SWINGING FROM THE BRANCHES
We came, we searched, we found the perfect property, we bought and then the work began. In 2016 my husband and I found the perfect piece of land to start our own tiny homestead. We acquired (with our partner the bank) just under one acre of weeds with a house on top. The house was brown, the carpets, the walls, the curtains, the siding, all brown. Bless you if that is your favorite color but I am a person who needs to be surrounded by bright colors. I love to sink into the sunshine of yellow as it pops into my brain and wakes me up in the morning. I need to relax into shades of blue that calm me and let me be who I am. I have to be surrounded by the energy of red as it sparks my creativity and gives me endless joy at the forbidden quality of being so bright. We tore up the carpets to reveal the beautiful wood floors hiding underneath, painted the walls in every shade of yellow, blue and red we could find and brought in all our stuff. It became our home. Sure, it's not finished yet but it's not brown anymore and it winds joy into our hearts as life is lived.
Outside we hacked down, mowed down, dug up and even sprayed a bit to get the weeds under some semblance of control. The thistles were so tall we had to cut them down with an axe. We took truckload after truckload of weeds to the dump. That first year we managed to hack out a small rectangle of space and plant a few vegetables that struggled between my incompetence and the competing weeds that had made a permanent home. As we slogged along we were making a plan. We drew maps and decided exactly what we wanted and where it was going to fit. Our plan is to have food growing in almost every square inch of space and to eliminate all grass. We envisage pathways between flowers, a front deck with a porch swing and so many kinds of sage brightening up the landscape.
The first big commitment we made to the property was adding trees. We were excited to find two huge old cherry trees already growing along with an equally old but much smaller plum tree. In the front yard there was a dogwood that would give us beautiful blooms every spring. But it was the cherry trees that made us our first friend.
We were happily picking cherries when our neighbor came around the corner with two lovely children in tow. She had a basket filled with eggs, fresh eggs, from her chickens that I had been watching with envy through our chain link fence. We bartered and she went home with a basket full of cherries while we ate the most beautiful looking and best tasting eggs we had ever had in our lives. It was a moment of wonder and a taste of the pleasures that were to come in our future as backyard farmers. It was also the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the family next door.
Since those humble beginnings I hope that we have learned a thing or two about more than one topic of farming in this hot valley. One thing we have learned is that trees take a long time to grow and produce food. Shortly after etching out the beginnings of our vegetable garden and mapping out future buildings we started planting an orchard. We made straight rows with perfect spacing and trees began to go in. We put in crabapples, plums, pears, apples, apricots, peaches, nectarines and hazelnuts. We added almonds, walnuts and pistachios. We planted two new cherry trees that will eventually replace the grandmothers that started all this but are dying. We've had to replace some that didn't make it. Farming is a steep learning curve and we're getting there. We've had to rethink others. However, here we are on a property with a large fenced vegetable garden (still full of weeds that I fight day in and day out), a barn, a greenhouse, a chicken coop with dedicated yard, a partially completed raised herb garden, a compost pile, the beginnings of a vegetable and craft store, and 42 new trees that we have added ourselves. We've learned a LOT and we've stared in wonder as these giant beings take root. It will be extremely sad when we have to remove the cherry trees that currently offer us the only shade on the property but we have planted two walnuts to move into their place. We'll keep one stump and turn it into a fairy house to remember the magic the trees gave us when they brought us new friends and a basket of fresh eggs.
Yesterday I picked a bowl full of asian pears from one of our smallest fruit trees. The taste is extremely good and it gives me so much hope for our future as I savor it. Someone once told me that the best time to plant a tree was yesterday and I have to agree. To the next generations who will enjoy the fruits of our labors (quite literally) I send you a smile and a spark of joy that we could make this plan and live it out for the love of the land and the trees that inhabit it.