It is that time again to reflect over the year’s ups and downs, an exercise that has become cliché but that can still be quite helpful. It was a busy year! So busy, I rarely found time to post updates on the blog (something I hope to change in the coming year). Here is a quick summary of what went down (or up, as the case may be) at Barbolian Fields, along with a few goals and strategies for the coming year.
I like to think of our garden as a series of rooms, identified according to sun, soil, and water parameters. I counted nearly 30 different garden rooms around the 2-acre property. Yes, we have a mansion, and as the housekeeper, I now understand why I am often overwhelmed! Keeping on top of the watering has always been a challenge. This last year, I spent quite a bit of time setting up a drip-line irrigation system. The old soaker hoses sprang so many leaks so often, I finally gave up on them. We shall see if this new system works with our new piped irrigation ditch that puts everything under pressure. The idea is to be able to turn a faucet and – presto – everything gets slowly watered at ground level all at once – or at least on a schedule. No more dragging hoses all around and no more finding out something didn’t get watered or something else got flooded after it’s too late (we hope).
Also in the infrastructure department: trellises. I built a lot of them! All the willows really came in handy. Beware, though – they can sprout even several months after being cut! I may have more willows growing than I bargained for this coming year. Uh oh.
2019 Goals and Strategies: Water availability is going to be even more of an issue in the years ahead, so optimizing the water we have (and mulching to keep it in the soil as long as possible) will be important water conservation strategies. The goal is to eventually get all the main areas connected with drip lines, which will free up a lot of time for doing other things (like mulching).
Also a highlight – a new colony of bees moved into an empty hive, and by early summer, I had 2 hives back up and humming, although I never saw them swarm. Watching them come and go from the hive and how they all work together is always so exhilarating! Hooray!
2019 Goals and Strategies: Plant more bee-loving herbs and flowers! Ensure they have plenty of blooms in early spring and late fall. Plant in every nook and cranny to take up a space where a weed might otherwise grow.
The berries and other fruits this year were just astounding (thank you, bees). However, keeping on top of the harvesting can be a real challenge! Sometimes it seems that everything gets ripe at once (because it does!). I keep planting more shrubs and berries, realizing all the while that I am making more work for myself. What’s wrong with this picture? (nothing!)
I realize, though, I could have done better in the vegetable-growing department. We did manage to get quite a few squashes, peas, and greens, so I am not complaining. The greenhouse provided us with an abundance of passion flowers, basils, tomatoes, and an assortment of plant starts. For such a small space, I was very impressed. But I could be more efficient. I could better optimize what I grow in the greenhouse (and in the rest of the garden, too). I obviously need to give more loving attention to the berries. Strawberries, for example, were overwhelmed by grass invasion last year, as were the blueberries and lingonberries.
2019 Goals and Strategies:
- Scythe more often! Pile on the mulch.
- Call in the grandkids to help with harvesting!
- Let go of the idea that I have to harvest every last little berry. After all, some were planted with the idea of sharing with birds and other wildlife.
- Don’t bother planting as many veggies, which tend to need a lot of attention and nutrient inputs. Just focus on a few niche plants that you love fresh (which is pretty much all of them, so this is not much of a strategy.) Buy more fresh veggies from the young farmers down the road; they do a much better job at growing annuals than we do! It’s good to support their efforts.
Working Together Amidst Chaos
To be honest, the garden was pretty much out of control all year long and I was barely keeping up with the harvesting and preserving, but I keep telling myself that is just how I like it. I also tell myself I’m going to find an easier way.
Despite my neglect, the plants somehow managed to survive. Perhaps it’s that with all that diversity, a mini-ecosystem has developed that is able to support itself. Perhaps the garden is achieving all by itself what I originally set out to do; I just set the wheels in motion. Obviously, I am still learning. Mother Nature continues to amaze me.
I will say, the bald-faced hornets coming and going out of the huge nest in the medlar tree kept the aphids and many other insects at bay. We just gave them room and they seemed too busy to care that we were nearby; they were gone by medlar harvest time. Also, snakes. SO many snakes! Seemed like I was always startling them! Oh, and the birds! Grow them a habitat, and they most definitely will come! I have never experienced such a daily chorus in the early mornings! And it is wonderful to see the quail again. And last but certainly not least – f r o
I figure if we all work together, we can share the wealth. I appreciate the help of all the garden creatures.
2019 Goals and Strategies:
- Plant more plants! This is always the answer, is it not?
- Strategically place poles around the garden where the birds may perch.
- Possibly build/dig out another water feature to encourage more frogs and snakes.
Of course, there were also many challenges in 2018: a water line break and necessary repair; later finding out we needed to drill a new well and install all new water lines; house renovations and more chaos; some health issues… we get through these things. These are first world problems. I try to keep perspective.
2019 Goals and Strategies: Stuff happens; we cannot know what awaits. Fear and courage walk hand in hand. Do not let minor setbacks overwhelm us. Breathe deeply. Hug our loved ones as often as possible. Stop and smell the roses.
Additional Highlights of 2018
There were so many other events outside the garden that made the year very special: a family trip to Hawaii and a new granddaughter among them. Spending time with grandchildren, playing music and sharing stories with friends, going for hikes in the mountains and kayak rides on the ocean – these are always the things that make life worth living.
2019 Goal: Accept that there will always be more to do in the garden. Let it go. Get out more in this beautiful world we live in. Make time for more artistic endeavors. Truly, without creativity, I would not be breathing. Family, friends, creativity, music, reaching out – these are the things that keep us grounded. They need not be garden-exclusive. They all augment one another.
Living in Gratitude
As we close out this year, my heart is full of gratitude. Thank you, friends, for hanging in there with me. I hope to post more often in the coming year, and I hope you will join me.
I especially appreciate those who purchased Solexx materials from our little outlet, as that has been our main source of garden income. Your support is very much appreciated. I believe it will be ever more important to grow our own food as much as possible in the years ahead. That independence will be empowering. Greenhouses provide a whole other layer of possibilities as to what we can do. They easily pay for themselves.
Coming Together for Positive Change
I am glad to be making changes in the coming year and I believe 2019 will be pivotal. I am making lists (I am always making lists), figuring out how to prioritize my time, reading a lot about our very unique planet and the world we live in. It has become critical to
What will 2019 bring? What will we be able to do to make the world a better place? How will we help one another? How will we heal our planet? I’d like to explore some of that in upcoming pages. Let’s all work together in the coming year. We will share the wealth.
We can start by getting back to the garden.
Thank you for tuning in. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.