Proof of Life – Garden Edition

We’ve been doing stuff! Got the orchard planted, at long last –


It doesn’t look like much at the moment, because those are bare root trees, and they’ve been beheaded to about knee height, per the aggressive pruning techniques I’m following from Grow A Little Fruit Tree. On the far left are two American persimmons, then a trio of apple trees – Golden Delicious, Fuji and Gala – and then a pair of hazelnuts. These trees will be only about my height-ish – around six feet – at maturity. Just right for our small backyard, and the amount of fruit and nuts we’re looking to harvest.

We also got our trio of raised beds for the vegetables in –


We obviously need to get some more soil before we can plant anything. That’s 20 bags worth, and we figure we’ll need another 20 to fill them up! Each bed is a few inches shy of being six feet long by three feet wide. They’re made from cedar fencing, and we got the idea from a post at Preparedness Mama on building raised beds on the cheap. Each one cost around $15 to build, so we made a trio for under $50. And they’re just shy of six feet because we’re OCD and cut the tapered dog-ear edge off the top of the pickets. Would’ve annoyed us to no end! They look great and a super cedar, and the cedar is sure to last for awhile. We’re really pleased with how these turned out.

And last but not least, husband built a covered compost bin, from his own design –


So, we’ve been busy outside. You’ll notice we still don’t have the privacy fencing up in the yard – the blue and white garage and the wire fencing both belong to our neighbors. Eventually we’ll get a six foot privacy fence back there to screen the view and provide protection from critters – we already know we’ve got rabbits, squirrels and even opossums living nearby!

And also outdoors, we’re trying to identify our big trees – we’ve got five maples of varying types and either something like an ash or walnut. Naturally I’m hoping for walnut. And I’m hoping that we’ve got a couple of sugar maples, because I’d love to try my hand at making maple syrup – it takes 40 gallons to make a single gallon of finished syrup, so with five trees and a good sap run for a week I could do it! Still need to definitively ID those trees so we know what we’ve got though.

Indoors, a little progress. We bought a pull out trash can/recycling sorter to retrofit into one our kitchen cabinets, and it’s been a lifesaver. So much easier to recycle religiously without having to haul the recycling out to the garage. So between having a recycling bin right instead and our covered compost pail for food scraps, our goal is to have next to nothing get thrown into the actual trash. We also decided to do shiplap paneling in our living room. This is the inspiration photo we’re shooting for (though we sadly do not have vaulted ceilings) –

white room

That photo is from a feature on Country Living. Seriously love that magazine – so many great design ideas, that are actually accessible. And I love the blue tones an the mixed woodwork as well, so we’re using the whole style as a guide. We were able to pick up the shiplap at a good price so we have it all stacked in the garage and ready to go. Still need to get the trim down, true up a few dips in the walls, and work up the nerve to install several hundred dollars worth of wood on the walls without screwing it up… but progress is just around the corner.

I also caved and bought two crappy particle board bookcases to get the stupid books of the floor. They’re already half busted because they’re total crap, but they beat stacks of cardboard boxes and we can make do with them while we scour antique malls and tag sales and the like for the real deal replacements.

So, that’s most of it for now!

Delusions of Grandeur, Or The Backyard Orchard

Well, I finished reading Grow A Little Fruit Tree. It was a great book, and now I am fully armed with the knowledge to create and manage my very own home orchard. And that, my friends, is the problem. I bit the bullet and placed my tree order today… and I went for broke. Only figuratively, since I actually got a really good deal – I ordered from Gurneys (don’t judge me) and all of their trees were on sale, plus I got $50 off my total. So, a really good deal. But now I’m committed. I ordered the following –

2 American persimmons

2 American hazelnuts

1 Gala apple

1 Fuji apple

1 Golden Delicious apple

Lost. My. Mind. Slightly-less-than-quarter-acre lot. I will be playing tetris with edibles. And I have to really embrace the aggressive pruning techniques advocated in the book (which, as the author admits, can be emotionally difficult to do – the first cut essentially decapitates the tree! Talk about a leap of faith). But if I don’t, we’ll probably be doomed to live in a thicket of overgrown trees and drowning in rotting fruit. So how’s that for a dichotomy between success and failure for you?

But really, I’m okay. No buyer’s remorse, though I have seriously bitten off a lot with the garden this year. No one is going to give me the life I want, so I’m going to build it. And I’m going to make time for the garden, and spending time with my menfolk in the garden, and cut out the noise that doesn’t matter. So maybe I’m just biting the fruit that I’m looking for.

Garden Planning – 2015

Spoiler alert – this is the year I lose my mind. It will be the very first year of our adult lives where we have our own yard and garden space, right where we live. I have big plans for our slightly-less-than-quarter-acre lot. Observe –

For the vegetable/fruit beds –

Jacob’s Cattle beans
Envy edameme
Gonzales mini cabbage
Boston Pickling cucumber
Lacinato kale
Lancelot leeks
Evergreen Bunching onions
Southport Red Globe onions
Valencia onions
Lincoln Garden park
Early Jalapeno peppers
King of the North peppers
Jack Be Little pumpkins
Small Sugar pumpkins
Ronde de Nice squash
Gold Nugget tomatoes
Tiny Tim tomatoes
Jubilee Bush watermelon
Yukon Gold potatoes
Bristol Black raspberries
Mara de Bois strawberries
Friendship blueberries

Herb/flower beds –

Grandpa Otts morning glory
Patriot morning glory
St. John’s Wort
Italian Large Leaf basil
Black cumin
Compatto dill
Citronella lemon balm
Green oregano
Flat Leaf parsley
White sage
French thyme

And if that isn’t enough crazy, I’m adding fruit and nut trees to the mix – as yet undecided varieties of apple, American persimmon and hazelnut. Yes, you read that correctly. I just started reading Grow A Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph. It’s all about keeping standard sized fruit trees at a manageable (around six feet) height with proper pruning and maintenance. Which considerably opens up the varieties one can consider, since only limited varieties are available as dwarf, semi-dwarf or columnar. It’s so good, I can’t put it down. I’m a convert to the method and I haven’t even finished the book yet. So yes – in addition to multiple vegetable, fruit, flower and herb beds, I’ll be adding a tiny orchard this year as well. If I’m going to do something, I do it. 🙂 Only a few weeks and we’ll be getting the first seeds started!