2015 is officially half over and I must say, we do have much to show for it. The weather has been sunny and HOT here in Northern BC and although it’s nice to see the sun, this Northern girl has a love-hate relationship with 85 degrees (Fahrenheit that is). But it has made for some memorable days and my tomatoes are loving it!
That’s right folks, I have tomatoes planted in the ground and growing. I know, I know, I never thought I’d get there but after a lot of freaking work and a little bit of luck (that goes by the name of Laura) we successfully built, planted, mulched and irrigated about 1/2 an acre or our first ever Canadian Acres garden. HOORAY!! Though I will say that it would never have been possible without the help of my husband and my dear friend Laura, who most awesomely decided to make the trek from Alaska and spend her vacation doing manual labor. How great is that!After a bit of a, ahem, delay, Laura showed up on the last Sunday in May.
Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one excited to see her.
She came bearing work gloves and a cooler full of Alaska made beer (BEST.FRIEND.EVER) and we spent the evening plotting our next week’s work and exploring the farm a bit. I had drawn out a somewhat legit schematic of the start of the food forest and the beds I wanted to put in and it seemed impossible to get all that work done in one week. Well, as you may already know, impossible is our middle name – Canadian Impossible Work Load Acres. That’s us!
First things first – borrow a hand rototiller and rototill the area in need of planting. Laura was on the job and as I left early the next morning for my day job, I felt both hopeful and terribly bad for leaving my friend to do my farm job. The day was sunny, the ground was wet and she got the workout of a lifetime. And did an amazing job. Day 1 down.
Next up was plotting and staging the food forest and digging a ton of holes. Turns out, hole digging is not my forte so I was glad Laura was such a bad ass at it. I made up for it later, but man was I glad for her help. The cat and dogs were very good supervisors. Wyatt took his job so seriously that week he rarely left the side-by-side. He would refuse to get out of it, reminding us that we were slacker’s when we took a break. That’s Old Man Wyatt for you… well, at least when he wasn’t sleeping on the job/hatchet.
We planted 12 fruit trees and 25 fruit/nut bushes and canes. Things started to come together.
Day 3 Laura spent the morning staking out our 100′ x 4′ rows with stakes and string, preparing us to dig, dig, dig as I wanted to create raised beds. In the North it’s good practice as to help dry them out in our wet springs and warm them up for earlier planting. The plan is to eventually be a no-till garden so this will also come in handy when we are hand manipulating our beds. Laura and I each took a side of the first row and started digging and piling up the dirt. Our backs were aching, our hands were dirty and our lives would never be the same!
Long story short – this next photo:
After feeling immensely proud, we immediately rented a mini excavator after that first row. There was no possible way we a) wanted to hand dig 20 more 100′ rows and b) would possibly have time for it. I mean, we had lots of Alaska beer to drink. So I spent the $200, Clay picked up the machine in the morning and we spent that day piling rows. This was my redemption as apparently I’m quite talented in the excavator department.
We did it! We had our rows measured, staked and piled. Now we needed to rake and smooth and we’d be ready to plant! And then we’d actually have to plant, and water, and mulch and thin, and WEED and water and trellis and… Ah yes, the joys of gardening.
On the last few days of Laura’s trip we got down to business. We planted six of the rows and kept the newly planted food forest alive. The days were hot and we both covered in dirt, but we felt like real farmer’s and the sense of accomplishment was astounding. There is nothing quite like the feeling of planting and preparing to grow your own food. The dream was coming true.
Now, don’t worry everybody. I know what you’re thinking – but Katy, with all of that work how did you possibly have any time for fun? Remember who you’re talking to… there is always fun to be had at Canadian Acres.
The day after Laura left for my homeland, I spent the Sunday planting the rest of the garden, getting 5 more rows done. Over the next few weeks, Clay and I installed soaker hoses and sprinklers on a timer as to minimize the amount of after-full-time-job chores in the garden.
The garden is 3 weeks old and already I am reminded the gardening teaches patience, guidance and sore knees. The weeds are ever growing and I am entrenched in a grass battle I like to refer to as: I fought the lawn and the lawn won. But all in all, it’s amazing to witness our little seeds and plants start to thrive and spend my mornings and evenings surrounded by the sounds of the country… and Wyatt’s snoring from the side-by-side.
Yo ho ho… a farmer’s life for me.
How did your garden grow this June?
Wow, your garden is impressive! We are getting lots of rain here in Ontario and our garden is a bit muddy 😦
Thanks, it’s been a labor of love. I am missing the rain this season as it’s hard to establish fruit trees without tons of water!
Jesus Mother of Murphy! Did you ever do a lot of work. Oh Em Gee, am I ever impressed. It sure makes my complaining about problems in my tiny garden seem small.
I liked that you broke down all the steps you took to get your garden ready. I have to do the same next year in Vavenby and I will be breaking new ground too, so your descriptions were really helpful. And you still had fun! What a great friend! keep us posted on the garden. Looks really awesome.
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Makes me smile and tear up every time I read you blogs. Great reading!
Wow, what a lot of work! I’m surprised you haven’t changed your name to Canadian Backache-rs! I am SO awaiting your updates on this. I used to live in the NWT (Inuvik) so I can understand your challenges and am looking forward to seeing what is able to survive/thrive! I am just doing research on food forests (I now live in Zone 3) and I was also thinking of saskatoons besides what you already have listed. Also, are the grapes on your list “Valiant” (I don’t know of any other hardy ones)? Are you doing a “deep mulch” method with your straw (8″ minimum)? And YUM hardy kiwi is so delicious if you can get it to grow, I haven’t tried growing it myself yet. Also, what are you going to do with all those sour cherries??! lol. Sorry, I have so many questions!!
Erp, nevermind about the saskatoons, I see you have/had plenty!
No worries, questions are good! I usually have more questions than answers lol. Valiant grapes are on the list and it seems like there are other varieties that are hardy, but I think it will be a trial and error on what I can get to survive over the winters. I will update when and if I buy other varieties. I did not use the deep mulch method this year, which I am now regretting so it is on the list for next year. I just had too many weeds! Sour cherries make AMAZING pies and I wanted to try some wine as well. My first time growing them so I’ll have to experiment. Keep me updated on anything new you might try in your Zone 3! Next year my focus in the food forest will be laying down natural pathways and further building guilds in sections to break it up a bit and make it a little less intimidating. All of my fruit trees survived through the summer so we’ll see who survives the winter!