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Many hands make light work.
One of our reoccurring family goals is to have a garden growing every year. It only makes sense with how much land we have and how many mouths we have to feed. 
Blossoms = fruit. At least potentially. 😉
One of our first orders of business when we moved in was to get an orchard planted. We’ve made the mistake before of not doing it right away, so we quite literally didn’t get to enjoy the fruit of our labor–any fruit trees we planted at previous houses didn’t produce fruit until we had moved. So, with our orchard already a couple of years old, we’re just beginning to see their potential. Glad we prioritized them this time, ’cause we go through a lot of fruit. A LOT.
There are other plants we put in that we were happy to see return. The asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, mint, chamomile, and various other herbs were all strong enough to give us a small crop that will only continue to grow as we add to it. 
Every spring when I feel like I can no longer stand the dark, cold, gray days of winter, I get itchy to be outside. The antithesis of winter is growth, so naturally, I want to get started on the garden. Jack humors me by going to our favorite nursery to stock up on plants, so I can at least look at something green and pretend it’s nice outdoors.
Jack and Claire having a rut race.
Since we have pretty much settled into our house and gotten to know the land better, we were feeling ambitious this year. Our neighbor offered to plow and expand our garden plot, so we took him up on his offer. There was just one problem: the rain.
This spring, the temperatures in our area were gorgeous, sliding from winter to a very pleasant, mild spring. But the rain. Ick. It rained and rained and rained until the earth was like an overfull sponge that couldn’t hold one more drop. We did our best to prepare the garden plot as best as we could. Our neighbor’s friend came over to till the garden and smooth out the plow ruts and we (*tried*) to haul manure from our pile up to the garden, though it was a heavy, wet, dirty job.
The more permanent places in the garden we started covering with mulch to keep the weeds down, keep the moisture in the soil more ideal (keeps it in during the hot, dry summer, keeps it from getting soaked in the wet, cool fall and spring, and keeps the soil warmer during the dormant winter). I will say, for the amount of mulch Indiana produces, prices for said mulch is shocking. In other, fairly treeless states, mulch was free if you were willing to pick it up but in Indiana, even the “economical” variety does a number on the pocketbook for how much we use every year. Still, it was worth it if it meant less work in the long run in the garden. If there’s one thing I hate about gardening, it’s weeding.
The berry plants were the first thing to go in the ground this season. We could eat berries by the tons but because they’re so expensive, I have to severely limit Jack and to mere pounds at a time. So, again, by the rationale if we plant the plants, we’ll have the fruit, we massively expanded our number of blueberry bushes, raspberry vines, figs, and grapes. Next year, we’ll be taking a good look at our strawberries.

Way past our frost date and around the time of Peter’s birth, I couldn’t stand waiting for the rain to break any longer. It was plenty warm, if still very wet, but I wanted to get those plants and seeds in the ground so I could check something major off the list. Call it nesting, call it impatient, call it whatever. Hindsight is a funny thing and I think I’ve learned my lesson that rushing things probably isn’t a good idea when it comes to gardening. But, it’s no secret that I’m horrible with plants, so can I really be blamed for planting in the swampy mud? Probably not. 😂

Things finally started drying up and the sun started shining. We excitedly waited for potatoes and watermelon and peanuts and peas to start poking through the soil, while we battled the weeds as best we could with grass clippings.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed the very first harvest of the season–a handful of cherries and a couple of strawberries.

It wasn’t much, but it’s a start! The kids were all excited to have a nibble and each of them relished it and are excited for a time when they can eat them by the bowlful. It was fun to have a taste of what’s to come if we keep working at it.


Another early crop we had was chamomile. At first, I thought they were weeds but I’m glad I let them grow a bit before I tugged them out of the ground. Their little, fragrant flowers are a chore to pick but they make a perfumy, sweet tea that tastes kind like hot apple cider to me. Jack has dried enough to last us through to the next season.

Then, as it always done, we hit the hot, dry summer. The weeds started racing up faster than we could pick them, the soil was so hard that if we did manage to uproot a weed, the risk of killing the plants we wanted to keep was highly likely, and the insatiable bugs ate everything in sight.
By July, our garden looked like this:

Foxtail grass, thistles, and cockleburrs made themselves at home and between half the seeds rotting in the ground, the few that sprouted, and the corn the cows helped themselves to when they escaped once (😬), our garden was in pretty rough shape. We salvaged what we could by weedwhacking and mowing and have been tried to be grateful for what we have gotten from the garden.

The carrots are still hanging in there. Barely.

 As disheartening as it can be to see the garden go to the weeds, there is some hope. The part of the garden we started last year is already doing better–less weeds, more production. The tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers all fared pretty well where they were planted.

Even as bad as it can get, I am always amazed how the earth produces with such little effort. One thing I’ve never had trouble growing is tomatoes. Some are eaten in salads or in omelets, but most go into the freezer until the season is over and we can process them into pizza or spaghetti sauce all at once.
Another miracle we witnessed was that Zoey FINALLY understands that you’re supposed to pick the red, orange, and yellow tomatoes, not the green ones.

I have to give a shout out to the kids. Most of the time, they’re willing to go out and help mulch or plant or weed if they have the promise of swinging or swimming or ice cream afterward. Even Peter is content to sit and babble stories with great enthusiasm.

Even though it felt like a lot of our efforts in the garden were a lost cause this year, that didn’t stop us from continuing to work at it. We’re taking a different approach next year, using woodchips to keep the weeds down, improve the soil, and keep the moisture in. And instead of purchasing expensive woodchips and having to drive them home by trailerfuls, Jack found ChipDrop, a service that connects homeowners with tree trimming services. Long story short, we have four truckloads of woodchips waiting for us to spread.

We mowed and weedwhacked around the garden, then lined it with recycled cardboard we had stashed up. All our old pizza boxes were put to good use!


We’re about half done and so far, it looks MUCH better. The weeds are being kept at bay and everything looks so much neater. I’m already excited for gardening…next year. 😉

Gardening is dirty work! 


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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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