We have had a few months settling in, getting used to wind, water, slope, drainage. Bugs, animals (lots of animals). We have been working to develop a big plan for planting, but really wanted to get to know things a bit first.
We have been working on the big plan - where the beehives will go, the compost pile, the coop, the cutting garden, the food garden, the fruit trees/orchard, the cane fruit, the nut trees, the medicinal gardens, the greenhouse. I have been working on and tweaking a digital plan (see above). We adopted a dog recently, and so I have been walking the perimeter in sun, rain, and snow, so some of that will change as I have walked the land so much I have a better idea of space and light and drainage.
I am trying to make gradual process in some areas, but I also want to get a lot done (without burning out my family helpers). We laid out some black tarps in the fall, planted some canes and fruit, deer-proofed the small plants - we see a dozen deer a day on our property - and then plotted out where the other beds will go and where we hope to install the high tunnel. We have many bare root and 2nd year plants coming in the spring, so we will plant as we get them! We have our starter beehives and bees will be coming this spring. We have a plan for chickens and geese, but we may ease into that as we recently got a dog and there is much work to be done to get this all started, and more coop and animal care might be too much for everyone. We shall see how we feel once the snow starts to melt!
Our goal is to create not only a permaculture farmette here with food and medicinal plants, but also educational gardens and a space for classes. By working to preserve endangered plants as we can, this space will become a botanical sanctuary, caring for pollinators, plants, and people.
We setup a large seed starting system and I have started seeds. I will share more on that later - but here is our big plan for this year.
2019 Planting Plan
If you follow me on facebook or instagram you likely already know the news. We are moving! We have been in this home for 3 years, but we have always had in the back of our mind that we would move again for the right property. Acres. With high speed internet. Rural, but accessible to the airport for my husband who travels on business. We have always felt uncomfortable with people right there when we are in the garden. We are lucky that we actually have great neighbors that we love to chat with, but it still feels like a fishbowl.
From February to June this year we had constant issues with my older son's health. The mast cells are wreaking havoc and his body is reacting and responding to everything. Over a few months he had a biopsy, 2 MRIs, a few scopes, a dozen blood draws, and an urgent care visit. We have some answers and we have been making changes via foods and herbs to support him ongoing - but all of that pretty much reinforced the idea that we need a place where we can settle in for the long haul and where we can just work together as a family. A home that works for us now, and will work for us with adult child or children still living at home. We found one home that was amazing and after a hectic week we discovered the owner used an open house to push an existing accepted offer - and we just wasted time even trying.
About a week after that we were in a small town 40 minutes east and I half heartedly mentioned a house I saw that was nearby - should we drive by? We drove past and immediately called the realtor for a showing the next day. We have been wary of homes that have been lived in since mu son and I react to everything people have used in the home - cleaners, detergents, plug-ins, air fresheners, you name it. But we were in the house for an hour without any reaction. It was spotless, well maintained (anal retentively, almost, which is good). The only house you can *see* when standing anywhere on the property is almost a mile away (there are closer neighbors, but there is a large wooded area of pines, so we cannot see them). Glorious. We put in an offer before we had even listed our house and it was accepted.
We had a frantic week of packing half of everything we own to stage the house for the realty photographer and an open house. The house was listed on that Thursday and on Sunday the open house happened. On Wednesday we had an offer and our house was sold (we have amazing realtor team too). I am not much of a woo person, but I have always felt if something is too hard it wasn't meant to happen. This came together perfectly because it is what we need at this time.
We had high speed internet tested - and it is indeed high speed. The well was tested and it is deep and clean. We had the house inspected and it is not only beautiful, but in great condition. While I can't wait to update the kitchen cabinets and light fixtures throughout the house (a little country for me), it has real wood floors, floor to ceiling windows in the living room with views for miles (literally). It also has a full lower level that can be used as classroom (!!) and business space now and will be a perfect an A apartment if he needs it in the future.
We only have a month to now pack and move. A month or so is plenty of time to make big plans. We want chickens. Greenhouses. Extensive medicinal herb gardens and integrated layered permaculture systems throughout. There is a forest side - perfect for medicinal woodland plants, and plenty of flat space for serious expansion of growing. The property also already has fruit trees, restored grasses and prairie areas, and it is on a road with only 3 other homes, next door to horses. It is also zoned rural so no HOA. Plenty of room to grow food and herbs and have fresh air and sunshine.
Being in this home for a few years has been a good step for us, but we are ready to make the move to better match our lifestyle and to make a better day to day for all of us. We have been waiting and working for many years wanting big open skies, huge views, green rolling hills, and land of our own. It is time.
I realized that I haven't written about our garden in many months. Once planting season begins it seems that summer rushes by, noted only by how many days has it been since it last rained, and what is ready to pick, always hot and sunny but urgent in the need for constant weeding and tending.
Interestingly, our garden(s) took on a whole new level this summer. I don't usually like to tell people of any of our charitable projects. Doing nice things or donating to help someone get on their feet or working and volunteering to help people is something we should all do without any expectation of attention or praise. Because it is the right thing to do. But when my children are involved on this level, I like to recognize them for their kindness, generosity, and loving hearts. They are amazing humans.
Back in March while we were starting seedlings, my boys had the idea to grow flowers for the food pantry. Our community garden keeps a bin up front for the local food pantry so that any extras in the garden can go right to them. The local food pantry also has an extra large plot there managed by volunteers to grow as much fresh produce as they can as well, so they pick up the extras in the bin when they are there. We have always put our extras in the bin, but growing flowers and making bouquets so that families could have something fresh and colorful on their tables in addition to the food sounded like a fantastic idea. I wrote a letter to our local Badger Prairie Needs Network and asked if they would take flowers if we grew/bunched/delivered them. They said yes! The boys wanted to call it the Happy Flower Project (#happyflowerproject).
After getting the YES from the food pantry, we went into overdrive choosing flower seeds and starting a few hundred extra seedlings. I quickly realized that our very small community garden plot wouldn't hold that much and that our home garden wasn't developed enough yet for that many more plantings. But we really wanted to make our flower project for the food pantry work! Gulp. I kept growing those seedlings, thinking we would find a way. In May, just as I was hardening off hundreds of flowers, a local unschooler mom wrote to ask if I knew Janelle, who had garden space to spare and was looking for some people to fill it. I wrote to her and we went out to see her lovely valley where she organically raises goats and has a large organic garden plot. We were SO LUCKY to get space there, and we planted so.many.flowers. in late May and early June. My husband, as always, jumped into our family project and helped with everything. In addition to all of the flowers, we planted many medicinal herbs and two vines of cucumbers and heirloom pumpkins in that patch. This space is twice the size of the other community garden plot, and the soil is wonderful (and the goats eat our weeds by the bucketful).
We chose to plant only family food like tomatoes, peppers, peas, watermelon, and some herbs at the community garden plot as it has picky soil and isn't very big. We did plant zinnias around the perimeter for extra cutting flowers if we needed them. At home, we expanded our fruit plantings and I added additional many perennial plants in a few new small beds around the house. As we rotated weeding/harvesting/caretaking from garden to garden each week, the goat farm was quickly the favorite place for the boys as there are goats (baby goats!), chickens, and a large trampoline there. Woot! Even with how hot our summer has been, things were growing well. Of course that led to the inevitable garden crash - a few weeks ago we had a few days of torrential rain and our community garden plot was completely submerged. We ended up losing almost 100% of the plants in the community garden plot from the floodwaters and then not long after, to rot. Can you imagine how relieved I am that we had the other plot out at the goat farm? And that most of our flowers and medicinal herbs are there? We are again SO lucky.
Every Friday we go out to the farm garden to pick flowers for a few hours and transport them in buckets of water back to our house (the garden is about 15-20 minutes from home). From there we divide them by type and then create mixed bouquets. We rubberband the ends and put the bunches into fresh buckets of water. After that all that is left is that we load up our car and deliver all of the flowers to the Badger Prairie Needs Network so that they have fresh flowers for busy Saturdays! We have been filling a dozen mason jar vases each week so that the community meal tables have fresh flowers (as well as the registration desk and waiting areas). The garden has been producing more and more each week and we have been able to make dozens of bouquets - filling several buckets - for visitors to choose from each week. We are hoping to increase our bouquet count each week for a few more weeks before they start to slow down for the season.
My kids know all the hard work required in doing these bouquets, but also get to carry buckets of those flowers and a crate of filled vases into the food pantry every Friday, knowing that people have been so happy to see fresh flowers that they can take home for their table. It has been eye-opening for them to see how our local community of individuals, businesses, restaurants and chefs work together to help over 300 families in our school district alone. How chefs donate their time, how local businesses and restaurants donate all of their extra produce and meals, how local stores donate their dents and bakery items. How gardeners bring in giant bags of produce. How many volunteers donate their time to clean, prep, cook, stock, make, and feed so many people in our community. They see how even in our small town we are all a part of something together, and that it is important.
The #happyflowerproject has been a nice experience for all of us this summer, and I am so glad we jumped in head first and that so many things came together for us to make this happen. I hope the weather allows us to keep this going for as long as possible! So I am tooting a horn for my amazing kids with their kind hearts and commitment to our community. And their recognition that flowers can make people smile.
I'll share more about what we ended up growing in our 3 gardens and what we plan to pot to overwinter and which varieties we are growing again next year - but for now, just my boys. <3
Edited to add: I have had several people write to ask how we "do it all" with mast cell disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and asthma (etc.) on our plate. And the key is, we pick our own projects, we create our own parameters and expectations, and we deliver based on our own timeline. We accommodate ourselves. We create our own opportunities together as a family, and we do what works for us! (And, my kids are amazing.) ❤️
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculture designer, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled teens in south central Wisconsin.