What is it? A quarter acre of eco-conscious, sustainable, New Mexican, suburban farm. Really. It's not a garden. It's a FARM.
OK so what makes it eco-conscious and sustainable? Well, it's eco-conscious because I'm trying to utilize as many ecologically conscious alternatives and strategies as possible, from planning stages to cooking and preserving. I'm trying to study the land (BTW, my husband Chuck just informed me last night that our property is really less than a quarter acre. It's more like Point Two Three Farm. Isn't that funny? So much for my study skills.). This project is about planning, farming vs. gardening, harvesting & preserving, learning & living off of our land.
Living - We bought this house on our .23 acre :-) two years ago. We live in a suburb in the City of Rio Rancho just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our suburb borders the fabulous village of Corrales (we couldn't afford Corrales, so we moved to the next best thing). Our block faces East, toward the Sandia Mountains and is about two city blocks from the Rio Grande River. We're considered a High Desert Ecozone according to Albuqueruqe's Master Gardeners. According to Chuck's GPS we're at 5,500ft. Temperatures range from in the 100s to well below freezing. Our soil is a mixed bag, but the worst that we have to contend with is clay and a hard-pan crust below the surface of the topsoil that we call caliche. We get very little rainfall here; in the valley 8-9 inches. The wind and the sun can be brutal. I tell you folks, whether gardening or FARMING here in New Mexico, neither is for the faint of heart.
I had a garden at the old house (up on the mesa) and that's where I began trying different techniqes like waffle gardening and trying to grow heirloom seeds that were hybridized here in New Mexico or at least in the southwest. Back then, I wasn't paying attention to the lay of the land really. I just picked a spot based on asthetics and tried using seedstock that was bred for our harsh (for fragile seedlings) climate.
city water (we're not on an acequia like many farms in the valley) ...so expensive (not to mention precious) because desert agriculture often takes so much more water than elsewhere. However, when plants don't get enough water or other nutrients, they get stressed. Stressed plants need extra support... like protection from pests (which requires pest control). When plants get too much sun...or wind, they can get stressed (which requires protection, or more water). More water can seem like a good fix, but then plants become used to it, become spoiled. They grow shallow root systems and don't work to reach the natural moisture and nutrients in the soil. One day without water for these spoiled little suburban plantings can mean the end. You get the idea.