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A Modern Homesteader’s Shame

by Victoria Gazeley

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Now you know my shame.

I haven’t planted my garden yet.

How can someone who claims to be a ‘modern homesteader’ not have planted her garden by the end of June, you ask?  Let me tell you…

It started with the weather. Cold, rainy, muddy – not very conducive to working outside. Now I know this isn’t really an excuse – if I actually depended on my garden for sustenance, I’d be in trouble. BIG trouble.  But this weather, which is becoming fairly ‘normal’ for this part of the world through the end of June, just doesn’t inspire the gardener in me.

What it does do is make me think.

I think about my ancestors, who had to plant regardless of the weather, or they’d have likely starved. I think about our modern day organic farmers, who are out planting and caring for their crops in frost and downpours – so we can eat, and to feed their own families and secure their futures. I think of all those throughout the world who can’t afford to go to the local organic grocer to pick up first class organic produce from Mexico, Chile and California in the dead of winter. They don’t have the luxury of postponing planting because it’s rainy and cold and it’s more comfortable to stay inside with a nice hot cup of tea.

Of course, this should inspire me.  But the beds are still not planted.

Now all that said, the season isn’t a complete loss. I just finished preparing a new audio interview:  Emergency Food Storage – Why Bother? and more than anything, it shocked me once again at how dependent most of us are on shipments of food coming from outside the country. In summer, not so much of a problem, but in winter, if we want fresh vegetables, we have to grow our own (and all that goes with that), rely solely on sprouts, or buy the imported variety.

There are many who say that the ecological footprint of imported vegetables in winter is actually less than what it would cost to grow these same plants in heated greenhouses, but no matter how you fancy it up, it’s still not really sustainable. Not to mention impossible in the event of a major disaster that disrupts food shipping.  So what’s a busy person who doesn’t like being out in the rain and mud to do?

My answer (and the one that makes me feel better):  start where you’re at, and do a little bit at a time.

I know this comes a bit late for me, but I’m pegging my reputation on it (ahem).  The bottom line is, it’s never too late to start a garden.

I was so ready in February with local organic and heritage seeds, composted organic horse manure and my lovely raised beds.  I bought 9 more blueberry plants, a goji berry and others.  And I had the desire.  But it kept raining.  And raining.  And it was cold.  And every time there was a lull, I’d think “I really should get out there“.  But another client project would be calling from my office, or there’d be a performance at my son’s school – or the monsoon would start again just as I put on my muck boots and donned a shovel.

Bottom line?  I. Just. Never. Got. Around. To. It.

And now it’s the end of June.

So I’ve decided I’ll just start fresh and plan for a fall and winter garden, which, in this part of the world, is entirely doable.

And there you have it.  None of us are perfect.  And I have no interest in holding myself up as the Martha Stewart of the modern homesteading movement, because I’d fail miserably (or make myself miserable trying). Sure I like my house tidy, full of stylish things to look at.  But a magazine-worthy example I am not (except on my Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine blogs, of course)!

But when it comes to actually getting out there and doing it, actually taking the plunge, leaving my full time job, moving to the country and making this work, late garden planting and all?

Now THAT I can do.  And that I am doing.

But dang, it’s raining again.  And that cup of tea and the gardening book I’ve been meaning to read is looking awfully tempting.  I think I’ll just settle in for another afternoon.  At this point, what’s another day?

Have any of your gardening or homesteading plans gone AWOL this spring?  Let us know in the comments below – I’d love to hear that I’m not alone!

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Revised on June 30, 2011

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Bergstrome June 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Oh Honey, I hear you! This has certainly been the yuckiest spring in ages. (Though last year was pretty grim too! I seem to recall last February was much nicer than June) 

Anyway, you still have time to start. Now that school is out, you and your boy can make garden projects together and still have a flourishing productive garden by August. It’s do-able, baby steps.As for me I have herbs in pots (YEAH!) but have already killed my leafy greens (BOOH) and my tomatoes have yet to be caged (gotta get on that before they snap off)You’ve set some pretty amazing goals for yourself in 2011, don’t be afraid to ask for help – Host a gardening party! Hire someone part time to help with you admin stuff. We are not one-women show’s, it takes a community – and you have an awesome community to draw from :-)

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Victoria Gazeley June 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Thanks, Laura. It’s never a lost cause, is it? But still… ;o) And as for the ‘hire someone’ advice, I’m just learning that now! Just got off a call about exactly that topic with my business coach, and I think it’s finally sinking in! ;o)

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Mike Strothotte June 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Yup., although we have a few things planted, it was the same here in New Brunswick.  Cold Yucky spring. Not very conducive to starting a garden, especially where we are starting from Scratch.  We have clay soil and it is heavy and sticky to dig when it is wet.   February?? Forget it! We were under 3 feet of snow till late March, when it finally began to taper off.  I am so spoiled from the BC weather in Nanaimo, it was kind of tough waiting that long.  I mean really, Daffodils in MAY????   I have to confess I cheated and bought, yes BOUGHT a tray of 48 Corn plants to have something to show…good thing I work at the Kingsbrae Garden Plant Centre and get an employee discount.  HMMM.

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Victoria Gazeley June 27, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Glad to hear it wasn’t just me! And working in a plant centre – heaven!

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Victoria Gazeley June 27, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Glad to hear it wasn’t just me. And how fun to work in a garden centre! Ooo… the possibilities!

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Susan McKenzie June 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Shame?? Not so, I think, my dear! That you can still plant a “fall and
winter” garden is amazing to me… As for rain, frost, and all that…
I’m right with you in picking up the cup of tea and reading instead of
fighting frostbite! We do have many options for storing food, and I can
actually answer your question positively about surviving for 3 weeks
without going to the grocery store! Victoria, your success in leaving
the city and creating a homesteading lifestyle, complete with income,
inspires me to no end!

Victoria, your success in leaving the city and creating a homesteading lifestyle while raising a child and earning an income from home inspires me to no end!!! You deserve far-reaching recognition, for you will inspire the hearts of many who only “wish” to live the life you’ve chosen to live! Thanks for your honest and transparent articles – you’ve given us a window into your world and all the endless possibilities out there!

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Victoria Gazeley June 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Thanks, Susan – now that you put it that way, I don’t feel so bad!! ;o)

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Victoria Gazeley July 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Thanks, Susan… :o)

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Elvie Look June 30, 2011 at 1:00 am

You should NOT feel shame. You are amazing and nothing is worth stressing over. I JUST got home, Ken’s heart stopped, while driving. After spending another week in hospitals and off to Edmonton cardiology, it is a miracle we are all alive. Our plans have drastically changed now for the rest of the summer, but who cares. He is alive, I am alive and we are happy. On top of it, I couldn’t get home because of flooding and the roads were closed and the bridge washed out. So – you have a very good reason for not planting. I give you a hug and a pat on the back girl!

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Victoria Gazeley July 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Thanks, Elvie. And I’m so glad you guys are OK. How are the floods now? I just heard there was another flood warning… ayayayay… Hope all is well!

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Victoria Gazeley July 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Thanks so much for stopping by! I can imagine a big garden would be a challenge to look after if you aren’t feeling up to it. And grasshoppers?? Oh my! That would be a bit surreal to see… it never gets warm enough here for grasshoppers (we have them, just not very many). Yikes! Gardening is definitely an adventure – here’s to the grasshoppers passing VERY FAR AWAY from your house next year! :o)

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Michelle Wilson August 1, 2011 at 4:21 am

I was going to have a garden on my own for the first time – bought the seeds, set up the timbers for the raised beds, prices a mix of soils to bring in, and then….  the submersed well pump broke.  This is a rental and the landlord has been a gem by delivering water to the bulb every day while he figures out how he’s going to get enough money to redrill the well, which was a low-flow pump (augmented by water delivery about once a week).  I know myself well enough that the well pump going defunct was my ‘out’ for any and every excuse I know I would’ve come up with to not get out there and become a proper green thumb. ;)

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