Friday, February 10, 2017

Picking My Battles

This post is going to hurt. It's going to take me longer than normal to type it. There will be deleting and retyping the same phrases a few times, possibly some curse words thrown out. Once I hit the "publish" button, you are going to read the words, feel my anguish, and nod your head (or shake it in disagreement.) There's your warning, make sure your coffee (or tea) cup is full and then come back.

The topic of the day is gardening. I've put off thinking of the garden all winter but the seed catalogs are piling up and DH has hinted a few times about getting the seeds started in the basement. Plus Valentine's Day is right around the corner. If you've followed me for very long, you know about my tradition of planting lettuce on Valentine's Day. But just thinking about the garden has me in mild anxiety and near tears this year.

Spring is supposed to be a time of new hope, a beginning. Fresh green grass, the return of the robins, newborn critters, and sunshine. Yeah, yeah. I usually love it all. But the garden, y'all. The garden has come to represent all the hard parts of homesteading to me: the hopefulness that quickly turns to failure and bitterness, back breaking labor, frustration, and lack of control. Every single year for the last several years our garden has started out great- rich soil, no weeds, wonderful mulch, and plenty of compost. Then comes July with it's wicked, humid, oppressive heat and this hoosier girl with the damaged back and a lack of time loses heart. The garden becomes a war zone. Weeds, bugs, and sweat win the battles. By the end of the summer it's clear who the victors were. The losses are staggering. The cost of time in preparation for the garden is enough to make me cry when I see plants lost to squash bugs or overcome by Johnson grass. And then the trips to the farmer's market to replace the veggies I couldn't bring to fruition at home is demoralizing, too.

At the end of the season last year, I reached my limit. Tallying up the meager amount of produce we got from the garden and seeing the lack of results had me throwing up my arms in defeat. I had decided to not even have a garden in 2017. But DH happened to score a great deal on some rolls of plastic and convinced me to try using plastic mulch this year. I knew this method was effective because we had used it in our salad gardens back before we went the homesteading route and decided to be all natural. So this year I have made the choice to use plastic to try to keep the weeds at bay.

There, I said it out loud. Plastic. In. My. Garden.

Do I feel a sense of defeat? Yes. But no. I think the real defeat would be to have no garden at all. And if I can't make a go of it this year, that might be the result for next year. So I've given an inch to hold the battleground for another season.

Am I worried about "chemicals" and such? No. I see the plastic in the fields surrounding my home every year. I see the yellow clouds of dust dropped from airplanes into the fields surrounding my home every year. I follow tractors dripping pink globs of foam after they leave the fields surrounding my home every year. As much as I like to support the local growers at the market, none of them are organic. They all use "traditional" farming methods.

This year I will learn. I will try to find better ways to achieve my goals. But I will also have home raised food that's been enriched by the compost of our home raised manure- I take great pride in being able to say that, the mark of a true homesteader! I might have lost a small battle but maybe I can still win the war.


  1. That's the whole thing about homesteading, prepping, or whatever reason you plant a subsistence garden; you LEARN. Anyone who thinks they're going to just start a garden if the SHTF is in for a rude (and, most likely, FATAL) awakening! Scale back maybe, but don't give up! I know a lady who grows enough veggies for herself in boxes surrounding the tongue of her TRAILER!

    There's an organic alternative to plastic. I can't remember the name of the stuff, but it's biodegradable. At the end of the season, you just till it under with the rest of the compost. It's advertised in Mother Earth News. Maybe someone else can help me out with the name of it?


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