Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Growing Your Own Food

A mini-savoy cabbage ready for picking. 

My first thought about homesteading was to be able to grow our own food. I had too little experience to realize what a challenge and big job that would be. So like most newbies, I started out ordering way too many seeds, tried planting way too many varieties, and tried to cram too much into too small of a space. On top of that, instead of taking a year to prepare the soil, I plunged in immediately. Needless to say, the first year wasn't my best!

Luckily I didn't get discouraged easily. After some thoughtful analysis, I slowed down and started out again, slower this time. But again I made mistakes, falling for the lure of the exotic veggies, trying to grow one of everything. Boy, it took me a couple of years to get my seed catalog addiction under control! I still eagerly await the spring catalogs, creating my fantasy garden on paper. My fantasy garden is gigantic and fabulous, while my real-life garden is much saner and smaller.

Trying to figure out what to actually grow wasn't all that easy. I wanted to grow yellow, white, striped, purple, cherry, plum, grape, beefsteak tomatoes...though reality proved the we seldom ate tomatoes. So only one grape tomato plant and once sauce type was all that we needed. How disappointing. Some veggies I could really grow good, such as kale, chard, green beans, but my husband didn't particularly like them, and surely not on a daily basis. I finally wrote down everything we ate during the week then figured out if I could grow that. What an eye opener! Turns out that we were really habituated onto commercially prepared food. We actually ate very little fresh vegetables. Whoa, something had to change if we were going to be self-reliant. And that "something" was going to have to be us.

It took years to switch our diet over to homegrown. We're not totally there yet, but close. If stores were to stop selling food tomorrow, we would survive just fine without too much deprivation.

Learning to grow our own food was a far bigger step than I had envisioned. The effort and time was more than I had expected. And I came to realize that growing extra for trading with neighbors and friends was just as important. I concluded that you can't grow everything yourself. So in order to have a varied and interesting diet, trading is the way to go. I now trade for a significant percentage of our food stock. To me it's still part of growing your own food. It's just the I magically convert my excess eggs, lamb, and vegetables into fish, milk, fruits, and beef.

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