When Will and I were WWOOFing in 2015, we volunteered from the middle to the end of the outdoor growing season. Now as we fire up our first official market garden efforts on the Honeywwoofer Homestead, I have found myself comparing our progress to those farms we had previously spent time on. Our experiences shape our frame of reference but you can imagine why that view might feel defeating- it’s comparing our first strides to someone else’s marathon. Looking back we wish we had of worked with experienced guides through a spring season- the planning, the breaking ground, the first plantings. The growing pains between outgrowing our kitchen garden and growing into our market garden have been well, a little painful.
If you had come to the farm in March or April you would have found every window ledge and every grow light we own overflowing with seedlings. We thought we would have soooo many extras to sell. But as we harden them off and start to put them in the ground we have discovered that there aren’t that many left over. (Seriously, like five.) I have done so much research around how much we need to grow, but it’s basically come down to a guessing game that is heavily determined by our resources, infrastructure, and mojo. We aren’t set up to be a nursery and every time we are ready to plant something outdoors we literally have to build the garden space first. Our feet hurt. Our backs hurt. Even our brains hurt from the psychological warfare of blackfly and tick season (as Will pulls down his pants for the hundredth time today because it felt like something was crawling on him again).
I guess in a way we are hardening off too- our bodies are adjusting to the labor, and the weather, and the inundation of biting insects. The weird part about running our own business is that there is no one to tell us when it’s quitting time. (There is also no one to tell us when it’s start time, which is it’s own blessing and curse.) There is no one to tell us when we have done enough, worked hard enough, accomplished enough. We have to define our own milestones. A big milestone was erecting our 90’x20′ hoop house by ourselves (thanks COVID restrictions). Unfortunately the hoop house parts came almost two months late and caused us to miss the early season extension for cold crops- but our peppers and tomatoes are now nicely tucked in and out of our foyer. We also have broccoli, peas, potatoes, kale, radishes, spinach, tatsoi, kohlrabi, strawberries, asparagus, herbs, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga in the ground. Writing that out feels good and momentarily made me forget about our leek and onion transplants that have almost completely failed. You win some, you lose some, you learn some, (and you get another part time job to pay for it in the meantime).
We have also been on the lookout for any natural surprises we can capitalize on around the property. For example, we have taken poplar, willow, and quince cuttings and started to root them. We were really hoping for a stash of fiddleheads or ramps to appear but no such luck. However, this week our forest gifted us with fir and spruce tips. The early tips can be used for a variety of things from teas to jellies to marinades to bath products. They are relatively easy to harvest, if a bit sticky and time consuming, and we were sure to do it sustainably. This morning I made an iced tea with them and sweetened it with a little honey- it was delicious and full of vitamin C. This evening- we dipped them in chocolate! Um, YUM!
Our first market showing will be June 4th in New Germany, NS and we will have both fir and spruce tips available. It looks like we will also have our first crop of radishes, some nutritious greens, a few seedlings and bare root trees, composting worms, and alpaca manure (an excellent soil booster). It’s maybe not exactly what we envisioned but hey, we are just getting started. I have made a promise to myself that when my vision gets clouded by how much there is to do, I will take a moment to appreciate not only how much we have accomplished already but also to remember why we are doing it- because that is where the real motivation lies.
“The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”- S. F.
Keep calm and forage on!