Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
By the end of last year I had had enough. Frustrated with my work and, (for a variety of social implications) my seeming inability to cut my umbilical cord to the conveniences of affluent suburban life I realized that I was making myself miserable. This realization came when a tray of artichoke seeds that had been carefully soaked, then sown into peat pots and placed on top of my refrigerator failed to sprout. I was so upset that the crown jewels of my soon to be perfect gardens were not going to be there at all. I had been so excited to finally be able to grow my own artichokes and dreamed of bragging about my perfect crop of tender artichokes that were home grown and not covered in chemicals and dripping with diesel fuel after having been trucked all the way to my local Whole Foods market here in Georgia. As so often happens, my grand dreams failed to take root. This was a turning point.
Most of the reason why I was so devastated about my seeds not germinating was that I had just given up on buying my perfect home in the country. My wife and I had settled on a beautiful earth sheltered home on 13 acres in the North GA Mountains. I had been through several of these "It’s the one!" moments only to submit them to the boss (My Wife) for approval and have them shot down. This time was different, this place was perfect and we were both getting each other excited about it. This is a perfect opportunity to insert the oft referred to line about counting chickens or hatching eggs...you know what I mean. I was sure that id finally get that pony for our son and could finally have enough room to stretch out, have some animals and settle in for the long haul. I learned all about fences, animal husbandry, root crops, grains, closed systems and reducing purchased inputs, preserving food, composting, livestock dogs, off grid life, living simply and starting a CSA.
Upon reflection this perfect homestead would have carried with it an hour and a half commute each way, every day. We were crazy to think this was a good idea but it’s easy to get carried away reading all of the blogs online about how to live simply and how happy people are in the country (Looking back having been born in Pittsburgh, moving to North Atlanta was sort of like moving to the country). I was tearing through all the literature about sustainable farming and I had decided that I was going to raise geese for the ethical, organic, sustainably produced, hippie / yuppie, upscale farm to table restaurant market. (Obviously from that last string I was reading a lot of Joel Salatin).
As the weather continued to warm and the days began to lengthen I soon found myself spending entire Saturdays making trips back and forth to the local gardening store and salvaging old materials I had laying around to create some new planting beds. Things got busier and busier until I was getting home from work and going immediately out to the garden beds. I now have 5 large garden beds in addition to my 4 grape vines, 2 lemon trees, berry bushes, fig tree, peach tree and multitude of other things living in pots all over the driveway, walkway and front and back patio. I have a great system set up for vermiculture, the worms eat all of our kitchen and garden scraps. I’m sequestering water from my neighbors roof (shhhhh don’t tell) and have a rain barrel set up to catch rain in the winter to help get us through our seemingly worsening summer droughts here in the deep south. I had a full garden all winter and by this time the kale, cabbage and mustard greens were really taking off while the fava beans in the front were larger than I’ve ever seen and just full of beans and flowers, and so were the peas. The vines were out of dormancy and I had little inch long figs all over my fig tree!
All this gardening meant a lot of weeding, watering and inspecting for bugs (which we have a lot of down here) until 9 or 10 each night after getting home from my "real" job sitting all day doing paperwork and dealing with customers. At some point, I realized that in fact this is about as much as I can do, and it’s pretty great. I realized that this is totally a great step forward and although I’m not living in my eco home in the mountains, my ecological impact is actually way less than it would be had we moved. I can ride my bike to work for 10 months out of the year and the 2 months that it’s too dark, I’m not burning much gas to get there and I carpool. The food we can’t grow ourselves is locally, organically and sustainably raised. We conserve water and electricity with efficient appliances and by just recognizing that it’s ok to keep the TV and AC turned off. Of course we recycle everything that we can and are very unlikely to buy junk we don’t need (we would never buy a plastic water bottle, we just keep reusable glass bottles in the fridge). Future projects include a small solar system, additional insulation and removing the fake fireplace in the living room in favor of an alternative heating system that actually serves a purpose. All of these things sort of just happened and somewhere along the trail of life, our impact on this Earth became a little bit lighter.
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