It’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows!

So I think it time for a little reality check before the next farmdate.

Not everything works out as planned and I was recently reminded to share my failures and challenges as much as I share the successes.

So I’ve decided to do exactly that with this blog post. Here are a bunch of my mistakes over the last few weeks and hopefully this can help someone who is reading this or at least provide some light entertainment.

Firstly … the garden. Well I don’t know about you but I had this image of this pristine, perfectly manicured garden with trees laden with fruit. Veggie patches blossoming with abundance of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, chilli and all sorts of fresh home grown goodness.

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The reality is that it is far from that. Even with all the best intentions, failure is only a matter of moments away. A lesson I’ve had to learn to accept and now document for the knowledge and entertainment of others.

My seeds and seedlings which I planted in the 1st couple of weeks have all stalled and or died. All my cabbage and chinese cabbage has been and gone with not so much as a single leaf added to any of my meals. (all of them bolting to seed before producing any eatable product)

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So here are my top 3 challenges/mistake/errors when it comes to the garden as well as how I’ve over come them.

1- Soil health… Get composting NOW!!!

This is a big one and the reason my seeds germinated so well but stalled in their growth.  Now this might seem like a no brainer/obvious and maybe it is… but I was caught in this trap. I used normal potting mix to germinate the seeds but then for some reason my mind felt that watering them was sufficient enough to get them to the stage where they could be planted in the ground. This is not the case! Once seeds sprout they need additional nutrition to kick on and grow.

So to combat this going forward, all soil will be conditioned with increased levels of organic material and most importantly creating and using my own compost. If you are thinking about starting a veggie patch, I strongly recommend starting a compost solution before hand. Of course you could just buy it… but that gets expensive and considering up to 40% of our waste can be composted, it makes sense to do it. There are many different methods but of course I went for the cheapest solution which is to just start

2- Weather

Accept the fact that you cannot control the weather. Instead take the time to look at forecasting and understand whats coming over the next few weeks and plan ahead. If I had paid attention to this I would have known that a mini heat wave was on it’s way and planned accordingly. Instead my pride n joy was left roasting in the sun over many days without an ounce of protection.

I also missed the memo about the strong winds that destroyed half my corn crop. This meant some of the corn took an absolute beating and used energy trying to stay alive rather than developing kernels of corn on the cob.

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3- Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

I’ve come to learn that a little more effort up front leads to energy and time saving later. This is very true when it comes to mulching and I’m sure that is a step that many pretend farmers before me have made the crucial mistake of leaving this step out.

Mulch serves many purposes but the 2 core reasons is to keep your weeds at bay as well as keeping moisture in your soil. Without it my soil has dried up quickly and encouraged weeds to bloom and compete with my veggies. Its super simple… don’t be lazy and mulch!

 

Away from the garden I have also dropped the ball on a few things. I can’t think of any other way to put it than … I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Emotionally it has been an incredible challenge to get used to the fact that I am home dad and no longer the corporate man earning corporate $$$. So to compensate for that I started pushing hard on the food truck idea and of course you all know that I know own one.

So now I find myself trying to run a household (new to me), work the land (coz I wanted it to look picture perfect), spend time at the kids school, and organise to get a food truck and business up and running.

I found myself emotionally drain, physically tired and in the end not accomplishing much at all. The household is running ok … not as great as I want it but ok. The garden is a mess and stuff is everywhere and well the food truck is still not operating yet.

So it’s time to implement years of my corporate training into my daily life. Time to priortise, plan, and establish process. I’ll update in the coming weeks with my progress on the 3 P’s above.  Maybe sharing it here is what I need to hold myself accountable.

So the journey so far has not been all sunshine, lollipops n rainbows.  Like anything we do in life, there are going to be hurdles.  So now watch me jump over them!

 

 

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2 thoughts on “It’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows!

  1. I so enjoyed reading another Farmdate. And I *so* feel for you encountering all those challenges. We’ve had an incredibly dry summer, followed by four autumn weeks which delivered more rain than we’d had in the whole of the ‘growing season’. Our early corn either didn’t grow kernels at all, or had little miserable ones. Our second planting of corn produced magnificently. We carefully purchased a variety of seedlings to get an early start on the season — many of them perished or produced poorly in the raging-heat-zero-rain conditions. The beans we shoved in as a last resort have filled several drawers of our freezer (we have upright ones), as well as providing delicious fresh beans for numerous meals. We still make stuff-ups, despite having been at it since 2009. There are a few things and sources that we’ve found helpful. I still need to get my smarts and energy sufficiently gathered at the right time to implement some of these ideas. As most of our money comes from work done on our computers, the farm stuff often takes a backseat, or gets ignored completely in times of killer deadlines. Anyway, the following are my go-to ideas/people/online sources.
    1. Mulch — it absolutely makes a huge difference to water retention and friability of the soil. I watched the ‘Back to Eden’ movie by Paul Gautschi a couple of seasons back. He swears by wood chips as mulch. We tried it on one bed that gets a burning amount of sun. It worked brilliantly! I really want to find a source of wood chips that are not treated. The ones we used were gathered from our firewood chopping station, and are insufficient for our whole garden. Our firewood comes from dead trees on the property, so the possible poisons introduced by ‘treatment’ are not an issue. Gautschi is a staunch Christian, so the movie is threaded through with that perspective, but the information is gold. (I mention this because some people get offended by the religious approach.)
    2. Manure — make friends with people who have horses and need to get rid of their manure. We have an association with the Highveld Horse Care Unit (a kind of SPCA for equines), and they permit us to collect bags and bags of manure for our garden. Our later crop of corn was planted in horsepoo central, and has also contributed significantly to stocking our freezer.
    3. Chickens — fabulous little ground tilling dinosaurs (apparently birds have been officially reclassified as dinosaurs). Use a chicken tractor and movable paddock setup. Visit Justin Rhodes’ website for chicken tractor plans and lots of useful advice. Our chickens are primarily for eggs, and in the first year we had them the laying dropped off markedly as the weather cooled. However, Matthew read a biography of Jane Austin and a tip noted in that was to feed chickens mincemeat when the weather was chilly to keep egg production up. We tried it (with pet mince from the local feed supply store), and it worked brilliantly. Our chickens also seemed much happier and healthier. Yay English Literature.
    4. Start small — the temptation is enormous to go too big too soon. That way leads to misery and weeds: we know, we did it. The Grow Network started by Margery Wildcraft is a fabulous resource for the smallholder. She has lots of free resources on growing stuff, and also on farming rabbits. We went on a rabbit course here a few years back (in fact in the November of the year I visited you all), and that might also be something you might look at. Rabbit poo is great fertilizer; clean rabbit urine sold at that time for Au$15 per litre, we were told. If I remember correctly, it is used by the perfume industry. I just have to get my head around the slaughter/skin/process side of things. So far I’m failing, so we don’t yet have rabbits.
    5. All the places that look like the first pic in this post must be fake, Photoshopped or from another planet — our place is nice enough, but it’s no showpiece! I am always hugely encouraged by Margery Wildcraft’s videos because her very productive yard is also messy.
    6. Permaculture — Geoff Lawton is an Australian who is the world guru of permaculture and frequently quoted by several of the folk noted above. The key idea is that you work with nature and the environment to minimize your workload and maximize production. Justin Rhodes went to Aus to be trained by Lawton. Rhodes web presence is called Abundant Permaculture, and the labour issue became especially pressing for him because he got Lyme Disease and his ability to work was seriously curtailed. He talks about producing half the food for his family of 6 with an hour or so of work a day.
    Sorry about the long and rambling comment. I just wanted to share some of what we’ve found helpful.
    Lots of love to all of you. — Heath

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  2. Failures are the pillars of success and they are rightfully the best forms of learning. Learning from failures are lessons learned and better retained than any textbooks. Remember every situation in any location can be different even within a geographical region. There are numerous factors like on a hill, plain, valley, soil, climate, surrounding vegetations (trees, shrubs and grass) often influence a mini climate / environment on it own. Livestock can and will also affect the environment like the comment on chicken being the greatest ground tilling machine, apart from contribution of fertilisation of the soil. Likewise the farmers are themselves contributing physically to environment through their activities like mowing, tilling and planting of varieties of different plants and trees. The important fact is you have created an environment of your own liking and choice and be happy with it. Enjoy it!
    Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that books are not essential on the contrary they are very important as they usually helps us to understand things better. The principles behind why things happen the way it happens. Even better, it points out why and how we went wrong! What are the remedial action to take and prevent. Also learn from the mistake of others before it happens to you. Do not be despair, on the success of others over your own failures. They may have also learn through their failures too.
    Learning never stop.

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