Back to Eden gardening method
A year or so, I was introduced to an interesting concept popularized by the gardening documentary, "Back to Eden."

In short, the concept is that God (or nature) grows plants perfectly and with no effort, and we have made gardening difficult by trying to change things and go against the way that nature works.

This appeals to me in a number of ways. Being a believer as well as a very curious person, I am always interested in learning more about how God works in the world all around us, and why things are the way they are. And of course, reducing the work it takes to maintain our large garden is always a welcome blessing! So I watched the movie and found it very interesting and inspiring.

We haven't truly implemented this system in our garden just yet, but I think we are starting to move in that direction. Here's what I learned from the movie, and what we have done with the information so far...

Salad greensPeas, peas, and more peas!
I know it has been ages since I did a homesteading update for you, so I figured I would go ahead and share the good, the bad, and the ugly for the season so far...

Spring was early this year, and then late - back and forth between unseasonably warm and unseasonably cold all the way up into May. But somehow the garden still ended up ahead of last year - except for the parts I am still behind on! We already have little green tomatoes of all kinds out in the garden, okra is up (this time last year I hadn't even planted it yet), and lettuce and peas are almost finished (our best pea crop so far, by far!).

For some reason, every year I think this year I will somehow manage to be not as stressed out during the hectic spring and early-summer in the garden, but it never happens! Last year I thought I would be done with preparing new beds for a while (always an incredibly laborious and time-consuming process), but then we ended up with fewer hay bales this year, so I decided to create one more row of beds so that area wouldn't to go waste this year. Well, it's nearly July and I STILL don't have them done, although getting close, and I should finish them this week at last... Our soil is so heavy and dense, it is nearly impossible to dig if it's not the perfect moisture level. For most of the spring, it has been either way too wet (with standing water in the aisles), or way too dry (like concrete - can't even get a fork into it), so I've been lucky to get one day out of the week sometimes where it is actually workable.

Fortunately, we got 2 1/2" of rain a few days ago, after a long, hot, dry spell, and now it is cool, breezy, and beautiful - perfect for working outside, and the soil is nice and moist - so I'm on the home stretch! My husband is finishing up the bed boxes today, so we should have them framed by the end of the week - so I can finally plant the beans!

Homegrown Food Summit 2017
Welcome to June! For this month's "free giveaway," we're handing out tickets to an amazing event that anyone who is interested in real health, self-sufficient living, or making sure that the food you feed your family is safe and healthy will NOT want to miss!

That's right - registration is now open for the 3rd annual Home Grown Food Summit.

This awesome event kicks off Monday, June 12th, and it includes presentations from more than 38 experts on food, homegrown and natural medicines, homesteading,
urban gardening, raising livestock for dairy, eggs, and protein, and many more health and self-sufficiency topics - plus, you'll have the opportunity to win some really cool prizes for your homestead! (See below for details.)

Get your FREE Ticket here, or learn more about the event below.

Community Supported Agriculture
I haven't mentioned CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture programs) in a while, but even though we now get the majority of our summer produce from our own garden, we do still participate in a winter CSA program from a local organic farm that uses unheated greenhouses and high tunnel techniques (a la Eliot Coleman) to grow fresh greens and other veggies throughout the winter months. They also provide a number of partner items from other local businesses and farms - including apples, honey, maple syrup, natural soaps, dry goods such as beans and flour, and more. Participating in this program allows us to eat mostly local year-round! (We also buy almost 100% of our meat from various local small farms which raise animals humanely on pasture.)

While not everyone necessarily has access to these resources, there are now thousands of CSA programs throughout the U.S., so unless you live in a very rural area, you most likely have at least one near you!

We share some helpful information about Community Supported Agriculture on our CSA page, but I recently stumbled across this comprehensive infographic, and thought it might be fun to share it with you... Check it out below to learn lots of interesting and informative tips about CSAs including the benefits of participating, questions to ask when choosing a CSA, and how to make the most of your share, as well as some recipes for using some of the more uncommon vegetables that you may find in your CSA!

Note: We will be taking a blogging break next week to enjoy spring! However, we will be sending out an important email with a FREE resource that you won't want to miss if you care about your health... If you aren't already subscribed to receive our updates, please do so now via the box to the right, so you don't miss out!

Garden fresh foodNothing like dinner from the garden!
Well, the moment I had been waiting for all summer finally arrived last week: my first cucumber & tomato salad! :-)  Although we have been regularly harvesting some form of produce from our garden for at least two months now, for me, the REAL harvest doesn't begin until the tomatoes are ripe. This is always a bittersweet moment for me though, for as much as I love garden-fresh ripe tomatoes, it also signifies that the end of summer is drawing near.

This summer has been a perfect example of why I think people find gardening so interesting - and so frustrating,  at times: Every year is different

This summer is completely opposite from the last, at least weather-wise. Last summer our main challenge was keeping our plants from drowning due to the nearly constant rain! Cooler than normal temperatures made the season long and a bit slow, but most of our plants loved all the water.

This year has been okay with rain so far (at least in our neighborhood) - until the last couple of weeks (but really no extra to speak of, and I haven't seen the garden "moat" since May). Now the grass is beginning to turn brown from lack of rain, and I am having to water almost constantly. The long, cold spring delayed many crops from going in the ground until much later than usual, but the consistently hot summer has helped things catch up - particularly the peppers, which have been producing for several weeks now - more than a full month earlier than last year!

Now that the tomatoes are finally starting, the bounty begins in earnest: counters loaded with so many piles of produce it's hard to keep them all straight. Overflowing trays and colanders of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, eggplants, green beans, oh, and did I mention cucumbers? 

Salad gardenOur beautiful spring salad garden!
I realize it has been a while since I've posted an update on the homestead. Partly that is because we've just been too darned busy, and partly because, well, it has been a slow and frustrating year when it comes to gardening....

Our early warm spell gave way to an unseasonably cold April and May, and between the cold and the rain, and then some dry spells, everything has been quite delayed. For some reason, I also experienced numerous problems with seed germination for both our peppers and melons - both of which I re-planted several times indoors before I got a good crop of seedlings to plant outside.

Luckily, it seems that summer has finally arrived! With a few weeks of hot weather, we seem to be getting back on track, and I finally feel close to finishing "the final frontier" of our garden - the last few beds that we did not get done last year. It has been exhausting work, and I'm ready to take a break from forking and shoveling dirt, but the light at the end of the tunnel is giving me the incentive to push onward and get it done!

Check out the pictures below to see how everything is growing so far...

As I was driving home the other day, the passenger's seat piled high with bags of rice noodles, soy and fish sauce, coconut milk, and other goodies from my quarterly trip to the Asian supermarket (stocking up for light summer Thai soups & curries!), I began reflecting on the peculiar pleasure that comes from shopping.

We all know it's fun to shop - heck, some even call it "retail therapy" it feels so good! Sure, there are some people who go overboard with it - even becoming "addicted" to shopping. (And I'm not making light of that at all - it can be a very dangerous problem that can get people into a lot of financial trouble.) And in some cases there are deeper psychological issues at work. But in general, we all just like to shop!

So why is that, exactly? What is it about spending money or buying "stuff" that gives us that little jolt, or "rush" if you will, of satisfaction?

Spring gardenIt already looks like a garden...
though a weedy one.
It's been a while since my last homesteading update, so I thought I'd do a quick one today - not much to share so far, as spring has been dragging its feet....  We started off March in the 70's and everything went nuts, and then for the past few weeks it has been a lot cooler - so cool, in fact, that last night it snowed (hopefully the last snow of the season!) - and we woke up this morning to a dusting of white on the green, green grass.

I had meant to get my potatoes planted this weekend, but as the lows this week are predicted to be in the 20's again, I'm waiting another week just to be safe. Nonetheless, the garden already is looking beautiful (though I may be a bit biased!  :-) 

I picked up some organic potting soil today, and indoor seed planting will be underway this week, despite the chilly temps outdoors. I'm so excited to get things growing!

Here are some springtime pics from around the homestead. The daffodils have been beautiful, with even more blooming than last year, but unfortunately it seems a wascally wabbit has discovered the tulips, and eaten the buds and stalks all the way to the ground - along with many of the leaves off my strawberry plants!

Hay bale gardenThe start of our first hay bale garden
I've been meaning to do a summary post of our first year of hay bale gardening for a while now, and though it's not really garden season right now, I figured it would be as good a time as any to recap Year 1 of the haybale gardening experiment - especially as we will be kicking off Year 2 in just a few weeks!

I posted a few updates throughout the season last year, so feel free to check those out as well if you've missed any, but this time, I wanted to recap the 6 most important lessons I've learned from our first hay bale garden. If you're thinking of trying it, you will want to read this first, so you can avoid making some of the same mistakes I did!

Potato harvestThe harvest!
We're back! Last weekend's late return from our vacation meant I didn't have time to write a post for you, but we're back on schedule now, with some fun stuff this week....

It's hard to believe it's already that time of year: stores are packed with back-to-school shoppers, the garden has that tired, bedraggled look, and you can catch the first glimpses of fall peeking through the worn garments of summer.

This time of year for gardeners is one of the most rewarding, and can also be one of the most challenging: Harvest time!!

As tomatoes and summer squash start to invade every horizontal surface in the kitchen, it can be difficult even to keep up with the daily picking if you have a large garden - let alone the ongoing watering, weeding, etc. Evenings in our kitchen are spent slicing cucumbers, grating zucchini into freezer bags, and peeling tomatoes - and the canning pot is bubbling away on the stove top more often than not.

Luckily, one thing that doesn't really need preserving is potatoes! We finally "dug" the potatoes out of our hay bale garden yesterday, and hopefully these beauties should keep for a while on their own in the cellar. As you probably know by now, this was our first attempt at hay bale gardening, and we've been quite pleased with the results so far; the potatoes are no exception.