Friday, 3 July 2015

The Garden That Didn't Grow

We are having a hot dry summer here along the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. Today we had temperatures around 30C and had a late afternoon thunderstorm which brought high winds and a bit of hail. Our yard received one inch plus two tenths or rainfall, while 4 miles away my parents had about half an inch. We are glad to have had the moisture and all my rain barrels are overflowing. 

The hot dry summer has had me asking, what would I do 100 years ago if it were this dry and my garden didn't grow? Surely it happened from time to time. Did families go hungry? Absolutely. Were some forced to town or onto the generosity of family? Undoubtedly. Back then if a person in the country could not or did not produce their own stores of food they could not last. Growing and storing enough food for one's family and one's livestock was the real difference between success and failure on the prairies. Nowadays, if you have a total crop failure such as I have had with carrots, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, SIGH, you might trade with a neighbour for some of the things you have plenty of (so far, that would be onions), try the farmer's market, or you just say to heck with it and count on the grocery store for your missing produce. But this all has me thinking, 100 years ago on this piece of land I would be starting to feel a bit desperate.

There are some factors that would be different, of course. I would likely have quadrupled the amount of potatoes I had planted. I would have relied heavily on crops like turnip, pumpkin, squash and cabbage, and I would have a root cellar in which to keep them all. But here in my 2015 first-world-home, I have an entire area dedicated to water and heat loving tomatoes and peppers. I reserved one raised bed for my children to plant, and I have large spaces that are purely ornamental. My apple tree has 2 apples on it this year and the pear pollinator has died. I put in 10 raspberry canes last year but they immediately filled in with weeds and I have decided if they die it is probably a good thing. Something has eaten the strawberries before I can get to them, and I have 4 or 5 varieties of sunflowers planted for the birds and our pure enjoyment. It is obvious that this garden is not meant to sustain us through our cold 6-7 month long winter. But what if it had to?


Above, one raised bed that has produced nothing besides a couple sunflowers, some nasturtiums, and a couple bean plants. 

Below, sunflowers bent over from the driving wind and rain. I'm sure they will bounce back, but I must rethink how much of my garden is used to grow things not specifically meant to feed this family through the winter. 



I did plant carrots and greens and peas and I reseeded cucumbers, beets and peas when it didn't look good. The carrots and greens seem to be a write-off and there are so far only enough beets for a couple meals. The cucs are up but I am wondering what my yield will be, and I am thinking that this should be my last year of using the grocery store as my back up plan. Next year I hope to have space prepared to plant more and harvest more than I need, with the aim to get my family through the year on what we can grow ourselves. Of course this is not a revelation to many who garden. But for me it is time to step up and grow/harvest/preserve as though it is my only option. I am lucky enough to have the land, I am healthy enough to do the work, and I want to be able to make it happen in case the day ever comes where we must be totally self-reliant. Do you grow your annual supply of any one fruit or vegetable?


6 comments:

  1. My garden wouldn't be producing much that we can eat right now if it weren't for the high tunnel. The weeds are terrible (hairy galinsoga, makes me want to Napalm the whole thing). Our weather situation is the opposite of yours - it's cold and wet. We've had a nice sunny, breezy stretch that was great for drying out the ground but then we had torrential rain again yesterday. Never a dull moment when you're producing food.

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    1. I feel your pain, Robin! Even when conditions are perfect, something is bound to go wrong like a deer grazing everything down or an early frost. You are right, there's never a dull moment;) I hope things dry out for you, though. It's depressing to watch all your hard work rot in the ground!

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  2. my veg patch would have us starving to death within a week...lol. we had such a rollercoaster ride of weather in early spring followed by a drought in May followed by endless rain in June followed by goodness-know-what is to come in July. i'm trying to summon the nerve to post about my wild gardening experiment but i alternate between despair and delight where it's concerned -- two days ago i was harvesting some lovely kale, this afternoon i went out only to discover Something has started to nibble it. it now looks like swiss cheese. and the ants are at the beans and my tomatoes wouldn't be out of place on Lilliput....

    good times!

    [so glad i followed your link back...what a grand space you have here!] xo

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    1. My kale (what came up) is also swiss cheese-like...disappointing, because this was the year I really "went for it" where the greens are concerned. Total failure. And not a single carrot, despite two plantings, germinated. SIGH. I guess that's why they call this "next year country" ;) Thanks for stopping by, Mel, I really enjoy your blog!

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  3. Very interesting - we are definitely spoiled living in the first world with grocery stores easily available to us. I have to say that I find your world so fascinating - it is a place that I just don't think I could ever survive in (in terms of both skills and desire). Having such gorgeous land and nature available to you is amazing. I am wishing you luck (gotta have luck with Mother Nature) and persistence. You can definitely grow enough food for your family so that you do not have to rely on supermarkets. I am looking forward to seeing all the pics :-)
    ~ Pru

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  4. I didn't always like to garden. When my mom used to send me out in the heat and flies to weed the big garden at the farm....let's just say I was "reluctant". But I wasn't fulfilled by my various desk jobs, and I really sought a more meaningful life. For me, that meant attempting my first garden while I was pregnant with my first child. I am hooked on growing things now, and also on teaching my kids they can be self-sufficient. The world is just so different for them (yesterday we used a self-checkout and I realized it's totally normal to them for a machine to ring in our goods and I pay with a piece of plastic. That will never be normal to me!) I am very lucky to have this land and be able to work at home everyday raising my boys and (attempting to raise) our food!

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