We’ve been at our home on New Harmony for five years now, and a lot has happened, and a lot has changed. When we moved in, the land had primarily been used to (over)graze cattle, but little else had been done to utilize the property. One of our goals with every place we’ve lived, is that we hope to leave it etter than what we found it. Generally speaking, that means we help establish places where food will flourish, where we can live in balance with the nature around us, and that it’ll be more beautiful.
|I didn’t plant a watermelon vine there…
That requires a lot of work on our part. There’s spreading mulch, hauling manure, planting, weeding, digging, and harvesting. Something remarkable happens after a while though. The amount of free things we discover increases exponentially.
Jack gives me a hard time for being a horse girl. It’s all in good fun, but they’re not as useless as he sometimes implies. Aside from bringing me immense amounts of joy, they also poop. A lot. That translates into super awesome compost that has grown incredible raspberries, amended our garden soil, and nourished every tree in our orchard. It could also be argued that because I brought horses to the marriage, I’ve also introduced chickens and cattle, which also poop a lot. So, yay. High five to me.
With all the delicious food we have growing around here, it also means we attract a lot of unwelcome pests. That means we can use all the help we can get. Spiders, house centipedes, assasin bugs, bats, barn swallows, and other helpful critters are left to their own devices so long as they’re not attacking one of us. We used to buy praying mantis pods
to ensure we had enough of those fiesty insects around to help, but our population has been going strong for several years. We find dozens of them throughout the summer, and see their egg pods all over the place in the winter.
Another product of where we live are cats. We already keep our own, and make sure they’re healthy, fed, and spayed/neutered, ’cause kittens are cute, but we don’t want any more. Still, on occasion, we find a new one that’s discovered the cat door to the garage. Charcoal joined the pride last winter as a starving, unneutered (gah!) stray who was skittish and shy. He’s since been neutered (for free through a stray cat facility…score!), has put on some weight, and is much friendlier, although he’s admittedly a weirdo. At the same time he rubs people’s legs and purrs like a muscle car, he also nips at people’s ankles to hurry them up at feeding time. At least he’s a good mouser.
We also love the abundant wildlife that cross our little farm. Sometimes the deer and blue heron are annoying when they steal what’s not theirs, but there are plenty of other creatures that bring diversity to our home. Several turtles have come to live at our place during turtle migration season, where they either stock the pond, or crawl around in the forest out back.
|Sassafras growing between the sedum. Homemade root beer, anyone?
The weeding is never done at our place. It’s a fact of farm life I’m still struggling to accept, but am trying to see the bright side of it. Like when I didn’t get to weeding some of the landscaping allll summer, only to realize we have sassafras growing by the house. That means easy access to homemade root beer. Yes, please!
Even the weeds that I have no use for make good bonfire kindling when we pile it up. When dry, it burns high and hot, and gets the wood going. And a bonfire at our house is never without marshmallows. Yay for weeds, I guess.
Speaking of fire, we have yet to run out of wood harvested on our own property. As sucky as the emerald ash borer is, it has also made it easy to decide which trees are going to be our firewood. We had to cut one down earlier this year because it was tilting toward the house, and was starting to die. Sad for sure to see such a mature tree come down, but it’ll keep us warm for a couple of winters. And that’s not even the ash trees in the pastures I need to bring down. So. Much. Firewood.
One of my favorite projects this year, aside from our solar panels, is the clothesline Jack installed for me. It’s a little more work initially getting it hung up, but in the end, it actually saves me time. I got a basket for each of the kids, and sort the laundry into individual baskets. The kids fold their clothes, I haven’t had a daunting pile of laundry on the pool table to face for months, and there’s nothing as good as sundried clothes. It’s the fresh scent, and the fact that sunlight and a gentle breeze is all courtesy of Mother Nature.
One of my favorite things to grow in the garden are sunflowers. I love their cheery, enormous flowers, and I am a sunflower afficionado, ever since my grandma taught me how to shell and spit them out without needing my fingers. I planted a row in the garden, but because of the sunflowers we planted last year, seeds had been dispersed around the yard, including one particularly large one that grew early and tall by the pond.
I had to use a Sawzall to cut that sucker down, and we turned the seeds into delicious roasted seeds. I’d run out of my supply of sunflower seeds earlier in the year, so I was delightful to replenish my supply again, even if I ate them all in a week…
Every year, I say I’m not going to let any volunteer tomatoes go. Usually, we have so many in the garden that it’s a pain to have to try and keep up with extra tomatoes, especially since they always seem to be cherry tomatoes. But, this year, it ended up being fortuitous that we let a few extra plants grow. The tomatoes in a garden didn’t do nearly as well as they should have, which meant we relied heavily on the random cherry tomatoes growing around the yard. They were extra work for sure, picking all their itty bitty tomatoes, and were weird crosses that actually made for a pretty basket when piling them together. Despite the random nature of the volunteer tomatoes, they made for a darn good spaghetti sauce.
The star of our free stuff extravaganza this year were definitely the watermelons. We’ve been expanding our raspberry beds (with all the free manure, thank you very much!), and had been having the kids dump our kitchen compost bucket in the same area until we were able to plant.
We had planted watermelon in the garden, but again, the unintentional vines did WAY better. We knew it was a watermelon vine soon after it had sprouted, and once it flowered and started producing fruit, it was obvious it was the offspring of a previously consumed storebought watermelon. The fruit was long and skinny, and boy, oh, boy was that vine prolific. By the time we had harvested all of the watermelon, we’d gotten almost a dozen hefty watermelon from the plant. Maybe it’s because the kids are older and can eat their share of fruit, maybe it’s because the watermelon was SO GOOD, or maybe it’s because it was free (I couldn’t help but think how much one of those suckers would cost at the grocery store if I’d been buying it), but we never seemed to get tired of stuffing ourselves with homegrown watermelon.
|This was our biggest watermelon, weighing in at 35 pounds!
This free phenomenon is something I greatly appreciate, and while there are also things that kind of stink about living on a farm (like the foxes eating our chickens, cows escaping, neverending fence repairs, trees falling on buildings, broken tractors, and on, and on, and on), all these tiny blessings where the earth does the work for us kind of evens everything out.
Already can’t wait to see what shows up (for free!) next growing season.