Yard Sale Mandoline

Lessons from a year of urban homesteading

2014 has a few more hours to give us, and then in uncharacteristically sunny and freezing fashion, it will leave us to the beginning of another year. I’m a sentimental and reflective type of human, so naturally I am looking back over the year and thinking of all I’ve learned. It’s been a challenging year, one with giant learning curves and important lessons, and I’d like to share a few of my favorites:

Lesson One: Try new things and fail at them.

Our potato tower (sad trombone).

Our potato tower (sad trombone).

For two years, I’ve been really excited to try growing potatoes in a vertical potato tower. I did lots of reserach on how to best set it up – what kind of soil to use, dimensions, timing, etc. – but when it came down to it this March, the weekend to plant potatoes was upon us and I made do with some extra compost in my yard. I don’t think I placed the tower in the right spot, and bam – our promised 40-lb harvest ended up being about 10 lbs of potatoes. They were delicious, mind you, just a lot of work for a small yield. And that’s all right. I have some great ideas about how to do it better next year.

Lesson Two: Working hard feels GREAT.

A weekend's harvest in early August.

A weekend’s harvest in early August.

Gardening and chicken-keeping are no joke, man. Neither are competitive discus-throwing or running a television network. Those last two have nothing to do with my life, but that’s ok. Urban homesteading is my Olympics, my big-time CEO gig, and all of them require a lot of training, discipline, patience, and just plain grit and gumption to pay off. But pay off they do, and the joy – oh, the joy – of pulling a crunchy carrot out of the ground for a snack! The delight of passing the winter months with meals Joe and I grew ourselves and preserved at their peak of freshness! I think if everyone could find the thing that makes them feel the way I do about a freshly laid egg or a salad grown five yards from the kitchen, a lot of the western world’s angst would be diminished. I am eternally grateful to have been born someplace I can pursue my interests and passions like this.

Easter eggs.

Easter eggs.

Lesson Three: Bite off more than you can chew.

100 pounds of tomatoes. For $40. How was I supposed to pass up that opportunity?

100 pounds of tomatoes. For $40. How was I supposed to pass up that opportunity?

While this is generally an ill-advised idea, and please don’t bite off more than you can chew in terms of your car payment or the number of children you bear, I think sometimes, on a small scale, it’s all right. If you’re doing something for the first time, how else will you know how much you can chew? There were times during the hours I spent blanching, canning, freezing, saucing, marinara-ing, pasting, and caprese-salading the above tomatoes, when I thought I never wanted to see another one of those heirloom orbs. But soon it was over, and afterward, I knew exactly how much I could chew with regard to tomato preservation (80 pounds), and exactly how much freezer space I had left (none), and exactly how many caprese salads I could eat in the space of a week (a lot. Let’s be real. They’re incredible).

This one had yogurt cheese instead of mozzarella. Still top-notch.

This one had yogurt cheese instead of mozzarella. Still top-notch.

Lesson Four: Make the inside of your home a space you love.

Joe built me these spice racks out of pallets. Fo free.

Joe built me these spice racks out of pallets. Fo free.

That saying “God made rainy days so gardeners could get housework done”? True. I get caught up in the outdoor stuff, the weeding, growing, cultivating stuff, which is all wonderful, but eventually the point of doing the outside stuff is that I can enjoy cooking and eating it inside my home. I am fortunate to live in a land with a lot of rainy days, and this year it’s been fun to use them to work on making my home a place I love being inside.

Lesson Five: Do some things that aren’t functional. Allow some decadence!

Flowers! JUST to enjoy.

Flowers! JUST to enjoy.

This is a hard one for me, but I am getting it now. I get really excited about turning everything into something sustainable or edible or optimally healthy. This year I decided to work on something that’s very difficult, given my nature. I am working very hard on eliminating my internal punishment and reward system. No more gold stars for using another square foot of our property to grow food. No more self-flagellation for spending a sunny hour with a glass of wine and a trashy book instead of pulling weeds, or for spending a beautiful evening with my love preparing steak and ravioli when THERE’S ORGANIC KALE RIGHT OUTSIDE, FOR GOD’S SAKE! I’m learning to just be Malerie, in all her different spaces, and I’m learning that “just Malerie” has a pretty solid internal compass.

Chocolate peanut butter cookie dough brownie cake from Pinterest. Good for a birthday. Good to share.

Chocolate peanut butter cookie dough brownie cake from Pinterest. Good for a birthday. Good to share.

Lesson Six: Delight in small things.

It’s good for you.

The color of home-done Mexican restaurant pickles.

The color of home-done Mexican restaurant pickles.

The cuteness of Daisy.

The cuteness of Daisy.

The shoes at Goodwill.

The shoes at Goodwill (and shopping with your favorite people).

This dandelion and old window.

This dandelion and old window.

A rockin' sunset (preferably while driving to a fabulous restaurant).

A rockin’ sunset (preferably while driving to a fabulous restaurant).

A magical mystery path.

A magical mystery path.

The scent and the quiet of laying underneath the Christmas tree and staring upward.

The scent and the quiet of laying underneath the Christmas tree and staring upward.

Happy New Year, friends. Thanks for hanging with me this year!

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This entry was published on December 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm. It’s filed under Collection and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from a year of urban homesteading

  1. gaiainaction on said:

    Wow, loved your write-up very much! Makes me look back at my own year and pick all the lovely and positive things I learnt while creating my own garden, thank you.

    Like

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