Fun-Size Farming: How to deal with setbacks

 A brief interlude while Mother Nature has a tantrum

This week I promised a video tour of #EtheridgeFarms, but we've been subject to several flash flood type storms the past few days, so no dice.

Instead, here's a video tour of our small drainage ponds we dug from what in years past has been a large stinky bog:

You can see why, considering the tremendous amount of water creating small waterfalls and a flowing brook in our backyard.

If you garden even a little bit, you'll soon have to face the annoying fact that Nature will do as she pleases, even in the approximate 48 hours you have every spring to get the vegetables and fruits up and running.

How to Hit Nature's Curveballs

Idea 1: Work with Nature, not against her

As we did with the drainage ponds. Listen, these things aren't even remotely professional. We literally took a shovel and dug a big hole and watched as water poured out of the spongy topsoil into the basin of clay and sand soil. We just squatted down every once in awhile and ran the hose at the top of the system to make sure it was all running downhill.

This idea of cultivating nature without trying to overthrow it or control it is discussed at length and with great accessible eloquence by Michael Pollan in Second Nature

Have a problem area in your yard or garden? Try changing your perspective from Conquer to Collaborate, and see what ideas might come up. (I'm happy to brainstorm with anyone who might have a problem. Just send me a message!)

Idea 2: Reorient your goals

There's an alarmingly short window for getting things started in the spring. And if you have lofty goals (which I always do), you can quickly find yourself in a tailspin.

For instance, of our six raised garden beds, one of them, with strawberries in the bottom, has become overrun with wild blackberries. My goal was to dig up the blackberries and move them to the side yard, where I can cultivate them, but our wonky weather (and a few other necessary chores) delayed me and they flowered out before I got around to it.

So instead, this year I'm just giving them that garden bed. I surrender it. We'll pick the small wild blackberries this summer, and move the plants in the fall.

Idea 3: Take time to observe

Gardening and livestock-ing can keep you as busy as you let it, but there's something to be said for doing the bare minimum and spending the rest of your time just watching things happen.

Watch where the sun rises and sets in relationship to your house. Watch where other houses and trees cast shadows, and when, and for how long.

Look at your garden after a torrential rain and see how the water flows and if it pools or puddles anywhere.

Inspect your plants while they're still winter sticks. Then take a look at what happens when they begin to wake up for spring. And track the stages of growth, until they blossom, and when. You'll find little bugs you never knew existed. This will probably be alarming. But don't worry, it's all been happening for centuries before you began observing it. You'll simply learn what it's all about, and become a better gardener because of it.

Conclusion: Knowledge is incremental but also exponential

By that I mean, you may know almost nothing, but don't discount the little bits and pieces you pick up along the way. (Don't forget to like my Facebook page to see weekly Tips o' the Garden to Ya!) And one day you'll realize you've gathered all these seeds of knowledge, watered them with sweat (and probably tears, lets be honest), and now you've got a whole garden of experience.