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?