This path to homesteading is one that I found myself on to by chance. When I first moved from 'The Big Smoke' (AKA Dublin) to the countryside, a huge part of my delight was at being able to do things the way I wanted to: my house, my rules, if you will. I could run my home the way i wanted, cook the way I wanted and so on. I loved having the freedom to express myself through my space and surroundings.
Slideshow: These images were taken between 2005 and 2009. You can see the progression of the garden but it was really still in its infancy!
Because our house was a new build, our garden was a blank canvas marred only by the building process. We created a lawn and then the basic framework for our countryside oasis. I remember perusing seed catalogues, gardening books and magazines at length. My husband took charge of the hardscaping but we worked the different projects together as we went along.
Within eighteen months, we had fruit trees and bushes, a polytunnel, the beginnings of a garden, a pond and even some chickens. We planted a wild fruiting hedge on the fence-line with our neighbours. We planted willow whips, with a view to having our own supply of willow for weaving. We planted gooseberries, currants, cranberries and a selection of apple trees for eating and cooking. We planted trees around the garden and in the paddocks at the front and back of the house, including a beautiful Walnut, which has now started to give us fruit.
We moved into our home in 2005, but despite our lofty aspirations, the garden sputtered over time. The area we had chosen as our 'garden' was enormous, and trying to keep the weeds under control was completely overwhelming. Being in the middle of a meadow, meant that the grass was pretty determined to grow, no matter how much we pulled it, cleared areas and during the summer, within weeks of clearing an area it would be overrun again by waist high weeds and perennial grasses.
Every year, I pledge to get control of the garden, but this year, given the circumstances that we faced, was the first that I really feel like I actually did. In the early lockdown days, while my husband tended to the farm, animals and different jobs that had been put on the long finger for far too long, I got down and dirty in the garden. I weeded, planted, sowed, dug, mulched, cut back and composted. We erected a polytunnel and added new beds. I spent hours, on my knees for the most part, going through the various beds and areas, forcing control and manners on the unruly plants.
Our garden always seems to hit its peak in about mid to late August, and this year is no different. While we are harvesting the vegetables and making plans for the next season, the flowers continue to bloom and add their delicate scent.
I would consider myself to be a reasonably knowledgeable gardener and I adore my garden and the hours I spend in it, but that is not always enough. I always seem to bite off a little more than I can chew which means that at peak weed-growing season (usually in July and August), I feel overwhelmed and unable to catch up with all the growth.
Having a successful garden takes time: that does not need to be hours upon hours every week, but there is a seasonal flow to the tasks required to maintain it. Having a plan and spending little time often tends to go a long way.
I'll look forward to showing you a tour of our garden and its different areas. Keep an eye on the blog and social media for updates.