Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Money Monday: July 20, 2009

I’ve got about nothing right now…mostly because I’ve got an idea trying to happen, and I’m just not sure whether it’s brilliant or laughably childish.

It has to do with increasing our self-sufficiency. We have a larger-than-average chunk of land under the Den, and frankly almost all of it is just kind of…sitting there. We have a vast stretch of dead-zone that used to be the back lawn, we have bare patches stretching along both the front and back sides, a massive bare patch in the front and a weed patch under the front window.

We’ve been looking at these areas and saying, “We ought to garden in those. We could be growing an awful lot of the food we need.”

Then a couple weeks ago, I was having an idle conversation with my parents. My mom said something about how much hard work was involved in growing your own food, and I pointed out that really, there wasn’t an easy way around that whole hard-work thing.

I could either spend three hours a day out in my backyard growing it, or I could spend twelve hours a day commuting and working in an office to pay someone else to grow it for me, right?

And frankly, well, I’d rather take the three hours of admittedly physically demanding work. I don’t mind the dirt and frankly I find it kind of therapeutic – and I don’t think it’s doing my back any harm, either. Sure it gets sore by the end of the day, but at the same time I feel better, overall.

Exercise in the great outdoors is funny that way. Even if it does kick up the aching joints, the whole body rather appreciates it.

ANYWAY. We’ve been looking at growing only what we could actually eat, but more and more I’ve found myself wondering just how far I could take things around here.

Could I grow enough to not only feed us, but to stock one of the quarter-sized booths at a farmer’s market? And could I make enough there to not only pay for the costs of raising the food, but to perhaps buy what we can’t grow for ourselves? Eggs for spinach, beef for tomatoes? (Heh, OK, and here’s some proof that I’m way too easily amused: I’ll trade you this beefsteak for that beef steak…HAHAHAHAHAHA! Get it?! Because...beefsteak is a kind of tomato, but it's also...ahem...nevermind...)

But seriously…could I micro-farm enough to actually feed this family?

And hey, how about this: Could I build up enough of a business selling my handcrafts to turn around and pay for the regular street clothes we wear – especially given that I buy about 80% of it second-hand anyway? Maybe I could work up to a full booth at the market, offering everything from zucchini (please, buy the zucchini…GEEZ, the Giving Tree has nothing on our zucchini bushes…I’ve taken to sneaking them onto the neighbor’s porches at night, I’ve grated them into bread and baked them in casseroles and I think my skin is starting to turn green PLEASE, is the zucchini-season over YET?!) (…but I can’t dig them out and plant something else because, gosh, they’re so giving…) to hand-woven kitchen towels, jars of jelly to bars of soap.

When I look at what I do with my “spare” time right now, holy smokes, I’m an old-fashioned general store! And I’m pretty darned good at it (if I do say so myself).

I think I could make things people would want to buy.

And I think I’d have fun doing it.

And if the point wasn’t to replace a paycheck but purely and only to provide food and clothing for the family…if I weren’t worrying about how much I was making an hour or how much more I could be making if things were different…it might even stay fun.

See what I mean? It’s either the lamest duck I’ve ever hatched, or it’s the best idea I’ve ever had.

And I honesty don’t know which it is.

So instead of worrying about it any more, I’m going to load up the Denizens and we’re going to go blackberry-ing.

A couple hours of play-work, and I should be able to lay down six full pints of seedless blackberry jam, and fill up our freezer with plenty of Summer for when this season inevitably ends.


Anonymous said...

Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? It would give you an idea of how much work she did to grow most of their food for a year. She is in a different climate, so you might be able to spread out the busy harvesting season.
Amy A.

PipneyJane said...

I think it's a brilliant idea.

Another book you might want to check out for inspiration is "Living the Good Life" by Linda Cockburn (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1905005296/ref=ox_ya_oh_product). Note: I found it less of a how-to manual more an inspiring read.

You do have an uncanny way of reflecting what I'm thinking about in your writings. My favourite TV show ever is the BBC comedy from the 1970's, The Good Life. I've spent several months wondering how far I can push my not-very-good gardening into self-sufficiency like Tom and Barbara.

My plan for next year is to have a Victory Garden, a la World War 2. This year is just the learning zone/planning period. I still have to break the news to DH.

- Pam

Katrina said...

I think you're on to something, and if nothing else, it is something that is brightening your spirits and giving you loads of optimism. I have a friend who, instead of letting the front yard grass wither in the water restriction this summer, tilled it up and planted corn and squash. Sure, you can't see his house from the street now, but who cares? A comment on your facebook wall about including the Denizens is good- I know you are a fan of The Pioneer Woman, and her kids are ranch hands. They know how to work hard, and don't we all want our kids to develop that ethic? Best of luck to you in all of the endeavors...they sound fun, uplifting, healthy, and, most importantly, DO-ABLE!!

Science PhD Mom said...

I think it's a great idea! You're taking what you already do anyway, and expanding it a little more to maybe pad your pockets a bit at the same time. I say go for it!

Nicole said...

i live in an upper apartment, where i have a small backyard that i share with my landlord. since we both moved in this year, neither of us had time to put a garden in.
my mom bought me some tomato seeds and a yard of potting soil and gave me a whole bunch of pots to plant them in.
i ended up giving some of the pots away cause i didn't have room to put them all out back. i am left with 2 pots, and i already have more tomatoes than i know what to do with. and one pot hasn't even given me anything yet.

if i can grow more tomatoes than i know what to do with, in pots none the less, i'm sure you can manage something similar. i forget about them fairly often too, water a couple time a week, and we're good to go.

knitinsage said...

you can do whatever you decide to do, my clever blogging "friend". i absolutely know that. especially when the control of the project has very few variables outside of your known ones.
if you have land, sun, water and a green thumb, you are all set.

RobinH said...

Perfectly possible...my mother raised a quarter acre of vegetables the whole time we were growing up- we ate them year round--canned, frozen, preserved, and sold the excess off the front porch (there's always something that produces way more than you need- 230 pumpkins one year...plus the zucchini, of course).

I'd recommend composting if you aren't already- saves on fertilizer while reducing outgoing trash. And, um. Just be aware that three hours a day of gardening? May be the average, but there is high variability.

Steph B said...

Go for it! You're already well on your way. You've got the skills and the determination, why not see some profit (of one sort or another) from all your work? I think it's a wonderful idea. In fact, you're giving me second thoughts about the whole gardening issue and the possibilites therein. (darn your hide...) Onward, fearless leader!

Anonymous said...

Do you have room to raise chickens?

Lydee said...

square foot gardening, i'm trying it this year and i'm loving it. grow more stuff with less work, (and space).