As another year closes, and the days start to get longer again, we take time to review the last year while planning for the new one.
We reflect on the shining moments where everything went perfectly. We also look at the less stellar moments - things we don't want to repeat.
With all of this information in hand, we'll sit down and craft up our plans for 2019! Each year this homestead becomes more productive and prosperous because we are paying close attention to what is happening around us and adapting. It might looks as though things grow where they want to around here but amidst that beautiful chaos is quite a lot of thought. As we take note of changes in the weather, the insects, the land, the flora and fauna we build ideas on how to modify how we approach those things to succeed in this changing landscape.
Year in Review: 2018 at Walkerland - Some Highlights
Cool Things: We ate tulips in salad
I am a big fan of edible flowers and love to write about culinary uses for roses, but there were a few plants I had not realized were edible: tulips (the petals) and hostas (the young curled chutes). This discovery opened my eyes to the culinary potential of a perennial flower garden. I became addicted to finding unusual wild and cultivated edibles to toss onto our plates.
Tulip petals and dandelion greens!
Wild greens, nasturtium petals & seeds, rose petals, beet greens & shredded raw beetroot
We went foraging for fiddleheads
Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) - Struthio meaning ostrich and pterion meaning wing. Fiddleheads are a delicacy here in the Maritimes. We shared all of the details in a post called "Foraging for Fiddleheads: How To Find, Harvest & Prepare Them."
Much cleaning is involved in the preparation of this delicacy. Sauteed with butter is the best way to eat fern fronds.
Fruit Trees vs. Berries
I've given up on the idea of growing fruit trees (for now) and instead we'll keep planting massive rows of raspberry and blackberry bushes. They have thrived during the worst droughts and coldest winters providing us with an abundance of fruit over the winter.
We'll keep trying to breathe life into those trees we have planted, but so far we have spent a lot of money, and the trees are not doing well. Tent caterpillars, dry diseased leaves, early frost killing all of the blossoms, mysterious and sudden tree death, are some of the issues we are facing. Other native trees that we have planted are thriving and doing well (and we do live surrounded by a healthy forest) even the wold old apple trees are doing quite well.
The fruit trees are failing to thrive.
A young pear tree struggling through all that nature can throw at it.
The berry bushes are unstoppable!
We planted this entire field with raspberry canes. These volunteers have all grown from the original nine plants we purchased. Talk about getting your money's worth!
For a small investment in 9 raspberry canes, we've managed to fill a field with the suckers that those canes keep producing.
Fresh, abundant raspberries that we stock our pantry with (canned, dehydrated & frozen)
Each year the amount of perennial food that we grow increases significantly. We think perennial food is the smartest way to build up a sustainable food garden. It has been by far our most successful and most natural gardening endeavor that we have undertaken. Blackberry, raspberry, grapes, elderberries, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, chives, haskap berries, blueberries, currants; the list of things you can plant once and enjoy forever (or for a very long time) is extremely long once you start doing your research.
Chive blossoms are culinarily delightful, and the bees love them too.
Our corn crop failed miserably.
I continue to fail at growing corn. It always looks promising, but we run out of good weather too soon. On the upside, we got a great deal on a big sack of non-GMO corn grown locally. Just look at my teeny heirloom glass gem corn on the right. This variety of corn needs 105 days! I fell for its beauty in the catalog and should have known better. This year we might skip growing corn altogether.
This photo is a comparison of commercially grown corn from a local farm vs. our heirloom corn.
We Saved a LOT of seeds!
Each year our skills with seed saving improve. The benefit of saving your seeds is more than just saving money on seed packets. The seeds you save have adapted to your climate, and this means they are more resilient and reliable. I wrote a series on heirloom seeds and seed saving a while back if you want to learn more about it.
Kale is a biennial. To save the seeds, mulch the plant heavily in the winter. In Spring let it flower and go to seed.
The Sunflowers were Beautiful this year!
We grew a whole field of sunflowers this year. The dogs loved prowling through this jungle. The Birds and bees went crazy for it too. We chopped and dropped the stalks to help build up our soil. Did you know that when grown in organic soil, you can eat all parts of the sunflower?
Sunflowers are incredibly useful & versatile homestead plants, and they add CHEER to every garden!
Our Biggest Challenge was The Weather.
I know, farmers and homesteaders are always talking about the weather but for a good reason! So much of our success relies upon what happens in the growing seasons.
I won't lie, 2018 was brutal.
There were moments where I lost my resolve and wanted to curl into a ball and sob. This summer was the first time in my life that I looked forward to winter and the end of the gardening season.
Spring arrived unseasonably late.
When spring finally made an appearance, we still got caught with a heavy frost in late June and strangely cool nights. We lost our greenhouse tomato plants (about 80). This frost also harmed the rose buds and apple blossoms. It made life difficult with most of our heat-loving crops.
Fortunately, we had grown extra tomato plants. I had planned on selling plants this year, but instead, we used them for our own needs. The fruit trees suffered through the summer and produced no fruit but the rugosa roses rebounded, and the new blossoms were perfect and beautiful.
Summer was GROSS.
It was hot and humid but also very dry. We desperately needed rain. The frog ponds soon dried up, and we wilted every time we had to work outside. We took to working very early in the morning and late at night. The afternoons were spent hiding from the oppressive, sticky heat.
Fortunately, we mulch heavily and the three years of working on improving our soil, minimal tilling, and adding drainage have made a difference. Although a bit thirsty, the garden did quite well through the drought.
Then, fall frost came early. So did the snow.
Frost arrived three weeks earlier than average. With over six weeks of growing time lost due to late spring and early frost, we had a lot of things fail to produce as well as they could have. The pole beans were only just in flower when a hard freeze hit us. We harvested everything we possibly could and made the best of things, but it was a frustrating way to end the season.
Fortunately, we planted a lot more perennial food plant in the spring and diversified in what we grew. Although some yields were disappointing, we were still able to fill the pantry. The perennials did steal the show this year. We stocked the pantry with berries, rhubarb, horseradish, all kinds of herbs.
A big part of our planning for the coming year will be focused on overcoming challenges we face with weather.
We had to dig the root vegetables out of the snow this year.
On a personal level: I have gained confidence in writing about all the things we feel passionately about, even those that are somewhat unconventional.
This blog and what I share is our own life story. I love writing recipes and tutorials but most of all I do this to document our journey. Writing for Walkerland helps to remind me of just how far we've come. We also hope that sharing our story helps others who are starting their homestead journey.
Our Homesteading vision started as a way to achieve personal freedom. The journey itself has transformed into a life so much more vibrant than we ever imagined.
We have healthy hearts and bodies, and our home is cheerful and warm. The pantry is full, and we have plenty of firewood. There isn't much else that we need to be happy. Looking back at the hectic and stressful lives we used to live; I am deeply grateful for the choices we have made.
We appreciate that you take the time to read and connect with us. Thank you for being part of our journey! Happy New Year!