My first real garden - and building it as a single woman

Sometimes, the things I struggle with as a single woman are not the things you might expect. I can handle being alone. I can handle being lonely (most of the time). I can pay my own bills.

What I really struggle with is completing the projects that I dream up. Most of them are just a little beyond my reach - either technically challenging or so physically demanding that I need another set of arms and legs. I found myself staring down the barrel of this very type of challenge recently.

When I moved into my new house, I was intimidated by the amount of lawn it had. It's at least twice as large as my old house here in town. Those of you who remember the days of Five Seed and A Green Spell might recall that I really struggled with the lawn, both financially and ecologically. I'm not a big fan of lawns, except in very particular situations. Give me a food-producing, soil-building, erosion-controlling garden any day.

So yeah, the lawn here really made me cringe. My last house took 2 hours to mow, so I'm guessing it would take me 4 hours here. And I know from last fall that the water bill runs just under $200 a month to keep it going. And to me, that's a ridiculous amount of money to spend on something that has no use (in my eyes) beyond curb appeal.

 Before...

Before...

After struggling with panicky feelings about it, I deciding last week to rip out the sod along the western side of the house - a huge strip of land about 60-ish feet long and 20 feet at its widest. It's a tricky area - right behind the neighborhood mailboxes and at the very end of the road, and I've noticed that many people seem to think it's a park. I find people hanging out there from time to time, and about half the neighbors let their dogs poop there (and they leave it behind for the magical dog poop fairy to clean up). So I had a lot of hesitation about building a garden there, where I imagine people might roam through and pick vegetables, or (perhaps worse) let their dogs go to town in there.

 During

During

However…I just couldn't fathom mowing all this lawn. I just can't do it on my own and I don't want to pay $150 a month to have it mowed by a landscaper.

So…I took the leap. My first challenge was getting help. I could never have pulled that sod out by myself. I am so grateful to my brother who spent at least 8 hours doing most of the work to pull it out and pile it up. This is exactly the kind of thing that scares me as a single woman. I couldn't have done this alone. If I didn't have such a generous brother, who would have helped me? Do I need to have a savings account for all the projects I want to do that I'm not strong enough to do on my own, so I can pay someone to do them when he's busy? I mean…yikes.

Anyway, as we pulled up the sod, I felt very weepy and afraid. Sod ain't cheap, and there I was, removing it from a HUGE swath of my property. I have already been warned by several people that I just took a chunk out of the property value by doing that.

I questioned myself over and over and over again that first day, worrying that I had really screwed up.

But every time I circled around it, I kept coming back to the same conclusion: This was the best course of action.

I don't want to spend most of my free time this summer mowing the lawn. I don't want to spend so much hard-earned money on watering the lawn.

I've always wanted a huge garden - always. My last rental didn't have any property on which to garden. The one before that (that I used to blog about) was big enough, but I couldn't alter the property, so I had to get creative about where to plant things.

This place, however intimidating and scary, is a dream come true. That one chunk of land that I just stripped could produce enough food to feed three families this season. Seriously. It's huge. It's also on a down slope, and parallel to an irrigation ditch - which means free water. And, even better, the earth there is absolute crap - our typical dusty, central Oregon sand, mixed with gravel from the construction area this used to be, and it's desperately calling out to me to build the soil back up.

So far, I've planted an apple tree there, strawberries, arugula, and spinach. That covered about 1/100 of the land. I've got a long way to go.

 After (so far)

After (so far)

And I'm still facing more challenges and deep fears about how I'm going to do it, as a woman on my own. I needed my brother's help (and his pickup truck) to haul and dump compost into this area. I will need help hauling and dumping wood chips, too. I'd like to get some pavers, but I can't do that on my own, either. I'd like to build a fire pit and compost bins and trellises but guess what? I've never built any structure in my life, nor do I know how to use a drill! And more than anything, I'd like to build a fence around this area, to keep the dogs, and their poop, out of my yard.

So…I don't know exactly what to do about this big stuff. Some of it is stuff I could learn. Some of it I need help with, no matter what. Some of it, I might need to pay for (and therefore save for). And some of it might be impossible.

I'm excited to dream it up, though. The Garden Awakening is my bible right now. I never go anywhere without it. If you haven't read it, you really must. You might find yourself ripping out your grass, too.

I still have my doubts, but I'm also certain I did the right thing. When people remind me how much others love grass and that I'm alienting future buyers because they will alll want grass for their kids, I remind myself that no one with more than one kid would ever live in this house. It's too small (600 sq. ft.) unless it's someone living in a tiny home, already. And even one kid doesn't need this much grass. Plus, it's Oregon, people! We're all about the sustainable, eco-friendly garden space here!

I believe that 2 years from now, this space is going to be so beautiful, that it'll ADD to the value of the property. I just have to figure out how to get there.

I'll be sharing here about the garden project from time to time if you want to follow along.

Single ladies, have you faced any challenges like this with your garden or house projects? And what are all of you planning for your gardens this year?