Backyard Orchard Apple Trees

The backyard orchard starts with trying something

This year, I tried adding two apple trees to start a backyard orchard. I really hope they survive the winter. There are already hazelnuts and blackberries growing, but planting trees took a backseat since they are rather large and hard to move once in place.

net bag with ripe apples on sofa
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I am in Zone 5, which narrowed down the initial selection. Gala apples are one of my favorites and are self-fertile as well as relatively early ripening, so that ended up being tree number one.

The second tree took some thought. I wanted a jack of all trades variety that would also be a good pollinator combination with the Gala.

Ultimately, I went with a variety that was new to me, the Pristine early-ripening variety. It ripens as early as July which sounded appealing given our limited growing season.

Lazy permaculture to build the backyard orchard

Fruit trees take several years to produce, so I’m not counting on apples right away. But I have visions of snacks and pies and canned preserves. Maybe even cider.

Hopefully, both trees survive! I was able to get both into the ground the day after they arrived. They are in a semi-sheltered location that does not tend to saturate (in spite of clay soil) and I think they get adequate sun.

ripe red apples on grassy ground
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Protecting the apple trees

I sprayed once with neem oil after noticing aphids, but I think between rain and wasps they may balance out mostly on their own. I might introduce ladybug larvae in the spring as well.

There is fencing in place to ward off deer. Aside from that, I have not wrapped the trunks or sprayed dormant oil, mainly due to limited time and energy for this project.

Having read somewhere that alliums play well at the base of apple trees, I did introduce some Egyptian onions (aka walking onions). Those have been flourishing in a container planter for a couple of years now. They are well acclimated. They are a fairly indestructible perennial to begin with.

Anyway, several bunches of walking onions had sprouted in the mulch around the Gala especially. Now that the weather is turning in earnest, I hope those come back in the spring too.

Early beginnings orchard

The other big investment I considered was pears, but I wanted to be really sure if the desired site. Also, I couldn’t decide on a variety.

I did get a second small lemon tree, but of course those have to come inside over the winter.

I also came across a FIG variety that is marketed as being hardy down to zone 5.

Needless to say, a couple of those are dormant in the garage, but no matter how hardy they are, I think they have a better chance of survival being planted next spring.

two person standing between green leaf trees
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Mimicking natural forests

In nature, forests have numerous layers including a canopy and understory layer, smaller shrubs and ground cover.

So how did we incorporate these ideas in our garden this year? We added the apple trees. We continued to cultivate blackberries—which are amazingly hardy and productive.

I added the perennial alliums, walking onions, under the apple trees. For ground cover, I sowed white clover through the yard and garden.

Planting fruit trees is a slow starting way to grow some of your own food, but once established, the trees require less ongoing input than an annual vegetable garden. I think that if you have even a bit of outdoor space and select the tree variety carefully this is a great addition to the small homestead.

Hoping for the best! This was the last big project outdoors going into the winter. From here it’s up to the plants.

christmas table decorated with wreaths and candles
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7 Ways to Ditch the Consumer Mentality

Ditch the consumer mentality

Defining the consumer mentality: “I have a problem (or need), therefore I must spend money.”

In a culture of “more is more,” sometimes you just need a reset. I like to find ways to make sure that the things I own are serving me, rather than the other way around.

It’s easy to end up in a lifestyle where you do work, get a paycheck, and use that paycheck to buy stuff and solutions. Ditching the consumer mentality is about finding ways to make your own solutions at least some of the time. In time this tends to decrease the dependence on a paycheck.

scenic view of forest

If the concept is intriguing you might check out the book Early Retirement Extreme which is available from libraries and online including a Kindle version. (author’s website here)

1. Mend an item of clothing

A basic sewing kit ranges from $2-$10. Consider that less than 100 years ago, making at least some of the clothes for oneself or one’s family was a common skillset. Nowadays, sewing is more of a niche crafting skill.

While crafting isn’t for everyone, fixing a seam or replacing a button is easy to learn, only takes a few minutes, and is well worth doing if the item is your favorite.

2. Complete one existing task or project

It’s a lot of fun to come up with ideas and start a new project.

If you have a project languishing around, tackling it can really give you a boost. Plus, then you can start a new one!

For me right now, this is a scarf that has been in progress for a LONG time, and getting some plantings into the ground in the front garden.

3. Cook or bake a thing from scratch

We all have to eat. Extra credit for trying something new or a bit challenging, but I will allow anything at all that you haven’t made before.

Cooking from scratch is another lost art, although the 2020 covid lockdowns made things like sourdough starter popular for a time.

If you find or develop a great recipe, especially for a baked good, that can be a nice item to share and gift in the colder months.

close up shot of a person slicing a bread on a wooden chopping board

4. Propagate a houseplant

Pothos is especially easy, and spider plants practically propagate themselves. (Whether or not they clean the air, plants certainly bring natural beauty inside.) I use a few hanging planters that keep them out of reach of pets and children.

5. Make a library trip

Gone are the days when libraries only had books. They have music, DVDs, and often online resources. Often local libraries host crafting and other creative groups. Some libraries offer “take and make” craft kits.

I wish I were into crafting. It is just not my gift. But in terms of free entertainment, libraries are so amazing. If they don’t have the particular item you want, they can almost always order it from other libraries with reciprocal agreements.

brown wooden bench with brown dried leaves

6. Educate yourself without spending money

Spend an evening on something you find interesting…

Listen to a podcast. Listen to an audiobook. Watch a documentary. Read something not directly necessary to your daily life. Check out Coursera, Bored panda, or Youtube (I love recipes, sustainable lifestyle, and gardening inspiration videos especially.)

7. Invent and make something

This does not have to be a crafty item. A birdbath can be any shallow container, weighted down, with some water in it. A clothes rack. A pillow. Change up home decor by shopping what you already have, repurposing something, or rearranging items. My coffee table started its life as a shipping pallet. My planted fishbowl started out as a gallon pickle jar.

Making, creating, and living on less…

It’s a way of life.

person spreading hands against sun

Homestead Inspiration

Inspiration for the small homestead

Homestead inspiration in the suburbs

What is your homestead inspiration? Nutrition? Sustainability? Independence? Simple living?

With homesteading dreams, but practical constraints, it can be hard to focus on living a less consumerist life in the here and now.

Let’s live within our means.

Let’s produce more of our own food and keep our homes from being filled with a bunch of “stuff” without function or lasting value.

Finally, let’s cultivate free time, and spend it doing more than just watching TV. Yes, I love a good movie night, but I want to keep up skills and learn new skills.

red leaf on book
Photo by Davyd Bortnik

Homestead vs. practicality

Not everyone can up and move to the country, as many of us are still dependent on our jobs.

Country living homesteading (in the sense of having land and livestock) is a daily, time-consuming commitment that can take up a lot of time, effort, and resources.

It is worth counting the cost and making sure you want to do the work.

Living less wastefully

We live in a highly consumeristic, materialistic society. All too frequently, we buy things new and then send them to the landfill a short time later.

Planned obsolescence defines the lifespan of too many products.

Still, many items can be bought used (cell phones) or repaired (laptops) and a modern way of life enjoyed without fully buying into the production stream.

Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.

American proverb from the Great Depression era

Homestead inspiration for the small garden

Start small! You can do it. This is all supposed to be fun.

I believe that with life, homemaking, gardening, and even working, it is supposed to be fun. Without fun, something is not right.

I believe that in family life there is supposed to be fun in our day-to-day lives and interactions. Without fun, our relationships are out of balance.

orange fruit near pinecone gift wrap and maple leaves
Photo by Caroline Feelgood

Currently, I live in a suburb with a front yard and a backyard garden.

In our neighborhood, we get more wildlife than you might expect, which has been the primary barrier to food production.

There are also a lot of trees, which are beautiful and stately. They provide a lot of shade. Placement of plantings has to be very strategic to work around all that shade.

Now a few years into this, we are getting a few more berries, a few more squash and tomatoes, a lot more hickory nuts and just a couple of hazelnuts.

It is exciting to see our novice efforts at permaculture gardening starting to bear fruit, literally.

Here are a few of my sources of inspiration

  1. Tenth Acre Farm – Permaculture for the Suburbs
  2. Mother Earth News – 1-Acre Dreamin’
  3. Homestead.org – Permaculture Principles
  4. Atitalan Organics – Mapping Zones on Your Property
  5. Tenth Acre Farm – How to Develop the Permaculture Homestead in Phases
  6. Mother Earth News – 9 Permaculture Practices
  7. Food Tank – 16 Successful Projects Highlighting Permaculture Use

Whatever else is going on out there, when we’re on the homestead…

Let’s keep it cozy.

Green Green Green is the Thing

Green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Today we celebrate all things green, with all the green pictures from last year’s garden! Once again, it is time for March Madness, grow lights, and starting seedlings indoors in zones 4-6 or so.

Whether you enjoy green beer or not, let’s use this week as a reason to celebrate! Celebrate spring. Celebrate a new year. Celebrate health, if you are blessed with it. Celebrate a hot cup of coffee. Celebrate the first baby seedlings poking their heads up out of the potting mix.

I lost all my stored garden seeds.

I am actually behind on my spring planting this year. My shoebox of garden seeds was THROWN AWAY to my great sadness. It used to live in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Then, we got a new fridge.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

The new fridge turned out not to work, but we had already put a few things into it. We called and were able to have another new fridge delivered the next day. The replacement fridge worked just fine, and is still going strong…

You can see where this is going.

We took out the few things we had put into the original replacement refrigerator–except for the onions and the box of garden seeds in the bottom drawer. Also, I failed to realize this. Until a few weeks later when I was ready to start planting. So, now it will be a little while longer.

Anyone who keeps a stash of garden seeds will appreciate how crestfallen I was to realize that probably $40 worth of seeds including, marigolds, a variety of heirloom tomato and pepper seeds, and various annuals that we grow every year. I am not going to be able to replace all of the varieties in one go since that would be pretty wasteful.

The garden will be just fine, though.

Happy Spring!

green plant clover close up photography
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