Just Chores, but So Much Fun!!!!

Gosh, it's been a fun weekend. The highlight was spending an afternoon with a very good friend, and we had a lively exchange of garden ideas, garden gifts, and love. On top of that we had an impromptu invitation for dinner at a neighbor's house last night - more exchanges of gardening tips and delicious produce! I tasted my first prickly pear fruit (delicious, but lots of seeds!) grown in their garden, and ate some amazing grilled fresh catfish they had caught in Oregon the week before. We brought an heirloom tomato salad with Tom's good Farmer Cheese and basil from the garden on top. Plus some of Tom's garlic dill pickles. Kate made cookies to share, the kids all made a huge bonfire, it was just a great time! A perfect official end to summer vacation, as we get back into the school and work routine this week.

I also had a lot of time to spend in the garden and kitchen, and I got a lot done (I'm headed out again after this post, in fact - potatoes to harvest for dinner!). Mainly just chores, but still, it's such a pleasure to spend time outdoors, then come in for a glass of hibiscus iced tea and make something interesting in the kitchen, then back outdoors for more sunshine and sweat.

Here's the roundup:

Bees and other bugs:
Tom and I opened the hive and there continues to be NO EVIDENCE of wax moths - looks like we caught them just in time. Hallelujah! The ants are also staying away, and the bees are making a LOT of honey. We saw very little pollen, a small amount of brood (consistent with the fact that winter is coming), and a ton of nectar and capped honey. The bees are definitely preparing for cold weather stores. I see them all over my flowers, and I am patting myself on the back that there is plenty of forage for them right now, my early planning is paying off.

In the spirit of continuing that trend, I just scattered many more packets of seed everywhere, mixed in with good compost - more sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and lots of herbs - oregano, thyme, sage, marjoram. I hope to continue blossoms all the way through October.

I watched a tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on some salvia, two cabbage white butterflies (nuisances, but cute ones) chasing each other through the watermelon patch, and scads of monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries feeding on the tithonia. The bees are over everything, especially a very interesting salvia I planted last spring. I can't remember what it's called, darn it.

cosmos

cosmos

guara

Agastache sunset

No idea what this is but I like it!

a bee working in salvia

an old-fashioned rose, left over from the previous owners.
I don't keep many roses as the deer just eat them, but this
one seems to stay safe, somehow

bees working in the chive blossoms

California fuchsia next to a tiny zinnia

nasturtium

an interesting seed pod, I can't remember what this is

another interesting seed pod, this is from Nigella (Love in a Mist)

another cosmos, the varieties are endless

more beautiful cosmos

some sort of native milkweed, I think, from our watershed

native California columbine

California asters

bees working in the native CA gum plant. The buds are very interesting, too

This is that salvia that the bees are going crazy for

Something about to bloom! Don't remember what it is, but I'm still excited!


Chickens:
We're continuing to get five beautiful eggs every day, and the chooks are in good health. Now that I've fed them the last of the collards and romaine from the garden, I'm trying hard to find other sources of greens for them. Sometimes I'll pick the pole bean leaves for them, they love those. Lately I've been chopping down huge swathes of borage and taking it in to them, and they fiddle with that all day. I just planted some special grass in pots that both cats and birds can eat; as soon as it grows, I'll put a pot in there for them to enjoy, and then switch it out as it gets mowed down. I also give them any tomato that has blossom end rot, cucumbers that have gotten too big and bitter for us, and assorted nasturtium leaves, along with scratch, sunflower seeds, and stale yogurt or milk from the fridge.

That one on the top right is bigger than normal. ouch.


Cooking:
I tried two new experiments in the kitchen this weekend. The first was a roasted tomato sauce for the freezer. I mixed together about four cups of chopped tomatoes (all kinds), five chopped shallots, five cloves of chopped garlic, a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a handful of chopped basil. I put it all on a cookie sheet, and put it in the oven for two hours at 300 degrees, stirring it once after an hour. It made the most delicious smell in the house, and all of that reduced down to about a pint for the freezer. Not a huge yield, but what's nice about this is I can make a pint or so every weekend with what's available, and soon we'll have a nice hoard of roasted tomato sauce in the freezer.

both paste and slicers

basil, garlic, and shallot from the garden




I also decided to try to make fermented whole pickles, like the kind you get at real deli counters. This is also a recipe I can make with whatever is on hand, and add more cucumbers as I harvest them. It works best for smaller fresh pickles, apparently, and if I wait until I have a ton of cucumbers, half of them are too big and bitter, so this recipe appeals to me. I made a brine of 6 tablespoons kosher (or pickling) salt to one quart of water and heated it till the salt dissolved. Meanwhile I added, to a large mason jar, one grape leaf from our neighbor's grapevines, two bay leaves, two smashed garlic cloves, a 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp, 2 heaping teaspoons of dill, and 2 teaspoons of other pickling spices (allspice, coriander, mustard seed, etc). If I had any fresh dill left in the garden, I would have added that too. Then I washed the cucumbers and cut a thin slice off the blossom end (apparently you don't want the blossom part in the brine, it makes it taste funky). I put the pickles in with the spices and poured the hot brine over them. I weighted it down with another half-pint mason jar, then put the lid on. You are supposed to let it sit out for two weeks, at least, at room temperature (between 70-80 degrees). The brine will get cloudy. You can add an airlock, like with beer or sauerkraut, or you can 'burp' the pickles about once a week until they are the way you want 'em. You can let them sit up to six weeks on your counter if you want maximum fermentation, or you can put them in your fridge after two. I guess tasting will tell us when they are just right. They'll then keep in the fridge for six months. I'll add more cucumbers, maybe two more, as they ripen.





I also mixed up a new batch of Thieves Vinegar. I do this every two weeks. I pick lavender or mint from the garden, stuff it into a mason jar, and cover the whole thing with apple cider vinegar. I let it sit out in the sun, lidded, for two weeks. Then I decant into another clean jar and use it in the laundry room as a natural fabric softener. We love the spicy smell, and we like that it doesn't have any chemicals.



Produce from the garden:
We're harvesting tomatoes (all kinds), both sweet and hot peppers, green beans, delicata squash, watermelons, cucumbers, basil, and potatoes. We're a hairsbreadth away from butternut squash and cantaloupe. We're a little further out from pumpkins and sweet potatoes. The buckwheat cover crop is doing well, and we've had some new growth (surprisingly!) in many areas - the asparagus patch (a spring crop, for heaven's sake), the alpine strawberry patch, and the apple tree seems to be putting out another crop for us! That summer pruning must have made the apple tree feel extremely refreshed. We aren't complaining!

watermelon blossom

Bloody Butcher tomatoes

Alpine strawberry blossom

pumpkin blossom

Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers

Panache fig

buckwheat cover crop

asparagus patch

apple blossom

second crop of apples


Jobs looming on the horizon:
As crops put out their last fruits, I'll pull them, and put in a quick cover crop of buckwheat. After a month of the cover crop, I'll turn it in and let it rot, then cover each bed with a layer of compost from the chicken coop (heavy mulch made up of hay, sawdust, lots and lots of manure, and whatever vegetable or fruit bits didn't get eaten). Around the first of November, I'll start moving aside that mulch and plant our winter crops in. We'll need to make hoop tunnels for the North Garden and make sure the ones in the South Garden are secure, and order new floating row cover. I'll need to order garlic and shallot starts soon, as well as winter seed (kale, spinach, chard, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, turnips, more romaine, braising greens, possibly even red winter wheat). We'll need to watch the beehive vigilantly as varroa mite season is coming up, and we don't want a repeat of last year. There's still a lot of preserving in our near future as we continue to can and freeze the harvest - we've got the two hottest months of summer coming up in September and October, here! I need to sheet mulch the little bit of grass we have left and decide what the heck to do with that area - a huge herb garden, with paths winding around so you brush against the plants and smell them? Or a native California meadow, with summer-dormant grasses and lots of spring bulbs? What do you think? I'd like to sheet mulch it in the next month, and plant it once there is a hope of winter rain.

I hope, wherever you are, you are enjoying some time outside and enjoying nature!







Summer Winding Down

It's been a busy week with the kids starting back to school, and me starting back to work. The garden has taken a back seat.

Today I harvested corn and jalapeños for a roasted corn and tomato salad, but then it got too hot outside to finish the other stuff on my to-do list. I need to pull out the beans and the collapsed trellis, and pull out the corn stalks. I need to collect potatoes, as all the vines have died off, and that's a good sign that they're ready for harvest.

Unfortunately I need to pull out the sweet potatoes.  For weeks, they grew and looked amazing, and then the deer found them and ate every single leaf. They grew back, and the deer ate them again. I have no idea if any fruit was formed; I doubt it, as I never saw a single flower. It's so disappointing! The deer have eaten most of the acorn and butternut squash leaves, though I do have some fruit maturing. They have eaten a lot of tomatoes and most of the leaves off the sweet pepper plants. Their timing in the flower garden is uncanny: I see a bud and think to myself, tomorrow there will be a flower! And that night the deer come eat the buds. The hungry and thirsty deer have found my little buffet, and have no intentions of leaving it alone. I don't mind if they eat a little, but they have eaten a LOT, and every morning there is more evidence of their destruction.

I suppose I need to design some sort of deer fence. I'm unhappy about this, because I find deer fences difficult to navigate around and within. They are also ugly, at least if they are slapdash, and slapdash is all I can afford. I suppose I need to experiment more with companion planting. For instance, the deer stay entirely away from the pumpkins, because they are prickly (I'm guessing). And they've stayed away from my herb spiral, presumably because it's smelly. So interplanting could help me a lot.

Ah well, at this point in the summer, the garden is actually slowing down here, though I know in most of the country, this is prime harvest time. My stuff is nearly played out, anyway. I'm looking ahead to a winter garden and have ordered seeds both from Renee's and High Mowing. I'm planning on kale, chard, spinach, lettuce; shelling and snap peas; broccoli and kohlrabi; and beets. I also ordered two cover crops; buckwheat and crimson clover. I'm going to put the buckwheat in now, for a quick crop before the frost comes. We have two hot months ahead of us here in Northern California, in fact September and October can be our hottest and driest months, and buckwheat can withstand that. It will add nutrition to the soil, and produce small white flowers from which the bees can collect nectar. Then in the winter, I will plant the clover, hoping it will flower in the warmish days and therefore provide forage for the bees during the cooler months. The trick with cover crops, and yes I'm nervous about it, is cutting them down and tilling them in before they go to seed.

In the bee hive, the bees have started converting yet another brood comb to honey production, so the queen is definitely laying fewer eggs. I'm very happy that there are a few combs of honey; hopefully I won't have to feed the bees all winter long. A neighbor of mine has many blooming cacti in his yard and I think those are single-handedly keeping the bees fed. That along with the pumpkins in that same yard and in my yard. Most of my neighbors have reported an increase in bee activity in their flower and vegetable beds, which makes me happy, and provides more beauty and food for the humans!

Also last weekend we saw the queen for the first time!


The queen is in the center of this picture, to the right and down a little. You can see that she is darker in color than the worker bees, and longer, with a thinner bottom. You can see some capped brood around her, as well as some nectar at the top of the picture.

On my hikes, I also notice that summer is winding down, even though the heat fools us into thinking otherwise. In early August, I became aware that acorns were falling from the oaks. That's very early, and in my opinion, is likely a sign of the deep drought we are in. The acorns litter the ground wherever I hike, now.


The valley and interior oaks are also already losing a lot of leaves, another sign of the dry conditions. It looks like fall, in the hills.


The fact that those two hot and dry months are coming up makes me worry about fire.

On a happier note, a friend offered me the rabbit poop from her hutch. She brought over a good-sized bucket, and I decided to add it to my compost bin, even though you can put this stuff directly on your garden. I thought it might speed up the stuff in my bin, and make it ready more quickly.


I've also sent out several emails to local farms asking about the availability of aged manure. I don't know how I will transport it, but I'd love to spread a couple inches over all the veg and flower beds, as well as under the fruit trees and bushes. The asparagus also needs several inches.

Another item on my autumn to-do list: rent a jackhammer and take out our front path, which we have always hated, and replace it with pavers. Then, dig the dry creek bed in the front yard (which we sheet mulched last spring), and plant 30-50 native plants around it. Just a *little* project. I'm hoping that as the fall routine of school and work gets easier, and the weather gets cooler, we'll have more time and energy to put in to this project.

My heart and mind were nervous this week with my special-needs daughter starting middle school. And then, while cleaning in her room, I spotted this gem on her desk:


And suddenly, I wasn't nervous any more.

Happy Labor Day to everyone, and on we go to September!

Quiet

Things have been quiet at Poppy Corners, at least in the garden. The kids are super busy with end-of-school-year projects and events, in my first grade classroom we're counting down the days to the last day of school, and even Tom can breathe a sigh of relief as the college gears down for summer, when all the administrators can finally get some work done. We've had band concerts and musicals and special rite of passage projects and auditions for the opera and exciting, hectic times. The neighborhood pool opened, which means a daily swim wedged in there somewhere, and the house smells of sunscreen and chlorine.

But in the garden, it's been quiet. The days are warming up and lengthening, the trees are in full leaf, we're getting at least a few strawberries and blueberries every day now. The peaches are getting big and should be starting to ripen mid-June, I can't wait until my first peach smoothie. We're getting carrots every few days and the last of the spring peas.

The potatoes I was worried about are overflowing their cage - the shoots and leaves are strong, huge, and growing a lot every day. The asparagus has put out more spears and has 'fronded' - is that a word? - it's all big and ferny. The sweet potato slips are growing, putting up leaves. The herb spiral looks great, and I'm harvesting herbs from that frequently. I've found I really like sorrel mixed in with my daily greens in my morning frittata.

But there's lots of questionable things going on in the new raised beds, and I fear we may not have much of a crop this first year. The manure has helped. But several vegetables still look sickly and are not growing properly. I planted more corn in the bed which had the lettuces and cilantro. I figure if the lettuces finally take off (doubtful now it's getting hot), and the corn actually grows, they can hang out together for a little while. The pumpkins I planted have germinated and look pretty good, and the pole beans which were supposed to grow on corn are taking over said corn, so I'll have to figure out a trellising system for those.

The cherry and slicing tomatoes are going gangbusters, but the paste tomatoes are in the new beds look very sad, and my dreams of canning lots of tomato paste are fading.

In the flower garden, sunflowers are growing up up up. I'm hoping some summer seeds of cosmos will germinate for the bees. In fact I need to plant a bunch of summer flowers for the bees, as their forage opportunities are definitely coming to an end. We opened the hive yesterday, and everything looks good - but the rate at which they are building new comb has definitely slowed, and we didn't even add another bar. They are making lots of bee babies but not a lot of honey. I didn't expect to harvest any honey this year for our own use, but I am concerned that they won't have enough even for themselves through winter. I look at my neighborhood with a different eye - what will bloom in the months ahead? Right now the bees are collecting from my catalpa tree, and any leftover spring poppies, lupines, wisterias. In June, there are two Chinese Tallow trees nearby which always attract lots of bees. In July, the sunflowers might sustain them. But what happens in August? And the driest, most arid months in Fall? I have to plant now to have forage for them, then. And I have to plant a lot. Masses of the same few flowers. So I've been researching late summer/early fall bloomers, that are loved by honeybees, and trying to figure out how to pay for a huge quantity of them.

Some branch trimming is to be done by me today in the back garden. Our apple tree is being quite shaded out by our flannel bush (which is much larger than the apple tree), so I need to cut back the flannel bush, now it's done blooming. But it's called flannel bush for a reason - the leaves are covered with tiny fine hairs which come off when bushed against - and it itches like crazy. I have to do it right before we go jump in the pool, or I'll go crazy with itching. Guess I'll be trimming branches in my swimming suit!

Slowing Down (or, What Asparagus Can Teach Us)

Lately, I've been having an interesting back-and-forth conversation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, by email. This is a person I love deeply and will hold close in my heart for the entirety of my life, and on top of that, he works in an industry that has its finger on the pulse of What People Want. The discussion has been about how we connect, what we have time for when it comes to hearing about our friends and family. And his position seems to be this: Facebook is the only possible way to stay connected to people in these busy times.

He posits that there is only enough time for quick updates, read between busy days at work and home, in a brief spare moment, maybe while making some dinner, or walking the dog.

I don't think this position is unique. It seems that pretty much everyone I know buys in to it. I certainly did for many years - I was the queen of brief, entertaining updates on FB.

One day, I realized that these snippets, while convenient, only showed folks the part of my life I wanted them to see. That, if you were to read my updates, you'd mostly think that my life was busy and full, that there were small challenges, but I was making my way through them with humor and courage, that nothing was terribly awful, and that I had it all together. It seemed an advertisement, somehow, for the life I wanted people to think I had. And it wasn't lying, exactly. All those things were happening, and my attitude toward them was often breezy. But it wasn't the whole story.

And if I wanted to be more honest, and share something that really was troubling me, or worrying me, I didn't want all 300 people on my 'list' to know about it. I really only wanted to discuss those things with those closest to me. And I wasn't doing that - in fact, instead of growing closer to people, I was growing apart from the people I cared about the most - I saw that by merely making and reading updates, we were taking shortcuts. We were actually spending LESS time talking about the things that really mattered to us. It was all image and no substance.

So I quit FB. I made a conscious decision to have more authentic connections. I vowed that I would call my friends more often. I promised I would email more. Some friends and I made a pact to write actual in-the-mail letters. I said I would meet people more, have coffee, have dinners, invite them over.

Well, I've failed.

I don't email more often, I don't call more often (I really don't enjoy talking on the phone), and the person I vowed to exchange letters with? We've done it exactly once. In only one way have I improved, and that's to get people together more often. But I'm not consistent. And so I can say that I'm NOT making more authentic connections.

But my heart longs to. And while I'm truly an introvert, I honestly care about my friends and want to know what's going on with them. And I don't think reverting to FB posts is going to make things any better. So I re-resolve to do a better job in this arena. I've made several changes in the past year that involve a slower and deeper connection, and I know I can do this with people, too.

The ultimate expression of 'slower and deeper' is the Slow-Food Movement. One thing I resolved to do, last Fall, was to cook more. I've always cooked for my family, but I often took shortcuts or 'heated' things rather than cooking. I also allowed my kids to buy school lunch more than I wanted to, and our breakfasts consisted of boxes of cereal or waffles from the freezer. I knew both our health and our budget would improve if I vowed to do more cooking. This has been an unqualified success. One of our kids is a very picky eater, but she's tried more things this past nine months than she had probably her whole life before that. She hasn't necessarily LIKED them, but she's tried them. The other kid is always willing, and has discovered a new love for many new foods. As this experiment went on, and as my own health improved, I got more hard-core about it, and I began to do more things like make our own yogurt, or  buy only grass-fed meat. And ultimately this is what led to expanding our garden and growing more food.

None of these things is all that unusual or out-of-the-box: People used to have gardens regularly, keep a pot of broth on the stove, raise chickens in their backyards for eggs and meat, make all their own sweets rather than buying a cookie at Starbucks. None of this is subversive. But it sure sometimes feels like it is, when I'm pouring hand-squeezed lemonade into glass bottles to send with my kids to school.

All this takes time, time that no one says they have. I sure would have said, before, that I didn't have time to do this stuff. And it does make for fuller days with less time for things like reading, or catching a quick TV show. My mornings can be pretty hairy, cooking breakfast, starting things for dinner, making lunches, trying to get the dog walked and the laundry moved around and a trip to the grocery in and all this before heading out to work. But while it's a little crazier around here, the time spent enjoying these homemade items is greater, and the rewards sweeter. Dinner tastes better. Snacks are more wholesome. My time is spent improving the health of my family, not to mention I am voting with my dollars (and even keeping more of those dollars than I used to!) every time I pass by the processed food section at the store.

I discovered that people were calling this 'homesteading,' which made me laugh at first, but then I realized that no one makes time for these arts anymore, and the old-fashioned word was appropriate. While baking bread was a weekly occurrence in my house growing up, now, unless you're a foodie in a major city that celebrates this sort of thing (giving it the 'cool' 'factor), baking bread is a bit of a lost art. It's so easy to go buy it. But when we just go buy it, we are losing something.

I think a lot about the knowledge that's being lost. I go to beekeeper meetings, and I'm the youngest person there, and I'm 46. Who is going to learn the art and skill of making furniture in the future, the way my father does? Who is saving the seeds, so that we have heirloom varieties instead of GMO corn? When I think about these things, I'm glad that urban farms are becoming mainstream. That chicken coops are happening all over the suburbs. That younger people are embracing organic produce from their local Farmers Markets. That a local school teaches fermenting and cheese making. That people are going back to the farm.

And speaking of which, there's no 'fast' in a garden. Once you begin to look at the processes of nature, and growing food, you realize that all your hurry-ups have no place here. A tomato will ripen in its own time, no matter what you do to it. You can make the conditions right, and you can provide everything it needs - but the fruit may still not do what you want it to do.

Take my asparagus bed. Oh, I had high hopes for this, back in February. I bought 24 crowns at my local nursery, envisioning 20 years of delicious spring spears.



Well first of all, you can't even harvest asparagus until the third year after planting, so there's that. Then you have to dig foot-deep trenches for the crowns. So I dug, down through our clay soil, for an afternoon. After you put in the crowns, then you cover up with a very light soil, only an inch or two. I did that. Then you wait until they sprout, and as they grow, you continue to cover them up, until they are flush with the ground. Some of my crowns sprouted, some didn't. I didn't know whether to cover them up, or wait until more sprouted. I kept dithering. Finally I just covered them up. And only one has broken the cover of soil.


Brave asparagus, you are my hero.

I keep waiting for more to pop up, but so far, nada. I may never have the bed I want.
Here's what they should be looking like, right now.


Sigh.

This is the definition of slow. I want asparagus, NOW. I might get it in three years, but even that's not looking likely.

I realize this is good for me, this slow moment, waiting for the asparagus. It's good for me in the way it's good to make an all-day spaghetti sauce, or catch up with a friend over coffee. These things take time, and as priorities go? I think these are the right ones to have at the top of my list.

Ideas

So I started researching, for real, about a month ago. I have read just about everything I could get my hands on about urban farming, homesteading, different methods of gardening, permaculture, you name it. I've been gardening many years, but I still consider myself a complete noob when it comes to this stuff. I mean, I usually just put some seeds in the ground, and hope they grow! This year I thought it was finally time to really figure it out.

I think that desire began when I changed my eating habits. In January I gave up all processed foods, sugar, and all grains. And that meant that my diet was made up of primarily meat and plant foods, all lashed generously with oil. Buying 7-10 containers of organic greens each week at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's got expensive quickly, and that was just for my breakfast! The farmers market was better, but I still wanted the ease of walking out my front door to harvest my meals. I knew that I could grow food, as I had done it for years. I just wanted to change the amount and variety of food I was growing.

So, I started reading, which is what I do when I want to learn stuff. I enjoyed books by Novella Carpenter (Farm City and The Essential Urban Farmer), Backyard RootsLittle House In The Suburbs, Toby Hemenway's (essential!) Gaia's GardenFarmer Jane, some books about chickens (chickens are on the five-year plan) such as Free-range Chicken Gardens, books on homesteading, like The City Homesteader... the list goes on and on. All these books gave me IDEAS.

Too many ideas. Not enough money. Definitely not enough time. Tom works crazy hours as an administrator at a local college. I work much less, as a para-educator helping autistic children, but I've got our home and two kids to take care of, plus a dog and a cat. I wondered how we could keep it small scale, or at least manageable.

This is when I decided to take one project at a time. If it got done, terrific. If it didn't, oh well, it was on the 'next year' plan. The other thing I knew was that any purchases I made had to come out of my weekly budget, so I needed to do a little at a time.

The first thing I did was attend a local bee association meeting, join, and order a colony of honeybees. My dad has kept bees for many years, and I always knew I wanted to, as well. So I dove in to that without thinking too much about it. Luckily my dad is also a woodworker, so he is making a hive for me. The bees arrive April 12, so you'll hear more about that adventure then.

I was also sure that I wanted more fruit. So Tom and I bought a fig tree, two blueberry bushes, and several strawberry plants to join our currant strawberries, and the peach, apple, and quince trees in the back yard.









Next, I built a hugelkultur and made it in to an herb spiral. More on this project later.


It's spring, so our minds (and stomachs!) turned to asparagus. We can eat quite a lot, so I dug an asparagus bed. More on this project later.



I already had about 30 packets of seeds, annual Native California stuff, so I planted those. (I get my native seeds from Larner Seeds; the owner, Judith Larner, is incredibly knowledgable about natives and her demonstration garden is heaven.)

Then I ordered my vegetable seeds. This year I ordered everything from Renee's Garden, I've used their seeds before and they always do well in my climate. They are based in California, too. I ordered everything I wanted to eat, sometimes more than one variety (using a permaculture premise - more variety is good!).

And then the sheet mulching began.

So here's the point I'm making: It's impossible to do it all at once, unless you are independently wealthy and/or retired. My sometime-in-the-future plans for the garden include chickens, a run and a coop for them, and a dry creek bed. I also would very much like more native clover seeds for the 'lawn' (basically just for the bees). And I'd like some new outdoor furniture because ours is old and run down. We only have one rain barrel, and we need one at every downspout. We also need to convert some of our sprinklers to drip. Olive trees? yes! Citrus? yes! The list of things to want and do just keeps growing!

So we'll evolve. We'll change, we'll explore new ways of doing things, the way we planted this year may not work and it might be a total failure, or it'll be great and we'll expand even more.