Planning Ahead

The seed catalogs have started to arrive. The days are short and unrushed. This is the time of year when we start imagining next years gardens.

In a little over a month we’ll have our annual all-day, end-of-year review. The biggest item on the agenda is whether to continue growing produce for sale. It’s been a fairly close call the last two years and it isn’t a foregone conclusion that we’ll continue. But for now I’m being optimistic and considering the changes we’ll make if we keep at it.

After seriously pondering things for the past couple of months, I’ve tentatively decided to retire seven of our larger gardens. And for rotation purposes I will consolidate four of our current gardens into two. The end result is that we’ll have a six-garden rotation in the future, rather than our current 16 garden rotation. Rather than limit all gardens to one crop per year, my tentative plan is to double crop two of the six, following Irish potatoes with fall brassicas and following spring crops with sweet potatoes and purple hull peas. We’ll continue using cover crops of course.

Under the new plan we’ll have less area to protect from deer and we can concentrate our nutrients more.

This is a compromise I made with myself. I was torn between continuing the status quo and going to a much smaller 3 garden system. The plan I came up with retains the original three garden rotation I’d been considering, but adds a second three garden rotation: watermelons, eggplant/acorn squash, onions/garlic. Eggplant and acorn squash may seem like an odd combination, especially since we don’t have much of a market for them. But as of now they’re the only things we grow, other than garlic, that deer don’t eat. So I’m going to grow a lot of them next year and if most end up at the food bank or in the compost pile, so be it. It’s an experiment.

If our year end analysis proves that we’re just wasting our time and losing money, then we’ll go back to concentrating on just growing food for ourselves. If that happens I’ll finally have time to do some of the other things I’d planned to do when we took up this lifestyle, but never seem to have time for these days.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the seed catalogs and dreaming of next year’s beautiful gardens.

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22 comments on “Planning Ahead

  1. Scott says:

    I was reading thinking, man I wish I could tap your wealth of knowledge on vegetables. Then I clicked on one of the links below the post, related reading on your blog and looked at a few of your archives on cover cropping. It seems I need to spend some time with your archives! Our deer pressure will be significant, so just your tips and tricks on that front would be worth it. Needless to say, I enjoy the blog. Have a good one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Scott. There are far better places to find practical advice imo. But sometimes I do like to just put what I’m doing out there. I enjoy it when other bloggers do that and I do often find posts like that helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joanna says:

    It is hard to look critically at things when you have invested so much time, but knowing when to call quits is a good idea. We are thinking of ditching the idea of growing grains, they seem to fall flat on the floor or be trampled by wild boar, plus we have found an organic source of them. I think I might still use them as a clearing crop on blocks we don’t plan on using. We’ll see. I hope you find the right balance to take you forward into the new year. Enjoy your winter down time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Joanna. When we first moved back here I wanted to do everything. I eventually learned that it isn’t possible or necessary. It isn’t even necessary in order to be self-reliant.

      Giving up on those gardens is probably a very good idea. Probably won’t even significantly change the amount of food we produce. But it’s hard for me to do after all the work that went into prepping them. But when I step back and think about it objectively I come to the conclusion that there is no point trying to tend so much land every year. And, as you say, there is the question of finding the right balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When things aren’t truly enjoyable, then it’s time to try something new. Perhaps this “less is more” thing might be just the ticket. And if not, well, then I guess it really is time to move on to “other things”.
    Enjoy those catalogs! It’s my favorite part of the OFF season

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    • Bill says:

      Years ago I made the decision to quit spending my time on things I don’t enjoy. That’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. I enjoy working in all the gardens we’ve established here, so that isn’t the issue. It’s more a matter of figuring out how much we can do and still do a good job at it. I’m still working on that. 🙂

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  4. avwalters says:

    I don’t indulge in the seed catalogs until February. By then, I’m hankering for some hope for spring and perusing the catalogs puts me in the mood for spring. We have a much shorter season than you. This year, for a change, we are mostly unscathed by deer and a whole new fence saved the garden from the ravages of bunnies. It’s let us focus on just how bad our soils are. So next year we are moving, in a big way, towards raised beds with covers (because of the damn grasshoppers.) I cannot imagine dealing with the frustrations of season, critters and bugs and trying to do so commercially.

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    • Bill says:

      Up until fall we had no deer pressure at all. That was very unusual. But they wiped out our fall crops. Worst ever.

      I’m a big fan of raised beds. If I was starting over from scratch I’d probably try to make the farm entirely no-till. I forgot to mention in the post that we’ll still be growing in our raised beds and our high tunnel. I could grow way more food than we could possibly eat in those alone.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. valbjerke says:

    Oh hearing you loud and clear 😊
    That ‘doing other things’ business has long been on my list – I’m going to spend the winter trying to plot yet another change in course. Looking for some zen I guess…..I’m feeling like it might be just around the corner. It occurred to me the other day – I already work for somebody else off farm, and that made me wonder why I’m working so hard for someone else ‘on’ farm.

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  6. BeeHappee says:

    Bill, for how long have you been growing for sale now? Do deer still cross into the gardens if you make a buffer or plants they do not eat? Did you guys ever consider a CSA or you set on farmers markets? Is it true that fruit is more financially feasible than vegetables? Just curious. Have a great seed catalog December. I get one for myself usually as Christmas present and enjoy it all winter. 🙂 Even without a garden. Or a home. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Originally we just sold a little of our surplus. Cherie had a crafts business and we’d sell a little produce at her booth. In 2010 we greatly expanded and started up a CSA which we ran for two years. I didn’t like the pressure of the CSA so we switched to our menu-based model and farmers markets after that.

      I’ve never heard that fruit is any more financially viable than vegetables, but I suppose it’s possible. I know of no way to keep deer out of a garden other than a very high permanent fence.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. rumpydog says:

    Planning and hoping are what keeps the spirit strong. Enjoy!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My garden is small and just for us mainly …some years there is an abundance to share to share with family and friends. As I get older the raised beds get taller and the last two years I have done a lot of straw bale gardening . The best tomatoes I’ve ever grown 🙂

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  9. Dearest Bill,
    If you’re still at the age of being active and working, there goes a lot of planning into it.
    We are really hoping that one day we can sell our adjacent lot as it is becoming a physical burden for husband Pieter. After his open heart surgery he never has been the same as before and each year is also adding.
    Blessings and success with your catalogues!
    Mariette

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  10. Ed says:

    Back in my youth when I raised pumpkins for a business, I always loved looking through the seed catalogs plotting the upcoming year, filling out the form and waiting for the day when my seeds arrived in the mail. I’ve moved off the farm and haven’t had a place for a big garden since so when I read posts like that, I feel something inside me saying I need to remedy that and find a place where I can plant a big garden again. One big garden would be enough I’m sure. I don’t think I would need sixteen or even six!

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  11. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, my situation is much different than yours. Gardening for me is just a hobby. If it ever gets to be some thing that becomes a chore and not fun, then it will be time to quit. In the words of Kenny Rogers’ famous song, “You got know when to hold them and know when to fold them.” It took me a life time to realize the concept. I hung onto things that used up my time way longer than I should have. A couple years ago I went through a time when I did some deep soul searching about gardening too. I really wondered why do I garden. My family (grandson and daughter) certainly don’t eat much from the garden. I eat some but not nearly enough to warrant such a big garden. Even what I preserve doesn’t get used much. So why go to all that work to grow a garden, fight the weather, and be challenged by the wildlife. My conclusion was that deep down in my ancestral DNA there is an innate desire that can only be satisfied by growing things. All of my ancestors were farmers. It helped me understand why I do what I do. Having farmers on both sides of my family bred the necessity for fabrication. Farmers have a natural wisdom to see a need and fabricate a solution with what ever is available. As a result my garden is in a constant state of structural improvement.

    My prayer for you is that You too will use wisdom and find the balance in life for the things you love to do and the time you have to do it. Have a great White Flint Farm day.

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    • Bill says:

      That’s the case with me too. I grow food because I like growing food. I do enjoy growing way more food than we can eat, but it’s foolish to do that if it makes no financial sense. Whatever direction we take, I’ll keep growing food as long as my health permits. And since I’m growing the food I eat, my hope is that will be a long time. 🙂

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