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Family New Year’s Resolutions

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Interestingly, New Year’s resolutions pertaining to my personal life never last more than a few weeks. But making New Year’s resolutions a family affair focuses energy and discussion among family members. Slowly we are making progress toward our chosen lifestyle, minimizing our carbon footprint and being more sustainable and self-reliant.

One of our major goals for 2009 was to be able to eat from the garden year round. Our garden produced beyond expectations! Swiss chard, kale, spinach, collards, lettuce, bok choy and other greens were available for picking throughout the winter (despite freezing conditions at our 2000 foot elevation). In early spring broccoli, broccoli raab, onions, beets, carrots, radishes, and asparagus added more variety to the menu. Soon potatoes, squash, cucumbers, rhubarb and strawberries became favorites followed shortly by corn, tomatoes, beans, garlic, peppers, eggplant and watermelon.

Surprisingly the challenges were not in the planting, picking, and preserving but in broadening family members’ taste buds to appreciate fresh picked, homegrown produce. Each family gathering featured fresh picked garden treats with the understanding that everyone had to taste. After all, it was from “grandma’s garden.”

Next year we look forward to enjoying more berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries) as well fruit from five new trees. Because I am committed to organic methods, the fruit tree experiment began modestly and with a new approach. Using permaculture concepts that imitate nature, I surrounded the trees with plants that attract beneficial bugs, repel bad bugs and add nitrogen to the soil. Instead of an orchard, the herbs and flowers (alyssum, marigolds, nasturtiums, borage, tansy, yarrow, comfrey and asters) make it look like an ornamental flower garden that is producing food for us, the butterflies, bees and other beneficial members of the environment.

In 2009, we extended the harvest by freezing surplus crops. We will consider that experience in plant selection and amount estimation for next year. In 2010 I am also looking forward to curing olives, canning chutneys, salsas, jam, and strawberry rhubarb sauce as well as drying tomatoes, fruit and beef jerky.

With family input, we are talking about additional varieties of tomatoes-better for sauce-and fewer hot chili peppers (uneaten), more asparagus, and strawberries that are larger, sweeter and less perishable. The beets were stringy with bitter foliage so next year we’ll experiment on how to improve the product. No one eats radishes, so they’ll be dropped from the list, except for a few sacrificial plants to decoy the bad bugs.

In 2009 our two goats devoured our mistakes. In 2010, in addition to compost piles and red wigglers (worms), we will have just two llamas with limited appetites, so we will have to consciously use more and waste less.

By next year’s holiday season, I hope our family’s palates and preferences will have expanded so they will appreciate a jar of home-grown jelly as much as something purchased at a big box store. Making a family resolution to live a more sustainable lifestyle is just the first step. Getting everyone excited and committed to it is a multi-year challenge, measured in small steps and incremental success. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Marlys Bell and her husband, Jay are working to make their property a demonstration of how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.