In February of 2019, I was living the life. I had rented an 1840 log cabin on a 130-acre farm and had a small vegetable garden. My dog, Remy, and I would go for daily walks around the farm and go exploring in the surrounding woods. The landlord wanted a long-term tenant. I told them I planned on dying there. Well, life has a way of saying — not so fast there girlie.
At the beginning of March, we had a lot of snow on the ground. I let Remy out that morning and the next thing I remember was the sheriff knocking at my door to ask me if I had a dog. I said I did and he told me she had been hit by a car. At first, I thought that it couldn’t be her cause she never left the yard. I went upstairs to put on clothes as I was still in my robe. I had trouble walking up the stairs as my legs had gone weak and once upstairs I forgot how to put pants on. I just couldn’t figure it out so I put on my coat and went out with my leggings on.
Yes, it was my girl, my heart, my friend. Gone. I found deer tracks in the snow and knew that she had chased the deer into the road. Anyone who has owned a treasured pet knows the grief of losing a pet so unexpectedly.
Later that same month my landlord stopped by to chat. I had a bad feeling about it. I couldn’t pinpoint why but I just knew all this small talk was leading me somewhere I didn’t want to go.
He told me that they were closing down their gardening business and moving part of it back to the farm, and one of their employees needed a place to live and that I had to move out. He gave me 6 months. I thought, how could things get worse. What had I done, in this or a previous life to put me in this awful situation.
After living on the farm I realized that I loved and felt at home being in nature. I REALLY didn’t want to move back to an apartment, but I thought that it would be my only option. My daughter had just bought a house with her girlfriend and suggested I try to see if I could get approved for a mortgage. I tried and was approved! The hunt was on. My excitement soon turned into dread.
All the areas that I wanted to move to were way out of my price range. So I ended up buying a small house in an iffy area of Milwaukee. It was a tiny house but had a big backyard, so I bought it. I wanted to put in a garden and the yard had potential.
And lucky for me, I saw that there was a small vegetable garden already there, about 12′ x 15′. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the garden hadn’t been touched in years. There were small trees in it. So I got to work — I mean, how hard could it be?
This was a mess of weeds and small trees
Really hard. Each tree took about an hour each to get all the roots out. And the other plants, which I still don’t know the name of were all connected by underground runners, so I have to dig out every square inch of the garden to make sure I got them all. By the middle of June I knew I had to get plants in or I wouldn’t be harvesting anything, so I decided to use hay bales in half of the garden. It worked out pretty well! I added a couple of trellises’ I had from the farm and we were off and growing food!
I wanted to grow more. So the next spring I had my friend Rock come and cut down the 4 pine trees. I then signed up at getchipdrop.com and had truckloads of woodchips delivered. I saved all my cardboard boxes (removing any tape and address labels and got to work.
I started out by putting the cardboard down and then putting in about 6 inches of woodchips. I made the beds about 36 inches wide and about 20 or so feet long. I made the path between the beds about two feet wide. I then laid down about 9-12 inches of soil and we were off and running.
I ended up using a lot of old wood left at the house by the previous owner and built the raised beds. By the end of the summer, I was able to grow quite a bit of fresh produce.
I also added some cattle panels, which you can find at any farm/tractor supply store, and put in a trellis, which I planted red runner and Chinese Noodle beans. It was fascinating to me to watch everything grow. It became my happy place. Isn’t it amazing to watch a tiny seed turn into something that feeds you and your family? I think so.
I did most of this myself. I don’t tell you this to brag but to say “If I can do it, you can do it!“
So take part of your lawn and grow some food!
This was a great way to use up ALL my cardboard boxes!