Sunday, 24 May 2009

Is It Worth It?

A View From the Green Barn


Like many of you, I have a long list of things I did, am doing, or want to do. I don't know about you, but my list seems to grow exponentially, sometimes without my knowledge! Today, Saturday, I checked my list and spent the entire day chipping away at it. One project I worked at today was my vegetable garden. Since I was starting from scratch, I had a lot to do. I started hundreds of seedlings back in April and they were starting to get a little leggy and anxious to get in the ground.

Since my compost piles weren't ready for use, I bought a half ton of peat moss and composted cow manure and using my Ryobi mini tiller, I worked it into the five raised beds. I know this is sounding familiar to you and you wish you were here to get a spade working! Well, as you can see from the picture below, (please note the central location of my green adirondack), it is definitely looking like a garden that has just started. (The nice looking plants in the foreground are all perennials, heading to new homes and the space they are occupying will become a three sisters garden).

Pole Beans

I have a patch of hardy bamboo growing and this is a skeleton of a plant from last year. I have six pole beans ready to climb to the top. In this picture, you can see that I have dug exactly one post hole, and have 23 to go. Have you ever dug a hole with a post hole digger? I have dug lots of them. It should be on your list of 100 things to do in this life, then you will always be able to make a crude comment whenever someone talks about using a post hole digger. I plan on enclosing this garden with 200 feet of cattle fencing to try to keep out critters like ameracaunas and barn cats. I know it will have limited effectiveness, but I have to at least try.


These are mostly tomatoes I grew from seeds. I am wondering if they are going to survive one night! I have been nursing these things along for about a month, and am planning on making my self sick on fresh tomatoes. Should I put another row down the middle?

Point and Plant

In the picture below you can see an old guy (me) trying to plant seeds that are smaller than salt crystals, and of course they are exactly the same color as the soil, so I can't really see where they are going. As I sit here typing this, I am stiff and sore all over! It must be from all of that pointing.


Another item on the to-do list includes keeping up with all of the poultry that has wandered onto my farm. I really don't know how all of these birds got here! I have over forty layers in various stages of "laydom." I also have over fifty meat chickens in a separate coop. They will be going to the Amish butcher in about three weeks. I have calculated my estimated costs, and I will end up paying about $1.60 per pound for my free range, mostly organic chicken. I saw a sign at the grocer the other day that had drumsticks for .69 cents per pound! (I know how that drumstick was raised). I am raising ten chickens for my nephew and he wants to know if I have extras he can sell to co-workers. Uh, no. I love my nephew and am more than happy to do this for him, but I am not quite ready for the open market.

Pictured below are some of my eggs. I like the way they look, a lot! Every day I go to the coop during egg gathering time is an adventure. Not only do I look forward to gathering the eggs, but I usually have to do a little egg hunt as well. Some of the girls are on to my scheme, and are good at hiding their eggs.

Pictured below are my turkeys. They are about five weeks old and are very curious. They like to get out and explore. They also like to follow me around. I have three more that just hatched this past Wednesday, and they will join these seven sometime in the near future. I'm not sure what my plans are for all of these turkeys, but some of them will help us celebrate Thanksgiving.

Is it worth all of the time, hard labor, smells, rooster attacks, chickens in the garden, digging, weeding, butchering, feeding and watering, did I say digging?

I think yes, with a capital YES. But I wonder if there are things I will lose my energy for?

Have you had similar thoughts? Do you have a garden that takes an inordinate amount of time? What makes it worth it to you? For me, it's mostly the thought that I know what is in or on my food when I raise it myself. But another big part, (maybe equally important), is that I feel more connected with life itself as I help provide life not only for my family, but also for the plants and animals I tend.


Lindah said...

Yes! I have only the garden, a small one at that. In our hot, dry climate, the watering becomes an onerous chore in summer. But, the fresh vegetables and fruits, with a history from my hands, are worth every bit of discomfort. We can eat freely without the concern of added foreign matter ...or soil depletion, etc. If our situation were different, not temporary, etc., I would like to add a few layers...maybe someday. At my age, anything I do must require only modest input. :-) Your set-up sounds great! More power to you!

linda said...

I've heard that peat isn't an environmentally friendly choice, that it is endangered or something (sorry I didn't pay attention because I can't do any gardening due to my health these days). I'm wondering if you've looked into that at all?

Tea with Willow said...

I really enjoyed looking at your photos - and yes, it does look like a lot of hard work!! I sometimes think 'is it worth it' when I'm trying to clean out the hens in the rain, or weeding the veg patch!

Like you said though, it seems all worthwhile when you know that what you are eating and providing for your family has been grown and raised with care, instead of all this mass-produced stuff. Here in the uk, it seems that too many people just want cheap food, with no thought about where it has come from - but hopefully, things are changing!!


jaz said...

are you sure that was you that you were writing about....because i think it was me! the part about planting the seeds that are the same color as dirt? i am always amazed at how well planned nature is but once in a while she messes up. why can't seeds be bright red or yellow and big? hehe! that would take the challenge out of it though. i have chicken envy. maybe next year i will get some. i think it is all worthwhile so we know what is in what we are eating. i will be eating as much of my own food as possible. as linda mentioned, peat is a no no these days. i use none at all in my gardens.

Don said...

Linda and Jaz: Thank you for your comments, especially the ones about using peat in the garden. As I started to build up my soil, I did what my dad did and that wasa to dump in some peat! Well, I have done some reading since you pointed out that there are some problems and found this very helpful article:

From now on, I will have a lot of chicken poo/compost to use instead!

Don said...

lindah: I have a watering issue as well, as it seems like our weather patterns are changing in Michigan. From July through the end of August, it hardly rains around here!! Maybe it has always been that way, but now I notice that pattern because I want the rain.

Don said...

tea with willow: I think the UK is getting its ideas about food from the USA. I think we are slowly moving backwards in time here to where we want to know what we are eating! Isn't it interesting that progress in the food area has meant using dangerous things so we can have lots of bad things to eat?!

Melissa ~ Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

We have our first batch of meat birds. Just 10 birds, but the cost we have into them far exceeds what I would pay for chicken at the store. Does it matter? YES it does. I've watched several documentaries about our food chain and I have to say, I'll NEVER buy chicken that I didn't raise myself. I really liked the style of this post - cracked me up about the turkeys celebrating Thanksgiving with you. :D

Lisa T. said...

Dear Don:

As I put up a fence with 60 cedar posts at $2.00 each to protect my garden, which I have about $30.00 invested in from my goats (which two are whethers and of absolutely no use but to eat $12.00 bags of grain) and keep out the 20 hens who lay eggs everywhere but the hen house and cause me to spend an hour every morning hunting for them and as I build a chicken tractor out of pallets for my 10 meat birds~~~ (gasp) I will never get my money back, but it is so WORTH it.


PS: I have post hole digging syndrome too. There is a great satosfaction in it, don't you think?

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Don, I think it is definitely worth it! We all need to lead meaningful lives, and raising our own food helps in that respect.

Sometimes we have to forget that we have been trained the only important thing is economics. My home raised beef costs more, but I wouldn't trade one minute of the time I spend with my cows for a job anywhere!

On your dry summers - welcome to our world! The faucet shuts off here the 4th of July and turns back on in September or October. You might try to see if you can find Steve Solomon's WATER-WISE VEGETABLES, it is out of print, but ABE BOOKS may have it. Or check the Soil and Health Library

Great site made available by Steve Solomon.

Great post!

mitzi said...

I don't know how big your tomato plants get in Michigan, but here in TN I would not put another row in the middle. We have been blessed with a wet spring, and my tomato plants (from seed, some saved, some bought) are already thigh high, caged, and sprouting baby tomatoes. By the end of summer, the plants are monsters splayed out over several square feet each, even with the cages ( I do not prune them, and I grow indeterminate ones, using tough fencing and large stakes to support the plants).
It is definitely worth it, and playing in the dirt after a day trapped in concrete and steel, trying to be sterile, is balm to the soul.

Anonymous said...

Is it worthwhile? Sure, if you like that bone-deep feeling of satisfaction from a day's work well done. It's worth it if you like the anticipation of caretaking a living thing that will share its delicious bounty in a few short months. It's worth it if you like an activity/hobby that pays you back in myriad beautiful and delicious ways.

Anonymous said...

mix small or same color seeds with sand. Makes it easier to see where you've sown and to sow evenly.


Joanne said...

Yes, it is a lot of work to do it all properly. But aren't we looking at it around the wrong way? I feel like all those other things (cleaning, cooking, taking kids to school, supervising homework, doctor's appointments, reading blogs, writing blogs, etc. etc.), are taking time away from gardening!
Being in the garden is the most natural thing in the world. Fresh air, sunlight, connecting with the food that supplies our bodies with what they need to flourish. Playing in dirt has even been shown to give immunity to babies.
"Cultivate the earth and take care of it" was one of the oldest work assignments given to humankind and is certainly one of the most rewarding. The human body is made of elements found in the earth. So many reasons that make it worthwhile.
There, who knew I was getting on my soap-box today?!

BTW, those eggs are indeed gorgeous! So many colours.

cathy c said...

The work is most worth it! We started a veggie garden in front of our suburban house this year... I love to be able to just pop out and check on things. We also have a community plot on the other side of town- this is great but less appealing as we have to drive there. We need our tools etc. so riding a bike there is not possible.

Thanks for the great post! Loved your photos!

linda said...

We got an allotment this year and after a marathon planting, as well as having to water by hand, carrying buckets about 20 yards in each direction a few times a day, I managed to incur the wrath of an old shoulder injury. Today we visited the allotment after a storm and I saw fruit on my tomato, strawberry and chili plants! I saw my lettuce seeds holding their own, I saw my herbs spreading and reaching for the sky! My arm is in a sling for 8 hours a day right now.....and it is so worth it!