes from parents that didn't do any of that. Have we lost these skills so quickly?
Urban homesteading feels so very Little House on the Prairie (except in the city), and I love it because I like thinking that we can be more self-sustaining. I don't like to shop much, and I do like good food. So it works out well.
I'd love to hear garden stories from any of you who have them.
Tonight I spent the better part of an hour harvesting arugula, swiss chard, spinach, romaine and mixed greens that I planted back when it was still snowing. Then I had to wash them leaf by bloody leaf. It took forever! And the funny thing is that, although we've been eating out of our garden almost every night, there's so much that it never looks like I harvested anything.
Of course, the pride and joy of this household is the rose garden, and it's about to go into high bloom. I can't wait to see it and smell it and share the photos with you all again. The winter was hard on the roses, and most died back to the ground. So the bushes are pretty tiny compared to some years. That's life in the Rockies.
I'm still on Chapter 7 of Breaking Point, but it will move forward quickly on Friday. Tomorrow marks the end of my workweek, and then back to fiction.
Have a good Thursday, everyone!