Pat and Herb gave met a warm welcome to their home just outside Redding CA. Pat defined it as a “messy – ill-looked-after garden” in her email she sent me, however I found a very interesting garden where they grow all their own veggies plus more than enough to preserve and share with their children. Along with some sheep (Herb’s passion), chickens, solar panels, grey water recycling, composting toilets I found them living on a lovely sustainable 5 acres.
They moved to this acreage 30 years ago to raise their 4 children and so Herb could have his sheep. Pat grew up in Las Vegas and admits she only starting veggie gardening about 10 years ago and is still learning; Herb was exposed to gardening and raising chickens as a young boy when his father turned a vacant lot beside their house in New Orleans into a Victory Garden.
Redding is in the north central part of California and the area is classed as a zone 10 growing area. The soil is hard clay and 20% rock; so raised beds are a must for growing any kind of vegetables. Gophers and deer are the biggest animal challenges. Pat wrote, “ most of our beds have wire at the bottom but not all – I thought I could grow garlic in the beds without hardwire, but last year the gophers decided they loved garlic. They do leave the Swiss chard alone, so we have a bumper crop of that – our only sure thing. I also grow things in 20 gallon pots, the only completely gopher-safe bed.” A double wire fence keeps the deer out.
The summers are extremely hot so water and heat are a concern for the plants and people. Their day starts early usually around 530 am. After about 9am it gets too hot (into the 100’s) to be out in the garden so watering and most garden chores are done early in the day. Herb is in charge of the drip irrigation; he usually waters twice a day for about 20 minutes each time using a timer and bright colored string necklace as a reminder to make sure the water is turned off. Their water is monitored and over usage can be pricy.
Pat starts her seeds indoors in the greenhouse in January and sets out established plants into the garden beds due to the extreme heat and gophers. She plants her garden so she can be harvesting all year round; when pulling one plant she is ready to fill the spot with something new. She amends with manure and her own compost.
The raised beds were mismatched, some made of wood, some stone, a cement one, but everywhere I looked the beds were full of growing food.
During our walkabout there were beds of garlic and onions that were ready to be harvested and more seedlings waiting to go into those spots. The lettuce she planted last fall was also coming to an end – we had a tasty meal of with those that night. The peas were finishing, but we found a few stragglers to eat.
Butternut squash were looking healthy and starting to form fruit, zucchini were ready to be picked. Tomatoes easily reseed themselves so she has a bed of surprise tomatoes; she had another bed with the tomatoes growing in pots - her tried and true varieties so she always has enough for canning.
Ever - producing garden
She loves her pesto so plenty of basil is a must for her - I was able to help a tiny bit by pinching off the flowers that were starting to come out. They finally found the perfect one for their garden after a few years of struggling with growing them. Rhubarb was growing in pots shaded by the solar panels. A very productive garden is what I saw.
When I asked how much money they saved from
growing and raising their own food they both considered for a moment. They both felt they probably did not save
much due to the cost of water, however they eat wonderful tasty fresh food and
have more than enough to share with their children – there is no price on these
kinds of benefits.
Along with being a veggie gardener Pat is also a passionate weaver. I had to have “the loom lady” as part of the title for this article as every one of her 5 bedrooms has at least one loom set up ready to be used. She invited me to try my hand at weaving and I spent a very enjoyable few hours weaving a beautiful rug to take home with me.
Thank you Pat and Herb for being such wonderful hosts.