performance review

I always dreaded performance reviews when I worked at Facebook. I've never enjoyed comparing my goals to how I am actually preforming.  It's never good. Goals are there to make us feel terrible about our real selves. 

Of course there is the primary school mumbo jumbo about goals being there to push us and give us direction. 

We can safely assume that any negativity I have with the idea of goals and performance reviews stems directly from my fear of failure. And that there is no clearer measure of failure (or progress) than through the analysis of your goals.

So with the I loathe doing this but I hear its good for me disclosure I want to talk about the food we hoped to preserve this year verse how that food is actually feeding us.

When I made my seed order last year I had a tenuous (at best) grasp on the reality of a big garden of one's own. I had been gardening with a gang of others in North Carolina, western Massachusetts and the farm outside Boston. I worked as a part in a chain in gardens that turned out a terrific amount of food and I thought that would be easily transferred to our smaller scale.

My lofty aspiration last spring was to grow and preserve the lion's share of calories to feed my family of two through the winter until next year's plants began to fruit. I think its a common (if not ignorant) assumption of new backtotheland-ers that they will move to the country and sow the only seeds they need to live. Growing and harvesting grains and sugars and all of your vegetables and protein is a daring amount of work.

I am woefully guilty of the (presently) untenable vision of my own homegrown oats and cornmeal in the first years of my farm.  But my experience of the last 3 years, and in particular this past year, has proven to me that such self-sustainability cannot be bought or read in a book. It is a vicious amount of work that requires years/decades/a lifetime of learning and making mistakes and carefully planning out garden rotations, and soil amendments, and harvesting techniques.


This year we put aside what we could. We experimented with kimchi's that went rotten and cherry tomatoes in apple cider which carried a smell that could only be described as putrid.

We buy flour, rice, oats, sugar, lentils, and grits in bulk from our co-op. With the base of these items plus our eggs, beef, milk, honey and the list below I can honestly say we have fed ourselves well.

We will have to increase the numbers of staples grown next year. Particularly onions and potatoes  This summer we will harvest our first garlic.  We hope to tap our first maple trees in late winter and to increase our honey bee population so that sugar can be one of the first things we stop buying from the co-op. Little steps to making our home and our garden a self-sustaining beast.

Without further ado, the pantry as it stood, as it stands:

32 quarts of dilly beans/ 10q. left
1.5 gallons of dried soup beans/ 1 gal. left
24 quarts of pickled cucumbers/ 12q. left
5 pints of blackberry syrup/ 4pts. left
4 pints of blueberry jam/ 3pts. left
45 quarts of tomato sauce/ 32q. left
a random assortment of mushrooms preserved in oil, pistou, and sun-dried tomatoes in oil all delicious, all treated as delicacies.
500 onions/ approx 250 left
2 bushels potatoes/ 1bu. left
2 bushels carrots/ 1bu. left
2 bushels beets/ 1bu. left.
15 squash/10 left
5 pints ghee/3pts. left

Next year we will try for more variety in preserved fruits. I want to tackle a certain farmer's strawberry crop in particular.  We also want to add celeriac, turnips, radish, garlic (loads of), rutabaga, and cabbage to next year's cellar.  We need to plant 25% more onions and potatoes. And I need to work up a cold frame for winter brassicas so the weight of snow doesn't prematurely end our enjoyment of brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, and chard. We will try to focus more acutely on the preservation of cream for ghee and butter as we are out of the latter and nearly through the former.

I'm not sure how this puts me for our subject of goals. I spent roughly $200 on the garden this past year. After the initial cost of seed garlic for 2013 and efforts at seed saving and collecting that we began this year I expect that amount to drop dramatically with each ensuing year. I certainly did not accomplish all I wanted to in the garden and in the preservation of the garden this year.

 If we were living 100 years ago in the Alaskan wilderness (which is where and when I like to pretend we are) it would appear that we would both die before spring.

Fortunately this is not the Alaskan wilderness and it is 2013 where two charming and overpriced co-ops lay just 40 minutes from the boundaries of our land. Someday though, I want to get to that ability, that self-sufficiency, that knowledge base of my imagined Alaskan frontiersman. It won't be 2013, or 2014, but I have high hopes for 2023 and beyond. This gardening and preserving and farming will become more natural, will make more sense, will start to sustain us more.

...Finally a random photo of Nick and me that I found today and quite simply loved for it made me briefly feel the warmth and comfort of summer on the farm when food is plenty and spirits are high. 


  1. I loathe goals too! It seems we always fall short of reaching them. But, don't be too hard on yourself. There's room for improvement and that's never a bad thing!

    And that photo of you and Nick is too cute. Especially with your flannel shirts ; )

  2. I check your blog every day in the hopes of a new post and am always so taken in by your honesty, integrity, warmth and progressive mind set. No one is perfect and you don't present your life in that way, but you do show that with hard work and openness to learning and growing that we can make the lives we want to be living. Thank you!

  3. It's a daunting task. I am also trying to sustain my family of two on what we can grow. We're without the amount of land that you have but we're focused on spreading and how to get the most out of what we have.
    You can read all the books and I feel still so lost when I'm out there in the ground going... how long is this going to take before I can eat it? when do i rotate? how much should be for cover crops...
    as always, thanks for the inspiration and pics of the homeland :)

  4. hi there! which books have you been finding helpful for your gardening endeavours? i always love a new book to learn from.
    love your blog!

  5. As an Alaskan off-grid dweller, I think you did an admirable job! I have had many conversations with friends up here about how we want to be able to put up enough food for winter, but if you have full time job, it is almost impossible to plant, grow, tend and preserve that much food during out short season. Doesn't mean we don't stop trying. :)

  6. Kate, just wanted to let you know I 'borrowed' a photo from your blog today. Thanks for posting such beautiful photos and wise words. Your honesty is refreshing and your blog makes me want to quit my life and buy a cow.


  7. Personally I think you've done pretty well this year.

    Sue xx

  8. @suzanne, I have a list of books I have found most helpful here (http://longestacres.blogspot.com/p/read-book.html). But, most helpful I have found is to just make millions of mistakes and learn from them :)

    @amy you are living my dream!

    @kimberlea, yes! buy a cow!

  9. I recently found your blog, but I already love it. We just started gardening and keeping chickens and bees last year, and have had mixed success. I'm hoping our 2013 garden will benefit from all of last year's mistakes. :)

  10. What a lovely, lovely picture of you both :)

  11. That may be the most lovely photo I have yet seen of you two :)

    A wonderful post, working towards sustainability is a hard and long process. 2023 here we come.


  12. Hello, I just found your site, it's lovely! I hope to visit often.
    I don't have a farm, but I have farming roots and I do have a husband, seven children and a flock of chickens. :)


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