WOMEN who inspire us

Born and raised in Oregon, I am a mother of six, married to my high school sweetheart Kevin. We’re entering our 31st year of playing house together. For the last 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of working full-time in radio advertising from home while raising my babies at the same time. This meant a lot of time spent at home, allowing us to build our backyard homestead, including different gardens and a flock of five chickens.

Organic food is expensive, so feeding a large family on a tight budget didn’t allow us to buy the healthier options. That’s when my love of gardening turned into my mission.

I was on a quest to grow as many organic fruits and vegetables as possible to provide for my family. Our garden started as two raised beds in the corner of our yard. Today, we have over 16 raised beds and several trellises for vertical growing in every part of our 10,000+ sq ft lot. This includes our front yard, too! Over the years, we’ve incorporated as much edible landscape as possible. Our urban homestead continues to be a work in progress as we are self-taught gardeners, making plenty of mistakes along the way. But mistakes have taught us the most significant lessons.

We’ve become quite successful at growing, maintaining, harvesting, and preserving our food through trial and error. We sow our seeds, dry all our herbs and edible flowers, and dehydrate and freeze the harvests. We save everything, and very little gets wasted. I love to grow anything and everything!

Our favorite garden produce are tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, zucchini, herbs, and lots of edible flowers. We also enjoy growing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, hawthorn berries, and grapes. In the last few years, we’ve even produced our fall decorations, such as pumpkins, sunflowers, ornamental corn, and cornstalks. For us, gardening has become a way of life. We are incorporating as many things as we can into our sustainable urban garden, and I’m making culinary delights, wildcraft projects, and even homemade beauty products. Our garden is a treasured family project and a love story that gives back tenfold to the health and wellness of my family and the planet.

My advice for anyone who wants to give gardening a try? Go for it, and don’t overthink it. Believe it or not, nature does all the heavy lifting. Start small and grow what you love.

When things get challenging, don’t give up. Every season is a brand new one, and no two seasons are ever alike. Remember, gardening is not a competition. It’s your connection to the planet. So, dig in and happy gardening!

The following are a few successful tips to start your own organic garden.

  • Add flowers! Flowers are beautiful in the garden, but some can provide a line of defense against insects.
  • Think companion planting (plant friends)! You will find that some plants do better together, and some shouldn’t be planted near each other. For example, marigolds are a valuable companion plant in the garden. They attract ladybugs, which feast on aphids. Planting marigolds next to broccoli, cabbage, beets, beans, tomatoes, carrots, and radishes, to name a few, will aid in insect control. Not to mention, they’re both beautiful and edible! Win, win, win!
  • Do your research on plant friends before filling your beds. This will help you be successful. Farmersalmanac.com is a great resource to consult.
  • Good soil is the absolute key to a successful garden. Adding quality organic soil to your garden beds each season will give your plants the greatest advantage.

In closing, my family had the privilege of being included in a recently published book called Urban Homesteads: How to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle, written by Rebecca Gross (available on amazon.com).

Follow me @bigfamilyliving