The First Twelve Months: Month Six ~ Reality Check

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Dawn

Dawn

Month six began with our first Farmer’s Market meeting. In addition to growing and selling wholesale to a local co-op; we decided to try our hand at the Farmer’s Market as well.

We were encouraged.

We had the opportunity to meet the market manager and other growers. We saw ways we could diversify our income by including craft items, cut herbs, and cut flowers in addition to our vegetables.

We went home and designed a booth as well as a simple marketing strategy including a market bag gimmick: purchase a nice bag with our logo, and earn a 5-10% discount on every purchase from us for the rest of the season.

We were happy. We were stoked. This was going to work.

Then…without warning things began to unravel one by one.

Our home in town sat on the market with little activity. Our realtor, the one who helped us purchase our first home, helped us get our second home, helped us find our land, who was practically a friend, and whom we saw as our golden ticket to a SOLD home in record time, let us know she had lost interest in trying to sell it.

It may seem like a minor incident but it took the wind out of our sails. We quickly rallied however, and listed it with someone else who promised an aggressive and enthusiastic marketing strategy.
We were back on track.

Thenthe spinach started to bolt.

With the wonky weather we weren’t sure what would be featured in our slick booth and packed in those fancy bags. But the one thing we had pretty well banked on was this spinach. We hoped it would hold just a few more weeks, but the warming weather prompted it to put out little buds.

We had no choice but to harvest it and eat it ourselves. We gathered it up, and weighed what appeared to us to be quite a harvest ~ it was in fact only 3#. We realized with a sickening thud that the bed of spinach we had worked so hard to cultivate: nursing it along, protecting it from the snow and wind would only sell wholesale at just enough for lunch at a fast food restaurant.

We started to realize why those who said Farmer’s Markets were the only way to go were saying what they were saying. But even then, we needed to grow more. Much, much more. And we were exhausted.

I started to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. We’d done our homework, done our research, seen others doing what we wanted. But when it came right down to setting a working plan in motion, we were floundering.

I wanted to cry. Instead we fixed some spinach ravoili and planted radishes.

Heirloom radishes,  Red velvet lettuce

Heirloom radishes, Red velvet lettuce

The weather continued to warm, and the remaining spring crop of lettuces started to come along beautifully.

One of 200 tiny bare root seedlings husbie planted on our property

One of 200 tiny bare root seedlings husbie planted on our property

There was hope.

Thenwe had a tornado.

In the wee hours of a Thursday morning husbie awakened me to let me know we had water coming in through the office and bedroom windows. Our office floor was covered in a thin sheet of rain water. Three hours later the septic started to back up. With a leaky home, the tornado sirens blaring, and septic issues, the garden was the last thing on my mind.

At daylight however, clad in wellies and husbie’s bathrobe I surveyed the damage.

Whether it was the wind or the flash flood following the storm, I don’t know. But our beautiful tiny heirloom lettuces, radishes, kale, and beets had begun to uproot. In a moment of desperation, I wandered through the garden trying to push them back into the soil hoping to salvage what we could.

It seemed to work and a few days later they appeared to bounce back.

Thennearly ten days after our traditional “last frost date” it froze.

I don’t ever recall a freeze warning this late in the season, but there it was. We didn’t have quite enough floating row cover to take care of everything so we had to pick and choose. I chose the large bed of red romaine lettuce that was within a few short weeks of being harvested: all things being equal (ha). We scurried to cover what we could, then went to bed hoping and praying for the best.

Everything survived. Everything. And ironically, the tiny seedlings we didn’t cover seemed to be happier than the ones we did. Go figure.

Our garden.  Cleaned up and ready for spring

Our garden. Cleaned up and ready for spring

***

It seemed that month six was our most challenging yet. More so than the move, even more than the transition from a regular job to farming full time.

I think it was because for the first time in our venture we felt we’d had the rug completely pulled out from underneath us.

It was the first time we felt raw, unadulterated discouragement.

It was the first time (not surprisingly I guess) that we started to seriously wonder, can we really do this? Is it worth it?

Laundry on the line

Laundry on the line

It’s funny how one’s spirits (in our home at least) tend to rise and fall with the weather. Those cold, stormy days were some of the darkest.

But then, a new day would dawn, sunny and warm. We’d go out on the back porch, with the sun shining on the pond. We’d chat while we set the tomatoes out to harden off in the light breeze, hang the laundry out on our new clothesline, watch the dogs loll in the sunshine, and suddenly, everything would be ok.

And somehow, I think it will be.

We may not have lettuce and beets by the bushelful to sell at market this month. We may not make a killing selling radishes at wholesale.

But we will have something. And something is a start.

***

Lessons learned from Month Six:

*Take meticulous notes on everything: planting date, germination date, harvest date, amount harvested.

*When a seed packet says eight weeks to harvest, that should read “Eight weeks assuming the weather is providing optimal growing conditions. Otherwise 16 weeks. Or 24. Or just whenever. Good luck. “

Goals for next month:

*Make a showing at the Claremore Farmer’s market

*Sell red romaine lettuce to the co op

*Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and corn

Find this post and others like it linked to: The Homestead Barn Hop, The Creative HomeAcre Hop, The Scoop, Tuesdays with a Twist, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, The HomeAcre Hop, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Homemade Mondays

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The First Twelve Months: Month Six ~ Reality Check — 28 Comments

  1. You must know that I’ve been following along on your adventure since you were building your house. I’m sorry you’re having setbacks, but honestly, I’m finding it refreshing that you are being so totally honest. Farming and gardening are often, I’ve discovered, all about taking one step forward, three steps back, and then maybe a couple sideways. You can do it!

    • Thank you Meredith. :) Thank you so much for reading, and for your support. I really appreciate it.

    • Oh I so agree. I really enjoy reading about your adventures, and the honesty is refreshing. So sorry for your troubles this month. So glad you were able to come through it all and feel good about it again. It IS worth it|!

  2. Jenny, I could relate to nearly every upturn and downturn in this post. I’ve been working at this for nearly three years, and I still don’t have it right!! Your learning curve is beautiful, just the way it is. This is the one piece of advice I’ll give you. KEEP PLANTING. Whether that means in the ground or in seedling trays, just keep planting even if you know you do not have room for it all at once. If there is a crop failure, you’ll have two dozen of SOMETHING to replace it with.

    Sigh. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    p.s. get a large scrap/photo book together of your homestead journey – even if you only have 12 radishes to sell at the opening day – BE THERE, put your table display on and smile like it’s your birthday. Consistency is the key to any success at a farmers’ market. Most of the time, yes, people are there for the food, but it is also about the experience.

    Then in high season, “Pile it high and kiss it goodbye.”

    • Thank you Sheila! That is so helpful. We have a set of grow lights and we’ll just plan to keep them busy and try to make sure that every space in the garden is occupied. Last week we went shopping for our baskets to put on our table, and this morning I’ve been working on a brochure that features pictures of our farm.

    • Yeah, that’s just the thing. It isn’t always just a matter of planting more or working harder; sometimes there are things that are just beyond our control.

  3. Bless your heart, Jenny. Keep hanging in there and keep focusing on what you need to do. While you are focusing, pray hard. Our ancestors did it and so can you!

    Take care.
    Emily

    • Yeah, I’m hoping next year will go a bit smoother; or at least we’ll be better prepared for wild weather.

  4. While we just garden for ourselves right now, I am trying to feed a family of 8. We had a freeze a month after our average frost date! It kill about 75% of our green beans. So, just like Sheila said above, we replanted. And we keep replanting until it get too hot.

    You’re right about keeping notes on everything. I learned a long time ago that I can’t remember a tenth of what I think I’ll remember. I wrote an ebook called The Gardening Notebook, http://www.thegardeningnotebook.com, just for that purpose. If you’re interested I’d love to send you a copy. You can email me at schneiderpeeps@juno.com and let me know. Consider it my gift to help encourage you to keep on.

    • Oh Angi! Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. I will drop you a line this morning.

  5. Wow how much you have accomplished! Good for you. Really enjoy your journey, truly amazing

  6. I love seeing your striking red buildings and your lovely green plants growing in their beds. Photos like these on a brochure will personalize the crops your customers buy. I know that if I knew the people behind the food I ate, I would seek them out, rather than buy food from an unknown location. ~Blessings upon your spring crops!

    • Thanks Becky! I started working on that brochure this morning. I’ll be sure to try and include some of these.

  7. Oh girl, I could cry with you. This life we’ve embraced is scary and hard and beautiful and inspiring and goes so wonderfully sometimes and others it’s just wretched. Wishing you courage and strength and much ingenuity as you figure things out. Just know that you aren’t alone, and that somehow, it will all be worth it. And if, in the end, you decide, “This totally isn’t us” – that’s OK too. XO

  8. What a test of faith, but I have found that when things go bad God has something better when all is said and done.

    Thanks for sharing at Tuesdays With a Twist Link Up.

  9. A friend of mine once told me that farmers don’t work to get rich… they work to get poor slower. :) It’s true, whether fortunate or unfortunate I’m not sure. We “micro farm” in our yard, about a half acre planted this year in raised beds. This summer we expect to put in some fruit trees, take down part of the obscenely long driveway (hubby wanted it, right up until I made him shovel it this winter… now he’s all for pulling up pavement and putting in trees lol) and sod it so it becomes a part of what Will Be our orchard. :)

    Have you considered chickens? I just started following you today and don’t know if you have any. Even with the few we normally have, we get a carton or two here and there to sell, and honestly, I’d say (in the past) we’ve paid for the winter feed through selling the excess in the summer to neighbors. I also traded two nicely processed meat chickens I raised myself, for gleaning rights in a field a nearby farmer was going to mow down… we got 13 *bushels* of beautiful, ripe, organic sweet corn. For two chickens. :)

    • Yes we’re….definitely not in it for the money. Ha!

      We don’t have chickens yet. I’ve held off because we’re taking a trip in a few weeks and didn’t have anyone to take care of them for us while we were gone.

      We go pick them up June 12!! We’re starting small but I have an eye towards growing our enterprise to include eggs, and possibly meat chickens.

      • I love my chickens. I don’t have any right now (a year and a bit ago we moved from a farm with many acres that we shared with another family, to our own little homestead of just under an acre, and the chickens had to stay behind). I’m hoping to get a coop in the next few weeks, though, and then we’ll get some chicks and some older hens as well so we get eggs right away. We’re “setting up right” though, and getting a special coop that’s sustainably built and already rigged for plumbing, lights, and heat. Hubby will run conduit with electrical wire and water pipes out to the coop, and all we’ll have to do is “plug it in”. We did it all on our own at the last place and… well, frankly I never want to do it again. It was a huge hassle LOL…

        Chickens are pretty easy, especially if you can let them free-range. And meat chickens are fun, too, especially if you process them yourself. We usually invite over tons of friends to help, and “pay” them all with a bbq and a free chicken to take home. ;)

        • We’re going to start with Rhode Island Reds and my husband is building a small little coop to be finished this week. I hope to get some meat chickens soon though. I really enjoy a nice roast chicken and bone broth from the leftovers.

    • No we were not affected by the big one last Monday. This one was about two months ago and caused very little damage. Thank you for asking though. :)

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