48 SQ FT = A Whole Lot of Goodness

Except for a few eggplants and a handful of peppers that will be ready this week, our garden is done for the year. I can tell you all about the things we did wrong – from harvesting a watermelon too early to planting squash too close to our other plants – but I have no explanation for the many, many things that went better than expected this year. Was it our compost? Was it the watering system we rigged up? The trellises? Or was it the seeds themselves? I have no clue, but I do know that we had a super harvest this year, from just 48 square feet of scattered garden space.

Angie and her baby – an 8 pound sugar baby, to be exact!

We garden in my mom’s yard – the front yard, the side yard, and the backyard. This year, we had 5 beds, the largest measuring just 3′ x 5′, and we grew watermelons, yellow squash, eggplants, cow peas, okra, green peppers, radishes, red onions, and 3 kinds of tomatoes. The onions didn’t do so well and the watermelons got off to a rocky start, but the rest grew like gangbusters.

I wish I had started weighing our produce from the start so I could give you a better idea of the yield you can get from 48 square feet, but I didn’t. I can honestly say, we were not expecting things to go as well as they did. So the best I can give you is this –

Cherry tomato, anyone?

We ate 2 quarts of peas and put 9 pints in the freezer. We breaded a gallon of okra and put it in the freezer, along with 3 cups of cut okra for soups, and we dehydrated about 2 pounds to make okra chips (which are so delicious!). We have had 6 eggplants so far, 3 more will be ready this week. I think we’ll have about 3 gallons of green peppers when they finish up. We harvested 3 watermelons (albeit one too soon) and there’s a renegade cantaloupe still growing by the blackberry brambles.

The real winner though, was our tomatoes. We had Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, and Cherry. As I type this right now, I’m looking over the top of my computer to see about 4 pounds of tomatoes on the table in front of me. They will be made into spaghetti sauce later today. And in the closet, we have these, just waiting to turn.

I dare say, we had somewhere between 40-50 pounds of tomatoes throughout the season. We made them into salsa.

We made them into ketchup (aka tomato relish).

We even made 9 pints of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, and diced tomatoes with peppers and onions for chili. Oh, and we’ve eaten them twice a day for the past month on salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and occasionally in scrambled eggs.

With the fruits and veggies we bought at the Farmer’s Market to put in the freezer, I feel pretty confident that we won’t have to buy much in the way of produce at the grocery store this winter, which is really awesome now that we’re on a tighter budget.

Along with our gardening chores this week, Angie and I decided to go foraging for black walnuts (and hickory nuts). We came home with this-

Being our first time to process black walnuts, we watched a few YouTube videos on best practices. And we put on our best, most water resistant gardening gloves. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. We took the gloves off to find that we looked like this –

If you’ve ever tried to remove this stain, you know that it does not come off. Forget lemon juice or whatever other home remedy is recommended by Google. We tried them all and though we are a lighter shade today, I’m still typing this with walnut stained hands. But the story doesn’t end there. After all our hard work, we went to move our nuts to the shed to cure yesterday and found that despite covering them with wire mesh and scrap lumber, squirrels had carted off about half of them. We may have enough now for one pound of black walnut fudge for the holidays.

I would say that I was going to miss prepping food for the freezer or canning, but I have a feeling that though our garden is done, we aren’t. Dumpster season is starting to ramp up. If you are new here, let me explain. We rescue food from the neighboring grocery store – about 750 pounds over the past 2 1/2 years. Some of it we use, some we donate to others in need, and some of it we compost. Whatever we can do to keep good food out of landfills, we try to do…including making jelly. But I’ll save that story for a special post on Friday 🙂

Did you have a garden this year? How did it do? What was your best producer? Your favorite thing to grow? We’d love to hear your gardening stories!

If Every Day Were Sunday…

Our little garden is starting to wind down for the season and I’m already starting to miss it. When we were ankle deep in peas and tomatoes, I didn’t think the end would come quick enough but as we canned the last few pints of salsa on Sunday, it started to sink in. Fall is just steps away and winter is right behind it.

Years ago, those transitions meant little more to me than putting up the appropriate seasonal decor on our front door. My life was basically the same every day, only the weather changed. I got up, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV, went to bed, and repeated it all until Friday night, when I’d go out to eat (like everyone else I knew) and head to the grocery store, Walmart, and wherever else I could spend my paycheck. Why? Because I worked hard and the new fall sweaters (or spring t-shirts) were out and well, I deserved one!

I didn’t become a minimalist overnight, though sometimes it feels like it. Like one day I just woke up and decided the repetitive pattern of my life was not working and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. In reality though, it was more of a process than that. I did wake up one day and decide something needed to change and I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

It was just another Sunday in September of 2011. I was beyond tired from a week of running all over Colorado (some poor life choices at the time meant driving into downtown Denver every day for work after driving Angie half way to Black Hawk to catch a bus to the casino where she worked). I had started a decluttering project but failed to finish it and the apartment was covered in stuff – from bicycles to a bubblegum machine. But football was on and I just wanted to curl up on the couch and veg for the day. So I did. At the end of that day, I took out my journal and wrote one single sentence – if every day were Sunday, I’d be free.

The next day, as I sat in traffic on I-25 once again, those words came back to me. Why couldn’t every day be Sunday? Why did I have to be in this car? Why wasn’t I in control of my time? My life? My choices? On that highway, in the early hours of the morning, I made two decisions – every day would be Sunday if I wanted it to be and we were leaving Colorado.

And we did.

Less than a year later, we were in North Port, Florida, a city we had never even heard of before Googling “best places to live on the Gulf Coast”. The three years that we lived there laid the foundation for everything that was to follow. We learned to live on one income. We learned contentment, the kind that comes from just sitting on the porch watching the birds or making a meal from scratch. We learned to be resourceful. And we learned the meaning of true happiness.

Minimalism alone did not make it possible for me to quit my job last week but it sure helped.

When I look around the room right now, I see Angie sitting on the couch, her favorite blanket across her lap, reading a book. Her cup of coffee is tucked into the fold of the blanket, just to her right. Caesar is on her left. The sun is shining in through the open windows, greeting the new herbs we just planted yesterday in the windowsill. A vegetable soup is simmering on the stove for lunch, while mixed beans slow cook in the crock pot for tomorrow night’s dinner. It is Tuesday, yet it feels like a peaceful and relaxing Sunday.

As I raised my own cup of coffee to take a sip, the realization slowly settled upon me. Almost 8 years to the day that I wrote that single sentence in my journal, we have finally achieved the life I so longed for back then.

Every day is Sunday and I am now free.


If you had asked me in 2011, if I thought I’d be here today, I would have said no. The weight of the world sat on my shoulders then. We were knee deep in years of baggage – both physical and mental – and I couldn’t see a way to wade through. Angie worked 12 hour days at a menial job she hated and we spent our time off with people we had nothing in common with – the kind of “friends” that discourage growth and change. Our relationship was still new but it was tenuous at best. When we sat down that day in September to discuss the direction of our life together, we realized the only way out was to turn around. We need a new path, one that we chose together, and one that was free of the clutter of our past lives. Through persistence, lots of trial and error, and good communication (I can’t stress that one enough), we have come to the place we are today – ready to open a new page, in a new journal, and start a brand new adventure. 

If you are contemplating of your own life-changing adventure, our best advice – just do it. It may take a while to get to where you want to be, but you’ll never regret making the leap.