Three years ago we bought a house. If you’ve been a reader for a while, thanks for following along on this crazy adventure! If you are a new, here is a quick summary. My husband and I bought in 2013. The house was built in 1945 and we are the second owners. When the original owners passed away, it rented for a few years, the kids half-assed flipped the house with the cheapest materials possible, then sold it to us. The lot is a bit over a 1/2 acre, and had clearly not been touched in at least a decade. Since day one, we’ve been battling invasive weeds, no drainage, poor soil, and general disrepair in effort to create our urban homestead, to grow our own food, live sustainable and intently.
Here is what we’ve accomplished in year three:
The big project of this year was installing 3,650 gallons of rainwater harvesting systems. The 825 gallon Blue Barrel System is off the chicken coop, and a 2,825 gallon tank captures the runoff from my house. Right now we are just using a hose to fill watering cans and to slowly water the fruit trees, but soon I’ll get a booster pump and feed though drip. Both were filled from the first big storm, in January.
Every year has been dedicated to fencing. Year 3 saw the completion of the fence on the West side of the property line. We also built the permanent chicken pasture fence, as well as the arbor for the kiwi and a double-swinging gate.
On the garage side of the house, we started tackling the “jungle”: an overgrown mess of privet, blackberries, quince, rose, boxwood, wisteria and cranium lily. We built a side fence and gate with an arbor, which hopefully I’ll get the wisteria trained onto sometime this year.
Another big project was getting the disaster of a concrete patio/weed maze broken up. You can read about that project here, and I have been slowly using up the pieces, like in the most recent planter bed and lining pathways. In the area now clear, I’ve established mulched paths and I started to establish planting beds, but haven’t quite finished. This area is a total mess, with uneven surfaces, partially sheet mulched, partially planted, and scattered chunks of concrete. But now I have only a small bit of concrete surrounding my well; permeable surfaces = happy Melissa.
The garden continues to grow. Right now, it sees the transition between winter and spring. We just started to build the second row of raised beds on the East side of the pathway, which will hopefully be finished before the big summer plant out. With diligent pulling and sheet mulching, we’ve done some major weed control and soil improvement, but still battling with Bermuda grass (as we probably will be for life.)
Personally, I feel the biggest accomplishment for this past year is that I’ve brought my soil to life. In the first two years, even with digging almost every day, I only saw maybe 10 worms. Now, I find several regardless if I’m digging in my raised beds or the native soil. I hold the 15 yards of horse manure, 40 yards of arbor mulch, 50 yards of compost, about a billion sheets of cardboard, and several plantings of cover crops responsible. I’ve also seen lizards, salamanders, butterflies and caterpillars, tons of beneficial insects, and of course, bees. Nothing makes me happier than to know my garden supports life.
One things that has not improved in the three years is the front. We’ve made it worse. Much worse. When we bought, it was a nice mowed lawn, albeit Bermuda grass. We neither watered nor mowed. We drove across it and have used it as a deliver zone. Now, its a mess of weeds in assorted heights, various naturalized bulbs, and suckers from assorted trees. The Blenheim apricot is 75% dead and we’ve got black drainage pipes and ditches from the gutters running all over the place. Plus, its perpetually the home to a giant pile of either mulch or compost. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised to hear if neighbors wonder about our mental state. Hopefully this year I’ll get out there and do something, even if its just sheet mulching the whole thing.
As we embark on year 4, my goals are to (successfully) keep bees, install irrigation, build a habitat pond, build the rest of the raised beds, and hopefully plant berries. Make sure to follow along!