Just last year, we kicked-off our reforestation project. Creating a food forest takes time. Not just to implement, in terms of hours of labour, but because Nature has its own rhythms. If you plant a fruit tree in the fall, you can't harvest its fruits the following winter - no matter how much time you put into it.
As we moved through Fall and Winter, we braced for impact. Over a thousand trees were planted, and we didn't know if any would survive. So, Spring brought a lot of excitement and expectations with it. What would fade away, what would survive and what would thrive?
What were the things we clearly missed in our design? Or in our planning? While it is still too soon to get all the answers, some observations already brought useful insights:
- Planting a living windbreak was an excellent idea. The trees are growing well, and quickly. They will also double as biomass and nutrient providers, so we are very happy to seem them establishing.
- These same living windbreaks need protection from the wind, though! It is obvious in retrospect, but now we are in a hurry to provide a better wind protection. The winds can reach c. 60Km/h or higher, causing real damage to the vegetation. Many leaves and flowers have flown away, others have burnt. We are now building small structures with jute, plant cuttings and other available materials. Because it was fine during the winter, we didn't really see it coming, but now that everything is growing and turning green, it is obvious that we need a short term solution.
- The most warm loving plants didn't make it. We had a few wild bets of plants we love but are not an obvious fit for our climate. These include: Moringa, Ice cream bean, Guava. We might try again later, once the system is more mature, and we can create a more suitable micro climate. The avocados are also struggling, mostly due to the wind.
- Some fruit trees, although so young, seem to be willing to already bear fruit this year: figs, peaches and almonds. Given that most of these trees are 2-3 years old, we were quite surprised to see the fruits coming. The expectations are still low, but there will be a huge celebration if we get to make a single portion of fruit salad.
- The berry bushes are growing well. The blueberries are doing particularly well, and Cornus kousa looks undecided.
- Some parts of the land thrived more and faster than we anticipated, particularly in the clay-heavy areas. There is even a slice to the north of the house that used to be completely covered with stones that is now looking like a savannah. The cover crop keeps on growing faster than we can chop it. Amongst all the green and all the flowers, some of our berry bushes and trees are also showing some timid growth.
- Our veggie garden is also doing very well, having accepted that the brassicas need to be way over planted if we want to eat any - the snails and caterpillars seem to love these plants over everything else.
- This year we started planting more flowers - something I used to consider mostly just ornamental - but the impact in terms of bees is incredible. More birds also seem to be flying around, although perhaps it is just us noticing them more. And some wild flowers, like lavender and rock roses, are growing spontaneously alongside some varieties introduced by us.
- On birds: we are very grateful to see birds nesting in our garden, and listening to the concerto. The crickets also joined the performance and some fireflies provide the finishing touches. And they don't charge us for this.
- We are quite behind on the irrigation system. My husband had already picked all the supplies for the design, but the shipping is being very slow. In the meantime, we dance for rain and water the plants manually, hoping we will sort things out on time.
The amount of things to do far exceed the amount of time we have available to make them. Initially we thought it was mostly because we have two young children, but there is more to it. Even if it were just the two of us, we would need more time. This is a very familiar feeling, as we always had it at our corporate jobs. A feeling that can easily lead to anxiety, frustration and impostor syndrome. It is going to be an ongoing challenge to not let it creep in and just notice all the progress that is happening and all the things we are, in fact, doing.