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We’ll Develop All Of Our Meals! And Different Misconceptions I Had About Rural Life

Littlewoods and me beginning our backyard seeds this spring!

One of many driving forces behind the beginning of Frugalwoods was our need to depart the town and purchase a homestead within the woods. That occurred in Might 2016 and let me let you know, we had A LOT of preconceived notions about what it will be prefer to stay rurally, a few of which turned out to be true and a few of which… not a lot. It’s simple to gloss over the specifics once you’re dreaming about shifting to the nation. It turns into very a lot in regards to the specifics once you lose energy and water for every week within the useless of winter due to an ice storm. It’s these specifics–these highly effective particulars–which have formed our lives out right here.

A gargantuan assumption was that we’d develop all of our personal meals.

Earlier than a lot as beginning a single tomato plant, I nurtured an idyllic imaginative and prescient of us rising all of the fruit and veggies we might ever need every summer time. There I used to be among the many rows, singing to every vegetable, encouraging it to flourish. Then I noticed us within the kitchen–with our kids gracefully helping–as we meticulously preserved every harvest for winter. We then pan to us consuming from our larder because the snow falls and the woodstove warms us with wooden from our land. Little Home On the Prairie with out the problematic gender roles, starvation, abysmal therapy of indigenous peoples, and lack of antibiotics and trendy drugs!

Our homestead within the woods

I’ve a robust creativeness and along with rising fruit and veggies, I believed maybe we’d elevate meat chickens, pigs, goats–why not!–and have a dairy cow for milk from which I’d church my very own butter and make my very own cheese. Certainly we might present for all of our wants and stay out a modern-day sustainable, free vary, natural paradise of our personal making. To be clear, all of this IS technically potential. And sure, loads of of us do it.

Nonetheless, I’m not destined to be a type of of us.

My husband Nate and I moved to our 66-acre homestead within the woods of rural Vermont on Might 18, 2016 and at present, seven years on, I need to share what we’ve discovered, re-learned and are nonetheless studying about rising our personal meals. I’ll share extra of our rural assumptions in upcoming posts, that are all a part of a collection on…

Previous Me vs. Present Me: A Showdown

The primary iteration of the “huge” vegetable backyard (earlier than it received its fence)

April was the NINTH anniversary of Frugalwoods and to rejoice, I’m typing down reminiscence lane with reflections on a few of my most influential previous posts. 9 years is a very long time to do something and I’m curious to see if I agree with my previous self or if my ideas have modified within the intervening years. Since Might is the SEVENTH anniversary of our transition to rural life, this appears the proper time to mirror on rural.

You’ll be able to take a look at my first three Frugalwoods nine-year retrospectives right here:

Now let’s get to debunking!

Rural Assumption #1: We’ll Develop and Elevate All of Our Personal Meals!

Reality Examine: That’s a nope.

This drone photograph (by Nate) exhibits you the structure of our gardens fairly nicely 

The first cause? That is an all-consuming, full-time job throughout harvest seasons and I don’t need to develop, harvest and protect meals full-time.

I prefer to perform a little little bit of numerous various things, and that features some gardening and a few canning and preserving. 

To simply accept this, I needed to let go of the picture of myself as an ideal homesteader out right here homesteading away. It’s simply not who I’m. I like what we do on our land, however I don’t need to do all of it day, on daily basis. After seven years, I lastly not really feel responsible for not rising and elevating all of our meals. I truly be ok with shopping for meals from our farmer neighbors who decide to this work full-time. I like supporting their efforts. Plus, they’re quite a bit higher at it than me.

Kidwoods harvesting tomatoes into her pockets…

For Nate and me, the entire level of this way of life change was to let go of the town rat race, the exterior pressures and the societal expectations.

We wished to not work for different individuals and not continually rush round. Rural life, for us, means pleasure, time, freedom and house. And right here’s the factor:

I’ve discovered that chaining myself to my vegetable backyard is admittedly no completely different than chaining myself to my desk and laptop.

A backyard has countless wants, doesn’t care about your time/vitality/plans and exerts numerous time-bound pressures. Something that saps all my time and vitality–and calls for I do issues I don’t have the need to do–isn’t why I moved right here. Extreme gardening burdened me out. So now, we develop somewhat little bit of this and a tidbit of that and we name it a day. Let me let you know the story of how I received right here.

The Kale & Chard Apocalypse of 2018

Detailed in this previous put up, this was the harvest that did me in. Nonetheless early in our gardening experiments, Nate began from seed, planted, weeded, watered and harvested 80 kale and chard crops. Sure, EIGHTY.

Me + the newborn pool of kale and chard

That was 70 crops too many. As a result of let me let you know: that kale and chard LOVED rising right here. It was probably the most profitable factor we’ve ever planted. All 80 of them.

Nonetheless below the delusion that I used to be maybe truly Laura Ingalls Wilder reincarnated, I used to be decided to protect and save EVERY LAST STALK of kale and chard we grew. I wished to see if we might do it–truly present for all of our sustenance wants (insofar as kale and chard are involved).

I spent hours harvesting, washing and drying these greens. The leaves had been so huge that I had to make use of our child pool and a number of other large plastic tubs for rinsing stations. My poor dad and mom made the error of coming for a go to throughout this debacle and received roped into serving to (sorry once more about that, mother and pa!). When stuff comes ripe, there are by no means sufficient palms to assist. However you by no means know fairly when that ripe day might be, which implies you reside on the whims of the backyard.

After we’d harvested, washed and (kinda) dried the leaves, we took them into the kitchen for processing, which entailed:

  • Chopping them up
  • Blanching them to freeze
  • OR canning them in a sizzling water bathtub canner
  • OR turning them into kimchi

And we did it. It took DAYS. A plural variety of days. Whereas there have been enjoyable moments, it was aggravating to do with two tiny youngsters underfoot. I used to be exhausted from bending over to reap within the backyard and stooping to scrub and standing within the kitchen for hours to course of. And that was simply to course of ONE crop. Extra exactly: ONE harvest of ONE crop.

Tomato sauce comprised of our backyard two summers in the past

Absolutely the worst a part of it’s that we didn’t have an opportunity to eat all of that hard-won preservation earlier than a few of it went unhealthy.

Broke my coronary heart to dump it out into the compost, however alas, home-canned stuff doesn’t final eternally and I didn’t know learn how to calculate our consumption fee.

After that draining expertise and the demoralizing realization that we couldn’t even devour all that we’d labored so exhausting to place away, I made a decision to alter our homesteading meals outlook. We’re profoundly privileged that we’re not subsistence farmers. We shouldn’t have to do that to ourselves. I used to be competing towards an idyllic picture I had of people that homestead and develop their very own meals. I’d learn the blogs and books and Instagram posts and I felt stress to stay as much as that customary.

I’d succeeded in transplanting the stress and anxiousness of my workplace job onto my gardening.

I wanted to alter this outlook or I’d quickly begin to hate what I’d labored so exhausting to allow myself to do.

The place We’ve Landed In 2023

Littlewoods was barely larger than a chard leaf!

It’s taken years and I’m nonetheless working to divorce myself from the self-imposed stress to be an ideal homesteader. However I’m now much more real looking about how I need to spend my time through the summer time months. I don’t need to be tethered to the backyard. I need to take the youngsters to the native lake with mates, I need to go hear stay music at our neighbors’ farm, I need to hike and play. I don’t need to spend 12 hours chopping and blanching huge stalks of chard. I need stability and freedom in my life.

A lot of you might have requested me to re-start my This Month On The Homestead collection and to be sincere, I haven’t as a result of I really feel like we’re letting you down as homesteaders! We did SO MUCH work our first few years and now, we kinda simply rinse and repeat with every season. The infrastructure set-up of our first years was staggering and I’m glad it’s over with. I actually might re-start the collection and let you understand how issues are going, however don’t maintain your collective breaths.

Gardening Areas as of Might 2023

We nonetheless backyard and we nonetheless have a bunch of various food-growing areas across the property, so I’ll element every. I did an exhaustive overview just a few years in the past in This Month On The Homestead: The Full Backyard Rundown Together with Constructing Raised Beds. In case you’re a backyard nerd and need to nerd out, that put up’s for you!

Right here’s the place we plant meals nowadays:

1) 4 raised beds proper subsequent to our again porch.

The completed raised beds again in 2020, with Littlewoods holding courtroom (strawberries on proper; greens and herbs on left; mint in pots).

Nate constructed these again in 2020 and I really like them due to their proximity to the home. Simple to stroll out and snip just a few issues for dinner. Right here’s what we’ve finished with them:

Beds 1 and a pair of: Strawberries

  • We planted 100 strawberry crops again in 2020 and I can’t say that was one of the best concept. The strawberries appeal to each sort of pestilence, together with however not restricted to:
    1. An prolonged household of backyard snakes who tunnel ‘neath the roots and pop their little headsies up anytime I’m on the market weeding or harvesting. I don’t thoughts snakes, however I’d choose they not POP up at me. A extra gradual method could be appreciated.
    2. A whole daycare of child chipmunks who’re a sizzling mess in there. Stomping on crops, rummaging round within the dust. Mess.
    3. BIRDS. Allll the birds. We put hooped netting over the crops, however the chipmunk daycare class knocked them over and ate holes within the nets.
    4. Our personal kids. So desirous of recent strawberries that they frequently, routinely, yearly pluck pre-ripe berries, rip crops and destroy my intelligent netting system.
  • Making our personal apple cider with Kidwoods on the crank

    Additionally, since these are raised beds, the soil degree sinks every year. We put a ton of logs within the backside to construct up the bottom, however as these decompose, you really want so as to add extra soil yearly, which we will’t do with the strawberries in there until we replant all 100 of them.

  • This 12 months, I turned considered one of these beds over to Kidwoods, who was begging for her very personal flower backyard. Half of the strawberry crops in there have been useless and I helped her transplant the surviving strawberries into one half of the mattress and she or he planted flower seeds within the different half.
  • TBD what I’ll do with the opposite mattress, which continues to be stuffed with strawberries (and snake tunnels).

Beds 3 and 4: herbs and greens

  • That is the place I put our herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, dill and oregano.
  • In addition to our salad greens: lettuce, greens combine, sorrel, arugula.
  • I begin the herbs and lettuce from seed and I direct sow the remaining.
  • The greens will be succession planted, that means I rip them out after they begin to flower and plant new seeds. If I sustain with it, we now have recent greens all summer time lengthy.
  • I began carrots in right here just a few years in the past, however by chance put them proper subsequent to the dill plant and–wouldn’t you realize it–carrot leaves and dill look ALMOST IDENTICAL. There have been some casualties.
  • This technique appears to work fairly nicely since most of these things is annual and never perennial. We added extra soil final 12 months and might want to add extra once more subsequent 12 months.

2) The “Massive” Vegetable Backyard

Kidwoods and I shoveling compost soil into the raised beds just a few years in the past to prime them off

The “huge” vegetable backyard is the place we develop the vast majority of our annual veggies. Annual means you need to plant new ones yearly versus crops which can be perennial, which implies they arrive again yearly. This backyard is fenced in and has cattle panels–which I put in on my own one 12 months, may I add–for issues like tomatoes and snap peas to vine up. A lot simpler than trellising every particular person plant. I gently bend the fronds up in the direction of the panels they usually take it from there. Extremely suggest.

On this backyard, we develop a pretty big variety of greens each summer time and love consuming recent tomatoes, beans, squash, snap peas, cucumbers, peppers, and different misc crops I’m now forgetting. I additionally adore rising pumpkins and gourds for fall decorations, which I feed to our chickens when the season’s over.

That is the backyard the place the youngsters every get their very own row to plant, have a tendency and harvest!

  • Every child will get to begin her personal seeds. No matter seeds she desires! We put them in their very own little seed beginning trays and–upon Kidwoods’ insistence–label them by title. My trays say “Mama.”
  • I begin about three trays value of crops and I solely do just a few of every variety. I’m nicely conscious that we don’t want 89 tomato crops (like I did just a few years in the past… ).
  • We begin all of those from seeds within the spring and plant the begins within the floor in early June–too chilly to take action earlier than then!

Our seed begins on the seed beginning tower Nate constructed just a few years in the past. He constructed that toddler tower-of-power too!

3) Mr. FW tends our perennial meals scenario, which he’s grown to incorporate:

  • 28 blueberry bushes
  • 3 currant bushes
  • 3 Saskatoon berry bushes
  • 3 plum timber
  • 4 cherry bushes
  • 10 apple timber
  • 4 cider apple timber
  • 5 pear timber
  • 2 peach timber
  • 4 elderberry bushes

I’ll admit that feels like quite a bit. And when it comes to sheer variety of crops, it’s a lot, however when it comes to how a lot fruit we truly get? It’s not all that a lot.

Right here’s Why:

1. All of these things takes a few years to ramp as much as its full manufacturing potential.

It takes an apple tree ~6 years earlier than it bears a single apple. The blueberry bushes took two years to make an edible blueberry. Related timelines are hooked up to all of those perennial fruits.

2. Different issues prefer to eat these candy treats too.

And by “different,” I’m certainly referring to the Intelligent Varmint Patrol (CVP) who, to date, have managed to eat EVERY SINGLE plum and cherry we’ve ever grown. They stalk these crops after which, I swear, the minute the fruit turns completely ripe, they snatch all of it and take it to their lair(s). We don’t need to use pesticides, constructing a fence is simply too costly (and would damage the view)–plus a mere fence isn’t any match for the CVP–and we’ve tried netting and chicken-wire cages. We’ll strive netting once more, however all that appears to occur with the netting is that our kids get snarled in it…

Kidwoods engaged on her row within the huge veggie backyard final summer time

Moreover, a flock of untamed turkeys as soon as flew into our blueberry patch–which is enclosed by a fence–after which COULD NOT GET BACK OUT. They’d trapped themselves so completely that once we went to shoo them away, they repeatedly RAN INTO THE FENCE. Nate needed to go contained in the fence and herd them out. I simply… what’s there to say about flight-enabled birds who neglect learn how to fly in moments of disaster?

3. The climate, am I proper?

If the CVP doesn’t devour them, it’s extremely potential these fruits’ll die/underproduce as a result of an excessive amount of solar, too little solar, an excessive amount of rain, too little rain, a late frost, an early frost, a too-cold frost, a not-cold-enough frost…

4. Then, harvesting occurs suddenly!

Most of those perennial fruits come ripe all on the identical time. In different phrases, all of the apples on one tree flip ripe on the identical day. And as soon as the fruit ripens, you’ve received to select it ASAP. In case you don’t, the CVP will eat it or it’ll fall to the bottom and be consumed by ants and different ground-hugging creatures. Fruit timber, very similar to kids, haven’t any curiosity or concern to your schedule. They ripen when they need, how they need. In case you’re not able to drop the whole lot and harvest all day lengthy? The CVP will maintain it for you.

5. Preserving! Canning! Urgent! Oh My!

Littlewoods planting her tomato begins final summer time

If we’re fortunate sufficient to come back this far, if a winter frost didn’t kill the crops, a late frost didn’t burn the blossoms, the CVP didn’t precise its revenge, bugs didn’t illness the tree AND we managed to reap all the fruit on that one, good, magical, wonderful day… NOW WHAT?!!!

This, my mates, is how I’ve discovered myself with a kitchen bursting with ripe fruit and veggies. With a lot chard and kale I needed to retailer it within the youngsters’ plastic pool. With so many apples–suddenly!–that I can’t match all of the barrels within the kitchen and should lug some right down to the basement.

It’s an unimaginable privilege to have all this meals, however with out an industrial kitchen and a piece crew and countless time… it doesn’t all get preserved. THOUGH I HAVE TRIED. That kale/chard harvest was the defining second that modified my thoughts about how deeply I need to decide to meals preservation. Now, I do what I can.

I not really feel guilt over not turning Each. Single. Cucumber into pickles. We eat a ton, we give a bunch away to mates and neighbors and possibly I make just a few jars of pickles. However not 100 quarts. I did that just a few years in the past and simply, wow. Folks requested me to please stop giving them jars of pickles as presents. There’s such a factor as over-gifting your preserved meals. Ask me how I do know.

Right here’s how I now protect the perennial meals:

  • The littlest currant picker

    Blueberries are the simplest as a result of the youngsters can harvest them on their very own–there aren’t any thorns, it’s very apparent when a berry is ripe and the bushes are low to the bottom. Then, all I’ve to do is rinse them and throw them into luggage within the freezer. Simple.

  • Apples are the toughest. Nate or I’ve to do many of the harvesting as a result of they’re so excessive up within the timber. That doesn’t cease the youngsters from serving to they usually each get beaned on the pinnacle by apples yearly. Apples are additionally robust as a result of they require a ton of labor to course of. I prefer to make applesauce, apple butter and dried apples, however all three require me to first wash and dry the apples, then peel and core them, then cook dinner them down into sauce or jam, after which sizzling water bathtub can the sauce. Repeat this MANY occasions till you’ve used up all of the apples (or they’ve gone unhealthy ready so that you can get to them). We’ve additionally pressed them into cider in previous years–and doubtless will once more sooner or later–however that is one other huge funding in time (to not point out provides).
  • Strawberries get eaten recent (principally by the youngsters, principally earlier than even making it inside). Simple!
  • Plums and cherries get eaten by the CVP.
  • Currants are made into jam, which is pretty concerned, however we do appear to eat that up and it’s worthwhile to make it.
  • Nothing else produces fruit but.

Mr. FW + Kidwoods planting extra fruit timber just a few years in the past

Generally we protect annual meals, together with making:

  • Tomatoes into sauce
  • Cucumber into pickles
  • Beans into pickled beans

All of that is enjoyable to do carefully and we do eat it, however carefully. Since we don’t should eat pickled chard stems to outlive the winter, we don’t have to make 90 quarts of pickled chard stems. To be clear: many of us select to develop and protect all of their meals and that’s nice! Many of us do it efficiently and have very low grocery payments due to it! Not me.


The ultimate stage for each gardener: acceptance. Acceptance that I don’t like being out in a backyard all day OR in a kitchen canning all day. I prefer to be in a backyard for awhile and I don’t thoughts canning for awhile. I like doing it with the youngsters since I feel it teaches them some nifty abilities.

However it’s not a race to final homesteader for me. I’ve realized that the stress for perfection isn’t restricted to high school or conventional jobs–it will probably take over something. Even gardening!!!! So we’ll plant our little crops this 12 months and possibly bear in mind to weed and water them. And I’d can just a few quarts of apple sauce. Or I won’t. And both manner? We’ll nonetheless be grateful to stay out right here.

How does your backyard develop?

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