What To Do When You Can’t Do It All

I’ve experienced an exceptional amount of failure this year.

I suppose some of the failures are a result of trying to do too much. Some of the failures are a result of doing what I thought was best, and it ended up not working. Plain and simple.

I had dreams this winter of magically starting a big, successful, abundant garden in the spring.

I’m not counting this as a failure, but that big, abundant garden has not happened.

Last October, before the first frost hit, I planted garlic in a small area we tilled in the future garden area. This spring, it came up so beautifully and I was so excited. As the summer went on, however, it was not doing as great as I remember my Minnesota garlic doing.

Here’s the kicker. In Minnesota, the only time I ever watered anything in our Back To Eden garden was right after I planted it. Then, I didn’t have to water again. I used that same strategy here in our first ever South Dakota garden.

That was a bad idea.

My garlic did not get enough moisture. It did not grow well, and it didn’t even separate into cloves, because the garlic head didn’t get big enough. I didn’t even think to water it, and as a result, I stunted our garlic crop.

I might be able to slice and dehydrate the small bulbs to keep on hand to grind into garlic powder later. But I won’t be able to use any of it to plant this fall for next year’s crop. I’ve ordered some garlic to have on hand to plant this October instead.

I started my seeds weeks too late. I knew the area I wanted to plant in, but I didn’t know how to protect it from the animals.

Once we had a couple of raised beds built, I had no plan for what I was going to put in them.

I wanted to plant potatoes in mid April. Instead, I thought I needed to have somethings done certain ways. I didn’t plant red potatoes until the first of June, or golden potatoes until the first day of summer.

Also, the potatoes were planted in clay soil, which is not at all ideal soil for potatoes. If we get a potato harvest at all, it won’t be until late September or October. Also, they’ll most likely be small and lacking a majority of their nutrients.

Thankfully, we found 20 pounds of Yukon Gold (my favorite) potatoes, which I’ll can and put up for use in soups or for mashing through the winter.

I also bought raspberry bushes, honey berry bushes, and grapevines. The problem is, if I plant them in the ground, they’ll be decimated in no time by rabbits. If I don’t plant them in the ground, they run the risk of becoming root bound in their pots. I need to find a great place to plant them, and a way to put chicken wire or something around as a fence to protect the plants from the rabbits.

I have all of this food to plant… but I most likely will not reap a harvest this year.

Even the chokecherries from the two trees here by the house may provide only a sparse harvest. So many fruits had set on the trees late spring, but between the wind whipping near-constantly blowing things clean off the tree, and birds already helping themselves to unripened fruit, our chokecherry jelly future may also be in question.

One apple tree dead, leaving the other to remain fruitless unless we can plant a pollinating replacement. Garlic crop fail. Poorly planned garden. Poorly timed actions.

That’s all on me.

Growing my food isn’t my only area I’ve fallen short in this year. I also let two guinea keets escape while I was trying to transfer them to a pen inside the coop. Guineas are not known for being smart, or for surviving long-term. As soon as those two keets escaped, I knew they were gone for good.

I beat myself up because I should have done the retrieving/transporting differently. I should have taken my time instead of being rushed in it.

So… Imagine my surprise when I managed to lure one of the escaped keets into the coop, shut her inside and catch her to put her in the pen with the rest!

The next day, I heard the other guinea calling from the woods. I could not believe my ears – how on earth had it survived an entire night without being taken by a predator? I thought for sure it would be owl-dinner overnight. Not only did it survive, but using the same technique, I was able to get it inside the coop, shut it inside, and trap it to keep with the other guineas as well.

Even though I failed to execute a proper transition for them, they survived and were put in a pen to be kept safe with the others.

I still can’t quite believe it.

So maybe the garden harvest will prove surprising as well. Time will tell. But here’s what I know…

When you can’t do it all, when you fail more times than you succeed, what do you do?

You keep trying anyway.

We’ve had a lot of failures already this growing season, and while that fact is disheartening in it’s own rite, it still provides us value as well.

Ask me if I’ve learned anything, if we’ll make changes for next year, and if we’ve developed any creative solutions, and I’ll answer “YES” to all three.

Also, we’ve found some hidden blessings.

The seeds I started this year, I started late as I mentioned already. But we were able to find starts (on sale) enough to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, peppers, and butternut squash.

The ground cherry seeds I started only had one germinate, and it’s growing slower than molasses. But then… I found wild ground cherries growing on our property. I’m not sure how, because there has never been a garden up here, but I’m so excited. Ground cherries are my favorite, and having them here and there over the property is a huge and unexpected blessing.

We’ve got raised beds built that I may not have had detailed plans for this year, but I’ve already got plans in mind for what I’m going to plant in each one next year. (And they’re beautiful! Hubs did such a wonderful job building them, and they add so much aesthetic value to the garden area!)

I’ve been through one full year of seasons here on the hilltop, and I’m better prepared for growing food and raising animals in the future, with the patterns of the weather rather than in spite of them.

Once again, the generosity of others has carried us through our own ineptitudes. We have asparagus a friend allowed me to dig up and plant on our own hilltop. As the years continue, that plot will produce and multiply for many meals to come.

We have rhubarb chopped and frozen, thanks to the neighbor of my family who offered it up to them. Now I can make our favorite raspberry rhubarb muffins.

Throughout the summer, people at church bring their garden abundance and allow others to glean from their green thumbs.

And even while our first year here has more homestead hassles than victories, I don’t feel like giving up.

Clearly, I can’t do it all. And what I end up doing, I don’t necessarily always do well. But what I’ve learned in all of this is how important it is to keep doing things anyway.

I’ll keep trying, keep planning, keep learning.

Because… when you can’t do it all, you can still do something.

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