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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

LivingOff Grid - Our garden at Elevation 4200'

SideshotNot only are we new at living off grid but we are also new at gardening. This is only our second year but our garden is doing well. Laurie is the prime planter, caretaker, and waterer. We have twice as many types of vegetables as we did last year and almost all of them are thriving.

Starting January 01, 2012 I started keeping a weekly journal of everything from daily temperatures and weather to how much wood we were burning, when the snow started to melt, and other things that matter to us living where we do. This spring and summer I have included the garden topics so we would have a better idea ahead of time next year on when we could do our seedlings and starts inside the house prior to transplanting them into the garden.

We live at an elevation of 4200’. The snow left this year by April 25 but the ground was still frozen. I finally rototilled the garden May 18. By that time people down in the valley were already mowing their lawns and seeing their first vegetables popping out of the ground.

We were eating fresh vegetables out of our insulated cold frames - spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Once those were all done we replaced them with cherry tomato plants and more spinach in late May.

Beans 2012On June 10, I made an entry into the journal that the beans had come up and died. The temperatures were still in the 30’s. That is cold even for here. The other veggies – peas, spinach, garlic, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli were all okay. Now that we have all this recorded, next year we will adjust our planting times accordingly. By June 25, everything had been planted including the corn.

By July 20, only five weeks later I recorded the following – “Garden – is growing like crazy. Corn is 3’ tall. Beans ½ up the pole. Tomatoes just starting to show, eating lettuce, spinach, and peas. Potatoes are waist high”. We were later than the valley gardens but coming on strong. Mother Nature just seems to know how to get it done.

Our corn is only 6’ tall but the ears are already 2/3 filled out. We even have ears of corn on stalks that are only 4’ tall.

Corn CloseupAugust 19 - “Garden – corn husks are showing. Beans are blossomed. Tomatoes are green. Potatoes are almost done, dying off now. Peas are done. Broccoli and cauliflower are coming on strong. Cucumbers are starting to develop. Carrots just starting to show green tops. Zucchini – lots and lots right now. Lettuce – too many – dying. Beets did not come up – again.”

This journal is going to be so helpful for future garden planning.

We water our garden from our two cisterns which receive water off our house roof when it rains. It hasn’t rained here in six weeks and we are finally having to pump water out of the well for the garden. When we installed the cisterns we put an extra pipe and valve into the cisterns from our pressurized water system. All I have to do is turn a valve and the cisterns will fill up from our pressure water system. One item of interest concerning water is that we know the prior property owners hauled water for their garden from a spring over a mile away, all by hand. They used the same well we do. Cisterns work and because of them our slow producing well has not been over used and is still producing enough for all of our needs. We have never run out of water.
Laurie waters everything by hand which saves a lot of water as opposed to using some other means like a sprinkler that waters every square inch of garden including those areas that don’t have plants. This time of year it doesn’t take much water, just a little more time to do it by hand.

Finish Product 2012We have been eating out of the garden or insulated cold frames since April when it was 18 degrees F. This next year we are going to try to grow vegetables in the cold frames the year ‘round. We are eating, canning and freezing everything we grow. We have given away plenty of produce as well.

We live in the heart of apple orchard country. I have been told by everyone that we can’t grow apples this high. We’ll see about that next year. One thing at a time. I do know there are crab apple trees two miles from us on an old homestead. I wouldn’t bet against us.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their websites  and