Who are we and why are we here?

I write this today not for those who already know who I am, but for those instead who are new to our page.  Now I have to admit, the page used to go by the name How Does Our Garden Grow because when I first started it in Maryland, that was how it fit us more.  How IS our garden growing? 
When we first moved to Maryland, we had so many things happen to us financially that, truly, we were really bad off.  We had dry goods in our pantry, but nothing fresh in the fridge, and only a small amount of canned goods.  We had no homemade canned goods at all. 
Imagine being in a situation where all you have is flour, Bisquick, sugar, cornmeal, some dried beans, and a container of rice.  Yes, you can make a meal out of that, but it gets boring super quick.  To make matters worse, we couldn't afford to buy much due to issues with the condo we still owned in Alaska along with car troubles and a financial gaff by the military which left us with two and a half months of no pay due (yes that means we skipped two and a half months of paycheck while still having to pay for gas for my husband to get to work, and daycare, and food, etc etc etc).  Thankfully I was working which did help some, and in a moment I still believe was due to divine intervention, we signed up for a CSA (community shared agriculture) with Brads Produce which was a local farm down the road from Aberdeen Proving Ground.  This helped us a bit through the lean months when we had almost nothing fresh to eat. 
Still, we knew something had to be done in our budget and we had yet to have heard of Dave Ramsey yet (I wish I knew about him sooner!).  So I drew up the numbers and boy did it look bleak.  I came to the conclusion that the only dollar amount in our budget that would move any would be the food. 
Now, previous to Maryland, I had gardened some but I was no where near an expert at it. I could grow a vine of cucumbers, maybe some flowers, a tomato plant or even better yet, herbs!  I was really good at herbs but you can't survive on just herbs alone.  So I vowed that I would get better at growing a garden so that I could support our family in that way. 

We moved into a townhouse in Maryland that was owned by the military and operated by a contractor for the military.  This house was surrounded by a yard that grew green and black stinky moss but that was about it.  At first anyways. 
The first year, when we needed it most was almost an utter failure.  I knew nothing about soil, other than it consisted of dirt, clay, sand and NPK was something important I should look at but I had no clue what NPK or any of the other bit was.  We did manage to grow a couple of things, but we did not manage to grow near enough to feed two adults and one small child. 

So in my spare time, I began to research, and in that researching I found something very helpful.  I started to record what I would find here.  At this blog all the way back in February 2011.  Without knowing it, I was onto something that Thomas Jefferson himself found of value.  That it is important to record your successes and failures because through that you learn what did or did not work. In fact his garden book, which I now own and lovingly peruse through every so often, is filled with the words "failed", "failed nearly" and "killed by bug".

So, over time, I began experimenting, and when it was not the growing season, well then I read, watched videos, read some more and looked up whatever I could look up on the internet.  By summer of 2011 I had already a noticeable difference.  Thankfully, I had taken pictures which truly showed me how much I had succeeded in my mission to learn how to grow my own food.  
I've never been one for video much, however I do walk around, still to this day, with my cell phone in hand to record the progress of the garden.  
So my first most important advice to a new gardener?  RECORD what you are doing!  If you like video well then go for it, if you're okay with just writing it down in a notebook, fine.  If you can't read your own writing (ME) then type it out.  When you record what you are doing from year to year you can study what you did wrong after the fact.  

By Autumn 2013, it was just about time for us to start deconstructing our garden.  My husband was retiring from the armed services, and we were moving BACK to Alaska.  We were sad to take apart our garden that had grown into a lush garden of Eden but in order to move out of the military housing the yard had to look just like what it looked like before. 

Tearing down all the raised beds and taking out all the leftover plants. 
That mission was going to be a bit difficult because we had raised the fertility of the backyard so much that now grass grew easily, the soil was no longer heavy, wet and stinky (it was mostly clay when we moved in) and instead hosted all manner of insects and was dark and rich like chocolate cake.  Still we deconstructed all the raised beds; took everything apart and planted grass seed.  I still hope that whoever lives there now enjoys the grape vines and a stray plant that might pop up every so often.  In November 2013, we were on our way to Interior Alaska; North to the Future.  Many asked us why would we move all the way up to the North? Why Alaska.  We cannot explain it in any other way than this "for the twenty years we have moved around with the military, never once did we find a place like Alaska that truly felt like home to both of us.  It was the one place we have lived that truly felt like it was meant to be for us.  Also, all three of us hate heat.  The moment the temperature raises above 75 degrees, we're all miserable".  

We first moved back to our own condo that we still owned.  It was in town so it was close to everything, including my new (old) job with the travel agency that I had been with for so long.  Three months later, my husband landed a job with a local cargo and passenger carrier here in Fairbanks.  We began working on our garden but being here in Alaska presented all new challenges.  I was still devoted to growing as much as I could myself in order to lessen our grocery shopping trips during the summer months at least, and possibly a bit during the winter.  
We managed to score quite a bit of used concrete blocks that we used as our building material.  My idea here was that the concrete during the summer months would heat up which would then provide a bit of residual heat when things started to cool down some.  The idea worked.  We had huge harvests from this yard during the summer months.  Our biggest negative in that house was how hot the house would get during the summer months AND we have no central AC here in Alaska so it became a challenge for us to stay cool.  The garden loved it though!  
Yes, that is CORN! We did get a few ears
We all knew that this house was not our ultimate stopping point though.  This was just a stop along the way.  We knew we wanted a house outside of town.  A single family home, away from traffic noises, away from people all around us.  We had spent enough time in bigger cities that we no longer desired this life. AT ALL.  
We knew we would like to raise bees.  We knew we would like to have some chickens.  We knew we wanted our garden and we knew we did not want to live with neighbors so close that we could look outside our dining room window and see what they were having for breakfast.  
So we began to plan.  How to get further outside of Fairbanks?  We were still stuck with the condo and by the looks of the real estate market and how poorly the HOA had been managed previously, it appeared we would be stuck with it for many years to come.  
We did try for one house outside of town in a small rural neighborhood in North Pole however that house needed a LOT of work which would require capital that we simply didn't have.  We gave up on that property within about a month of fighting for it and decided to take it as a sign that it just wasn't meant to be.  Instead we began listening to Dave Ramsey, we began eating beans and rice along with homegrown greens almost EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. We became gazelle intense.  We watched every expense, we tracked everything.  
By January 2016 we had decided to try again to see if we could not find a home elsewhere.  Remember, we had been living since we were 18/19 years old with neighbors right on top of us, or at least to the side of us.  We were done with living among a bunch of people.  We were done with loud music, done with others having parties and done with neighbors having arguments.  
So we met with our realtor, looked at some homes, almost settled on one and just as we were about to put a bid in, we discovered there was already a bid on it.  
In the last minute, I discovered a house that had just been placed again on the market.  We made the appointment with our realtor, did the walk through, and put down our bid.  
Lo and behold, three other potential buyers, bid against us and they all overbid us.  The owner of the home however was very adamant.  Whoever did exactly as she asked in the buying process would be awarded the house and it turned out, we were the only ones who fulfilled all her requests.  So within a week, we found out, the house was ours.  Our realtor still to this day says he had never seen anything like this house sale.  

Upon moving in this house, we have slowly but surely gotten to know and love every bit of this house.  This house is no longer a house to us, but truly is our home. 
We love taking walks through the garden, we love spending time among our trees, our plants, our animals that we keep.  We love that so much of what we eat now comes from our garden.  We still have plans for the future for the house but we have slowed down some on what we hope to accomplish.  After all, many of our projects are not cheap.  We are on the electrical grid but would love to invest in a generator that will come on during power outages.  We are on well water that we have to filter redundantly in order to remove the sulfur smell from it.  We have our own septic tank that gets pumped once a year. 

Our heat is through a water boiler that is fueled with heating oil that becomes more expensive every year.  We also supplement with wood however unfortunately, the borough is attempting to crack down on that one as they do not want individuals using wood because they say it pollutes the environment. 
Doing laundry and cooking dinner in the middle of winter. Yes all using one source of fuel that we cut ourselves rather than using the electricity from the oven and the electricity from the clothes dryer.  
The Interior of Alaska and North Pole experiences much cooler temperatures than up in the hills in Fairbanks.  This adds a challenge to our growing of fruits and vegetables.  This means for every tree or perennial we add to the garden, we add it with the hope that it will survive the harsh winters we experience and come back productive the next summer.  Each break up (Spring) we walk the garden and look to see "did the peonies all come back up?" "Did the crab apple trees survive?" "Is our beginner asparagus patch coming back?" 
Early May in our backyard. So much shade to contend with
We are always mindful of what zone the plant says it can be grown in.  If it is okay for zone 1? Great.  Zone 2. Good but not completely certain.  Zone 3?  Forget it.  It most likely won't make it. We look at the names of the plants.  If we see the name "Siberian" or "Russian" then it is almost certain a sure bet that it will survive up here.   
Garlic bed. This was not a bad harvest, however they were very small. Most likely needed more sun
Each year we try something new, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  
We hope by next year to have our back yard cleared out some more of the trees there and have our greenhouse built.  This will be our very next large build. This will allow us to grow the heat lovers such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons.  This winter we will be reviewing plans for this so that come summer we can begin work on it.  
Our first true larger build was our woodshed.  We have NEVER built something so big with our own two hands.  We were both felt this was a great accomplishment!  Here is the link for that build.  It took us almost one full summer to build it.  

We do our best to always move in a direction that allows us to be self sustainable as much as possible.  We strive to reduce our use of the grocery store when possible, and ultimately try to be prepared for whatever life throws at us.  
In our twenty five years of marriage and thirty years together we have learned over and over, that life can throw you incredible curve balls so it is only prudent to prepare for those because they happen when you least expect it. 

Proverbs 27:12 (KJV)
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Proverbs 21:20
The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.


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