Once again, we are rebuilding, starting from scratch. A new yard, new plans, this time more permanent than the last time in Aberdeen, Maryland.
Originally, as we moved back into our home in Fairbanks, Alaska we had plans, great plans, for a garden of permanent raised beds, for chickens and honey bees. Then it was just the honey bees. Then it was just the chickens. We’re still certain about the raised beds. Now we have decided however that what is needed more is patience.
Saadi, a Persian poet from the medieval period once said “Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy”. I think that applies here.
Fairbanks growing season is extremely short. Our last Frost free date here is approximately May the 25th. Our first usual frost is approximately August the 30th. That gives us a little more than 100 days total to get our raised beds built, filled with soil, compost and vegetables and fruits and try to see if something will grow.
We learned after our first year in Maryland that when starting a larger garden that it’s best to take it slow, to not get ahead of ourselves. So now we are having the difficult task of holding ourselves back, even though we want to dig right in and get our hands dirty. Currently our backyard is covered in about two feet of snow so while we have walked back there, it’s pretty hard to gauge what things will look like come Spring time which is still about 60 days away.
Plans for this year? We definitely will be building the raised beds that will be made out of concrete cinder blocks. The challenge there? Building supplies are expensive here. Lowe’s and Home Depot currently have concrete blocks for sale for approximately $2.21 so for us to build the three or four raised beds we would need approximately 100 to 150 concrete blocks. That equals an investment of about $330 which right now, is just not possible on a US Army retirement paycheck and my own paycheck as an Official Government travel counselor. Trying to find these free on sites like Craigslist is almost impossible as building supplies in general are in high demand here, so that is out.
Along with the expense of the raised beds we also have to use hardware cloth at a cost of about $80 because one of the bigger pest issues we have here in our area of Fairbanks is Voles, also commonly called Meadow mice. These can wreak havoc in our garden as they can both climb into our raised beds and tunnel in to have their midnight snack. After my fight with groundhogs and squirrels last year I am really not looking forward to fighting these horrible little creatures and I will do almost anything to keep them at bay.
Now add soil, organic material, manure and compost. Thankfully we can get fill dirt which isn't too expensive, and then manure which is given away every year here in Fairbanks. If we can snag some off craigslist here, we’ll be in business. I have also made a deal with a local shredding company. I provide trash bags, they provide the shredded paper. Plain shredded paper with only black and white print is great for compost. It breaks down pretty quickly and provides a bit more organic material. Just make sure to never use the colored paper from newspapers. There is too much toxic dyes present there.
No matter what, starting the garden up will be slightly expensive, especially when we’re relying on almost one income! What keeps us going? We keep moving forward with the thought that while we have the expenses now, if we work hard we will have fresh food grown in our backyard that will sustain us in the lean winter months ahead. The thought that by this summer we will have our backyard garden built up and we can once again, get our hands dirty and our yard productive.
The past is a great teacher. We just need to remember to stop and revisit it from time to time.