Gardening · Homesteading · Urban Homesteading

Do You Need Another Sign To Garden?

In the past, I have openly talked about how hard it was to watch people stop growing food once they got their “freedoms” back after Covid restrictions were lifted in 2022-23. During the pandemic, I watched a massive surge in people wanting to learn. Last year, in February, I held the second annual seed swap, and almost no one showed up for it. It was disheartening. It left me bitter to teach others how to grow food. I returned this year and held the 3rd annual seed swap with a better turnout last night, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. But I doubt I will ever see the turnout of 2021, when everyone turned out for it, desperate to get seeds and, more so, knowledge. At the same time, the people who came out for it were quality over quantity – and I enjoyed meeting new faces. I am a social creature, and I love talking about growing food.

But I keep at it, even when the world feels bleak. I won’t lie, though; homesteading fatigue is real. There are days you wake up and wonder if it’d all be better if you moved back to town, lived in a row of identical homes, and went back to 2016 when you were still normal. Or the days when I want to sell it all, drive off in our RV, and live on the road full-time. Reach out to my 2002 self, when all it was was me and my oldest son, and we went hiking every moment I wasn’t working, living the Ford Explorer life (back in the day before van life, for sure).

Or I look across the water to the mountains and deeply miss my hiking life. Homesteading the past 6 years cut into hiking. I couldn’t leave on week-long trips anymore. I had to be home to water and harvest in summer. I’d get a day here and there. And oh my soul misses being on the trail every week, multiple days every week. That is the fatigue, where you start to lose joy in what you do.

So I started seeding and working in my greenhouse later this year. The warm El Nino winter has helped, as I have been hiking quite a bit this winter. My face sees the sky daily, and my mental health is positive. No winter blues. And it’s helped a lot. I find now, when I go to the greenhouses, I am in the mood to work. It’s not a chore; it’s “I can do this!”.

But what changes my mood to sour is simply going into grocery stores. Prices for fresh produce are worse than they were last year.

And when I see the prices, my mind lights up – because I know I can grow better-looking, better-tasting, and healthier produce. I have the skill set. I have the means.

Berry prices are always high in the PNW in the off-season, so this isn’t a shock at all. Mmmmm! Underripe strawberries that were gassed for $8 a pound. Hard AND crunchy with no flavor. All those berries are grown in Chile, Peru, and Mexico.

$3 a bell pepper for underripe bell peppers with bruising. I am so glad I freeze-dried our peppers last summer. we are enjoying them all winter. And not paying $6 just for enough peppers to make fajitas.

And this was my sign of why I must continue to garden, homestead, and preserve our bounty.

But this one hit hard today—onions for nearly $4 a pound. One onion is nearly a pound now.

I read up on the why, as I have seen really high prices for onions all winter. White onions had a hard crop last summer. And until Mexico’s crops start coming in, the prices will stay high. Peru and Chile, which provide most berries in our winter, have faced a bad drought for their summer (which is winding down). Locally bananas range from 99 cents to $1.49 a pound, which is high but affordable (and we cannot grow those). That is about the only affordable fruit this winter.

Washington State finally put through a law that passed back in 2019, in the start of 2024.  It pertains with chickens not allowed in cages anymore. Even though growers had years to prepare for it, they acted shocked and there were egg shortages for weeks – with much higher prices. Those 5 dozen eggs used to be $11.49 last year.

Even worse, at a restaurant supply store.

The rising prices and quality controls are real issues. And they are your sign to work on it – and to be more self-sufficent. Whether gardening, food preservation, or raising chickens for eggs….it’s something to consider this year.