Saturday, June 6, 2009

On Living my Dreams

Henry David Thoreau once said,
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."

If someone would've asked me in high school, or even college, what I thought I'd be doing in 15-20 years, I confidently (though naiively) would've said I'd be raising my family. Well, here I am, living the life I thought I'd imagined--I only wish that imagination would've been a little more detailed, because I don't think I ever saw myself doing most of what I do now. That imagination has become a bit more detailed over the years, and has surprisingly revealed my love for gardening, and this dream I have to own acres and acres where my kids can run free and we can all pick raspberries and tomatoes together after riding horses through the open fields. I imagine the kids helping Mike build a treehouse in the monstrous oak in the far corner of our backyard, where we spend hours having tea parties, playing pirates, and reading stories until dark that spark even more imagination.

I think the first step toward realizing this dream has been in all the planning and work in the garden this year. I finally waddled out there this morning to document our progress over the last few weeks. This season has certainly been a learning experience for us, as this is really our first go at serious gardening and on such a large scale. There have been a few disappointments already, but I think all that can be put behind us with one bite of a juicy red ripe Paul Robeson (heirloom tomato) sometime in July!

Head Lettuce is looking beautiful right now, though I have yet to see any heads! We'll keep an eye on these over the next few weeks to make sure it doesn't get too hot to send them bolting befor we have a chance to harvest any. It's our first attempt at a head-type lettuce, so we'll see how we do.

The Red Norland potatoes are looking fantastic! One entire bed, with only a handful that didn't come up is pretty great to me. I wasn't sure if they'd actually grow, since they sat around in the open for nearly a month before the bed was ready to plant them in. In fact, some of the shriveled sprouts were a good 6-8 inches long and I thought they'd immediately die when placed in the ground. I'm glad I was wrong--that's not something I say very often...

These are the Russet Potatoes that we planted a couple of weeks after the reds. With the reds taking off the way they did, I was concerned that these wouldn't because of the opposite problem. They had only had a few days to sprout by the time we needed to plant them, so the tiny sprouts were only about 1/4 inch long. Again, I'm glad I was wrong. (For those of you keeping track, that's twice.)

And here are the Leaf Lettuce that we grew last year as well. These beautiful plants are "cut and come again" which means we'll be having lots of salads and sandwich greens until it gets too hot for them and they bolt, then we'll wait for it to cool down and plant some more! Two of these will actually become our lunch today...mmmmm. I've heard that lettuce is sweeter when you harvest it before the sun comes up, but I've yet to be up that early to test the theory.

These are unknown squash plants that are thriving in part of our compost pile. Don't ever let anyone tell you that compost doesn't make a difference because clearly, it does! These are the best looking plants we have in the garden right now & they aren't even in the garden!

This celery was planted earlier this week, but spent several weeks before that in a flat. I've never grown celery before, so we'll keep close track of it. So far, it seems to be surviving pretty well.

The carrots are planted between the peas and the beets. We've only lost a couple of plants, and the rest seems to be making it okay. I definitely want to plant more of these next year, though.

Our cabbage did not fare too well with the transplant, though thankfully we do a have a couple of them that survived.

Same with the broccoli and cauliflower. These definitely needed to be planted deeper, and possibly planted directly into the ground instead of transplanted. I've also noticed that something likes to eat the leaves, though I haven't seen the culprit yet. Hopefully we can still harvest a few stalks of each this year.

Ahhh, my beautiful Cylindra Beets! As opposed to the round, bulbous beets usually grown, these grow more like a carrot--long and thin-ish, so they take up less space in the garden. These should be ready to harvest fairly soon, and I'm very excited since I'm the only one around here who likes them! I want to try to use the greens this year, but I've never had them. Anyone got a good recipe for beet greens?

When my in-laws discovered we were planning such a large garden, they asked us to grow some tomatoes for them. (Apparently Wyoming is not a great gardening state!) These are the plants they brought us from the nursery-- Better Boy, Roma, Super Fantastic (sounds promising, right?), and four cherry tomatoes. So far, they're doing really well. We planted them in a different bed than our heirlooms, just so we could avoid any cross-pollination. May the best tomato win!

This is a shot across the four southern beds. Far bed is peas, carrots, beets, radishes and swiss chard; next is heirloom tomatoes and one lonely basil plant that actually survived (dill, parsely & cilantro were dead the day after we transplanted...sob); red norland potatoes; then onions, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower & cabbage.

Every one of the asparagus plants came up this year! Yay! While they do look a bit like tumbleweeds, I can assure you they are not! I'm so looking forward to harvesting these next year...
First year with the onions too, but they are growing quite well, despite a few bald spots in the bed, where some didn't take. Next year we'll have garlic to grow along with them.

This may look like a patch of overgrown weeds, but it's actually our peas! The brown spots are where the cat decided to roll around, so I guess it's a good thing we planted so many. They are just now starting to flower and give us little pods, so by the time this baby gets here, we should be starting to harvest them.
Some of the things I've learned so far:
1. Growing in flats is great for some plants, but not necessarily for others. We'll sow lettuce, broccoli, caulifower, cabbage and herbs directly into the ground next year because I think they might do better without all the handling. We'll also directly sow peas and corn because holy cow it took a long time to transplant those peas, as opposed to poking a seed in the ground!!!
2. Be more careful to harden off plants before transplanting. Plants need to get acclimated to the outside weather before throwing them into the ground.
3. Plant immediately after digging the beds to avoid having to pull weeds again. This probably would've been done if Mike had me to help, as opposed to eight little "helping" hands.
4. Plant at the right depth, which is usually much deeper than you think.
All in all, I'm very optomistic about our harvest this year. Even though things haven't always gone as planned, every failure gives me an opportunity to learn more about how to be successful, and I'm pretty determined to be so. Right now I'm left with a feeling that I may not exactly be living the life I've imagined, but growing a garden is the first step in going confidently in that direction.


Fiddlefish said...

You are absolutely amazing...

Marisa said...

I am impressed. That is way more work than our little 4x8 foot garden entails. And I have kids who are old enough this year to really help take care of it, so I haven't done much at all. Good for you, it will be so worth it when you get to enjoy the harvest!

Ashlee said...

Good job on your garden! I have no idea if changing the width changes the background! My guess is that it would make the writing go right over the top of the cute backgrounds...

Jen said...

How do you do all that and be a pregnant mom at the same time? I am so impressed!

Jonesy said...

In all reality, Mike's done most of the work. I tried to get out there and do some digging, planting & weeding, but it wasn't long-lived! In a couple of weeks we'll start harvesting peas, beets, & lettuce and by then I should be more than able to get my hands dirty! I really owe our garden this year to all Mike's hard work!

heather said...

Great post...that is one of my favorite quotes. Doesn't gardening just help you feel connected to God?