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Homesteading

Because it seems like I haven’t focused on anything concrete in a bit in this column, I decided to talk about one of our compost toilets.  It is located in our guest/intern cabin and has been in use for over a year now, so I can share preliminary results.

I call my almost 95-year-old mother (who now lives in Louisiana) every evening to check in and catch up. Once a month, as I tell her about my day and mention the column I’ve been working on, she indicates her desire to read it. Since she’s not on the Internet and I soon forget to print and mail her a copy, I decided to surprise her for Christmas with a booklet containing all the columns that have survived the passage of time. I went back and added photos to the early ones and edited a bit of poor grammar and spelling from the days before spell check. Lots of fun.

It’s a cold dreary day and I’m sitting here thinking about aging and life at Wild Browse Homestead. This is triggered by the aches and pains acquired over the last 2 days while rehabbing the access to our house – once again. We built the house about 100 feet down a moderately steep slope from the road and parking area. Thirty years ago when I visualized the farm layout, I was young and had no thoughts of growing older or that my physical capabilities might alter. Actually, it didn’t take long for us to realize that hiking up and down a “goat path” hauling heavy loads wasn’t much fun. 

It’s a drizzly day and I am hoping that it turns into a good steady soaker, not only because we need it and I planted more beds to their oat/field pea cover crop yesterday, but because it gives me an indoor day and I can finally write this article!

This month’s topic has been eluding me.  However, watching the leaves change color and begin to fall brings up the idea of life/death/change. 

Uncertainties. Do I incorporate new (to me) ideas into my gardening practices or stick to the tried and true or run experiments? That’s what’s been on my mind since the winter issue of The Natural Farmer. You might recall that issue focused on the SRI system of rice growing and featured a couple of articles about Mark Fulford’s experiments with this concept for vegetables on his Maine farm. He is achieving remarkable yields by increasing plant spacing by even more than what is conventionally recommended.

Here it is March with still 2 feet of snow on the garden and orchard, but thankfully there are still plenty of garden products stored away until next harvest time.

The optimist in me is sitting here thinking of spring while trying to keep warm during this third visit of the “Artic Vortex”/ “Canadian Polar Air Mass”. My vegetable seeds have arrived to join those I’ve saved; the Bulk Order submitted; my seed/transplant calendar developed; and our garden plot plans created. Now is a waiting time until my fingers can dig into the soil.
 

At the end of another year on the homestead, it is time to look back and reflect on 2013. These columns are great resources for me to see what was on my mind when I wrote them. With that in mind, here’s my retrospective.

Photovoltaic system: Our 5 Kw system has been functional since March, producing more than enough power for our use plus adding to our “savings account” each month.

I’m feeling a little ashamed to say I’m away from the homestead again, but I am still “on the job.” Last month, I wrote to you from an urban homestead in Portland, ME, this month from a gardener’s delight in Covington, Louisiana. My baby brother, Larry, now 51, has become an avid organic gardener. He and his partner, Jenny, tend their 200 square foot vegetable plot with loving care. They are able to eat fresh produce year round without any special protection we northerners need, like tunnels or hot beds.

I’m visiting my “sister” in Portland, Maine and I realized she and her urban homestead would be a great story to share with you. Deborah always had a love for animals and gardening, keeping chickens as a youngster in the neighboring church’s shed and helping her mom in the family garden. Later in college she had a tiny garden in her Berkley, CA back yard while she read “The Whole Earth News Catalogue” and dreamed of possibilities.
 

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