Growing Food

The time is upon us! The excitement is apparent!

From Sandhill Cranes walking down the dirt road only twenty feet ahead, to visits to the creek to toss in sticks and watch them drift down stream. From watching pairs of squirrels hop from branch to branch, to calling the dog back as she chases rabbits around the neighbor’s yard. From hearing Wilson’s Snipe make it’s call from way up high, to watching Robins gather sticks to build nests for eggs. From riding our bikes to having a beach fire. From planning the playground to watching the batteries fill up from the sun. From ordering a Conex shipping container to coordinating with neighbors about gravel and heavy equipment. From watching rhubarb come back to life to saying “Goodbye” to Uncle as he walked down the dirt road with a bag on his back and a stick in his hand.

The other night as I was laying in bed with Primrose, she opened her eyes super wide and said, “Daddy, hear cranes?” And I could hear them in the distance.

Moments like these bring me so much joy as a father, husband, and Alaskan country man. Now let’s talk “work.”

Our first two beds in the greenhouse are planted with spinach, Bok choy, and spring lettuce and we have six flats of brussels and other cold hardy plants that are covered with fabric at night. We removed a thick mulch of straw from hundreds of garlic plants that are popping their little heads up to warm up and grow up. We began removing burlap from budding apple trees and will begin to prune raspberry patches of dead canes. The chicken coop door stays open as hens move freely while trying to find new places to hatch chicks. Two packages of bees were installed on the 27th that can be heard buzzing by in flight during brief sunny moments. The project list is being crossed off and added to, and the warm sun is blessing us.

We have so much to do, it can become overwhelming if we allow it. The first task at hand is to continue nursing plants that were started in the classroom until they can be brought home and planted. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, broccoli, brussels, flowers, cabbage, collards, and more. All food to be eaten fresh, sold or traded, and stored away for winter. In order to grow the food, we need a place to plant them. And since we outgrew our garden space last year, our neighbor excavated another 1/2 acre of forest where we are currently doing the work to mark and make 2 1/2′ x 25′ beds. “One garden bed at a time” has become the family mantra. We pick up sticks and rotten stumps into buckets to be dumped into a garden cart and wheeled off to one of three large piles of stumps nearby. We then use a tiller to pull up any more sticks, rake out the bed a few times, and add a thick layer of lime, one bed at a time. All of this is done by Savanna or myself while somebody carries Baby Marlena on their back (Savanna) or Daddy carries Marlena and plays with Primrose. Everything takes so much longer with kids that are 8 months and 2 3/4.

We decided to turn the area near the yurt into a perennial flower garden with raised beds, a small covered gazebo area, and fruit. It’s a big relief because we don’t have to do anything in the area this year other than build the raised beds. We will start on that project later in the season, after we plant 120 row feet (30 or so pounds) of potatoes in last year’s cabbage patch that is smack dab in the middle of the yurt area. Potatoes are a staple in our home, and they really should be in every Alaskan’s diet because they grow so well here. Last year we planted 15 pounds of seeds in virgin soil, we watered it maybe a handful of times, and didn’t fertilize with anything. We hilled the plants two times and received roughly 130 pounds of potatoes to go with our salmon and garlic. And while I said we planting any vegetables in the yurt area, we decided to use the cabbage patch for potatoes because the beds are already composted and we can plant potatoes by the end of the week to cross them off the list and to get an early start.

Do I like looking at gravel pits? Definitely not. But am I thankful that I have a handful of neighbors with gravel pits to sell me dump truck loads of affordable gravel and to give me free topsoil just because I was courteous enough to ask? The answer, is yes. We will bring in at least a few dump trucks of gravel this year to extend the driveway, install a Conex, build a sandbag root cellar, and potentially use as a ground cover for a playground.

But that’s not until June or July… Let me finish up early season chores first.
-Harden starts and plant
-Plant outdoor crops in new, fertilized beds (Beets, carrots, brussels, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, peas, beans, lettuce, kale, flowers)
-Plant cover crops of Oats and Clover
-Prune fruit and roses

And let’s not forget to mention the importance of enjoying the beach, looking for mushrooms, playing with kids, and making time to work on individual projects that bring joy and peace. With temperatures that rarely go higher than 40, it may not really feel like spring, but it sure does feel like spring… If you know what I mean?

Pictures to follow!

Published by secretgardenalaska

Family of four living off-grid in Happy Valley, Alaska. We grow food, write stories, make jewelry, and live a sober life.

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