As I look back over this first year of homesteading, I feel both encouraged by our successes and challenged by how I’d like to improve next year. Come along with me for my first year review of City Homestead Project! Leave me a comment to share any successes you’ve had in your garden, and don’t forget to check out the video at the end.
I looked through past photos and videos to compile this post and make a video, and I was blown away by how much we accomplished! One of my flaws is over-planning, and another flaw is focusing mainly on what I did not get done. However, I could not deny the successes that Justin and I were able to bring about this first year of city homesteading.
The top three successes of the year were:
- I grew things
- I ate things
- I preserved things.
Boom. Urban garden success. Going a little deeper, we had an abundance of all types of vegetables, including kale, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, winter squash, watermelon, sweet potatoes, collards, and more. We used our produce every day in various meals.
Throughout the season and towards the end, I put a lot of energy into preserving the harvest. I made tomato sauce, salsa, and pesto. I froze these, since I didn’t have a pressure cooker (but I just got one for Christmas – thank you Aunt Nancy!).
So, I’m super excited about all that our garden was able to produce. Backing up, though, we wouldn’t have gotten that far without all the physical labor Justin did to prepare our yard.
We moved into our house in the summer of 2021. There used to be an alley that ran on the other side of one of our fences, and there were three concrete garage foundations in our yard. Justin rented a jack hammer multiple weekends in a row and broke up two of the foundations. I helped haul some rubble, and then we paid someone to remove most of the rubble. Justin built the raised beds, I helped stain then, and he fastened the metal sides on them. We moved them into place and ordered some soil. We filled them, slowly but surely, and began to plant.
Another huge project Justin accomplished was building the chicken coop and the run. All this was necessary before we could start from ground zero: vegetables and chickens. (And let me just add that we had plenty of other non-City Homestead Project projects going: building out our small deck, tearing up carpet and refinishing interior stairs, removing mold from the basement and sealing it, and more).
There were definitely some challenges, as is to be expected in homesteading year, but especially the first year.
- I took on too many projects. I had hoped to transform our front side yard into an edible perennial garden, and I did plant some grapevines and berry bushes, but I didn’t get anywhere near completed with the project. I had wanted to plant asparagus, rhubarb, and herbs, as well as complete a path and an arbor. Way too much! I ended up feeling like a failure, but the reality is I should have saved this project for another year. I can keep working on it in the future, but it was a source of stress for me in 2021.
- I made the mistake of planting vining plants near the entrance of the garden. Whoops! Although they did great, I had to carefully pick my way over them each time I entered the garden. Next year I will plant them next to the concrete pad that is still in our yard (which will hopefully be removed in 2023) and I can train the vines to fill in that ugly space and provide some green. I will also plant the sweet potatoes in the ground along a fence so the vines can grow up and create a living wall.
- I wish I had done better at monitoring the soil ph and garden pests. I ended up losing a cucumber plant and a yellow squash plant. I think it was due to fungus, but I caught it too late. If only I had been more on top of them, and perhaps planted two of each plant instead of one. I missed out on homemade pickles and yellow squash muffins and breads.
Looking Ahead to 2022
I am excited for next year. I will remake my plans in January and order any seeds I need. I will start seedlings inside again and plant them in larger pots so they can be big and healthy when I transplant them in the spring.
We plan to get quail to raise for meat, so Justin will be building a little coop for them. We have a lot to learn about quail, but I don’t think it will be too different from raising chickens. We just have to learn how to process them!
I’d like to preserve a lot more out of the garden in the form of canned tomato sauce, canned salsa, frozen/dried beans, herbal teas, jams, making zucchini bread and freezing it, frozen pesto, and fermenting some of the vegetables. Basically just expanding what I did this past year.
I also hope to add a couple more fruit trees. We currently have persimmon, plum, and paw paw. I want to get sour cherry and apple. I also want to get hazelnut shrubs.
All in all, it’s been a great first year, and I can’t wait to see how far we can get next year! Stick with me on this journey of transforming my land into food.
See you in 2022,