(While I'm away for a week in the woods, I'll be missing my garden! But I'm delighted to share with you this week some more peeks inside some of your gardens.)
Today, Shannon shares about gardening with a large family, off-grid, in Texas. Be sure to check out Shannon's fermentation book as well!
Welcome to her garden!
. . .
Gardener: Shannon Stonger (along with my husband who has actually done much of the work).
Garden Location and Zone: Zone 8b Texas
Garden Size: A bit over 1/8 acre plus other spaces I plant wherever I can fence my chickens out.
How long have you been gardening?
I have been gardening since 2008 but much more seriously since moving off-grid in 2011.
Why do you garden?
Because someone has to feed me and my family and I feel a deep conviction that it should be me. I've heard it said that only about 2% of our population is involved in food production and that concerns me a great deal. Gardening is also something I get a great deal of enjoyment and education from. There is just something about planting a seed and nurturing a plant at one end of the season, and then harvesting and fermenting on the other that is incredibly satisfying.
How would you describe your garden?
The garden is a mix of beds of various sizes and a small field all fenced into an eighth of an acre. In addition, we have various fruit and nut trees and a separate garden area we utilize for perennials and some annuals.
It is a work in progress, to be sure. We moved to Texas from the Mid-West on the heels of the worst drought in Texas history. On top of that, there was almost no topsoil to speak of on our little two acres. So it has been an ongoing process of building soil organically ever since.
Gardening When It Counts, The Resilient Gardener, and Texas Gardening are some of my favorite books. I also like What's Wrong With My Plant and What to Do About It as well as any permaculture-minded books.
What’s your biggest gardening challenge?
Making soil and working with the extreme climate. I think the former is going to be a life long process for us, as I imagine it is for most gardeners. Adding animals to the homestead and harnessing their manure has been a game-changer in this area. As to extremes: it can be over 100 degrees here as early as April and we can get frosts a week later. Likewise, it can get into the 80s in the winter and down in the teens within a matter of days. We've learned to grow short-season varieties, cover crops in spring and fall, and mulch. Oh, and we check the forecast a lot, too.
What’s your biggest garden accomplishment?
Having children who know where their food comes from and who are eager to grow their own is something I am really grateful for. They get as excited as I do over harvests and saving seeds. They want to dig up garlic and potatoes and bring in onions as tall as them. It's been a gift to our family, I think, to be so connected with the land.
If you have children, what role do they play in your gardening?
Our children range in age from 1.5 - nearly 11 years old and they all make their way to the garden with us. Our two oldest have staked out their plots and our youngest three are all eager to put seeds in the ground. When I order seeds, I usually ask them if they have any requests. They bring in harvests and help chop, can, and ferment as well.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I live on a five acre off-grid homestead in Central Texas with my husband, five young children, and our chickens, goats, and cows. I chronicle our agrarian journey on our blog Nourishing Days. When I'm not holding a baby or digging in the dirt, I enjoy writing books like 100% Rye: Wheat-Free Sourdough Rye Breads and Treats and Traditionally Fermented Foods: Innovative Recipes and Old-Fashioned Techniques for Sustainable Eating. My kitchen is almost always a messy mix of ferments, dirty dishes, and home school books.
Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your garden with us!
(If you'd like to share your farm or garden with us this season, send me an email for more details. We'd love to visit!)