May 2018

The whole family in the garden! Babywoods rocking her baby tent, Mr. FW spreading mulch in the background, and Babywoods dig dig digging.

I’m thrilled to report that it did NOT snow during the month of May. It’s the little victories we live for around here. Spring’s tendrils took hold, tentative at first given the frozen earth they were supplanting. Slowly, crocuses poked up through still-snowy ground.

Next, daffodils made a slightly more confident approach and finally, yellow and orange globe flowers busted out with wild abandon. And then lilacs! Oh the lilacs! As snow lost its grip, grass staked a claim and green became the new white.

By the end of the month, our view from the porch was of so much jungle green you’d think winter never existed, save the fact that our snowshoes still sat in the front hall, silent beacons marking time until they’d again be employed daily. There was barely a week between snow clearing and grass cutting, so short was our interlude between seasons this year.

If you’re just tuning in, this is a recurring series in which I document each month of our lives out here on our 66-acre Vermont homestead. After leaving urban Cambridge, MA in May 2016 to chart this wholly different life, we’re experiencing a constant learning curve of exploration (and plenty of stupid novice moments). Check out last month’s installment here and enjoy the best and worst (ok, mostly the worst) moments of our first year on the homestead here. Wondering if it’s less expensive to live rurally? Check out: City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown.

Project Perennial Food

The lilacs are lovely, but not edible!

One of our chief, top, preeminent goals for our property is to plant and nurture perennial foods. A perennial is a plant that over winters and comes back every spring, as opposed to an annual, which is a plant that must be planted anew every spring. Given this lighter workload on the gardener, you can see why we’re so interested in perennials. We have a longterm vision for our land to serve as a source of sustenance and perennial foods are one aspect of that dream.

We are wildly fortunate that previous owners of our property planted ten apple trees, three plum trees, two beds of asparagus, and a row of rhubarb, which are key pillars of our perennial stock. This year, we decided to get serious about another fabulous perennial: berries!! Our land is now poised to serve as a veritable berry utopia in a few years.

From Weeds To Berries

In pursuit of our goal to grow mostly food (as opposed to flowers and other non-edibles such as grass), we transformed a massive, overgrown, derelict flower bed overrun with weeds–some of which stretched six feet tall–into a berry patch. Turning this bed was a multi-part, multi-year project:

  • First, we cut it with a bladed trimmer to hack all the weeds down to a reasonable height. We didn’t want to bring the tractor and brush hog in there because we didn’t know what was under all those weeds and didn’t want to break the brush hog on an errant stump or rock.
  • Next, we burned the trimmings.
  • Then, last fall we tilled the bed with the tractor to break up the root systems of all weeds involved. We timed this tilling to take place right before the ground froze in the hopes that it would disrupt the plant growing cycle.
  • This month, there was lots of weed re-sprout, but much less than previously. Mr. FW tilled the patch twice this spring: once immediately after the ground unfroze and again after the weeds sprouted.

Soil Considerations

The volcano mounds for each blueberry plant (pre-mulch)

After decimating the weed population in this garden bed, we then moved on to testing the soil. Blueberries require acidic soil and we had a hunch that our soil was likely somewhat acidic because we have a few wild blueberry bushes in our yard.

We performed a soil test using this kit, which revealed that our soil is acidic, but not acidic enough for blueberries. And so, we amended the soil with sulfur to increase its acidity.

Volcano Mounds

Next Mr. FW built raised mound beds, by hand with a shovel, for each individual blueberry plant. They look kind of like mini-volcanos of dirt with little bowls shaped into the top. At long last, it was time to plant!! Mr. FW planted 28 blueberry bushes (purchased from Indiana Berry) of four different varieties, which are scheduled to produce berries at different intervals throughout the summer. If his calculations are correct, we’ll have fresh blueberries for several months straight! Also in this bed are three Saskatoon berry bushes, three honeyberry bushes, and three currant bushes.

View of the berry patch (it’s L-shaped, so I can’t seem to get a good photo of it)

Now it was time for sheet mulching. Mr. FW laid cardboard on the ground around each plant as a weed barrier and layered woodchips and mulch on top of that. Finally, he built a 5 foot tall welded wire fence around the berry garden to keep deer and critters (including our very own children) at bay.

This berry patch, which measures roughly 150 feet x 80 feet, is a longterm strategy for us and all of these plants will hopefully produce their first fruits in two years and then really ramp up berry production in about 4 or 5 years. Our thinking is that our girls will be ages 4 and 6 when the berries produce in a major way and can be champion mini berry pickers!

Plums, Cherries, and Apples!

Rounding out our perennial orchard are our three plum trees, ten apple trees (plus tons of wild apples lining our woods), and our newly planted cherry bushes. As I detailed here, Mr. FW pruned the apple trees in the early spring as they must be pruned before their leaves come in. This month, we pruned the plum trees and also set up a branch rehabilitation project. Fruit trees, such as plums and apples, can be trained to grow outward–as opposed to straight up–which facilitates better fruit production and easier fruit picking. You can accomplish this through a combination of pruning and branch training.

Plum tree branch rehabilitation project

We also read that plum trees that grow straight up take a lot longer to produce fruit. By bending the branches when they’re young, you can encourage fruiting earlier in the tree’s life and have fruit in an easier to reach place. Bending the branches produces a hormonal change in the tree that will theoretically encourage earlier fruiting. To train the branches out, Mr. FW tied heavy gauge fencing wire around each branch and tethered them to large rounds of firewood on the ground serving as weights. He employed the same system on one of the apple trees that has a proclivity for growing up as opposed to out.

Next up, Mr. FW used the tractor to till a patch of grass to turn it into a mini cherry bush orchard. All part of our longterm goal to decrease our useless plants (hello, grass) and increasing our edible plants! We planted two Juliet cherry bushes and two Carmine Jewel cherry bushes–purchased from Honey Berry USA–both of which are variants of bush cherries bred to be sweeter and survive cold winters (hooray!). He then constructed small wire fences around each bush. Completing our new fruit orchard work, Mr. FW sheet mulched the whole lot, by which I mean he laid down cardboard and covered it with mulch and woodchips.

Veggie Garden

Our perennial orchard, from left: plum trees, cherry bushes, apple trees

After completing all of this perennial berry work, we turned our attention to our annual veggie garden! Oh bounty of fresh vegetables that we enjoy munching all summer and preserving for the winter months. May is a prep month for veggies as it’s still too cold to actually put any of them into the ground.

First up is tilling. Last year, the veggie garden–which was formerly a patch of grass–had long, narrow mounded raised beds, which worked OK, but wasn’t ideal. This year, Mr. FW decided to make larger mounds so that we could put more plants in each bed and have smaller walking paths. Our larger walking paths last year seemed like wasted space and lots of grass sprouted up between each veggie row.

The lower veggie garden, all tilled and mounded

To help combat weeds, Mr. FW double tilled the garden–once in early spring and once in late May. Then, he dug out walkways and mounded the beds, which are 4 feet wide by 20 feet long with one foot walkways between each bed. Hopefully this bed design will work better and be permanent so that we don’t have to till and re-make beds every year. Now, he’s waiting for the weeds to sprout and then he’ll employ our flame weeder to flame the weeds before planting the veggies (stay tuned for the June installment for a rundown of flame weeding!).

Mr. FW also built a 5 foot tall welded wire fence around the veggie garden in a valiant effort to keep out the wildlife. Last year, as you may recall, we utilized a minimal fencing solution of fishing line strung between fence posts. This nominal fence actually worked until the very end of the summer when our deer friends ascertained the flimsy nature of the fence and charged on through to chomp all of our remaining kale and chard. We decided to enact a more robust fence this year in the hopes of preserving the harvest. Now if a moose wanders through, all bets are off. But we hope this’ll keep out our more frequent deer visitors.

Apple blossoms!

We also started cucumbers, chard, and snap peas indoors this month. Last year we direct sowed the chard (which means we planted seeds straight into the ground) and this year we started the seeds to see if this is a better approach. The challenge with direct sowing chard is that we had a tough time telling the tiny chard plants apart from the pernicious weeds! Planting larger chard should help differentiate it from weeds.

After starting veggie seeds indoors–and allowing them to grow under our grow lamp and atop these heating mats–they need to experience life in the great outdoors in a process called “hardening off.” The mini plants need to become accustomed to outdoor temperatures, wind, rain and bugs, and so they spend little bits of time each day outside on the porch. After awhile, they’re allowed to have overnights on the porch in order to acclimate to our colder nighttime temperatures. Soon they’ll all go into the ground! But for now, there’s a plethora of little veggie starts hanging out in their little pots (many of which are recycled yogurt and cottage cheese containers) on our porch. Check out this post for full rundown of how to start seeds indoors.

Mailbox Malfeasance

As I alluded to the other week, our dear mailbox met a rather inglorious (and permanent) end at the hands of a snowplow this winter. Our snows are so deep–not to mention ice-laden–that our aging mailbox and post succumbed to the snow flung by a snow plow driving down our road. It wasn’t a fixable situation as the entire box flew off of the post and the post itself shattered in fantastic form. This mailbox and post were both on life support before this snow plow incident, so we knew replacement would be in our near future. The snowplow death knell merely hastened the process. In the hopes of creating a more permanent mailbox situation, Mr. FW poured concrete for the post and affixed our brand new mailbox on top.

Porch Swap


In final deference to our newly minted season, we swapped the porch. It’s always a great guess as to when we should swap for spring since it entails removing all of our firewood that’s stored on the porch, which means no more fires in the woodstove (well, not easily anyway). We made the call in mid-May and relocated all the firewood, replacing it with our outdoor table and chairs. Next up, the sleds were sequestered in the barn to make way for the baby pool and outdoor toys. We swept the porch, set up the grill, and made way for halcyon summer days of partial outdoor living. I then cleaned out the woodstove and actually cleaned underneath it, unearthing a season’s worth of dust and dirt. Shameful I tell you.

Monthly Harvest Check

Not too much to harvest yet, but May brings the rhubarb and the asparagus! We ate asparagus daily for a few days and then, the harvest was over. There never seems to be enough asparagus even though we have two beds worth. The apple and plum trees both blossomed and set quite a bit of fruit!

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Onward to June, frugal comrades!

How was May on your own personal homestead?

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  1. Man I wish I could grow more food. I have so many squirrels, Chipmunks, and birds I can’t keep them off of things. I even put protective netting around stuff and the chipmunks burrow under the ground and up inside and still eat my plants. I’m glad my yard is so alive with wildlife, but it makes growing anything extremely difficult!

    1. Ditto. I have garden fencing topped by bird netting to keep out the deer…the deer eat everything, hence the bird netting (they love to eat my tomato plants especially). But the chipmunks, squirrels and skunks (yes, skunks) squeeze into the garden right through the fence and decimate everything. They literally dig up and eat whole plants. We also had a slug infestation a few weeks ago and lost all our bean plants to them before I could get diatomaceous earth down…and the raccoons are pooping around the perimeter of the garden because they’re pissed they can’t get in to further destroy what’s left. The only thing I have left are peas and onions…lettuce, beans, Swiss chard, melons and cucumbers are all gone, thanks to animals and slugs. I used to live in the country and NEVER experienced anything like this…the animals in the suburbs are INSANE. It’s like living inside a plague.

      1. That sounds incredibly frustrating for you, but they way you described it is HILARIOUS…by the time I got to the raccoons I couldn’t stop laughing 🙂

      1. I’m not following…how do raised beds stop critters? My previous garden was a raised bed and it didn’t stop the deer in the least…nor the raccoons, chipmunks or squirrels, seeing as how everyone has legs and can step up the extra eight inches or so 🙂 The only thing that kept the deer and raccoons out was fencing topped by netting.

  2. Looks like you guys are well on your way to some productive harvest in this and future seasons. I actually harvested berries off my blueberry bushes in their first year so fingers crossed for you guys.
    Good luck with the planting, weeding and critter defenses.

  3. Wee never have enough asparagus either. My husband and I have a large shed/small barn that needs to be rebuilt and may take the opportunity to change the orientation of our garden for better sun and plant more asparagus at the same time. It would mean moving the rhubarb but since that’s all I have growing in suburbia these days, we could take the chance. I’m quite thankful for the Farm share that covers all the nutritional gaps for us 🙂

  4. The asparagus look so cute! I really look forward to the day that I can grow things in a backyard when I move away from nyc haha. For now, I just be grow a small herb garden!

    I watch your and Angela’s garden to fulfill my inner garden desires :).

  5. You are totally talking my language with all the garden speak. YouTube has been an invaluable resource for me, and I think you might enjoy the One Yard Revolution channel. There is a lot of info about growing self-sowing annuals and perrenials. You might find some good suggestions for perrenial greens you’ll like. Enjoy!

  6. Woot woot! I love the idea of having home-grown fruit and veggies all year around. It’d be like a dream come true to me. I secretly hope that I can just throw some seeds in our tiny backyard, and then they will just grow by themselves without us having to do anything. I think that’s the reason why we still have no garden yet @_@

    My MIL did grow some garlic and green onions in the backyard though. The amount of effort, time, and water she put in those plants is no joke! I can’t imagine tending to a large garden like what you two have. But it’s all worth it in the end! 🙂

  7. We have a shade property…when we moved in as renters some years back, it was mud and moss. No hope of growing veggies etc. we do have a lone blueberry Bush, that the herds of deer will likely decimate shortly. So over this past 5 years, we have created a yard stuffed with hellebores and hostas, hydrangea, etc. Wish I knew how to send pics…calla lilies have just come to bloom…but how I miss the New England lilacs!
    PS greetings to Reva…still waiting for pics of her house!

  8. Good luck with the asparagus. I would say from looking at your photo, you’re doing a lot better with the crop than most.
    I haven’t tried growing it yet but everyone I’ve talked to said they get many one or two stalks a year.
    Have you been to Margaret Roach’s site, A Way to Garden? I’ve learned a lot from her. She also posts monthly gardening to-dos. And she’s in New England.

  9. Beautiful! So jealous! We’ve got a couple of fruit trees on our 1/4 acre but I wish we could have a few more. This year I build a couple of very large cold frames to kick start our vegetable garden a bit earlier. We had one small cold frame last year which was great for tomatoes but now its about 5x the size so we grew about 40 tomato plants, 40 pepper plants and started arugula and spinach in March!

  10. We planted five fruit trees amd.loads of strawberries last year and it’s been fun warching them grow. Plus we got our first strawberry harvest yesterday! They taste so much better than the grocery store variety.

    It looks like you have a great setup now for the long run without perennials! Well, after you add some more asparagus 😀

  11. Good luck! It all looks wonderful. You may find that you need *netting* over the top of your berry patch and maybe around the perimeter, too, to keep the dang birds out.

      1. In addition to netting, please also consider adding bird deterrent tape which will provide a visual cue to the birds and help prevent them getting caught in the netting, otherwise you may find yourself having to research avian veterinary skills on YouTube.

      2. I recommend blue netting instead of green of white. It may not look as pretty but it helps birds avoid getting trapped.

  12. I loved your introduction to this piece! Your writing has really blossomed.

    Btw, coming from a veggie gardener with 35 plus years experience, think about not tilling. It really disturbs the tilth of the soil and all the beneficial microbial life. Try looking into permaculture, hulgelkulture. Gaias Garden by the late Toby Hemenway is a great introduction.

    1. Yes! Hoping to not have to till next year–needed to redo the beds this year, so needed to re-till. But hopefully not next year :). Thank you for the book recommendations!

  13. Have either of you thought about “harvesting” some of the wildlife as part of your perennial food source? It’s about as organic, grass raised as you can get.

  14. Have you had any issues with plant diseases affecting your crop? If so, did you use any frugal methods to treat them?

  15. Asparagus are such funky little things. 🙂 I loooove the idea of perennial food! After attempting to garden this past year, it’s so alluring to skip the whole ‘planting’ part of the process. We planted a fig, persimmon, and peach tree in our backyard. I also grow green onions from off-cuts we get at the store. These little dudes grow all year round, and I can’t even tell you the last time I bought green onions.

  16. Some things that have worked well for us that you could include in your “perennial” garden:
    Arugula (let a few plants bolt and self-seed, and you’ll have tons of young arugula in early spring),
    Mache for the same reason as arugula – it’s very cold-hardy so the little plants will be one of your first greens,
    European strawberries, which self-seed but don’t send out runners (they can create a mat of plants that is hard to manage), and the “mother” plants come back each year, and
    Leaving a few onions in the garden in the fall – you will have bunches of small spring onions and lots of onion greens in the spring


  17. You all should be proud of how much you’ve accomplished with a newborn and toddler! I can’t believe it. You will be reaping the rewards for years. What beautiful property!

    1. Yes! I just tried them for the first time this year. I’m also infusing some honey with them, though I can’t really taste the difference.

  18. You may want to check out Edible Acres Nursery in New York. This is a fairly new operation and my understanding is that they have already completed their 2018 spring shipments. He has a multitude of things like sea kale and giant collards, etc. etc. etc. which you can’t find at your local nurseries. He is deeply into permaculture and might be a good source for what you want to do.

    He has a You Tube channel which I tripped over and watch occasionally –what he is doing may be right up your alley. Weather patterns are similar to yours, so while I know of others, they are in warmer areas. You can also find info by googling.

    I have a friend who lives on a country road who puts a big sign out by the road: WOOD CHIPS WANTED. Would this work for you guys? Works for her.

  19. There are other perennial veg you can grow – check out
    This is a U.K. site but I’m sure you can source in U.S.
    Also who grows a number of perennial vegetables and has a no-dig approach. His veg garden is stunning !!!

    Ps I sure envy your space and fruit garden – I have a small (but pretty!) English garden

  20. Oh my, did you take me back 50 years to my childhood on the farm! Your children are blessed to live so closely to the earth!

  21. We had almost no luck with growing our veggies and flowers from seeds this year–we tried hardening ours off, but between one scorching afternoon (when I didn’t water them enough) and the ever-present wind (we live right out of the mouth of a canyon), we only had a measly 3 marigold plants survive from a couple hundred seedlings. Womp womp! We live and learn I guess (and as this is our first year of being yard/home-owners, I’ll give myself some grace).

    Our previous owners planted a raspberry patch (which is taking over the world) and a gargantuan blackberry bush, and we LOVED having berries to enjoy immediately upon moving in last June! Can’t wait to see what you do with your crop in years to come—it will give me some good ideas 🙂

  22. P.S. For the gal who gets only two stocks of asparagus a year: Asparagus is a very heavy feeder. The standard recommendation is to add a lot of compost in the spring and after you cut down the stalks in fall add horse manure. If you only can get chicken manure it needs to compost about 6 months or more before you use it.

    Asparagus can also be grown in the fall. It’s a fiddly process to get it set up, but that increases the yield and you spread out the harvest.

  23. Wow! You two have accomplished a lot this season! We just started our second year on our homestead, like you we were fortunate to find some perennial fruit on the property already but we want to add more next year. This year we turned 50 yr old sod into a 2500 sq ft veg garden. Whew! Last year we built a giant chicken coop and started a flock…and were just rewarded with a broody hen who hatched us some healthy baby chicks. Good luck to you! I second the recommendations for some good permaculture reading, I’m partial to Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloomto start.

  24. All those berries sound divine! My 5-year-old devours blueberries like there’s no tomorrow, so prosperous blueberry bushes would be amazing. Alas, we are headed for apartment living for the coming year, but we hope to eventually be in a house in the country again, and begin growing our own perennial food!

  25. Wow- way to go on your perennial food growing adventures!

    Something you may want to learn about is all the edibles (and/or medicinal) plants that are growing for free and it sounds with enthusiasm and abandon in the nocks and crannies of your land. These are wonderful sources of highly nutritious (and perennial- well at least they take care of the replanting themselves lol) foods.

    It was a bit funny for me reading your description of the process of getting rid of all the “weeds” to make place for the berries. I was thinking the whole time- I bet there is lots of free food right there. 😀

    Recently our family has been working on increasing the different number of plants that we eat to support our gut health ( apparently eating at least 30 different varieties of vegetables each month is optimal) and it has had us eating more out of our backyard. We easily found at least 15 plants that are ready to eat right now ( and we are only 2 weeks ahead of on you for the growing season).

    I’d give you some suggestions- but I’m a interior west coast woman and rusty on my East Coast plants.

    So much to learn! thanks for sharing your adventures- they are delightful, diverting and inspiring. 😀

  26. I’m jealous of all your space!! Another book that sounds like it might be up yours and your husband’s alley is Paradise Lot — permaculture and perennial edibles in New England. The Minuteman library system has an ebook of it if you still have your card!

  27. Asparagus tips: Don’t pick any for a whole season. Let them grow up to fronds, as this strengthens the root system and you’ll get more in subsequent years. And some of the ones that grow to fronds will be female (produce berries), which contain seeds, which you can resow into the bed and get even more asparagus! (The berries are poisonous, so keep your kiddies away).
    I have more asparagus than I can handle after doing these steps. I live in Tasmania, but I don’t see why it’d be any different where you are. (Tassie is cool-climate, but not as extreme as Vermont.)

  28. oh my gosh! I might have loved this even more than the reader cases. hmm… you were not joking about homesteading… i thought it was just a fancy word for moving out to the country. hmmm… i like that you share all the trials and errors… i’m so interested in the journey! i’m hoping to find something here I might be able to use in my next life… e.g. a couple things I might be able to grow without much equipment or insect repellent

    what is?? >>A perennial is a plant that over winters

  29. Oh wow, this sounds like so much fun! Perennials are amazing and a great backbone to any lazy gardener’s plot. Plus you don’t have to till the earth so much and disrupt the good microbes. Can’t wait to see how your garden grows!

  30. My local County Extension office has lots of great information about how to grow veggies and plants and they help with pest and problem ID for free as part of the land grant university system across the U.S.

  31. Mr. FW has been BUSY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are all about robust fencing. After all, you guys are not gardening to feed all the creatures. So jealous of all the berries you can grow in that part of the country.
    Thanks for letting us enjoy your homestead progress. You both ROCK!!!!!!

  32. We have at least 50 blueberry shrubs planted about 10 years ago. We have NEVER had a problem with birds eating them (and if we did, we didn’t notice so it doesn’t make that big a dent. plenty for us and them. I don’t want to pick stuck birds out of netting. Our blueberries do very well with the application of coffee grounds from fall through early spring and helps keep the soil acidic. we get buckets and buckets of blueberries — some early, some mid and some late. Something useful for your used coffee grounds (and of the coffee shop in town whenever you happen to be driving by.)

  33. tip for freezing them that works well for us. Freeze them on cookie sheets with a little room to spare and then pack them in containers (plastic bags, whatever.) They won’t freeze in a clump, will be easy to pour out only what you need at the time all during the winter.

  34. Oh my. I am so in awe of this. I’ve planted a whole lot of fruit trees but they will take time to start producing in any quantity. I’d love to get more intentional and planned with what we are growing to become more self-sufficient, as this is both inspirational AND aspirational!

  35. My 5-foot fence does not stop one deer as he just walks to the fence and jumps. I plan installing flashy ribbon above the top of fence. Hope that works.

  36. I’ll put in my plug for garlic… in the spring you get to harvest the scapes (they make divine pesto), and then you have delicious garlic waiting for you in the fall.
    They multiply everywhere but I’ll also put in a plug for raspberries. We have several varieties (giving us an entire summer of raspberries) and it’s one of my kids absolute favorite daily summer activities.

  37. you might wish you had made those walk paths wider due to not being able to take a wagon or wheelbarrow to help carry produce out of the gardens. LOL

    could have added peat moss to the blueberries as you were planting them, makes things acid.

    Enough the season, it never last long enough. like asparagus and strawberries

    1. We had the rows much wider last year for that purpose and didn’t end up using the wheelbarrow as we’d thought we would. So, we’re trying more narrow pathways this year–we’ll see how we like it :)!

  38. PPS: I just reread your post and found something that may cause you some future grief: Tying wires around fruit tree branches to lower them to horizontal. ANY wire, especially when tied, will damage your trees. The key here is to cut up an old hose, run the wire through a piece of the hose, don’t tie the wire at the tree branch (you need room for growth) and then fasten the wire to whatever you are using. Good for years if you want to leave it on that long. Also good for straightening any tree that may be listing to starboard (due to wind usually). Since you probably don’t have any old hoses lying around at this time, you will probably be able to pick up one at your recycling center, or if all else fails, one of your digital local groups. My last old hose lasted for years before I used it up. I’m saving my latest one for when I move. Yep, I’m moving an old worn our and leaky hose. Don’t mean to criticize, just a hopefully helpful hint.

  39. To deter burrowing animals, install the fence in an L shape with the horizontal part about 30 cm / 1 foot (YMMV depending on which creatures you’re trying to deter) below the the surface of the soil and, importantly, facing OUTWARDS from the patch you’re trying to protect, to a similar distance. The creature spies / smells your delicious produce and tries to dig underneath only to be further blocked by the fence. If it does manage to reach the bottom, it finds that it has to dig AWAY from the booty. This technique is also what my parents used to protect our chickens from foxes and roaming neighbourhood dogs.

    Note that for this exercise, you will need to use fencing that is not susceptible to rusting, so you may prefer to use a long-lasting, UV stable, plastic that you attach to the regular wire at a point above ground (on the outside of the regular wire). This has the advantages of (1) not having spaces that small burrowing animals can take advantage of, and; (2) if you design it well, and have no problem with stepping over a barrier on a regular basis, allowing you to protect the gated entrance that you use to tend and harvest the plants.

  40. Looks like a great start at gardening. Our lemon tree is finally blossoming all over, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the heavy rains won’t knock off the baby lemons like they did last year. Our figs are still small right now, which is good, because we need dryer weather for them, because they will soak up rain until they burst open into a dripping mess with the sweetness washed out — hardly attractive or tasty.
    When discounting your grassy yard, don’t forget that some things in your yard are edible. Of course, they should always be correctly identified, but you’d be surprised at how many “weeds”, like chickweed, are perfectly good to eat and good for you.

  41. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t realize so much went into gardening, especially when it comes to berries. Who knew they needed the soil to be acidic? I enjoy berries every summer with my family, and to think that this is how it all starts. Good luck and I hope you’ll update us on how everything goes.

  42. I agree with other readers who expressed admiration and envy over your potential haul–apples, and plums, and asparagus (I’m with Olivia in thinking they do look so cute!), and lots and lots of berries.

    This post and the responses are sobering reminders of how much work farming takes. Netting, acidifying soil, angry raccoon poop around the perimeter?! We were also thinking about one day having our own source of perennial food from our fruit and vegetable gardens, but we might need to rethink this… Thanks for all the useful information!

  43. Fascinating reading. We have expanded to larger digs this year and will have raised garden beds as well. Fruit trees to follow at some point. One of my new neighbors suggested barn cats to keep the garden pests (birds, and rodents of all types) at bay. He tells me that once the cats realize that hunting is good, they do a really good job with anything groundhog size or smaller. Of course, then you have barn cats, so its a trade off.

  44. You are turning it into a nice little heaven over there eh? Really wishing you all well with the project.

    Iwas wondering 1 detail. This post has a lot of “Mr FW has…..” I thoroughly admire his craftmanship and his zeal now. But didnt you do anything? Or perhaps you two together took on some of these tasks mentioned above? I cannot think you are lazy, and would never hope you are ill!

  45. I would love to turn our (much smaller) backyard into a perennial farm with flowers and delicious veggies. I don’t have much of a green thumb, but I’ve managed to keep our little garden alive this year so far. I do a little happy dance every time I go out to survey my little raised bed!

    We have a little strip of front yard that is a pain to mow due to being a hill, and I think you’ve inspired me to attempt to convince my husband to terrace it into a blueberry patch!

  46. What do you do with the rhubarb? It grows abundantly in our altititude, but we never really know what to do with it. I’d much rather have asparagus!

    1. Uh, honestly not much ;). Last year I made delicious rhubarb compote, which I canned, and then gave out as gifts. But I still have a ton of it sitting in the basement! Just about everyone who comes over to our house gets a jar of rhubarb compote to take with them! This year, I decided not to harvest the rhubarb at all because I still have chopped rhubarb in the deep freeze–plus all that compote. We wouldn’t have planted rhubarb, but since it was already there we’re keeping it alive (sort of… ). I’ve also given away a lot of rhubarb, but we still seem to have a ton!

  47. Is anyone else having issues with not seeing new blog posts right away? For some reason I never see the new posts until a week or two after their posted date.

  48. The berry trees are a great idea! We’re thinking about all the trees that my husband wants to plant when we finally move. He’s got some peaches and cherries on his list. Plug giant pumpkins, he really wants to grow some giant pumpkins.

    I was feeling a little intimidated about homesteading…but after following you through the FIRE journey and seeing how well you’ve transitioned to life on a homestead, it feels a little more doable.

    Thanks for sharing all your learnings.

    By the way, what’s your current solution/plan for weeding? I shouldn’t bend over a lot so I wonder what good strategies exist for getting rid of weeds? Do you simply blast them with the weed flame blower?

    1. We are definitely following the learn-as-we-go method to homesteading, which we’re enjoying :)! Speaking of… for weeding, we did sheet mulching (cardboard with mulch on top), which dramatically reduces weeds. Then we’re also doing the flame weeder which is a great solution for preparing a garden bed. You can’t flame weed right next to your veggies (because you’d set them on fire!), but you can flame weed in the vicinity of plants (if that makes sense). Good luck :)!!

  49. We recently moved in to my parents’ former home and I am loving having a mature, perennial-rich backyard to nurture and eventually harvest. Since we actually have quite a lot of land at our disposal, even being in the city, we have been talking about adding more berries, and I just wanted to give a shoutout to the Saskatoon berries you planted – we live in Saskatoon, SK and I had never heard of these berries until I moved here (granted, I was still a child), but it’s so cool that you have them all the way over there!

  50. This is a great post. It is tough growing up there and a lot of hard physical work. Agree with all the posts that you must have netting or you will lose the whole shebang to birds. Maybe your 10 year plan should include a greenhouse. 🙂 🙂 They are so pleasant on a bright sunny winter day and you can extend the growing season hugely (obviously) without worry from critters. My parents had one attached to the house and we used it for growing food but for also for passive solar heating.

  51. Thank you for the very inspiring garden post. I have only a small vegetable patch with more veggies/herbs in pots on my back deck (cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, radishes, carrots, oregano, basil, cilantro, and thyme) but I have many perennial flowers and they are a nice labor-saver in the garden.. I am glad I am not the only person who has trouble telling the difference between seedlings and pernicious weeds.

  52. We had a six foot tall fence (like yours) held up with concreted 4x4s. We felt fantastically confident that our beautiful garden was secured against deer vandals. Well, we were right about that. But within a brief span of four hours, our lettuce, broccoli leaves, cucumber leaves, and carrot tops were decimated by rabbits! Carrot tops and lettuce looked like they were ran over with a lawn mower. It was devastating. I was afraid the broccoli, cucs, and carrots would be too shocked to recoup but thankfully all was recovered for a great harvest. However, at the end of the growing stage for the broccoli, some worms ate much of the plant :'( No wonder old timers had to camp in their gardens overnight!

  53. How beautiful! we’ve grown a few small gardens and remember how excited the kids when they saw the results of planting seeds! ( and I learned how much thought and effort goes into making those seeds turn into food! ) Grateful to the farmers and homesteaders!
    How do you keep birds from eating berries? I’d like to grow some too!

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