Sunday, September 1, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

It's funny, when you stop and think about it, just how much time, care, attention, and nurturing a gardener invests in their little oasis. It requires dedication, commitment, and lets face it, a lot of patience and sometimes passion to be successful, and ultimately 'good' at it. That is something I have longed to posses for some time now; I have always wanted to be a great gardener.

After four years of trial and error in a garden of my own, I finally feel comfortable with my abilities when it comes to some of the smaller aspects of homesteading. I will be the first to admit that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to gardening, even more to learn about other homesteading tricks and traits, but I know I have limits and know what those are on my little plot of land. At least I thought I did. This year has proven me wrong.

This summer started out ideally. We were blessed with warm evenings and hot days very early into the season. Albeit
little rain graced these days, we were doing relatively well. I learned an efficient and appropriate watering schedule for my developing crops, making sure to feed them as well and take care of the soil beneath them, and everything was lush. For the first time, my beet greens were largely beautiful and green instead of their usual hole-ridden sparse leaves. My Kohlrabi were quite abundant and looking gorgeous, as well as my squash. I was in heaven...I began to feel like this was going to be the year when I was able to really have a beautiful and bountiful garden!

And then two days later, everything changed.

I decided that roasted beets and some of my Kohlrabi slaw sounded superb for supper one very hot and perfect afternoon. I gathered up my garden basket and headed out to pick some produce. When I stepped into my garden, the first thing I noticed was that my once gorgeous beet greens were limp and laying flat on the ground. I thought it was peculiar since just a few days earlier I couldn't believe how wonderful they looked. So I carefully made my way to the rows of beets and stooped down to see what was causing this wilting. I was horrified when I gently lifted the greens and the entire top of the plant was in my hand. I immediately dropped it and ran my fingers through the rest of the sad-looking greens. They were all the same. Something had eaten them from the bottom up, all six rows!

I quickly moved to the kohlrabi to make sure they were ok. They also fell prey to my very unwelcome guest. The only difference this time was that there were a few left in the ground that had been partially eaten...leaving only teeth and gnaw marks behind.

My squash vines were being chewed off and left to dry up and die, along with any fruit they held. My green beans were leveled. My corn stalks were even getting chewed off at ground level.

I didn't know whether to scream and yell or cry. So I sat in the grass and just stared at  what my garden had become.

I felt like a failure. Things were going so well and then "poof!" everything changed. Rabbits, squirrels, moles/gophers, and mice all began running through my mind as possible culprits. Since I saw no heaps of dirt, I figured it was something running around above ground that was responsible for such devastation.

The only means of defense I could come up with was some sort of barrier; just keep the varmints out!I decided to put up a fence, surrounding the entire garden, made of the bunny wire.

After several days of watching my garden after I built the fence, I noticed things were still being eaten and dying back. I planted myself atop a large rock in my garden and just stared at a loss for words, for emotion, and for thought. But as I sat there on that rock, I saw a corn stalk fall over and begin to move across the ground toward the outer fence. That's when I saw who had been eating all of the fruits of my labor; it was a mouse! Well, not just any mouse, they go by field mice, voles, and pocket gophers. What ever you want to call them (nuisance that I wished ill things upon comes to my mind), they had dug an intricate network of homes in my garden and had made themselves quite fat and happy.

I also discovered a family of ground squirrels or rock chucks that had made a den behind my water feature in the back and were eating all of our strawberries and gooseberries!

We set mouse traps every night in the garden and it helped control the amount of damage done. We are still losing some, but when we diligently set the traps everyday, it became much less. We caught one squirrel in a live trap and relocated him, and tore down the water feature and rebuilt one that would be less attractive to unwanted wildlife.

Needless to say, I was struggeling to find positivity amidst my frustration. That is part of why I have written so little this summer. I literally feel like I have, or had, nothing to share. I began to feel a bit better as time went on; I at least had my tomatoes to look forward to...right?!


I nasty cell of thunderstorms moved though our area last Sunday. It not only dropped quarter sized hail and monsoon type rains, but it also moved through with 70mph winds. A farmer who has been working in this part of the high desert for 14 years said he has never seen anything like that before.

My backyard literally looked like a small twister touched down. My roses, that were up against the house, were uprooted and laying in my grass, along with several other bushes. Grape clusters were smashed on the vine or tossed to the ground and destroyed there. My tomatoes were all knocked over; a tangle of branches, unripe fruit, and tomato cages. My rhubarb stalks were snapped off at the base and my corn was laying in puddles if standing water. 

After the initial shock wore off, I did my best to begin picking up the pieces. Unfortunately my house looked just as bad as the garden, so that is where I started. I had to sweep up broker glass, sop-up rain-soaked carpets and puddle ridden hard wood floors, wash bedding and locate all of our cats. I couldn't bare to go outside...not just yet.

All of last week after work was dedicated to assessing my gardens and trying to figure out if anything could in fact be saved. I lifted my roses back up, replanted bushes, picked up green tomatoes to ripen inside, tried to untangle the vines of my tomato plants, and harvested any corn that may be ready. I swept up branches and leaves; I recovered grape clusters from where they lay in the grass; I tried to save my hail ravaged melons. By weeks end, I discovered that while so much was damaged and ruined during that storm, not all was lost. My garden still has life left.

I have been humbled to a degree I never wanted to really admit existed this summer. But when I step away from my tiny homestead, I realize just how blessed I am to be able to say that I didn't lose everything. So many farmers lost entire crops; their sources of income. This storm also claimed a life. While I may feel beat down, I can not even begin to imagine the heartache that some families are feeling now.

I am thankful. Thankful for my home and safety of my family, but also thankful for the opportunity to learn. Everything can change in a split second, and when we experience so many blessings all at once, we almost begin to take them for granted. I know this entire summer has been such a time for me. I thought I could handle just about anything when it came to our garden, but the truth is, I didn't even have a clue as to what it means to have to focus and press on through EVERYTHING. 

So that has been my summer. And it is also why I haven't found the courage to write. But as fall approaches our doorsteps, I'm hoping to begin again. Just because the warm sunny weather will soon be a thing of the past here in the high desert, gardening and creating doesn't have to come to a close! I am hoping to learn new techniques and tricks so that I can peruse this passion year round! I hope to share them with you and we can start fresh together!

From everything we must learn and grow stronger...sometimes God's path is just hidden beneath the thick 'brambles' of life.


No comments:

Post a Comment