Family Urban Farming Project 2012

My daughter, Thea, and son-in-law, Devon, bought their second house last year to accommodate their growing family ~ now three delightful children. When they asked me if I would move into their first house, a little three-bedroom bungalow, and care take it for a while, I was initially inclined to decline.

You see, I’m an avid gardener by nature and growing edible and medicinal plants is both a pleasure and a sacred stewardship for me. My daughter knows this of course, and, that I had been on the move, traveling around the country for the better part of the last 5 years. She knew that frankly, I was tired of roaming and was ready to settle back down for a while, dig my toes into soil, grow some roots and enjoy my grandchildren.

I confess though that the river rock landscaping in both front and back yards of the house seemed much more of a challenge than I was willing to take on at first. During the 3+ years they had owned the house, whenever I visited my daughter and family, as much as I loved spending time with them, I could never understand how they could comfortably live surrounded by those hard rocky, barren surfaces. Yes, it looked neat and tidy; “clean”, as my son-in-law would declare while meticulously eradicating every tiny valiant ‘weed’ that managed to breach the rock and underlying cloth barriers. But there was little soul in those yards. No one wanted to spend any time out in them. Except for a postage stamp-sized, fenced garden area, the back yard was essentially relegated to the dogs, and the front of the house was just a place where you parked your car in the driveway. So, I said no, I really couldn’t do it. Rent the house out, or sell it, I told them. I’d find another space, less harsh to settle into.

Or, so I thought. Universe apparently had different plans for me. It wanted me in this house and promptly set about conspiring to change my decision. It does that you know. A fairly fantastic string of events occurred which left me little doubt that I was meant to live in this house, at least for a while. So, within a month of my initial decision, I had agreed to move in, but with the understanding that I would be gardening here; the rocks would have to be replaced with gardens, daunting though the task may be. Happily, Thea and Devon agreed and more so, they also wanted to participate in this project. Whoohoo!

Three years before, we had managed to begin a vegetable garden in one section of the back yard. The particular area had, for some unfathomable reason, been covered in hideous green Astroturf of all things by the previous owner of the property. Thea and Devon seemingly could handle all the river rock, but the Astroturf was just too much of an insult and eyesore to tolerate. So, the fake ‘grass’ got pulled up and replaced by a little 6x12 foot garden space rimmed in railroad ties. That little garden was a huge success; an abundance of squashes, tomatoes, collards, beans, beets and strawberries proliferated all summer during our short growing season here in the mountains at 7000 feet.

However, daily life then grew quite hectic for my daughter and son-in-law. These last couple of years, with another pregnancy, new family additions to care for, jobs and other obligations, just thinking about the commitment necessary for a garden, of any size, was simply overwhelming for this exhausted couple. The garden languished; the back yard went to the dogs.

Luckily, they regained some balance to their family life this year, and freed up some much needed energy. So, with me determined to create a space of beauty and abundance in this place and with memories of the Little Garden That Could from a couple years ago, Thea and Devon were re-energized about gardening again. Inspired to create a garden that could substantially help feed a growing family, even with the challenges of living in a mountain climate, Devon came up with the idea of building a hoop house to help extend our growing season by maybe as much as a couple of months. And, Thea and I were quite set on raising a few chicks into laying hens so we could have fresh eggs. We decided to build the hoop house here at the ‘rock house’ and build the hen house for the chickens over at the new property, which has a much better yard set up for that.

My daughter loves to record ‘The Days of Our Lives’ in photographs and posts a lot of it to her Facebook page. And so, of course, she documented our Family Urban Farming Project of 2012 as well. Many of her photos are collected in an album I’ve made public on my Facebook page so I could share them with you all. In the early pictures, you can see the outline of where the initial little garden plot had been and how much we expanded its dimensions while building the hoop house (which is 12x25). There’s an additional outdoor bed along the side where we planted beets, onions, pumpkins and kale, and another under the little tree (the only tree in the entire back yard) where the burdock, comfrey, lemon balm and Echinacea grew very well. The garden grew into a fantastic, lush, wild jungle of delicious organic foods for us this year. Take a look at it here.

And here’s an update from late July and into August.

The chickens are now providing us with fresh eggs daily

A couple of weeks ago I read an inspiring article about winter gardening in the Northeast. Hmmm, could we do that here as well? I emailed the article to Devon and Thea ~ what do you think? At first they were hesitant. After the busy spring and summer months, they were ready for a much deserved rest after a job well done. But then, what the heck? The next day, Thea heard about a local workshop on winter gardening being held in Flagstaff and I attended it the weekend before last. Seems do-able.

We just finished putting in the winter bed yesterday. I’ll keep you posted…

We Give Thanks for Our Bounty!

Life is Good! Enjoy every precious minute of it :-)

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Family Urban Farming Project 2012

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