A good homesteader I am not. I like to say that every year we get a little bit better at this, but truth be told I’m not sure we’re getting better so much as we improve one thing and neglect another.
I canned blueberry jam this year, and a single batch of salsa (which tastes far more tomato-y than like salsa so it was quite disappointing). A lot of peppers and tomatoes and eggplant went to waste, and I feel horrible about it. I should do better. No, I can do better. I’m better than this. None of this food should be going to waste, and I know my depression-era grandmother would probably be upset by our waste if she was around to see it.
I like to tell myself that I’d do better if this was my full-time job. When I imagine having a farm of my own and trying to be self sufficient-ish, I don’t imagine having another job to go to for 9 hours out of my day. I imagine a farm being my job. Tending a garden and the animals, preserving things as much as I can… And truth be told, coming home from a day of work only to have to do more work to tend a garden is not ideal. Should I suck it up and do it anyway because it’s what I want for my life? Probably. Does the lure of snuggling up on the couch with knitting sound better? Of course it does.
We did things so much better this year than last year. We built raised beds so we had defined, contained planting areas. We bought compost for the beds (100% worth it). We laid newspaper down in the walkways in between the beds to combat the red-root pigweed we’ve been fighting for several years. We mulched. We staked and trellised. We watered and nurtured.
And then, when it came to harvest, we failed. It wasn’t entirely our fault – despite the compost correcting issues with the tomatoes from previous years, we still had issues with them rotting on the vine before we could get to them. We have some invasive morning glory vines that have crept their way into the bed we used for radishes and beets. My long, skinny eggplant never took off and I resorted to a store-bought purple variety despite my better judgement (I’m the only one who eats eggplant so the big ones go to waste regardless of whether I buy or grow it). Powdery mildew made its way from the cucumbers to the zucchini and then to the acorn squash. Critters munched on some of my acorn squash and the one watermelon we had growing. Despite all this, I still feel like the biggest failure lies solely with us. If I had just worked harder, paid better attention, knew more, did something differently, etc.
It’s funny how I’m so full of excitement and hope in the Spring, and by Fall I’m full of disappointment. There are people out there who make it all seem so… easy. So rewarding. Beautiful gardens and beautiful veggies, and blog posts on harvests and what they’re eating from the garden today and whatnot. And I’m so… disorganized. Forgetful. And, sometimes, in too much physical pain to function, let alone tackle weeding, or hours at the stove canning or cooking. But such is life – we all have our triumphs and downfalls, and we all spend our time how we see fit. Every year I’ve tried to do better, and every year I’ll continue to try to do better. I’m still growing and learning and doing. And I suppose that’s what is most important.