How has it been a month since I posted anything on Endless Seeker? I’ll tell you how… we’ve been crazy busy LIVING in, WORKING on, and ENJOYING our new homestead! When I think about all we’ve done during the past two months, it makes my head spin. Truly. Every minute of it has been fun (except for all the bug bites!), exciting, challenging, and enlightening! But mostly we’ve been learning a lot.
Because we moved during the early stay-at-home phase of the pandemic, we were eager to get some vegetables planted so we could rely on ourselves for some food this year, especially not knowing how this pandemic would play out among food suppliers. So we quickly built raised beds and a compost bin, installed deer and rabbit fences to protect our plants, and got plants and seeds in the ground in May – late for here, but (we hoped) better than nothing. We also hastily but happily began creating a pollinator garden for native plants and planted some pollinator-friendly trees.
I did official soil tests, checked in with the local extension agent, and did some more research about gardening here in the NC Piedmont. Some of our vegetables looked anemic. The pollinator plants stayed alive, but were trying to grow roots first, instead of flowers, so we didn’t have good habitat for predatory insects yet. Flea beetles and potato beetles showed up, and the slugs love the lettuce. I squished them, determined not to turn to harmful chemicals to save my gardens.
We amended the soil as best we could in fast-track mode, plucked beetles and caterpillars by hand, and resigned ourselves to a season of learning and experimentation. Things have stabilized somewhat, and we’re harvesting basil and parsley and will be eating tomatoes soon. But the bean plants are not as happy as they should be, and I’ve sorta written off the eggplant and peppers for now. I decided it was time to take a break from creating new gardens and really think about what we want to do here on the new homestead.
I started reading about permaculture and ecologically-designed gardens, and it hit me… in our haste to get stuff in the ground and make this place ours, we had failed to take enough time to observe all that was already going on here. We had not designed a habitat that would be both productive and sustainable. Sure, we watched the birds and noted the wild plants around the yard and in our forest and even observed the angle and duration of the sunlight during those first weeks. But we weren’t observing what was happening on our land with the mindset of creating a self-sustaining habitat for us and our wild and cultivated plant and animal friends.
We had made a vegetable garden without a diverse supporting habitat for beneficial insects to naturally manage the insect pests. We built beds without thinking about how we could capture the rainwater from the house to water those plant beds. We kind of got the cart before the horse in our initial haste and excitement to settle into our new space. Some of it is working and some of it is not. So, we’ve put on the brakes a bit and are starting to re-think, re-observe, and re-design.
Our goal is to create an ecologically diverse habitat for ourselves that meets our needs and also provides for the other living beings without having to expend tons of energy and bring in too many resources from the outside. That means we need to start looking more closely at the connections between all the parts, the multiple functions of each element of our landscape, and the ways we can recycle, reuse, and store energy and matter right here on our property. It means things like using the young sweet gum trees we cut down to mulch the garden beds, add to compost, and use as stakes for the tomatoes. It means interplanting insectary plants among the vegetables and landscape plants to draw in natural predators. It means capturing rainwater in rain barrels and rain gardens to benefit the plants and slow the runoff down to the creek. It means being mindful every step of the way on this homesteading journey.
So, we’re slowing down and paying more attention. Like we should do every day, every moment, for every action. Funny how this mindfulness journey impacts every single thing in my life. Such a simple act, yet so powerful.
In our slowing down, I’ve come to observe and know more about some pretty cool plants and animals around here. I’ll be sharing some of their stories in the coming posts.
Are you gardening at your place? How’s your garden growing these days?