2013: Year in Review

With trepidation, I peeked back at this year’s goals — and was pleasantly surprised by how many were accomplished. Certainly not all, but it was a pretty dang good year on the wee homestead. Here’s the official roundup:

1. Finish the new shed interior so we can turn our existing storage room into a potting shed

Not only did we finish the shed, but hubby built this tea-stained workbench out of an old oak pallet. Tools and garden supplies now have their own separate storage rooms, and we’ve somehow managed to keep them reasonably organized for months. Wha wha wha?

Workbench made from pallets

2. Build a sun-powered dehydrator for use on the deck

Check. The Dyhydrinator was finished back in August, and we’re still enjoying those dried apples, pears, and tomatoes. We’ll be using the heck out of it next summer.

Homemade solar dehydrator

3. Map out a succession garden plan for the raised beds so we can have veggies all year long

We’re far from self-sufficient, but we did a decent job with our first real stab at serious gardening. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:

  • Spring carrots, lettuce, and herbs were a big success.
  • Summer’s onion bulbs were decimated literally overnight by slugs or cutworms, but I’m trying some Egyptian walking onions in another raised bed. So far, so good.
  • The neighbor’s dogs made short work of the broccoli in the front yard, and our own Seamus the Wonder Dog discovered his love of sunchokes in the backyard bed. Perhaps a bit of protective chicken wire is in order next year.
  • Topsy-turvy planters were the surprise big win. Tomatoes thrived well into November, with nary a sign of fungus or pests. Now’s the time to buy those suckers — I’ve seen them priced as low as a dollar apiece at closeout stores.
  • Methinks I pulled our garlic too early, so the bulbs were disappointingly small. They’ve been dried and stored for soups, but next year I’ll wait until all the leaves have turned brown before harvesting.
  • Another round of carrots has been planted for the winter, and all but one of our beds of Swiss chard and Brussels sprouts are beautiful — blasted squirrels gnawed that one bed of chard down to nubs. Won’t make the mistake of planting those under the oak tree next year.
  • Sweet potatoes in containers weren’t worth the effort. We got a few with which we made some entertaining curly fries, but they need room to stretch their legs. They’re normally so drought-tolerant and easy to grow that we’re looking for other spots around the yard. Perhaps that eroding embankment?
  • A couple of months ago, I dug up the phlox that lined the brick path in front of our home, replacing it with strawberry plants. They’re big, bushy, and covered in beautiful white flowers in the spring. Perfect for an edible border. Will report back in April on the harvest.

4. Build cold frames for the raised beds

We didn’t bother, thanks to our choice of cold-hardy plants. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange does a great job of noting which varieties can tolerate mild winters, so seed selection was easy. This area’s had several frosts already, but knock-on-wood, our veggies have weathered them all without any trouble.

5. Look into the feasibility of installing a wood stove in the house

Not going to happen, at least not this year. And not without a major renovation. Sigh.

6. Fence the future orchard and plant cover crops this spring to prepare for autumn’s tree planting

Oh dear. I won’t bore you again with our tale of real estate woe. Needless to say, the planting was postponed a year, but it all worked out for the best. Eventually.

7. Figure out how in the world to keep root veggies over the winter when we have no basement, rock-hard clay soil outside, and no storage in the house

I was way overthinking this one. Beets and cabbages were pickled, so that was easy. Twenty enormous heads of cured elephant garlic are in a lovely arrangement on the dining room table, with another ten heads of softneck garlic in the kitchen. Seventy pounds of sweet potatoes are tucked away in a $7 plastic bin in the nice, cold pantry. (See, there are some advantages to not getting that wood stove…) And a stash of fresh beets, turnip roots, butternut squash, and sunchokes are still hanging on in the refrigerator’s crisper bin. We’ll be eating quite well for a while.

Sweet potato storage

8. Grow several varieties of native flowers and herbs to plant on the eroding bank in the front yard

So what had happened was, I managed to grow lots of purple coneflowers, anise hyssop, and black-eyed susans from seed. Unfortunately, the city’s landscaping crews thought they were pesky wildflowers and mowed them all down. They even mercilessly attacked my unsuspecting rosemary bush. We’ll try again next year, but only after clearly defining the bank with some sort of landscape timbers so there’s no doubt it’s an intentional planting.

Black-eyed Susan-B-Gone

All in all, it’s been a good year. Brad and I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your comments, support, and ideas. This is all about community, and we’re better for having shared the adventure with y’all. Happy new year, everyone.

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