A vegetable garden. Beautiful, isn’t it? Makes me want to go out there with a sharp knife, harvest a big bowl of those baby lettuce leaves and have a huge salad.
That is not a Naugler garden.
I want to start this page with a bit of a disclaimer. Nicole has admitted, repeatedly, that they have failed at gardening. I agree with her, they have. What I want to talk about is why that has happened. It isn’t bad luck. It isn’t that the state took away their kids.
People garden for all sorts of reasons. My first garden happened right after I was married, many years ago. I knew nothing at all about how to do it. I bought a few little packets of seed and we dug this pitifully small area in the yard and I planted the seeds in neat little rows. Most of them didn’t even sprout.
But the green beans grew and I actually got to pick enough for a meal.
And I was hooked. Just the sight of seedlings coming up out of the soil did something to me.
So I garden, and would even if I saved not a single dime. It’s not a money thing. It’s an earth thing.
But gardening is also seen as a homesteady, crunchy, back-to-the-land thing. You are a “homesteader,” so naturally you have a big garden.
What people don’t realize is just how hard it actually is to do it successfully. Every year, I plant a garden. And every year I say the same thing to my family, “Do you think anything will come up?” It’s now a family joke.
And every year is different. Sometimes the corn does well and the beans do not. Sometimes the tomatoes are so heavy on the vines I can’t keep up with them, and the next year I’ll wonder if I need to just give up and buy some from the local produce stand.
I have gardened all over the place. We’ve moved a good bit, and everywhere we live has presented new and different challenges. So I’ve tried every kind of gardening there is, I think.
But this takes the cake. She does have a few tomatoes growing there valiantly under extremely adverse conditions, but golly gee whiz. And I can’t really tell if the “corn” behind her is corn, planted way too close together, or uncut Johnson grass. There might be something viney like watermelons growing to the right, but nothing is going to produce much with the competition from all that grass.
Gardening is hard work, I grant you that. But the basic principles are simple. Give the plants some space. Get rid of the fucking weeds, and grass is a weed in a garden. Make sure the soil is decent.
Okay, so it’s a bomb. But over time, you’d learn, wouldn’t you?
This is the garden at the shitshack. About a dozen raised beds, mostly unprepared, unfilled, and full of weeds. In essence, some of the ever-present cinder blocks just placed in rectangles. Four old tires that I can see, which I assume were going to be more “raised beds,” and of course, the required white bucket and some trash.
This is not going to be a successful garden, folks. It was doomed before it was started.
The kids were taken in mid-May. They had two raised beds ready to plant. Two. Sigh.
And plans. There are always plans. Of course, Nicole didn’t do anything of the sort. Instead, she went and lived in a motel.
And here somebody kind really tries to help her with a very good suggestion. Plow up a small area, she suggests.
But of course, Nicole has an excuse. The ground is not suitable. The ground is not suitable, people. The ground is not suitable for a fucking homestead.
I have no idea if this is true or not. It may be that it is. If it is, then why in the hell did they enter into that land contract to homestead on property where you cannot homestead?
There is land and there is land. How many acres you have is not nearly as important as what sort of acres you have. When we were looking at property where we are now, we looked at places with 50 acres and places with 30 acres and ended up buying 20 acres. And we have more usable land on our twenty acres than we would have with the fifty. Nice 8-or-so-acre pasture, another couple of acres in a paddock, a big garden area (near the power lines and nobody sprays anything). The fifty acre place was mostly ravines and woods.
It also might be total bullshit, and there’s a perfectly good spot someplace on that 28 acres for a small garden, but 1) Joe and Nicole wouldn’t know what such a spot looked like if they tripped over it, and 2) they don’t have a neighbor who would do such a kind thing as plow up a spot for them.
One other thing. Here’s the powerline.
See all the “dead” stuff growing under the powerline? Absolutely barren, isn’t it?
But here’s the primary problem.
As usual, the children are left to do it all themselves. This is what Nicole calls “unschooling.”
This is what I call “allowing a child to fail because you don’t give him any guidance, no tools, and nobody to mentor him.” It’s almost criminal to do this to a kid. They guarantee that he will fail, and then he will grow up believing that gardening is too hard, and never try again.
She cavalierly tosses out “we use the square foot garden method,” like they actually do anything. Here’s her link, BTW. They make it sound so simple.
I used raised beds at one property we owned. I did it because it was a very, very harsh climate (six weeks growing season annually). Getting the soil warm and keeping it that way was paramount, and raised beds (like waist high) were the best way to do that.
The first year, we had a great garden. Just stupendous. The second year was good, but not quite as magnificent as the first. The third was obviously sub-par. And I knew why.
The problem with “square-foot gardening” is inputs. You can’t just plant vegetables in close contact like that and not wear out your soil’s fertility really rapidly. You have to replenish the organic matter often. If you happen to have a source for a lot of manure or compost, you’re good to go. If you live where I did (it takes about three years for compost to rot), you’re forced to buy inputs at your local garden store. It’s cheaper to buy the vegetables.
And a second problem is water. The roots are confined. Raised beds raise the ground. It dries out more rapidly than the surrounding soil. (That was a major plus in the harsh environment where I used them.) The Nauglers have no way to water a garden except with white buckets from the stagnant pond.
I know this idea appeals to people because they make it sound so easy.
And the whole “Back to Eden” thing. Here’s the link. Step one is about God. I didn’t bother with anything else. I grow gardens just fine without praying about it. It looked like a Jesusified version of lasagna gardening (layering mulch). Mulch works great, by the way, if you are trying to keep the soil damp and cool. It’s absolutely terrible if you need to warm the soil in the early spring.
If you’re really interested in growing produce because you need to feed a large family, forget all this silly stuff and get down to real business. The best book I’ve ever found about this is Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts. It’s the counter-point to every “square-foot,” intensive gardening method you’ve ever heard of. It’s the method I use. Lots of garden space. Spread the plants out. Keep it weeded. About an hour a day required to manage this (but that hour is required religiously or you’ll end up with a mess like Nicole had in that photo above).
Early spring. Just barely coming up. Potatoes in the foreground. And that’s a garden for two people. One person and a hoe manages it nicely once the initial tilling is done with a tractor. We have one other somewhat smaller garden that is generally planted to tomatoes and peppers and maybe onions and lettuce. The big garden has the main stuff in it.
Never does everything produce as well as we’d like. But most stuff does, enough that we can close to 1000 jars of vegetables annually.
There’s more than one way to do this, of course. And everyone isn’t facing a desperate situation like the Solomon book addresses. And almost any of these methods will work if you do it right and work at it.
The Nauglers have failed over and over again at gardening because it requires consistent work, day after day after day. And they don’t do that well.