FD and I had to rethink our garden plot this year. I thought this would be the year I would kick back, put my energy into writing the Daisy deer book, and let the biggest part of the gardening go fallow for a year. Ah, the visions I had of having that morning cup of coffee on the back porch, watching the woodlands below the slope come to life, and then strolling into the house to begin writing. I even got silly thinking about FD cooking the meals, and doing the housework while I pecked away at the keyboard. I guess I got a little crazy with that thought.
Here is the reality of this year. In December FD got this bright idea to try the Paleo diet. You know, the Paleolithic period during the Stone Age – where cavemen hunted and foraged for food. Modern day Paleo man eats clean and preferably grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, and fresh, organic vegetables, fruits and nuts. I will admit the thought of foraging appeals to me. FD and I hunt for wild mushrooms in the spring, and we gather pecan nuts in the fall. We pick wild berries and fruits in the summer months. FD is a hunter, and keeps our freezer stocked with what we consume throughout the year.
Looking over the Paleo diet information, I realized it was not actually going to be a drastic change for us. After all, we had been eating clean meats and fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts for years. The biggest difference was dropping the grains and dairy from our diet. I wondered how I would survive without bread and pasta! And my beloved cheese – who in their right mind would choose to give up cheese? Unthinkable! Thinking of this, I almost hoped his plan to go Paleo would fail. And of course to do it up right and show him this was a ridiculous idea, I decided to take it a notch further and look for organic and non-GMO products. I had been researching that a lot lately. Now seemed to be the time to go gung-ho and get dedicated! Surely the cost and difficulty finding products would show him this diet was just too much trouble.
Then something very unexpected happened. Not three days into the diet, I was feeling amazing. FD and I both noticed we were sleeping better at night and had more energy throughout the day. There was no gas and bloating after meals, and no acid and stomach gnawing in the night. My allergies even seemed better. After three months as Paleo people, we realized this was not a diet – it was a lifestyle and we were not even tempted to veer off of it. We had energy, dropped weight, and agreed we had not felt this good in a very long time.
Before long, I located several online sources to shop for non-perishable Paleo ingredients. I began baking with nut flours and various root powders. I discovered lots of new cooking oils and spices. There were many certified organic and non-GMO products, but they often came at a cost. I was pleased to find that shipping was free with most orders of fifty dollars or more.
Another problem was, in our little town, there were not many Paleo-friendly grocery options. The local Walmart does carry a few organic vegetables, but choices are scant and not dependable from week to week. Again, organic products are generally more expensive. I knew if we wanted to keep costs down and not have to do our shopping in larger cities which were an hour away, we were going to have to increase the size of our garden.
I normally plant herbs, some specialty tomatoes, and a few bell pepper and hot pepper plants around the house. They look nice interspersed with flowers and shrubs. The problem with that is, all sorts of wildlife like to sample the vegetables when we are not looking – like at night when we are sleeping. Still, most critters eat a little and move on. They do not wipe out the whole crop… unless we are talking about birds and grasshoppers. Last year, the birds consumed most of our blackberries, and the grasshoppers devastated my tomato crop!
The regular garden plot has had a fence around it ever since we released Daisy deer. Daisy has a penchant for eating just about anything we grow here on the ten-acre ranch. Over the course of the first year we raised our little orphan, we discovered she liked tomatoes (especially cherry and pear tomatoes), dill, wax beans, snap peas, broccoli florets, yellow squash, and her favorite vegetable of all, cucumbers. We are not talking just the vegetables – the fruit of the crop. No, she ate the entire cucumber plant! She also loved to rip at lettuce and kale, and any other delightful greens she could locate. She nibbled at our corn crop. She hoofed up carrots, white potatoes and sweet potatoes. So, the following year, we invested in expensive horse fence to protect our small garden.
This year, however, we knew the garden plot would have to triple in size to provide enough room to plant the variety of vegetables when had in mind for our new diet. Increasing the fenced garden meant, of course, purchasing more horse fence panels to keep the deer and other small mammals out. And cutting-in a much bigger garden on established Bermuda grass, would take a lot of tilling with our self-propelled Honda. I watched FD wrangle that monster tiller the past three years. We are in our 50’s now, and this is no time to be tearing up shoulders and arms. So, I squeaked all of the way to the implement dealer and cringed as I watched the salesman swipe our credit card. But I had to admit, watching FD on our tractor that afternoon, cutting through the sod with our new tiller attachment, made me feel a whole lot better.
Two weekends later, after a snow and some more bitter temperatures, the sun finally popped out and gave us a couple of warm days. FD drove the T-posts in the ground and put the fence panels up at the garden plot, while I worked at clearing debris from the flowerbeds around the house. We decided to wait and invest in gates for the west side of the garden until next year. Opening two large gates would allow FD to back in with the tractor to till the soil each spring. This year, I would just pull back a fence panel a couple of feet to get in and out. I wasn’t about to spend even more money, when we had already spent a small fortune on a tiller for the tractor, and on additional horse panels and T-posts.
The weather the following week stayed warm, and I was excited about getting my onions in. However, working that first row I knew I would have to ask FD to till the soil deeper on the new ground (beyond the existing plot). It was my fault. I thought it was plenty deep the day he worked the new ground, but after the snow, the powdery soil had settled. I had not thought about the roots of tender new plants having trouble penetrating the dense dirt beneath. So, off came the two west fence panels and out came the T-posts. It was obvious that now was the time to bite the bullet. Again, I squeaked all the way to the farm and ranch store to purchase two new gates and wheels. Cha-ching! I thought about the coronary I would have when the credit card bill came in for that month’s expenses!
That weekend FD managed to till back over the new ground and get the depth just right. I got my onions in and started work getting the wretched Bermuda sprigs pulled out – which I will have to continue to attempt to eradicate for the next two or three years. Bermuda is a horrible grass to get rid of! After getting the soil just right this time, FD put in corner posts and got the new gates with wheels mounted. He wired horse panels to the backs of the gates to keep small mammals from walking through, or certain deer from jumping over. The panels are only 5 feet tall, so a deer could still jump the fence, but I don’t think they will. Even Miss Daisy, who is a sucker for the tomatoes on the other side, did not attempt to jump the fence last year. I guess we will see in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, FD decided to till up four additional patches of land, both up top and down in the woodland bottom, to put deer plots in for Daisy and Spirit and their woodland friends. Perhaps if they have their own gardens, they will not be so likely to raid ours!
Maybe because I had prepared myself for the worst (as I usually expect) I did not have a coronary when I opened the credit card billing yesterday. I had just come in from watching Daisy and Spirit graze in the pasture after they ran off Scarlet deer’s twins. I observed Spirit mimicking her mother, ears back and eyes squinting, hooves a flyin’, while giving chase to the twins as Daisy looked on. Soon, another generation of fawns will grace the woodlands and the cycle will begin anew. I thought about the way Daisy deer had changed my life, and how FD and I had enjoyed what she brought to this place. Somehow, thinking about the cost of accommodating her and her friends was not anything to dwell on. It was the same with the Paleo diet. I balked and grimaced at the initial expense and change I had to implement in shopping, cooking, and baking. Yet, here we were – bodies flourishing and being healthier than we had felt in years. Somehow, being a tightwad was not so important. I think this change just might be a good thing for me!
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…