I'm starting with our garden because it seems that starting a real, eating garden will be the best first step toward becoming more self sufficient. I've learned a lot lately about our food chain and I have become convinced that the closer to home a food is grown the better it is for our economy and our planet. I could go into my reasons, but there are plenty of sources out there for that information.
So, looking at our house from the street, there is a planter box running half the length of the house, parallel to the house and about 4 feet wide. The left side of this planter box has 3 grape vines planted. I did carefully prune them this winter so they should be bearing this summer. Planted in the right side of the planter box are strawberries. They seem to be getting ready to give us a few strawberries any day now. The plan is to increase the grapevines and the strawberries each year until we have grapes all the way across with strawberries growing underneath them. I've never seen grapes and strawberries planted together but since that is what I inherited I'm going to give it a try.
On the left side of the house is a patio that gets morning sun only. We have planters on this patio and will be planting something in them this year. Also, to the far left is a very short slope up to the neighbors patio. We have some herbs planted there (oregano, thyme and a little cilantro bush that I hope to nurture into salsa) and lettuce seems to be growing there too.
The rest of the left side of the house is pretty much in shade all the time. The garbage cans are there and the kitchen compost bin is there. Then we have some hostas and a jade plant. At the rear of this shady area (where it gets SOME sun) is an ill-planted grapefruit tree. It has just this year started to give us some very small, very bitter grapefruits.
The area directly to the rear of the house is in shade from the 2 very old, very large pepper trees. Don't know what to grow there. Maybe nothing. At the edge of the property is the other compost heap. It needs LOTS of work.
The right side of the house is the garden area. It is a south facing slope that catches all of the midday to afternoon sun. Up front, towards the street is a Meyer lemon tree that gives us lemons almost year-round. The only time we don't get lemons is in the hottest part of the summer.
Behind that, facing the afternoon sun are 2 planter beds that I built last year that are 8x4 feet each. I am planning to build at least 2 more on that hill and one on the bottom flat area between the houses.
We own the duplex next door and my son and his wife live in the upper unit. The lower unit will eventually be up for rent but it is certainly not ready now. Their yard however, runs directly into ours and I am planning to take full advantage of that to put in another bed running across the sunny area behind the houses. We have an avocado tree that never gets any taller and never give us avocados, and a small area planted in bulbs, the rest is open for use.
We also have a small bit of open space with a stream behind the house that someone once threw a blackberry cane into. I'm not telling who that was but you can imagine. Now, that whole area is overrun with blackberry bushes and WILL be part of our eating plan this year.
So, that is the "before" of our journey. From here we march on, trying out new things as often as possible to making us more self-sufficient and less dependent.