I hope you’ll grab a cup of something wonderful and spend a little time with me today, as I share a bit of my story with you.
This path that I’m on today wasn’t so well defined in past years. I knew that I wanted something different from the 9-5 bondage that all of my peers were into, but clarity about what my goals were would take decades.
You see, I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t personally touch a farm animal until I was a teenager, and even then I found it to be terrifying. I grew up in a nice cushy suburb, with lots of exercise and sunshine. My mother cooked, but we also ate a lot of convenience foods…..pop tarts, sugary cereals, bologna, processed white bread, and so on. I rarely ate fruit and NEVER ate vegetables.
My father went through a “Mother Earth News” stage when I was a young teenager. As a matter of fact, I think the magazine had just come into print. I watched him build greenhouses attached to our house, plant gardens full of vegetables and herbs. He was way before his time, at least here in the Midwest. I watched him very closely and took mental notes that would serve me well later in life. But at the end of the day, Mom wasn’t into it and the phase fizzled out.
After high school, I attended college and spent most of the next 10 years in business. Then I found the man of my dreams and decided to leave the workforce and be a stay at home mom at 31 years of age.
Something about becoming a parent just changes you. Suddenly, I worried about the nutrition of the food my children ate, even though I had rarely considered it for myself. I became a frequent patron of my local health food store, and wow, did I spend a lot of money on organic food! I also began grinding my own wheat and making my own bread, after trying over and over again. Lots of failure with my bread making! I finally figured it out.
This was a good start, but as I read every book I could get my hands on (prior to internet) I realized that there was a lot more to this gig, and I wanted to do it all! I wanted to begin growing MY OWN food, learn how to can, get some chickens for eggs and maybe even learn how to knit!
Well, the problem was that we lived in a subdivision on a veryyyyyy small lot. Can anyone relate? But my husband wasn’t interested in moving, and for good reason: we were debt-free, including the mortgage. Besides, my husband was convinced that I was more in love with the “idea” of living in the country than anything else. Sigh. Make it work where you are!
The term “urban gardening” wasn’t really something I heard people talking about at the time, neither was “edible landscaping“. However, there was a guy who worked at a local nursery that I shopped at who “colored outside of the lines” a bit. I think his name was John, anyway, and he lived on a smaller lot that we did. He explained to me how he had ripped his landscaping out and planted vegetables all around his house…BOOM! YES! THAT I could do.
It took a bit of doing, and we had to hire someone to grind up all the roots of some very old taxis bushes, but we got it done. I amended the soil with compost and started to plant. The house faced east, and the coveted south side of the house was largely blocked by the next house and large trees. But I kept at it, and was able to grow crops that require a full day of sunlight like tomatoes and peppers. Lots and lots of trial and error took place, but in my 13 years at that house, I planted and canned every year, making our own marinara sauce to boot.
It became regular practice for us to visit Amish country in northern Ohio, where I became a student of the Amish. If you aren’t aware, the Amish live without the use of electricity. I found it fascinating that a modern day sect of the population could actually do this! So we visited, and I studied them. We went to every field trip I could find, bought every book about the subject I could get my hands on. Lehman’s, known as THE non-electric store is in Holmes county as well, and once again, I studied and asked a lot of questions.
I put what I could into play, a clothesline being one of my first non-electric ventures. I bought a small umbrella one, that I could take down when I wasn’t using. I don’t think the neighbor were super thrilled about it, but I made sure it couldn’t be seen from the street and let it go at that. We didn’t have a HOA, but at the same time, NO ONE on the street had a clothesline.
I wanted to drill a well, but soon found out that there were ordinances against that. I wanted chickens and bees, but hit the same wall with ordinances. (Interestingly enough, that same area NOW allows 4 hens!)
Living in urban and suburban areas will limit you as to what all you can implement, but don’t give up! Many cities are changing those old ordinances, just check to see what yours are and get involved!
Finally, after years of dreaming and wishing, we were able to purchase a 10 acre farm. If it weren’t for our very frugal lifestyle and staying out of debt, it wouldn’t have happened.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would live in the country! Never stop dreaming and praying!
I hit the ground running with all the knowledge I had acquired while I was living in the suburbs! It didn’t take long to get dairy goats, chickens, bees, plant the orchard, build pastures and out buildings, etc. I love, love, LOVE country life. All of it.
So, while I live in the country now, I have over a decade of experience gardening and producing large amounts of food in the suburbs. I am also somewhat of expert on “urban gardening” and teach classes on the subject. No matter where you live, there is much that can be done to make you more sustainable!
So, like Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Never give up on your dreams, but never stop looking for alternatives to accomplish those dreams!
If you’re ready to get started, head here next!