Blooming Where You’re Planted

new-house-029Several Years ago we moved into our current home saying “We’ll move to a rural home in a few years…”  

Our current home is on the freeway- literally: this picture was taken with me leaning on our back fence… which is owned by the D.O.T. Follow the link for the backstory on that.  Our land was a farm field before we moved in – so in every sense of the phrase: we are urban sprawl.  The rich Wisconsin topsoil was mined and replaced with quarry pilings as backfill.  In this dead denuded landscape I found the inspiration to Be The Change.  I intended to spend the years that we had in this home building the skills I needed to become a small scale farmer, and just maybe adding something meaningful to the growing body of knowledge on small scale agriculture and (sub)urban farming. tour-resizeBy the third season, we had taken our soil from the above apocalyptic scene where not even dandelions would grow, to gardens producing 500#’s of produce annually.  We had packed enough design and beauty into the landscape that we were literally holding tours.

We had always intended to move – in fact 2009 was the the planned exodus.  I have learned most of the skills that I need to start a small farm, but the economy is not playing ball.  Due to the fall of our home’s value and the simultaneous ratcheting up of loan requirements, it will be 2-3 more years until we have the down money for our Someday House.  There are certainly some bright spots – Matt commented that one of his friends sold his home on craigslist due primarily to his descriptions of their edible landscape.  That is certainly encouraging, but for now we need to hunker down and Bloom Where We’re Planted.

Goals for this year at the Home Garden:

  • Declare War on Quack – it will be pushed back into the lawn and methodically eradicated by oversowing Dutch White Clover which is the only thing I have found that will outcompete it.  I am spending too much time disturbing my permaculture beds rooting out rhizomes.  
  • Fertility – the fruit trees have lanquised in the poor soil.  Time for some serious uppening!  Major 2′ deep sheet mulching projects are planned .
  • Function – many of the guilds are haphazard right now.  I plan on revisiting them to stack in more functions to reduce our grocery bill and add to our produce sales.
  • Beauty – the backyard is a Hot Tranny Mess of paths, half finished beds and conflicting design patterns as I have sought to try out the theories from whatever book I had just read.  It needs to be redesigned from a master plan level to repurpose current work and add direction to future efforts.  
  • Trees –  we have not planted many Apex Trees due to our planning on leaving soon.  I am not sure that will be an option if the bottom continues to drop out, so Hybrid Chestnuts and other fast growing yet functional trees are on the docket as well as more mid story trees like Black Locust and Cherry to begin to add a canopy.


While we loathe the freeway and still dream of acreage, the house is nice and the gardens a source of pride.   The work we are doing here is meaningful as we work to demonstrate the possibilities in the suburbs and with the partnerships we have formed I have access to all the additional land I need to satisfy my farming itch.  

This year is already incredibly busy and I have already bitten off more than I can chew, but the work is pleasant and needed; my problems are High Level.  The goal will be to continue to refine my ability to focus and define what  is most critical to increase my ability to do more with the resources I have at my disposal.  Growing 2000#’s of food sustainably in a suburban backyard is still a huge goal, and so is the Market Gardens and our side business of ecological landscaping.  Finding ways to accomplish my personal goals without sacrificing my family life or paying job will be an ongoing struggle as I fight burnout.  Taking time to look at those first pictures of the property and comparing them to the bounty we have now is always refreshing.  We have done many things well in a short time.

Be the Change.



7 Responses

  1. I’m right there with you. We have empty land, but not the money to build there. Meanwhile I am feeling compelled to look more and more carefully at the property we’re living in. We’ve been here since late ’06, and have not yet maxed out our production on this space. We put in asparagus and fruit trees this year, and we’re now looking at the less obvious places to grow stuff. We’re aiming for at least a 400# harvest this year.

    It’s good to hear from others doing similar things.

  2. Hey Kate,

    Just bought lumber for a”potato tower” which allegedly can produce up to 100#’s of spuds from as little as 4 sq ft. Total cost? About $30 counting the screws and spuds – giving the home owners the option of rally cheap heirloom organic spuds.

    Expect a post soon!

  3. There should be an emoticon for “thumbs up”.

    Great post.

  4. down-home potato tower: couple of garbage bins. Just drill holes in the bottom for drainage and there ya go.

  5. Rob, I look forward to that post. I could use some good, frugal ways of growing more potatoes in less space.


  6. Can’t wait to see the potato tower, right now mine are taking 50 square feet of space.

    We were kind of in the opposite boat, when we bought our house my wife (who had moved an inordinate amount of times as a child) and I believed “this is it.” Of course we also believed we weren’t going to be having kids. And I knew I wanted a garden, but I never believed I would go off the deep end so to speak. I’m happy to say we still don’t plan on going anywhere. The house is cozy but not cramped, and I’d rather wake up one morning and realize I don’t have to go to work anymore because I can grow enough to feed us, (and then some) on our little postage stamp plot of land. May never happen but a guy can dream cant he?

    The future needs a variety of people with different plans, and when people like me who live elbow to elbow with their neighbors need to look to rural farmers for the more area intensive foods, hopefully there will be plenty of sustainably minded folks to provide it.

    And in 3 years when you do move on, think of the gift you will have left behind.

  7. Thanks One Straw for the perspective. Reading stories like yours make me hopeful that we can also pull it off, we just need to be in less of a hurry to get it all done by our first season…
    We’re also building potato bins, by the way. Don’t use earlies in them, though, is what I’ve read, preferably only late seasons ones. I’m growing Bintjes in them, the best french fry potato all round!

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