A little over ten years ago, my friend, Mona, loaned me her copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. If you haven’t read it, it is a well-written story about her family’s adventures of moving to Virginia, growing their food, and a commitment to eating local. The stories about planting asparagus, foraging for mushrooms, raising chickens and turkeys, and bushels of tomatoes have stuck with me this entire time. I loved how family and friends were involved in harvesting and preserving. Cooking a complete Thanksgiving meal from what their farm produced is inspiring. In fact, the life her family has created sounded so idyllic, that vision has become my retirement plan. I have reread this book a couple of times. I have purchased copies for friends, and I encouraged Rick to read it so he would understand my dream.
Over the years, while we lived on the wet side of Washington state, I had a small garden. Planting asparagus is in the first chapter of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, so I’m not sure why I never did that. Maybe I was saving that for the next garden. My garden contained tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, beans, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, raspberries, strawberries, and herbs. I wrapped copper wire around the raised beds and surrounded them with hazelnut shells to discourage slugs. (Ugh, slugs!) When my nieces came to visit every summer, they would help me water and pick raspberries. I was never able to produce food on the same scale as Barbara Kingsolver, but the dream was still there. After we moved out and my brother’s family moved in, my sister-in-law also planted in those raised beds.
Now that we live on a few acres in Central Washington, the itch to plant, grow, and harvest is even stronger. Last spring, I planted a hanging basket with herbs and a few pots with flowers and succulents. I kept things small because we weren’t connected to our well yet and we were still hauling water. This spring, we are patiently waiting for building to start on our new house. I didn’t think that I would get to plant a garden because we would be moving so much dirt around. The area where the future garden will be still needs clearing.
Then I saw a homesteading post on facebook about a raised bed made of discarded pallets. What I realized is that I could build a small garden bed and put it on skids so that we could relocate it if necessary. I don’t know precisely where the excavators and bulldozers will need to go to clear our building site, but Rick’s truck or tractor could pull this roughly four by four bed.
Over the last couple of weeks, Rick and I scavenged pallets to build our makeshift raised bed. I imagined that I would make this rough container by myself, but when you have a finish carpenter around, it’s hard not to put his skills to use. He enjoyed that it didn’t have to be perfectly square or finished. He let me put in a few screws, but mostly my job was pulling nails out of the pallets.
Our little garden is full of topsoil from our property, amended soil shared by our neighbor, and yes, asparagus! I know that I won’t get to harvest asparagus this year, but that’s not the point exactly. There is also tomatoes, cabbage, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, garlic, lettuce, spinach, nasturtium, marigolds, and herbs. I’m pushing the boundaries of how much I can grow in this little square, but we’ll see how it goes. I bought blueberry plants from the legendary Blueberry Hills across the lake and planted them in a couple of pots. We hung chicken wire around the container to keep the deer away. None of this would have been possible if we didn’t have water available now.
What’s exciting about this is that it is just the beginning. Also, there aren’t nearly as many slugs in this drier climate (I have only seen one in the last two years.) While we live in our tiny house, I can grow yummy things in the tiny garden. I can watch and learn what’s different about growing vegetables in the hot sun of Central Washington. This time next year, I can spread the veggies out and maybe harvest bushels of tomatoes. The asparagus can get transplanted to a permanent home. I’ll have a kitchen and pantry that can handle preserving food on the scale that matches my dreams.
Hopefully, we will start building our new house soon. We hope to share what we are doing and learning as we build our new home in our new community. We updated SweetSpotProject.com to reflect what we are hoping to build. If you live in Central or Eastern Washington, I would love to learn about what you are growing or building. Connect with me on Facebook and share what you are up to.