A First-timer’s Garden—Post 2: Everything Growing but I am Not Done Planting Yet

The First Squash Blossom of Summer

This seems so simple. It makes me wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner. It also makes me worry if I am doing something wrong. Are the plants too close together? Will the tall beans block the sun for the shorter melons and cucumbers?

I thought I got at least one zucchini from the plant sale but both of the squash from there are just marked “summer squash”. Then I tried to get someone else to get me a zucchini when they were at the nursery and they came back with YELLOW zucchini. Of course we planted it, but I still want a GREEN one. We are going to be in trouble this August, I can tell. I have known folks who have grown more than one zucchini. They haunt their friends with giant “gifts”, in the end resorting to dropping them on doorsteps after dark and then running…

We started with three barrels and a box, plus a yard and a half of dirt. We are up to ten barrels and counting, plus about four yards of dirt. And I am not done yet. I still need some kitchen herbs, and maybe some other stuff. Does gardening qualify as a process addiction like gambling or computer solitaire? We shall see.

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A First-timer’s Garden—Post 1: Getting the Plants in the Ground

The Frugal Goddess Learns to Dig in the Dirt

Some of my reader’s who have been following the Frugal Goddess for awhile may remember—I am a cook, not a gardener. My mother was a champion gardener. Her gardens were chaotic and messy, but always lush and productive. I was clumsy in my attempts to help, and soon gave up, retreating to the familiar safety of my kitchen. But now, a dozen years later, I realize that if I want that wonderful homegrown flavor at a cost that is bearable, I must learn how to grow it myself.

My garden plot sits on the back field of an acre and a half just northeast of Sebastopol, CA. I have to plant in containers because the gophers rule here. It took awhile to get the barrels and build my one box to start with. Some might say I was already late, but at least now I’m ready.

The containers sat for some time while I figured out what to fill them with. Dirt

A Garden in Containers

some may say, but that is too simple. It has to be good clean earth with the right types of organic matter added in. Like everything else, there are perhaps too many choices. Luckily Sonoma County is still a farming community, and there is a dirt store not far away. It is really a fascinating place, with piles of various types of dirt for different applications, and big trucks with big shovels, piling it in to a line of waiting pickup trucks. I got a yard and a half of the Organic Garden Mix. This was then shoveled into the waiting containers. This is when I discovered what an easy job cooking is, compared to farming. But it felt good to shovel and to dig my hands in the rich dark earth as I planted my babies.

My first grand plan was to grow from seed, but that was way too complicated for a pilgrim like me. Maybe next year. I put in a row of beans, a row of cucumber, several melons, tomatoes, acorn squash, and summer squash, including the ubiquitous zucchini, all from starts. I still have a barrel or two to fill. I will be posting from time to time on the progress from garden to table. For now, let me just say—I haven’t killed anything yet.

Here are some links for further information:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/24/frugal-gardening-seed-saving-saves-money-and-is-good-for-the-planet/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/01/13/the-gardener-in-winter/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2012/03/01/get-more-flavor-for-less-money-grow-these-five-herbs-indoors/

 

Country or City—Which is the More Frugal Choice?

City?

It costs money to live no matter what, but there are differences in the expenses you will face based on whether you are a country dweller or a city dweller. There are several major needs that will be affected by your choice. Most cost of living indexes claim that the cost of living is higher in urban areas, but this may not be entirely true. These measures always assume that you own a private car that must be parked. But, if you live in a city worthy of the name, you can get around on public transportation or by walking, eliminating the entire automobile expense in the process. You may need to purchase a muni or bus pass to get around, but the cost of a pass pales in comparison to the cost of owning a private car. In the country it is very hard to live without a car, though it can be done.

When it comes to housing, the rural dweller may be ahead of the game. If we leave the higher end of the real estate market out of the mix, and concentrate on share rentals, it is the state and region that influence housing costs the most. That being said, rural areas have a slight edge on really affordable share rentals.

Food is the next great expense. The normal measures of cost of living assume that the urban dweller will avail

Or Country?

themselves of the great variety of restaurants in their city. But, if you are a frugalista most of your meals will be cooked at home from foods obtained at the best price possible. A few years ago, I would have said that even cooking is more expensive in the city, but that has changed in the face of farmer’s markets and community gardens, which are ubiquitous now in big cities. That being said, the country is still the place to cut the expense of food to the bone if you have the skill and the will. Even urban chickens don’t quite even it out.

Clothes don’t actually cost more in the city, but your requirements for more expensive garb will increase in the competitive social and professional atmosphere of the city. Like it or not, humans are visually oriented creatures, and clothing is social shorthand. In the country, after you get some serviceable boots and sunglasses to protect your eyes you are home free.

Those are the three expenses most sensitive to geography. It depends, like most things, on what kind of a life you want to live. If you are willing to endure the inconvenience and loneliness of life on a farm without a car, and you maximize your savings by growing produce and keeping livestock, you can live in the most frugal way possible. But if that is not for you, you can still make it work. Just cultivate friends that belief in voluntary simplicity, keep those urban chickens, and if you must drive get a Zip car, which is a short term rental based on membership.

There is only one bad choice for frugality, and that is the sprawling suburb, the worst of both worlds.

Here are some links to help:

http://www.zipcar.com/

http://urbanchickens.org/

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