Back in August, I purchased a bunch of dying and very sorry looking vegetable starts to get my garden fix. I didn’t know which plants would make it, and I wasn’t willing to plot out whole garden areas for plants that quite frankly, might not survive. After observing for about a week and a half which plants I felt would make it, I decided to only plant the tomatoes, a few pepper plants, the parsley, rosemary, and a few eggplants.
We have a water softener at the house, and since I didn’t have an outside spigot hooked up with a bypass valve, I was sending Simmi outside to water the plants each day with treated water. That’s a big no-no. Essentially the salts in the water softener will interfere with the uptake of water by the plant. The salts can trick the plant into believing that it doesn’t need water, and basically the plants die over time. Since Simmi loves to water plants, she was going out watering the little starts still in their containers sometimes twice a day.
Even though all the plants were watered exactly the same, I decided that any plant with new growth despite being irrigated with treated water would be transplanted and that I would hope for the best.
Being that we’re in plant hardiness zone 5, I also chose to use slate slabs around the my little tomato plants to create a microclimate of warmth around each plant. The end result is that the plants did start putting on lots of new growth, and are now flowering and setting fruit. Since it’s getting more chilly at night we’ll be adding a few more layers of stone around the tomato plants for additional warmth.
I love coming out everyday to observe the new growth and to see the new blossoms. Planting so late in the season really had more to do with my own selfish need to grow things. My heart aches for animals, but I know in time we will acquire them as well.
I’m not sure if the fruit will ripen properly since we’re coming into fall, but I’m less interested in harvesting and more interested in seeing how such delicate heat loving plants do in the cold Northeast.
It helps me to plan for next year if I’ve had some sort of experience working with the weather conditions, the layout of the land, and the fact that the property sits on a HUGE slope. Its more of a very steep incline than a slope.
Even though the land has a steep slope, this whole neighborhood is filled with homes on very steep slopes. If we were conventional farmers this would feel like a nightmare, but luckily for me I’m not conventional. I enjoy a great challenge, and as I form thoughts for what could occupy this 5 acre plot of paradise, I’m immediately whisked away to thinking about Sepp Holzer’s permaculture. Terraced ponds, perennial species, and animals all working together within a closed loop system.
Here is an example of Sepp Holzer’s property.
Another part of the thought process is what kind of animals, how they would fit into the system, how they affect neighbors, and tailoring a plan that not only satisfies the physical beauty of a well thought out garden, but would be a gift that gives in season and out of season to all who possess the land. To me, that is the ultimate goal.
Our home in New Mexico was well on the way to becoming an oasis for the new homeowners. We didn’t do anything complicated, burdensome, or unusual to the naked eye. Everything we did was in the infrastructure well before the first fruit tree was planted. Having a passive water harvesting system in place allowed us luxury of only watering our perennials in the high desert once during the winter. That’s it. Of course we made sure our trees were all well established in the first few years, using a series of weeper hoses, but once we felt they were established and well rooted, we removed the weepers.
Anyway, being in Vermont is a whole new experience. We don’t currently own the house we’re living in, but that could change in the future. The land here is stunning, the view of the mountain ranges is amazing, and it feels like home to us. We’ve gotten the green light to plant a garden and even to raise some animals, but having a plan that would work for us and for the landowners is important. It would be a thrill to create something they would enjoy and it gives me the opportunity to keep nurturing the soil. I’m not a plant gardener, I’m a soil farmer.
There are areas in the wooded portion of the land that I haven’t even discovered yet. Forest gardening and animal husbandry fits well into a sloped wooded area. There are future plans for this property and the house, so any gardening I do will most likely be further away from the house and garage so as not to hinder any new construction that may take place as well as keeping animals as stress free as possible.
I’ll talk more about this at length as we get our first set of plans nailed down for the spring. I also like to keep things flexible in case plans change. I’m excited to go through our first winter here to observe the land, the snow accumulations, the different microclimates, and enjoy the beauty of raw nature at its best.
We won’t be setting up a CSA again, and we have no plans on scaling up our agriculture. I might think differently if we were moving to a turnkey organic farm, but I would never start from scratch at this time in my life. Maybe if I were 25 or 30, but I’ll be 47 in November, and it really isn’t in our best interest to try and reinvent the wheel.
All animals and the gardens I create will be for the benefit of our family and friends. Simple right? The most important thing for us at this time is deciding what kind of animals we want, because that will help us decide what kind of land we need. There are five acres here, and animals can be relocated to a new spot, but something tells me that yaks in our neighborhood might look a little out of place. Haha
Here’s the roundup of animals I dream of:
Between 5-10 Icelandic sheep. Icelandic sheep are a triple purpose breed, small and compact. They are great for dairy, meat and fiber.
15-30 Silver Appleyard ducks: A double purpose breed providing both meat and eggs.
Sebastopol geese for beauty and weed control. No we wouldn’t eat this variety. Although I do believe that every animal a person might have on a farm should be a double purpose breed with more than one function, I choose for the two purposes to be looking beautiful all day and night and weed control. That’s good enough in my book to supply as much organic feed as they need.
The Saddleback Pomeranian goose for weed control, eggs and meat.
A trio of Narragansett turkeys for grasshopper and bug control as well as meat. If ever there was an animal my soul aches for, its the turkey. These majestic and comical creatures are always a pure delight to have on the farm. They provide hours of entertainment, affection, and they have captured my heart forever. If you’ve never raised turkeys before, I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed!
50 or more black, blue or white Langshan chickens for eggs and meat. We have gone back and forth over whether to get meat birds such as a Cornish Cross or Dark Cornish, or to go with a large heritage breed. In the end I’m favoring the Langshan as a fine table bird. The fact that they also lay beautiful eggs is also a factor, and I’ve heard they make great mothers.
Three or four Nubian goats for milk, weed and bramble control. They also eat poison ivy which seems to be abundant in these parts.
Four yaks, for meat, milk and fiber.
A trio of Mangalitsa pigs for meat and charcuterie
I’ll stop there because I can talk for years about animals.
Because I wouldn’t be seeking to scale up any agriculture or to have a CSA, I can create the gardens I’ve always loved and longed for. The French Potager (kitchen garden). A potager is really a work of art in season and out of season. My French heritage comes screaming from deep in my DNA and demands that I create something beautiful. I love how my ancestors have decided to take hold of my imagination.
There could be nothing finer than growing all the fruits and vegetables needed for a classic french rustic meal. So in honor of my French heritage, here are a few lofty potager gardens that I dream of. Some are too fancy for my taste, but they are beautiful, enchanting and fully functioning vegetable gardens: