(The story of a city gardener moving to the country and learning the difference between a 50’x100’ city lot and 2.5 acres.)
Hi, my name is Rosemary. And I have the good fortune to be the marketing director for CHS Northwest. You may have known us as Whatcom Farmers Co-op or WFC. A few years ago we merged with CHS – a large farming cooperative – and changed our name to CHS Northwest.
Other than the name change and gaining greater resources to assist our customers with better pricing and a larger product offering, not much has changed here at CHS Northwest. We are local people with deep connections to our communities. We have the same local board of directors and the same commitment to helping our friends and neighbors face the challenges of agriculture in the 21st century.
Now for a little background on how I came to write this blog called the Naïve Gardener. A few years ago, I was a marketing consultant for WFC. The more time I spent with the folks at WFC, the more I realized it’s a great company run by a group of people who put their heart, soul, hands and minds into making life better for the producing farmers, the retail customers, the propane clients and the communities in which the offices and stores are located. Today I am the marketing director for CHS Northwest. And this former lifelong city girl who left a tiny house with a tiny yard in Seattle’s funky Wallingford neighborhood now lives in a house on 2.5 acres just outside beautiful Anacortes. That’s where the name of this blog comes in. As we eagerly made big plans for our big garden – our realtor encouraged us to “park out” the property—we were pretty naïve. But in a good way!
We immediately hired a dear friend, a landscape designer, to help us draw out the plans for the yard. We finally settled on a plan and then sat for 4 years trying to figure out how to tackle the project. During the four years we had a lot to learn. Power outages, generators, septic systems, ground wasps, hungry rabbits, deer, an underground propane tank, rats, sump pumps, crawlspaces…these are a few of the highlights.
In our excitement, we got a bit ahead of ourselves, buying a greenhouse kit and letting it sit, covered with tarps, in the driveway for a year! Once we were (really) ready to start, we began with the hardscape items. We quickly discovered that while the plan looked great on paper, the reality of the property size would actually start to dictate many of our decisions.
We built a garden enclosure to help keep the deer from using the veggie garden as an all you eat buffet. My nephew came over and built a platform for the greenhouse. We hired a friend to assemble the greenhouse. It was at this point that we realized our “Do-It-Yourself” skills were somewhat limited!
The “plan” indicated a deck that was 20’x20’. We took twine, that we quickly upgraded to rope, to lay out what we imagined the deck would be. We doubled and then tripled the deck size and included a pergola. The pergola gained a skylight. The deck gained a pole and sun sail. The budget for the year was spent and we hadn’t purchased a single plant or ordered a yard of soil! We spent the winter contemplating what we would use to plant our fabulous vegetable garden.
At this age, raised beds made sense. But the kits we looked at were expensive and possibly not tall enough to keep out the ever-increasing rabbit population. I would look out of the office window up in Lynden and see trucks unloading large galvanized tanks or tubs. When I inquired, I found out that these were stock tanks…used to feed or water stock. But to me they looked like the perfect raised beds. I purchased 28, eight-foot stock tanks, had them delivered and proceeded to drill holes in the bottom for drainage. I went through a dozen drill bits and couldn’t hear much after spending a weekend, head down in metal tanks, drilling holes.
I had gravel and soil delivered. I hired a young kid to help me and my hubby schlep gravel and soil to the 28 stock tanks. It was the hottest weekend possible in April and somehow we managed to survive the process and get all the tanks filled with soil and Malibu Organic Compost. It was a sight to behold! It’s possible that I may be single-handedly responsible for raising the overall temperature of Anacortes with all that metal!
I’ll leave the story at this point because this is where the learning really started. In the coming weeks and months, I will share the tips, tricks, successes and failures of the Naïve Gardener. And did I mention that I’m an aging, naïve gardener? Let the garden games begin!