Tuesday, September 19, 2017

All-Too-Real Reality of the 2017 Garden

     Today, I am going to be one hundred percent realistic when it comes to our 2017 garden.  For many of you who follow us on Facebook, you might have noticed strategically placed photographs throughout the season, but now it comes down to admitting the all-too-real reality of what happened in our garden this year.  

Spring 2017 Garden
      We had good intentions.  

    We ran our meat chickens and turkeys across the garden in the late-fall and early-winter to help turn up the soil, eat down some of the remaining plants and cover crops, and provide us with some free manure where we wanted it.  By spring we had cover cropped sections in buckwheat, put black plastic down to kill any early sprouting weeds, and laid out rows of fresh transplants with landscape fabric and feed bags to help suppress the weeds as the crops grew.  The Mr. would go out a few times a week with a hoe and tiller and make sure the paths were cleared of weeds, as well as in between the plants.  It looked like it was going to be a very successful year of keeping up with the garden, and keeping the weeds at bay.  

     Then life happened...

     Perhaps we should have heeded the advice of "don't take so much on when you're expecting a baby" and we continued to plant the already growing transplants in our garden, swearing that these easier methods will cut down the workload (and they have).  Perhaps if we had wholeheartedly taken that advice the garden would have looked different, the canning would have been more lax, and the preserving of the harvest would not be weighing as heavily as it is now that I am 37 weeks along, counting seeds for next year's garden, and finally getting around to the dried mint from the beginning of the summer.  

We were fortunate that relatives and friends also assisted with
some of the larger canning loads to get them all done, not to
mention my mother who gave up two days to harvest apples
and peaches with me at a local orchard as I fought through
"practice contractions" for eight bushels of fruit.
     Each year we push ourselves to do better than the previous year, and make the most of our yields.  After all we eat from our garden throughout the year to help offset our grocery bills, and can more food than most people would dream of in a lifetime.  Yet, we were not prepared for how pregnancy would effect my body, nor how quickly the morning sickness would set on and last, and how weak I would still feel.  We were not prepared mid-pregnancy for a second batch of meat birds that needed butchered when the smell of wet feathers would turn my stomach so quickly, even though I had been fine at the beginning of my pregnancy with the first batch of the year.  We were unrealistic when we thought that I could keep up with my regular daily animal chores, and quickly found that along with his own, the Mr. would have to pick up my daily chores, most of the housework, almost all the garden work, harvesting, and soon canning.  

     We had tried our best to "power through" as we did each and every year in the past, gradually adding a little more to our plate with each coming year, but this year it was different.  This year the final straw came the day I was getting ready to pressure can chicken stock, and the exhaustion compounded with the heat of everything going in the kitchen caused my vision to black and I caught myself on the counter before I fell and managed to lower myself to the floor, knocking over a few glass pint jars in the process.  I was okay (and so was the baby), but it was then the full realization set in that I just couldn't do a lot of it anymore, no matter how hard we had tried to scale me back in work.  

     Simply put, the compounding of life has caused us to fall behind as it became unrealistic for the Mr. to work 40-60 hours a week, come home and take care of feeding and changing water for the animals, weeding and harvesting the garden, and tend to the baby chickens and turkeys that needed nursing... all before dinner, which he generally had to also make for us as I was quickly becoming too exhausted to safely prepare the meal.  

     All of this boils down to the picture that shows the all-too-real reality of the present state of the garden...

... underneath all of those weeds lies the garden.  The toppled tomato cages we fight to get the fruits off of the tangled vines once or twice a week.  The potatoes that were overcrowded by the weeds, and now lie somewhere underneath a thick blanket of unwanted growth waiting to be unearthed.  The beans that skipped over their rows and overtook the pathways in between, but at least overran most of the weeds along with the pathways.  A random volunteer gourd plant that clings to the Scarlet Runner Beans.  Sweet corn that is only now starting to tassel alongside the tall blades of grass.  Vines hung heavy with pumpkins and squash, creeping ever quicker into the surrounding yard.  It's all there... waiting for us... taunting us.  

     We've yielded over $800 worth of produce so far off that overrun dream, but still there is more.  There is always more to be done, but there are changes on the way too.  There are new dreams.  There's a little one on the way to keep up with amidst this craziness we call life.  There's a new job that takes us away from this place we've called home for over four years now.  There's a new home being searched for with dreams of animals and gardens, and the stinging reality of whether we can actually get everything we desire on a deadline and a budget as we continue our search.  In the end though, we know there'll be a new garden to lay out in 2018, and perhaps... just perhaps... another chance to right reality again and see what beauty lies in a once-again weeded garden.   


  1. I understand so well. Though i am not pregnant, i had a lot of medical problems and my garden got away from me. Looking at your last picture, i almost thought you came to my garden and took that pic.
    Looking on the bright side. We both had veggies.. not our vision of a beautiful garden. We tried. Just think, dreams of a better year next year.

    1. Oh yes, those dreams for next season are certainly holding my spirit from breaking after this year. I almost broke out the seed catalogs - just to "glance at" of course - today, but realized that I still have seeds that need to be put away for next season before I go paging through the pictures of dreams.