As I've mentioned in previous posts my family has lived at our current home for about 4 years. Throughout that time we have always had the goal of turning our beautiful 9 acres of Vermont into a functioning homestead. We want to grow a major portion of our own food, raise chickens, and have a more self sufficient lifestyle in general. As neither of us has much real experience with either gardening or farming it has been a challenge and a lot of trial and error. We had both been involved in volunteer programs like WWOOF for short periods of time many years ago but that is about the extent of our experience. We also have a habit of biting off more than we can realistically chew in one season- and so some of our projects get started and then other priorities supersede it before we can get it completed. This is something we are both working on and are aware of so we are certainly getting better. I say all of this to give some context before I begin talking about the number of mistakes we have made along the way and how many times we have moved our garden patch around...
When we first moved into the property the previous owners really didn't do much to maintain the field beyond mowing their trails. There were a few fruit trees and a couple of blueberry bushes down there but there was no veggie garden anywhere on the property. They also had an ancient dilapidated barn/shed up near the house that was filled with junk and in danger of collapse.
Unfortunately the ideal spot for a veggie patch was immediately to the north of the barn- within 100 ft of the house and if the barn wasn't blocking most of the sun it would have full sun all summer. That spot was completely overgrown with grass, raspberries, and sumac trees as well so we decided in our first year we would leave the barn be and focus on work inside the home.
We dug over a small patch down in the field and grew a sad looking tomato, some leafy greens, and a couple of potatoes. It was by no means a success. Beyond the issue with it being much further from the house we had no easily available water source down there except the stream and marsh. So we found ourselves carting water around when there were much more pressing things we could have spent our time on.
Realizing this we made the decision when planning the garden for the following year to take back the area next to the barn, establish a veggie patch there, and knock down the deathtrap of a barn and replace it with a greenhouse. We have not yet achieved the greenhouse that we want there BUT we did knock down the barn ourselves and establish the veggie patch there last year. We also built a cobb/ wattle and daub chicken coop and attempted our first flock!
Me, Elizabeth, and my brother standing in the wreckage... believe it or not we took down the whole barn using mostly
These pictures aren't in chronological order... We were doing all of these projects simultaneously. I was reusing semi decent wood and tin roofing material from the barn to cover the coop and build the raised beds. We started early in the spring and prioritized the coop and garden beds even though it meant that the barn looked an absolute mess most of the summer. We moved the chickens into the coop when it wasn't fully completed and let them pick over the reclaimed area for the garden- they helped us immensely by scratching up weeds and helping to fertilize that soil. Unfortunately because we hadn't finished the coop properly before we moved them in they suffered from predation. We lost too many even after continuing work on the coop and sealing it up so rather than lose them all we gave the remaining hens up to a chicken farm nearby in order to focus on the vegetable garden. It was a foolish mistake that needn't have happened and won't again. We now know that we have weasels and foxes in the area and have plans to prevent them from entering our cobb coop when we do decide to start our next flock.
Last years garden was a great success though!
This is the brassica bed with kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and some spinach, peppers in bots along the near side.
This is one of the tomato beds. We found this method of using string rather than trellis or tomato cages and it did really well. You just need a line along the top of each row of tomatoes and then a loop around the base of the main growth stem up to the line along the top. As the plant grows you take off the additional growth heads and wind the string gently around the main stem. This encourages them to put their energy into the main vine and supports them vertically. We were able to fit a lot of tomatoes in this one bed because this prevented them spreading too much and competing with each other.
This leads us to this years garden! In the absence of chickens we have established a new bed near the front of the coop for squash. Some of these came straight outside and into the ground after being under our lights... they weren't super happy about it but they have all perked up already!
Tomatoes! We haven't rigged up our string system yet... Elizabeth says it looks uglier than just a trellis or cages so we may do things differently this year.... on some things I just have to wait for instructions! 🤣
Tomatoes and herbs- parsley, chive, basil, coriander
Brassica bed is already going strong- some of these will need to be thinned out as they get bigger.
Considering we only planted these out in the last few days I think we are in for another great year. We have beans coming along nicely under the lights, more herbs, potatoes just getting started, and a few other plans. For now I better get back to it and see what the rest of the summer brings! There's always more weeding and things to be done 😁