Clueless attempts at Permaculture: 3.5 months
The good news is: food is actually growing. The half-dozen pots of lettuce I had planted as we were getting settled are large and we are consistently pilfering leaves for salads. We’ve had our first little crop of radishes and celery, green onions and herbs are in abundance. Almost every tiny bit of space that could be eked out of what used to be our driveway has been put to good use.
Combined with our new little property (see below), this feels like a tremendous amount of plants for me. The thing is, while I have always loved to garden and have always had one, up to now it has been a hobby. Sure it was wonderful to get food out of the garden, and I loved saying things like “This entire salad came from our yard!” or “Look, more kale chips!” to the kids. But really, I was never all that concerned with how much food my garden actually produced; the point was more about stress release and earthing and all that other hippy stuff I believe in. Now, for the first time, I want to be able to feed my family, including the three constantly-hunger-fiercely-growing kids, which requires many more plants, but also a sense of timing, staggering the plantings so that we can have food in a constant supply soon. It feels like a lot of pressure.
I have many more vegetables in pots that I have been growing from seeds: tiny little lettuces, cabbages and peppers (there used to be tomatoes too, but they have graduated to the garden beds now). Every morning I get up early (so, so early) and haul all the little pots out into the sun so that they can take advantage of the morning light. Then in the afternoon when the torrential downpours that mark the ‘green season’ begin, I carry them all back under shelter so they don’t get washed away. We have now trucked in literally 2000lbs of soil (20 100lb bags over the course of several trips) and it’s not like there are piles of dirt lying around. It has all been used to created raised beds and amend the soil so that our super acidic red clay is tempered a bit.
We are now renting the small lot next door, which adds about half an acre to our space (1800M square). This is smaller than we had wanted but is flat, which is an extremely rare thing around here, separated from our home by a deep quebrada and little creek. We are exploring the possibilities of rope swings, obviously. The back third has been allocated as goat corral as soon as we get goats. Which will be soon. Working on it. I have the plans for their barn in a notebook.
Over the last two days we have cleared a lot of space on the lot and planted four banana trees (plus the three at our place that are getting big!), five papaya trees in various stages of growth, and twelve coffee bushes. We have twelve because that was all they had at the viveria, in truth we want about 40, so we’ll need to find more later on. Three double-dug beds, two filled with starter plants of broccoli and cabbages, plus garlic and calendula at the ends to help discourage bugs, and one with rows of beets and radishes. We built a large teepee frame and planted more green beans around it and have spaces set aside for potatoes.
The best news is that the chicken coop is done and the girls are getting big. They are almost five weeks old and have most of their feathers. When I’m outside, they will follow me around being cute so that I will feed them, which is usually pretty effective, hence the ‘getting big’ part. I call them ‘girls’, but I have the distinct feeling that a couple of our laying hens are roosters. Time will tell. Anyways, I built their chicken coop to be a permanent solid structure and I’m pretty proud of it, and then I went all Herbalist on them. I have planted antibacterial herbs around it to give them a way of self-medicating while free-ranging: calendula, thyme, epazote, rosemary and garlic. I take great satisfaction in watching them peck at the plants. My husband now refers to them as ‘pre-seasoned’.
The first round of peppers, tomatoes and carrots should all be ready soon. It is difficult to be patient, but so many of the things we have growing here are long-term projects: sugar cane, yucca, pineapples and fruit trees – these things all take time. On a day like today when my arms are sore from all the work prepping garden beds I remind myself that the work I do today effects how we eat six months, a year, two years from now.
As we say here ‘poco y poco’. Little by little.