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Preparing to Extend Our Growing Season

I so wanted to get this blog out in May, but May was extremely busy. Let me tell you how busy.

Teaching our grandchildren how to garden, mow the lawn (“mow the lawn” means driving the riding mower) and taking care of the farm animals and all that goes into running a homestead farm has been a lot of fun.. for both the kids and us! It so important to teach the “next generation” the joys of growing your own food, harvesting and preserving it, taking care of the animals and the property, and learning the lessons of hard, honest labor. These values we instill now in the little ones will serve them well for time and eternity.

When Vernon and I moved to the hills of Tennessee we knew nothing about country living or what it took to build a homestead. But we were willing to learn. The one thing we did know was that we were obeying the call of the LORD. Country living has been one of the most challenging, yet, rewarding things we have done in our life together. I can truly say we work harder now than we ever worked at our jobs before retiring. But there is a difference - we are our own bosses. We call the shots. When we are tired we stop and enjoy what we have accomplished so far. Vernon and I both sense that working so closely everyday has brought us closer together – to God and to each other. It is teaching us to depend on the graces of the LORD more. Growing our own food to feed our family for a year has been a wonderful experience. When we sit at the dinner table we know what we are eating because we grew much of it. When COVID hit and we couldn’t go to the grocery stores, it didn’t concern us as much because we had stored food that we had grown. We were our own grocery store, and so were not as affected by the “supply chain shortages.”

With each passing day we hear of the things happening in the world, and we understand even more why God calls us to the country. It amazes me when our friends tell us they will wait until things get really bad, then they will come to our homestead. It’s like telling us, “We will let you do the hard work, and we will come and enjoy what you have done.” We have prayerfully prepared our home for what’s to come. Step by step we have asked the LORD to guides us and to show us what we must do to be ready. With each project we get closer to being better prepared. We want to be in a position to help others when the time comes. But we fear that many who are taking a “Wait and see” attitude may one day find it too late and suffer unnecessarily.

Each of us, right now, should ask ourselves these questions: What will I do when the grocery store shelves are empty? What will I do if the grid goes down? What will I do if the water supply dries up? What will I do when we can neither buy nor sell?

I mentioned in the April blog that we were building a high tunnel (greenhouse), so that we could extend our growing season to be near year-round. We were told that project could be done over a weekend. They forgot to tell us that the estimate was based on having a crew of 6 or so experienced builders, having all the supplies and tools at the ready, and weather that went along with the program! Much of the initial work was done by Vernon using basic tools (hand saw, hammer, posthole digger, string level, etc.). After leveling the land using a borrowed box cutter (which took more than two weeks because of rain!), the 30ft by 95ft footprint of the high tunnel was laid out and squared. Postholes were dug by hand, and 6”X6”X3’ treated posts were cemented two feet into the ground – 30 of them! Then, 20 five-foot metal posts were driven by hand (mallet, ground post driver, and level) 18 inches into the ground along the length of the two longer sides. These posts would hold the fifty feet metal hoops. There was no way Vernon could do that by himself. So, one of our dear church family volunteered without being asked and spent much of one very hot June day to help bolt the 2”X6”X16’ treated boards to the metal posts at the bottom along the ground, six on each of the long sides. Then James, our son in law and one of our good neighbors helped put the 20 metal hoops into the posts. At this point, the structure began to look like a high tunnel. We had another friend drive 6 hours from the Charlotte NC area to help us. He stayed for 3 days then drove to Atlanta to visit his family over the weekend, and then came back the following Monday and stayed the rest of the week to help us make some good progress toward getting us closer to covering the structure with 6 mil UV resistant plastic sheathing. As we neared our time to finish this very large project, we realized that we were going to need more help if we were going to be able to make the final push to beat the end of month deadline. It was a joyous relief when several of our neighbors rallied around us to help secure the plastic sheathing over the high tunnel!

It is a blessing when you have people that are willing to put their life on hold to help you. Vernon and I have seen the hand of God so many times in our life. It truly makes us humble to know there are friends out there that care and love you so. This life we’ve chosen is not an easy one and the “high tunnel project” has taught us that we can’t do it alone; we must help one another.

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