We all see them, the amazing how-to videos and articles about how to garden, how to grow your own food and how to be self-sustaining. Each one set against a backdrop of lush greenery full of an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Bees and butterflies flowing from flower to flower, providing pollen for the perfect honey hive off in the distance.
It reminds me of magazine covers! The perfect body in just three easy steps. And then you find out the supermodel suffered from eating disorders and drug and alcohol addictions for decades.
It’s fake if it doesn’t show the full picture.
We are a few months transitioning from urban to mountain terrain, moving upwards from growing zone 10 to growing zone 5 and its been frustrating.
Not only does it take GREAT levels of patience and adaptability, but I literally feel like I am war with the wildlife, the weather and the land.
It’s like my very own WWIII.
ME vs THEM, and I have no idea who ‘them’ is. A one woman army against 1,000 different enemies!
Some days, I am the windshield. Some days, I am the BUG
People who live in ‘perfect areas’ or who have access to excellent growing temperatures, rich soil and have the money to spend on materials for raised beds, bags of dirt (that shit isn’t cheap), who use pesticides and chemicals on their produce…these folks may have less of an understanding of the frustrations affiliated.
Think about it…
You live just 15-minutes from the nearest corporate building/farm and ranch store where the shelves and fenced yards are lined with lumber, bags of peat or chemical pest and rodent controls. You drive up, park, pick your plants and slap a credit card onto the counter. You have all of the items, from seeds to transplants, soil enhancements to fertilizers right at your fingertips.
These folks cannot imagine what living ofF of the land means when growing food.
You can’t simply pick up some fencing or netting to prevent wildlife from destroying your FOOD. You cannot grab a bottle of premixed spray or even have access to ‘common’ household items for a ‘mix your own’!
Unless you are a millionaire, receive a steady retirement check or are bankrolled by sponsors, there is simply no way you have unlimited funds to build an indoor hydroponic set up, or even the indoor space!!!
I have a 12” diameter medicinal Aloe-Vera plant that gets in the way and causes great irritation to my spouse because it takes up space in our tiny home. I cannot imagine putting a hydroponic indoor tower into our limited living conditions as well.
It’s been said, with enough money and enough time and space, anything is possible.
The reality of living a simple life is that many folks are trying to break free from the chains of the material world…full of money-driven goals and bigger, materialistic items.
YES, I need an indoor growing shelf for seedlings. But I don’t have one, and I don’t have access to one. I could build one but, have you ever lived in a home has that has large uneven rocks jutting from the wall, preventing anything being ‘flush’? It’s on my project list, a seedling starter shelf, but what about the more important projects and chores?
And common household items like NEEM oil? Seriously? Did I miss something, or does every household cabinet across the modern globe contain a bottle of cold-pressed organic neem oil? ‘Just order it from amazon’….I hope you get my point.
Neem oil is excellent on foliage for plants like squash, but do you want to spray it on kale, lettuce and other things you eat directly? It may also hurt honey bees, and I have a honey bee hive (that doesn’t look like those pretty ones you see in the videos and articles either!!!!). Not to mention, bees are necessary to pollinate our plants.
And then we have the seed stealing ant solution: sugar and borax! Yes, it is an excellent way to kill off the ants who steal freshly planted seeds, but it also attracts bees and hummingbirds…I’m not comfortable feeding borax my hummingbirds!
But I digress.
People offer a ton of unsolicited answers to your unique situation, your unique problems and experiences….and their answers have ZERO relevance to your unique situation. It’s as if they are bored, sitting on a laptop in their comfy city hole googling solutions!
Zone 10 folks telling zone 5 folks how to grow is a joke! Unless you have directly successfully grown food on a mountain side in zone 5, shut the hell up! Seriously people, you bring more harm to real folks trying to learn real methods!!! This is where I insert my eye roll.
I woke up this morning and realized something had totally snipped off the tips of my sprouting PEAS that I HAD protected WITH NETTING! I had gone out of my way and built them a safe covering. Their leaves just laying beside where the stems use to be.
They were only 1/4” in height, but now zero.
I was pissed…for a moment. I wanted to MURDER all animals and insects on the planet! Even the kangaroos were somehow responsible. Seriously, I could fully understand why people opt for using toxic chemicals that eradicate entire ecosystems, all for their crop! But I realized….how could I know, until I go now.
That’s why gardeners who have been gardening for YEARS, and are gardening today are the successful ones. They have experienced loss and found methods in their unique situation that work for them. They have learned to work with limited resources and to work from the land. Not pretty stained posts and thousands of dollars worth of hog wire they paid someone to haul up to their property!
But the frustration is real for first-year gardeners and first – time gardeners to a new location, a new zone and a new geography.
You can plant all the damned vegetables you want in a bucket on your balcony, cultivating a mindset of urban gardening. Yes, it’s necessary for sourcing your own food. But, you could also wake up one morning to find your entire tomato produce gone…it takes one unknown bird! ONE!
I remember last year, I had over 1,000 blueberries, all getting ready to ripen in a lot I had been growing for several years. And in one day, they were all gone – due to a mockingbird. All I wanted was blueberries. And she stole them ALL! I wanted to kill her….shoot her dead or put something toxic out for her to consume and kill her off and her babies too, whom I’m sure she was feeding!
But I had to reach inside. Deep inside. She was simply taking advantage of something I had provided for her…and failed to protect myself.
Here in my new space, I have been stripped of my seeds and seedlings on my patio garden. GONE! And the ones that did survive, I seem to awaken each morning to them being stolen by the pretty bird or the cute chipmunk!
ALL OF THEM!
Put up a net, they say.
Feed them and they will leave your food alone, they say.
Put mint, cayenne, cinnamon around your garden, they say.
And me, I’m new to the terrain, the experience, so I listen to the advice of the humane animal-loving folks…the ones who aren’t in my shoes, my growing space.
What I did was ended up doing was creating a damned nature spa for the rodents!
I’m NOT an animal-rights activist. Animals are good to eat, not trophies. With this I agree. If you kill most game, eat it, don’t mount it! That makes no sense to my soul…when people build trophy walls of head! But pest animals are just that…rodents, pests, demonic apparitions!
They aren’t cute if they destroy your food-source. Yes protect your food source, but how do you protect them if you have NO IDEA what it is you are dealing with?
Ninjas! Killing your harvest when you sleep…or at least, not looking. You do it by trial and error.
I actually have heard the advice to buy a .22 and shoot the rodents. I guess a professional level sniper stake-out is somehow appropriate for some weirdos, but NOT me. It’s too damned cold to sleep outside for days in prone position to pop off a round into a cute demonic ninja! Plus, I’ve got shit to do.
And then we have the WIND!
Surprise windstorms of 50 mph gusts while you sleep, only to wake up to dried up leaves and dead branches!
You should have _________ (brought them in, covered them up, put them in a shed, built a greenhouse…etc). Insert advice…this is where I insert my second extreme eye roll!
You are right…carry a 500 lb bucket of seed potatoes into my cabin and basically put them on the bed with me to keep them safe?
Why don’t YOU come take care of that for me? Or maybe you have an entire closet of unused sheets in your linen closet to cover cover them up? Hmmmm….oh wait, you live in a 3 bedroom 2 bath home with 2 car garage with access to those items.
I guess you are beginning to see my own unique struggle? And yes, the struggle is mine. It is as unique and I am. That’s not to say I ignore advice, but it is from the wise and the experienced to whom I seek assistance. It is from those with a hand in the soil in my zone or who is currently or has recently solved a similar problem. It is from all perspectives, from spiritual to practical.
I’m a Viking and am single-handedly fighting an army of trained NINJAS!
SO….What have I done so far that HAS worked in this war?
Trying to build a Taj Mahal-sized greenhouse is currently in the works. This will provide protection for our future. But for the now, we have to grow our garden for food.
Temporary success has been found by staking mini-fortress teepees around the new, vulnerable green growth to prevent bigger predators such as birds and chipmunks.
To save money, we use a 5-gallon water bucket, 3/4 full of water with a small bit of PVC pipe set over the top, and an empty can with both ends roved placed over the pipe. This can is covered in peanut butter.
The rodents scale the pipe like a high wire to get to the peanut butter, and when they get on the can, it rotates and the rodent falls into the water. This has been a highly successful and inexpensive way of taking care of rodents….apparently they love peanut butter, are not bright and they can’t swim!
Most rodents can maneuver under the netting I put up, even tear through it….And no…I don’t want to use a ‘have a heart’ trap…unless of course YOU want to mail me one and then I’ll be honored to use it.
People have all the advice and the answers, but zero real solutions!
Growing in pots off the ground has helped exponentially. All of my vibrant and prolific greens are in huge reclaimed pots set at least 2-3 feet off of the ground. They require daily attention in terms of water.
A light mist of 1 T Neem Oil (I ordered from Amazon and it took 3 weeks to arrive at my post office box and another week to get down the mountain to pick it up), 1 tsp Castile soap and 1.5 gallons of water has actually kept the bugs off of the foliage.
My respect goes out to the organic farmers who don’t have a lot of money or access to precut wood and fancy fencing materials, who don’t use chemicals or even have access to store bought natural products and who have learned over years of adaptation and successful harvests how to maneuver and work with the land.
My respect goes out to the woman who planted 50 young plants, only to find them all gone the next morning because a chipmunk or ground squirrel was hungry.
My husband will not let me spend $19 on a bag of DE to keep ants and other bugs from crawling into my garden…he says NO and I have to respect him because we are a team.
Growing your own food is NOT an easy venture! I will figure it out and will continue to use what works for me. Sure, if you are willing to send me the expensive traps or natural products, I will be happy to accept your gift! Or if you want to send me the money to purchase the products, I’ll gladly take that as well! Otherwise, real solutions to real issues are the only acceptable items.
But unless you have real solutions, you have to remember not everyone is in your shoes.
Not in lifestyle, not in fitness and training and NOT in gardening and growing your own food.
My grandmother use to hand-pick squash bugs off her 15-20 squash plants every evening. She used gasoline in a coffee can held under wasp nests to remove the wasps. But what I don’t remember is where she obtained her plants! Did she grow them from seeds? She didn’t have a greenhouse. I just don’t know. So her wisdom in growing food only comes from the tilling and the harvesting. Maybe she sprayed chemicals on the plants. I know there was blue powder rings around the bottoms of them that we weren’t allowed to touch. I know I saw dusted leaves, coated with some powder. I don’t think that was organic by any means.
To grow your own genuinely healthy organic food?
I commend you and respect you beyond. Because your wisdom is not based on what’s in a bag or spray bottle. It comes from YEARS of adapting and learning what works for YOU in YOUR ZONE and SITUATION.
Growing your own organic (chemical and pesticide free, non-destructive to the ecosystem) is quite a respectable feat. Free from miracle grow. Free from man-made fertilizers. Free from mass produced fencing and netting made in a massive factory in some other country.
*NO! ESSENTIAL OILS do NOT repel ants! Someone suggested Neem and eucalyptus with a little Castile soap.
*NO! MINT, garlic and cayenne do not repel chipmunks. Neither does setting out something for them to eat.
Today’s strategy? I guess it’s figuring out how to naturally kill leaf cutters!
How do YOU ORGANICALLY, WITHOUT CHEMICALS and NON-ORGANIC SOAPS, CHEMICAL PRODUCTS, EXPENSIVE TRAPS or FENCING SYSTEMS grow a prolific organic FOOD garden? How do you grow from the land?
I would love to hear!!!