In all honesty, I do I say my fair share of “I quit!”, “I’ve HAD it” and “I’m not doing this anymore”. Especially when I find myself trying to wrangle some creature more stubborn than I – and faster and sometimes much bigger! Or when it’s hot and humid and I’m outside sweating. Or whenever things are just not going my way. The title above should probably say ” quitting is not ALWAYS giving up” because sometimes it’s a smart decision.
When we had just begun to think about starting our little farm we happened to rent “The Biggest Little Farm” (click for the preview!) a truly inspiring documentary about a couple setting out to start a sustainable farm on 200 acres in CA -and doing it all in harmony with nature and wildlife. I was inspired and it certainly gave Scott the final push he needed to jump into farming!
I of course had visions of grandeur, seeing myself tending to our animals, looking out over our immaculate and very productive gardens, growing fruit, veggies and berries. I researched and bought seeds of 7 different types of tomatoes among other things. Who knew tomatoes came in so many different colors? I planted, saw the seedlings sprout, repotted them as they grew and finally planted them in my newly made strawbale garden I had decided on while I was improving our soil by using the cardboard method. We planted several types of apple trees, peach trees and cherry trees. Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries and Gooseberries. Pumpkins, beans, squash, garlic, potatoes. I wanted to start small. (Can you see where this is going? LOL)
Then came the summer and it got very hot. And very humid. I blame my intolerance to these conditions to me being a native Swede- whether that is true or not- I just can’t seem to function well in heat. After taking care of the farm animals I inevitably flee into air conditioning. My neglected gardens just seem to explode with weeds. Weeds like heat. And droughts. Amazing.
The sheep became experts in raiding what was left of our gardens; they also went for flowers if there were no veggies. I often wonder about what our neighbors think when they hear me loudly yelling at them to get OUT!! My daughter’s potbelly pigs broke OUT of their pen and IN to my gardens, trampling and rooting and eating their way through the rest of it.
Our newly planted fruit trees got their bark rubbed off, branches broken and some were snapped by visiting deer with antlers in the fall. Next spring a pig we were trying to load unto the trailer backed into another tree and broke it in half. As if it was no bigger than a toothpick.
Currently one apple tree is large, another two not much bigger than when they were planted. The peach trees all have grown very big. As you can see in the picture. The apple trees have the red rings around them. But we got flowers this spring, so fingers crossed for peaches. I did buy nets to put over them, so birds and squirrels won’t abscond with them – again! My one cherry seems to want to live- in spite of my sheep trying to eat all its leaves. They even climbed the fence we put up around it and bent the lightweight t-posts holding it up. Time for heavy duty fence posts.
I did have a few results over the years. Like ONE insanely good peach (The other 3 disappeared just as they were ripe). I saw lots of gooseberries being almost ripe. A couple of days later they were all gone. Scott’s pumpkins looked fabulous- and then there were nothing but stems. Other pumpkins that had self-seeded where the sheep and pigs had eaten them the previous year actually made it into pumpkins before they too were devoured. I still have some gooseberry bushes growing. We’re calling a “fruit tree guy” for advice on our trees as there is obviously more to it than we know. I keep buying plants. Like a pollinator garden for the bees I’m getting next spring (It too got eaten by our sheep). The temporary fencing keeps failing.
I tell myself success is still obtainable, so I ask Scott for more – and better- fencing. I also make friends with gardeners who know what they are doing. Maybe their green thumbs and knowledge will rub off on me. My brain tells me to quit- but then I look at all the produce so many of my friends are getting, and totally jealous of their successes I decide to try one more time!
The first year of farming, I started a mealworm farm. (Read about it here) I wanted to be able to feed my chickens a lovely, yummy and nutritious treat. I saw myself surrounded by my girls who happily pranced around my feet, waiting for their treats. I was very successful and had literally thousands of mealworms. I found myself spending more and more time caring for them, separating worms from the beetles, feeding them and cleaning their boxes. Maybe my system was flawed- it seemed to take much too long than it was worth. I decided to quit. I did not find that the time I spent on them was a fair trade for some yummy chicken treats, and my girls are back to finding their own bugs while foraging. Except for when I find worms gardening- then I’m very happy to share!
I got Swedish Flowerhens and an incubator. I was set on breeding lots of beautiful chicks. But the foxes kept taking my hens. So I did give up on that project. Of course- the constant heartbreak of losing our favorite birds made us invest in a Colorado Mountain Dog- our Freja for protection. She is so wonderful that Scott decided to breed her. Doing research to find a suitable male led me to the “discovery” of the Italian Sila. And now we are waiting for our beautiful Sila breeding pair that we’re picking up in Italy this fall when it’s no longer too hot for them to fly. In the pictures you can see Freja with our sheep; Calabria, the female as a puppy; and Scott getting his cuddles in with Appelle, our male.
We started out breeding Mangalitsa pigs. Today we don’t have one single Mangalitsa on our farm. The Mangalitsas were too hard. They rooted too much. Were hard to handle. The boars were not always safe. We had to work a lot harder making sure our fencing didn’t get destroyed by them and kept filling in holes and reseeding pastures that looked like moonscapes due to all the craters they made. Now we have Meishans, and Meishan mixes, and life got a LOT easier!
My point is this; Quitting what doesn’t work for you is not necessarily the same as giving up. It can be the consequence of evaluating what you do. Quitting can free you up to do something new and different.
If I still fail at gardening after we have good fences, drip irrigation in place and a lot of mulch to suppress the weeds, THEN I will give up on gardening. Happily. But I have a few more things to try! Maybe when my farm starts making money, I’ll hire a gardener!