Though the project is still in its infancy it has provided us with some extremely interesting learning opportunities. As I have mentioned in previous post we significantly increased the size of the garden and that in itself has created both early success and failure. One of the difficulties exist in the fact that the soil has not neccesarily recieved the same amount of nourishment as the pre-existing garden space so the soil is a bit more compact and clay like in nature, especially after a hard rain. Due to this some of the young plants have had a tough time getting established. Of course the so called weeds have had no problem flourishing. This has reinforced the notion of healthy soil with the kids though and has forced us to address the problem. We are tackling the issue by applying compost from kitchen scraps and rabbit manure. We realize it will be a few seasons before the soil is where we want it but once again it is a lesson in patience.
Though the garden space has doubled over the span of a year we have spent very little in the manner of seed and starter plants. We started using heirloom seeds about five years ago it is finally making a serious impact on start up cost. We did add a few new items this year though. For example we began growing golden purslane, which was a favorite of Gandhi. We are growing scarlet runner beans and moonflowers for the first time. Loofa sponge, blue ballet squash, and patty pans as well. We also have continued some core crops also such as popcorn, carrots and peas. We are experimenting with different growing techniques as well. We have three different methods being used for potatoes this year. One is a box filled with soil. The other is a box filled with hay and the third is the traditional trench method in the earth itself.
This year in the garden we have added a few bird feeders in key spots and it has already produced a spectacle of feather and song. Last year our area of the country was severly damaged by a catastrophic flood and afterwards the mosquito population was unbearable. You could bearly spend a mere matter of minutes in the garden or yard without being swarmed by clouds of hungry mosquito. We decided this year we would provide a haven for birds of all shapes and sizes in hopes that they would cut down on pest, so far it seems to have worked. We have had bluejays, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, finches and junkos visit on a daily basis just to name a small handful of the wonderful birds that now call our yard home. It is so fulfilling to be digging in the garden and have a song bird perch on the trellis next to you and have them seranade you as you work in the morning sun.
While working in the garden we have identified four different toads and at least four different snakes living in our gardens. Not everyone appreciates their presence but the kids now know the massive amount of insects any of those creatures can eat per day, it literally numbers in the thousands, and so they look to create habitat for them rather than destroy it.
That has actually been a constant topic of conversation in our gardens as of late. It is tough for their young minds to grasp why anyone would want to harm the enviroment that they love so much and to be honest I don't try to sway them from that point of view. They feel connected to the fox and her kits that live near our home and the individual birds that are content to nest in the eaves of our home. They know the spots were the bees like to collect the bulk of their pollen and wonder when they will catch another glimpse of the deer that are brave enough to live so close to civilzation.
Just the other day we were watching honeybees at work and it lead to a conversation that we are all connected. What effects one effects another, whether plant, beast or man. I could see the idea take root that if we spray chemicals to kill plants we don't like that they in turn harm the bees who pollinate our gardens and help put food on our table. We in turn provide flowers for them to pollinate in hopes that they will visit our small space. Once again this brought up the question of why would some people spray poisons for such a silly thing as a weed? There is no good answer to this is there? We have worked on creating a sanctuary to spend our spare time in as well as a place where the local wildlife can visit and feel welcome, even the pesky rabbits who eat our greens.
Whether it is taking the rabbit manure out to the garden to feed the soil or removing a weed by hand rather than a spoonful of poison. Whether it is simply starting a seeding in the house during the cold winter months instead of buying stock in companies like Monsanto year after year they are beginning to realize they are in control of their actions. When they share seed with neighbors and friends or carry buckets of water to young plants they realize that resources are limited and need to be used wisely. Learning is already taken place but if the truth be told I am learning as much as they are.
Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead https://www.facebook.com/seedtoharvestbossyhenhomestead/ which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here https://amileinhershoestalesofastayathomedad.wordpress.com/