The First Twelve Months: Month Nine ~ Two Steps Back

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The First Twelve Months: Black Fox Homestead.com

Yes, this is a very late update and…no. you didn’t miss month eight.

Month eight was pretty much the arrival of the chickens and getting them settled in.  You can read more about that here.  If you are new to this series you can catch up by reading about months one through eight here.

Since Month Seven we had been trying to break into the Farmer’s Market scene….

….and then things became  a bit topsy turvy as  Mother Nature kindly (ha) revealed a hole in our market gardening plan.  From May on through June and July we didn’t have much to offer.

We  decided then to place our focus primarily on where the money was coming in: the co-op, hoping we’d have peppers and tomatoes galore coming on as the lettuce phased out.

But for reasons I have yet to understand, they just…didn’t…quite…grow.   ::sob::

Perhaps it is the soil, perhaps it is the weather, perhaps it is the fact that we used heirloom varieties exclusively….we don’t really know and we’re experimenting here and there to try and figure out.

All of these setbacks however were solaced by the fact that we finally sold our home!  We closed on the deal and happily turned the keys over to the new owner on July 19.  It was a bittersweet ending to the “Living in a Vintage Home” chapter in our lives.  If you are interested in learning more about our colonial 1930′s home and why we chose it I wrote about it here and here on our old blog.

Sooo here’s where we’re at now…….

*We’ve taken  a few steps back to enrich our soil using cover crops but even those have not grown well so it is going to take some time.  Lots more time.  Weeds grow great though ~ bermuda grass, like a champ.  Beautifully covering all of our beds.  Especially those that were smothered with our sheet composting technique. We haven’t given up on sheet composting though!  We’re currently working to cover all of our beds and paths with a thick layer of hay cut from our property.

We had our hay cut in June.  In exchange for the labor we keep a third of the bales.  Since we have no livestock, we use the hay for mulch!

We had our hay cut in June. In exchange for the labor we keep a third of the bales. Since we have no livestock, we use the hay for mulch!

*We’re focusing on the positive, taking a look around at what has worked: so far (besides the weeds and bermuda) sunflowers, garlic, and kale.  We have lots and lots of kale in spite of the heat.

*Rather than try to force our business plan into a mold that may/may not work we’ve decided to slow down and let our homestead show us what she can do.   What is this climate best suited for?  Husbie keeps saying, “Follow the abundance”.  So we are, and realizing that a plan we end up with may be entirely different than the one we started out pursuing.

*We also ripped out our lettuce when the weather turned and replaced it with bush beansSo far, those are doing great too.  Peppers? Not so much although we have a few here and a few there.

*Meanwhile we have moved the chickens from the brooder to the coop, and they spend a good bit of time in the tractor scratching up bugs and fertilizing the soil.

Our plans for month ten: (wow, has it been ten months already?) gear up for a fall planting.  The tiny lettuces are already under the grow lights.

Find this post and others like it linked to: Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, The HomeAcre Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop, Homemade Mondays

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The First Twelve Months: Month Nine ~ Two Steps Back — 21 Comments

  1. Hang in there. I’m hearing that a lot of gardeners aren’t having a good year, us included. The weather hasn’t seemed to help. I’m hoping the fall is good for the gardens. I’ve not tried it before, but want to this year.

    • Thanks Dawn. We usually have better luck in the fall because we have a late frost (Nov.) and the heat is not quite as bad. I’m just having a hard time getting it together in order to get the seeds and transplants in.

  2. Be patient and like you said, “slow down and let our homestead show us what she can do.” We spent the last two years figuring out what crops suit our homestead best, which wasn’t always what suited our last home. I think we about got it now. The figuring out part – which seems like forever – was long but beneficial. I wish you the best. (By the way – I love the new layout!) :)

    • Someone else had said to me that it would take about three years to figure things out; and you’re right, what worked well in our other place isn’t necessarily working as well here. But the flip side of that has been true too: I’ve gotten a few crops here that we couldn’t get to grow in the city so go figure. :/ We’re only about 40mi east of where we used to live.

  3. Hang in there. I feel your frustration. This year has been a big up and down year in garden/growing/etc. I blame the weather here, which is partially true…but there seems to be other issues. Many people are struggling here with things not growing as they normally do or not even at all. Though I have talked to a few in town that seem to be doing great with a couple plants. But other farmers/growers in the country all seem to be challenged with lack of growth, dieing plants, lack of production, insects surges, and now flooding (as in the last 2 weeks areas have received 6-12+” of rain.)

    This is our first year to market and it has been a tough one – but huge learning is taking place in all that growing. I believe that this is just an off year for some things and better for some. Next year will be different and have new challenges and learning. Believe me I’ve been ready to say forget it a few times lately. But if Lord willing the water goes down and we can plant – we will get the fall garden in…at least a little in a small drier spot. Then push on….but maybe a little slower paced to hopefully regain some confidence & not be so stressed.

    Glad your home sold….take care and blessings to you thru this next month.

    • The weather at least for now has been kind to us. For the past two years at this time we’d be having temps as high as 114. We have had a lot of rain but since we’re still technically in a drought (I believe) that has been good for us. Bugs on the other hand have been a problem. We managed to avoid the squash bug/borer this year but losing a lot due to lack of pollination. No cucumbers for the same reason.

      I hope all goes well with your fall gardening. We’ll be thinking of you guys. :)

  4. Hi Jenny,
    I’m wondering about your plants not doing well. I remember you writing that you brought in soil for the garden. Was it soil from an ag field? It’s possible that herbicide residue remains and is preventing growth. Does the area where you added soil seem to be having less growth? It sometimes takes a couple years for those chemicals to wear off.

    I hope that isn’t the issue.

    • Hi Lisa, no I don’t think it was. It was supposed to be a good gardening mix that included compost (among other things). While the cover crops didn’t seem to do as well as we had hoped, yesterday when Marco went out and starting turning the bed over, it did look a lot better than it did last fall. We had some heavy clay soil in there and it has loosened up quite a bit. I’m hopeful that using the hay as a mulch will help somewhat.

  5. I agree with Elizabeth on both counts. Your journey is an inspiration. I know God will continue to give you wisdom on how best to develop your land and your business.

    BTW. I am loving the new blog background! It is very easy on the eye.

    Blessings!

  6. This has been an odd year weather-wise, all over. We had snow almost up to our supposed “last frost” date, and frosts for a bit after that. We had no spring to speak of, and instead went from snow to scorching in less than a week, which bolted all my cold weather spring crops. Now, when it’s *supposed* to be hot and humid here (August is the season for it in New Hampshire) we’re getting wonderfully cool temperatures and almost cold nights (high 70s in the day and low 50s at night). I’m going to go with the flow, and pull up the bolted stuff (that hasn’t already been) and put in my fall crop of spinach, broccoli, kale, beets and carrots now. Normally I wouldn’t until September, but with the weather predicted to be like this right into fall? I may as well get a head start! Might get a second full crop of beets, which have done REALLY well this year (after 20 years of failing at them LOL).

    • We didn’t have much of a spring either, just one long lingering winter. Summer however has been gentle. Last year the heat was unbearable. I’m working to get my fall stuff in too; although after wrestling with things over the summer I’m never quite as motivated in August to start a fall garden. We’ll keep at it though. Good luck with your beets. I have yet to be able to get them to grow in this location. :/

  7. Hang in there, we’ve had a tough year with some of our crops too. If you haven’t already, I would do a comprehensive soil test and then see where there might be some nutrient deficiencies. We use the University of MA: http://soiltest.umass.edu/

    • Yes! Thanks Megan! We do need to do that. We even ordered the test strips to do one ourselves.

      • Hrmm, my farmer friends say the test strips aren’t that accurate. Not too sure myself, but since the soil tests are only $15, it’s worth it for us to see what needs amending.