Everyone is good natured until a cow goes into their garden.

I like having painted fingernails but rarely take the time to do so until it becomes necessary.  How, you may be wondering, could painted nails ever be necessary, ever be more than just an indulgence?
It’s not something I do so much to show off as to cover up, for hiding beneath their glossy shine is dirt that refuses to be scrubbed away.  My polished nails are the tell-tale sign that I’ve been out working hard in the garden.

It’s said that gardeners learn more from their failures than their successes and when it comes to the garden, some things can’t be hidden, disguised, or ignored.  As the Irish Proverb states, it’s easy to be amiable when things are going well.  It’s during times of adversity when our true nature is tested, when doubts about desires and dreams, and momentary wonders of whether it’s all worth it creep into our thoughts.

So our potatoes got blight, much of our beetroot, onions, spinach, and radish bolted, repeated sowings of carrots never germinated, brassicas were devoured by birds, our peas and beans worn ragged and killed by winds, and the pumpkins sown by the school children may or may not be ready in time for Halloween, just not enough warmth and sunshine this summer.

**Big sigh**

And while this all may sound like natural disasters, I hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that if only I had been home more, if only I had more time in the garden, if only I had my nails polished more often, some of this could have been avoided.  Is the extra money I’m earning working away from home worth it if we’re buying veg in the middle of December?  Definitely not.

Fortunately, things are not entirely bleak, and while we now have the arduous task of checking the stored potatoes weekly for spoilage, as I write this, Johnny is milling tomatoes for the freezer and has blanched and frozen other veg all week.  Wild garlic has been dug, blackberries are beginning to ripen, two goats were gifted to us, and all except for peas and beans have been resown and are doing very well.  Twenty litres of fermented pickles are made and semi-dried tomatoes stored in herb infused oils, and more veg is ready for harvest each day.  Summer camp was a success, we sold more lettuce and herbs than we could have imagined, and we connected with someone, an expert in food and tourism, who has offered to advise us about our future business plans.  There is even a lesson for the school children to be had if the pumpkins don’t ripen on schedule.

Another big decision we made concerning the homefarm is to hire out a couple of jobs–things that seem larger than life, causing undue stress because, as important and necessary as they are, we could never make the time to do them ourselves.  This decision has made doing the smaller things much more enjoyable and rid me of the feeling that I ought to quit my job and spend more time at home.  In fact, I will be working more hours for the last month of the season.   Some things are just worth paying for.

And some things can’t be paid for, they just are the way they are.  If you don’t like it then try to change it, and if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.  So if a cow comes into your garden, try not to focus on the damage it’s done, but rather on the fertilizer it has left behind.

farming isn't for everyone

Peace, love, and joy–Melissa Xx


  1. Dan says:

    What a thoughtful and good collection of wisdom. It sounds like you have a great harvest, even though some things didn’t work exactly as you intended. I honestly believe that every garden every year is a mixed bag of successes and failures. We gardeners tend to be tougher on ourselves that’s we need to be 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the link Steph. On two occasions recently we had interested people stop by, planted the seed in our minds for next year. We are going to have to do something to lighten the load and that seems like the ideal choice.


      • stephpep56 says:

        It’s just a thought Melissa. One of my other sisters who lives in dublin is a gardener by trade, she always said ‘when working in the garden becomes stressful, take a break! doing gardening work HAS to be enjoyable other wise the plants feel your stress and don’t thrive as well’ Thats ok of course until you are trying to be self sufficient, then its a different matter, I just thought they (WOOFers) would be a happy medium. also as you know yourself, there will be good years and not so good years: and we had a funny summer here in Ireland, cold for ages and then lots of rain, not a great growing year even with tunnels. Hope I don’t sound ‘ preachy’ Melissa. I think you are doing great! The amount of stuff you are doing puts me to shame. Take care and lots of love and strength heading your way. Steph xxx


  2. BellyBytes says:

    So that explains your silence all this while! It is better to outsource some jobs just so that you can really manage everything well. At the end of the day we are only human ( our Hindu gods and goddesses have multiple arms and sometimes heads to do all the work they have to do unaided;) ). Keep smiling and painting your nails and sharing photos of your contented cows….I love reading your blog ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, BB, I really am looking forward to a autumn and quieter, slower pace of life. Miss writing poetry and reading others wonderful words. Also listening to music and watching movies. It’s a long winter here and plenty of time for all that soon. Funny you say that about Hindu gods as I often say ‘yes, I’ll get to that as soon as I grow a third arm’!


  3. Heartfelt empathy! I’ve been a farmer and gardener with a growing family to feed and a wish to be self-sufficient. Seem like another lifetime now but the memories of battles against all sorts of natural forces and life blips are still there. Well done you for staying positive, salvaging what you have and noticing the alternative harvests you are enjoying. Let us hope we get an Indian Summer! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • You really do have to love the lifestyle to not just throw it all in after a lousy growing season like we’ve had. Makes me wonder sometimes how much skill and knowledge is needed vs. ideal conditions vs. luck. Anyway, nothing to beat ourselves up over is it? I’ve had a fun summer working and there will be plenty in our pantry over winter even if it isn’t entirely what we planned. Fingers crossed for that Indian Summer! Did you have a nice summer?


      • Gardening is constantly experimenting and working out what works for you and what doesn’t isn’t it – certainly no need to be self-critical. I had WOOFERS on my place, which can work well, so long as you don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking for them. My agreement with them before they arrived was that I would supply the food but they would cook for themselves. It might work differently for you (my children had all left home by then), but it is something to think about. Gosh, where to start in telling you about my summer! Just to say for the moment that blogging has had to take a back seat for a while. I miss our Haiku/Photo Challenge Mondays! ❤


  4. Some years you will get better harvest than other years and in your climate, it is never easy to know, how the year will go.
    It sounds like you have a great knowledge and experience with gardening and maybe next year will be better. We can only hope.
    Wish you all the best luck with the rest of your harvest this year Melissa 😀
    <3, Irene

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Irene, The harvest has been good, just not in all the areas we had hoped–honestly, this is the story of every year. Some surprises are always good. Cauliflower has never done well, but this year we are stocking the freezer with it. You just never know do you? Potato blight is hard for Irish farmers and considering their history it is understandable. I have really, really enjoyed the summer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    Melissa – I am right there with you – but you put it into words so eloquently and you are so philosophical about it all. Usually I get laid off from work (just part time) for July and August. Though financially hard it allows me time with the kids and the garden while things are busy. But this year I’ve been working August and feel a bit over-whelmed trying to get everything done. You are so right when you say – if a cow comes into your garden, try not to focus on the damage it’s done, but rather on the fertilizer it has left behind. I need to take a leaf from your book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a difference a week makes eh?! Such calm, lovely weather lately and it’s predicted to stay around awhile. Did you find at all that the bad weather made it a bit easier to work through August? I kind of found it consoling :/ , hope that doesn’t sound selfish.
      I don’t like to wish time away but am looking forward to the end of Sept and the hotel closing weekdays. I slept until 11 am this morning! Just insane to sleep half the day away really. I haven’t had much time to get frustrated with the failures, just felt it is important to mention them–things don’t always go as planned, for the good and for the bad.
      By the way, our peppers I spoke of before are still growing, but we have decided to put them in the ground in the tunnel and see if they reach maturity, fingers crossed.
      Hope you are enjoying the nice weather. Talk soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Deirdre. I sure hope I didn’t seem to be complaining. I just think sometimes I can paint such a rosy picture of life here and felt it important to point out the setbacks and disappointments that can occur also. Everything isn’t always rosy, but by your final sentence I can see you understand the jist of this post and the attitude we have chosen to stick with.
      I agree with you that more time in the garden might not have made a difference. We just found out that our next door neighbor had blight on his potatoes last year and he grew them in the next field over to where we grew ours this year. The potatoes were left there to rot and birds could have transferred the spores to our field. We’ll never know, and don’t even need to really. There is no controlling nature so we will just go with the flow.
      Thank you for your positive words and encouragement. Just sorry we didn’t meet this year. Definitely won’t let that happen again! Melissa


  6. Hi Melissa, I think there is often a feeling of being overwhelmed during this time of year. The other evening on our way to have dinner with friends in the town, we saw a man weedwhacking his vegetable garden. had enough, I guess. I have to admit i was a little envious! Farming/gardening are never perfect, hardly ever predictable, and constantly reminds us of the cycle of life. After years and years of doing this, I no longer keep track of the ups and downs as much as I did in earlier years. However, growing food and being self sustainable can still feel overwhelming, it’s big commitment…..like raising children……important and intentional work. have some thoughts for you about on site ways to make your ( lovely!!) homestead profitable. Would you be agreeable to hearing some of them? Some things that have worked here and would love to share with you. Don’t fret too much about the ups and downs of what the garden produces, besides hearing your list of things ‘put up’ is tell tale of all the hard work you’ve put into it. I like the idea of nail polish covering the dirt beneath your finger nails……i may have to try this!!! best to you and all of your good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denise,
      In hindsight, I may have felt the need to admit to a few failures ‘out loud’ as I make our life seem a bit idyllic and perhaps unrealistic. Maybe more so for our neighbors who read than for those further away. I may have been a bit overtired when I wrote also, always magnifies the problems for me ;D
      Oh my goodness, I would absolutely LOVE to hear any and all ideas for making money on our homefarm!! I see the courses you do and have hypertufa on my list of great ideas, I did a few many years ago as a florist in Maine.
      You are so generous to make this offer and I am eager to learn from your experiences. Really look forward to further conversation with you.
      p.s. There are some very nice nail varnishes out there that are quite durable too. A bit of fun it is!!


      • Hi Melissa,
        First, I think you blog is great, and I also think the life you are living along with your family shines with goodness, honesty, and integrity. Every endeavor has its moments of frustration and upsets. If i were to list ours here on the farm, I think it would discourage anyone from farming or living a life of sustainability. Right along side any of these troubled waters are always a bounty of promise, gratitude, and a fair amount of well deserved success regarding the life we’ve chosen and strive to create. I think you are doing the same. The bumps are always worth paying attention to, handy information those bumps, I’ve come to find! So, my thinking was this…..if I share some of our own bumps along with the wonderful things and discoveries that have worked here and helped to make our sustainable lifestyle viable, and if these things help in any way to support you and your family in your journey…then lets share the information! Aside from the philosophical thoughts about trying to carve out a self sustaining lifestyle, we really do have some ideas for making money on a small enterprise. Can I send you an email? Also I was fairly serious about perhaps meeting when i come to Ireland…..in Galway, maybe? We could sit with pen and paper and brainstorm!
        I will say that what has worked best for us here is using our diversified skills ( many gleaned from riding out the ‘bumps’ in life) to create pockets of income…….like the hypertufa class. keeping our over head low has also been instrumental, and continuing to provide as much food on site as possible. Our grocery bill stays way down even in the winter, plus we eat well because of this. I do think that some of the important things we’ve learned through years of farming/ living this lifestyle, is that there are systems that work and efficiency matters. We’ve learned to put our efforts into these things that do work and leave the others behind ( or just do them for fun!).
        I would love to share some ideas, I think you have a perfect and beautiful place and wonderful family to support a sustainable life….you all do an amazing job, any help from our experience here in the great ol’ state of Maine……I am happy to pass on. I’ll try and write an email this week with some thoughts…which may seem random in the making, but maybe we’ll start there and see if they seem interesting. Ask any questions you want. Off I go to move sheep fence….cool this morning ( low 50’s) and still going to be in the high 80’s later today…….weather in Maine! best to you and your family, and we’ll certainly keep thinking!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Denise,

          So, so sorry for being remiss in my response. I just read the above to Johnny and we are sitting here with jaws dropped open by all you have shared already.

          Yes, yes, yes to everything! Of course I will meet you in Galway, or wherever suits you. I am beyond excited,curious, and appreciative of all your knowledge and generosity. So much wisdom in all you have already said and it seems to be just the ‘outline’ of your thoughts.

          My email is aranislandgirl@yahoo.com and we look forward to hearing from you again. PLEASE don’t misunderstand my silence for disinterest. This is my first day off in three weeks and I am happily having a proper sit down with a mug of tea while getting my feet massaged. Really looking forward to the end of this season working away from the home, perhaps the first and last year I do so?

          Enjoy the Indian summer you are having over there. Wish I could say the same for here, but the weather is not too bad really.

          Thank you for everything and talk soon,


          • Hi Melissa,
            Now I’ve gone missing! Had a class to teach this weekend and now dying wool for the Common Ground Fair ( do you remember the CC Fair?), I actually set up a booth in the village of Thorndike, where my friend has a little garden shop. I’ll sell from there and won’t have to be in the full swing of the epic fairgrounds! I’ll be heading to Ireland on October, first to the Ballinasloe horse fair, I’ll be there for a day or so. From the 6th on, I can arrange a time to meet. Anything you need from the states? Anything the kids would like that is particular to the state of Maine?Anything your family wants to send over? I’ll take a bus out of Portland and really do not mind hauling things over…take advantage of my offer if there is anything i can carry! I’ll email you in the next week or so and maybe we can firm things up. I’m really looking forward to meeting you, chatting about our similar lives, I hope it is not an inconvenience in your busy world! Still hauling food out of the garden, trying also to preserve while tending to all these other chores……oh my. Finally, a bit of rain and cooler temps. Need to dig potatoes, start pulling leeks, and all the hot peppers. The season still thick with work!
            best to you and see you soon!


  7. Mama Cormier says:

    Nice to know that other husbands are into canning and preserving. My husband has been canning tomatoes for the last four days. He loves it but when I returned from the cottage he left me quite the mess and there are jars everywhere. I won’t be complaining in the middle of January when he opens jars to make delicious dinners.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, ha, yes it is nice to have a man who knows his way around the kitchen. Johnny is good at cleaning afterwards–the sitting room, another story!! But I agree, pick your battles, and appreciate the fruits of their labors. Besides, nagging is not a good motivator for them is it now 😉 ?!
      And he is also cooking delicious dinners? That’s Johnny too. Aren’t we spoiled, and don’t we deserve it ;D !!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a true post.

    Once came home to find the goats in the greenhouse greeting me with smiling mouths full of all my lettuce, tomato, and pepper seedlings…all just a few days from transplanting out. I fantasized about goat curry for quite awhile.

    I enjoy so much reading of your inner journey to your outer experiences on the farm.

    Thank you so very much for sharing. Peace and blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, goats. Been there. They eat everything and anything. We try to keep them as far away from the garden as possible. Amazing how nimble they are when scaling walls when and getting to where they want to go.
      Hope you are well. Xx



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