Thanks to ‘Alone’ I’m Now a Bonafide Veggie Papa

Sitting on my cozy couch, in my cozy home, with my cozy cup of coffee, cozied up with Kacey, we turn on the TV show ‘Alone’–a show about surviving in remote places around the world, alone, against 10 other people to see who can last the longest. The catch? They can only bring 10 items with them–and think you know what? We could live alone in the woods and thrive. Easy!

How hard could it possibly be?

Turns out, it’s a lot harder than my couch brain thinks. Watching the 10 contestants suffer over the course of 12 episodes really shows what nature can do to a person. Some people are mentally broken after only a week because of the isolation, and others starve completely losing upwards of 70+ lbs. 

Starving yourself is a great diet plan, I guess. Not one I’d recommend, of course, but Mother Nature seems to say otherwise. 

I can just imagine people inhaling copious amounts of pizza rolls or eating gallons of ice cream when they get back home. I know I sure would. 

As fun as it is to watch people blunder in the wilderness and leave after only a day, watching ‘Alone’ has been kinda inspirational.  

Because of this show, Kacey and I have had legitimate talks about buying land somewhere off the beaten path and starting a little homestead for ourselves and future kids. A complete off-grid life. We’d grow our own food, hunt or fish to put meat on the table, use solar and wind to generate electricity, have a well for water, and live in a much tinier house than we currently do. Something that’s energy efficient, of course, and a smidge bigger than the one we stayed in for 5 days. 

If you know me, jumping into things head first is my middle name. With no parachute, mind you.  When I get in a mood, I go rogue and that’s the path I’m taking. So the idea of a homestead life, man, I’m so ready to go all in!

Kacey knows this all too well. Bless her heart. 

She’ll softly suggest that we, you know, try things first before pulling a “Tyler”. 

Her first suggestion? Building a garden.

I was hesitant at first, mainly because I didn’t want my thumbs to turn green, but I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy watching our veggie children grow. The pride and sense of accomplishment I get comes straight from my soul. Especially, when I see a little zucchini bud grow to be the size of my forearm. How they get that big still baffles me. 

We contemplated how we wanted to start our garden for a couple of weeks, I’d say. We noticed the neighbors had some pretty fancy raised garden beds that we were going to copy, but those run a little pricey. Instead, we went the more traditional route. By traditional route, I mean cheaper route. Much cheaper. We bought some chicken wire, some landscaping fabric, framed out a 9×15 square foot plot in our backyard, and tilled it all up. Can’t get much easier than that right there. 

I'm raking sod off the garden
I’d say raking is one of the best garden workouts out there. Highly underrated.
Look at me, driving these stakes in like I know what I’m doing.

For some reason, I was vehemently against buying landscaping fabric. I have no clue why, but I questioned Kacey about buying fabric as if I thought she was guilty of killing a man. It never clicked in my couch brain that laying fabric down first would make managing the weeds 100 times easier. Luckily, I caved. Otherwise, I’d still be outside pulling weeds! Probably.

Now, planting our veggie children was the most fun. I think we bought over 40 plants to try and squeeze into this area. Our plan was to grow tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, purple broccoli, purple and regular cauliflower, lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers, jalapenos, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. That was our plan, anyway. For a first garden, quite the variety and a smidge overwhelming. But, hey, go big or go home as they say, right? 

(My all-in mentality might be rubbing off on Kacey a bit, but don’t tell her that.)

a garden bed
The completed vegetable garden!

Being that you have to plant things 12-24 inches apart, oh doctor, space ran out quickly. We had to till up a strip on the outside of the fence just to fit everything. Needless to say, we definitely didn’t follow the distance suggestions. That may or may not have been to our demise. I had no clue how gigantic squash and cucumber plants get. I thought it would be fiiiine. Oh no. I was very wrong. I think some of the leaves on those suckers are as big as elephant ears for cripes sakes. 

Definitely taking note of that for next year’s garden. 

As of today though, the garden has been a wild success for it being our first year. We didn’t really add a ton of nutrients to the soil, so things didn’t produce as often or get as big as we expected. 

To be honest, we did have a number of vegetable children decide to take a dirt nap instead of producing delicious veggies. Disappointing, but I understand the need for a solid nap. Our purple broccoli, purple cauliflower, regular cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and lettuce all decided to go rogue. They either bolted, which means they grew vertically and skipped the producing stage, or just withered away. We’re guessing the unusual heat we got early this year caused some of the damage. That, or we just didn’t water enough. Probably a combination of both. 

Again, taking more notes. Next year’s garden is going to be epic, I assure you. 

Outside of that though, I’ve been blown away.

A small cry for help here. We’re drowning in tomatoes and hot peppers now, so if you’re a fan of either, please don’t hesitate to ask for some. I’m begging you. 

a vegetable garden in full bloom
Our vegetable children prospering. Ah, it’s great to see this much green.

On the topic of hot peppers, we ended up buying four plants that were labeled just that, “hot peppers”. Assuming they were just jalapenos, I wasn’t too worried about them. Turns out these “hot peppers” are more than your friendly jalapeno. They’re serranos. If you’re unfamiliar with these jalapeno wannabes like I was, they have a Scoville rating of 10,000-25,000. Or put simply, 3 times hotter than a jalapeno. You’d think that’s not much of a difference. 

Well, you’d be wrong. 

Holy hell, I cut one up to eat with my eggs, and let’s just say mistakes were made. I decided to steam the pan to bring out the flavor of the peppers as one does. As a result, I basically created a chemical weapon. My eyes and lungs immediately revolted against me. 

Lesson learned, I tell you what. Never again will I disrespect this unspicy temple of mine with the heat of a serrano.

Almost dying from spicy peppers aside, gardening has been an amazing experience so far. Yes, it can be a little labor-intensive, and some elbow grease may be needed, but having access to the freshest produce right in my own backyard has been a game changer. 

For example, we went fishing last week and ended up catching 6 worthy fish to bring home and filet. Of course, you need a side to eat with the fish. Well, taking a look in our backyard garden, there was a nice and juicy forearm-sized zucchini with our name on it. I went out, picked it, cut it up into thicker slices, and fried it in olive oil. Boom. It doesn’t get better than that. 

a zucchini
Look at this beauty! Tasted even better than it looked.

Thinking back, yeah, that was actually our very firs65t authentic homestead meal. Everything we ate was either grown or caught by us. I can’t believe it. 

What a wild feeling.

Well, to celebrate, I’m off to eat a nutty bar. Too bad I can’t grow those in my backyard.

Before I load up on the peanut butter goodness that is a nutty bar, I do want to say this. 

Living in town isn’t exactly the definition of the homesteading life Kacey and I talk about, but creating our backyard garden has been a perfect way to get a glimpse. Getting our green thumbs wet, you could say. Homestead life aside, I think everyone should try a garden out. Big or small, doesn’t matter. After you grow your first vegetable child, and get to eat the vegetables of your labor, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. 

P.S. As a beginner gardener over here, if you have any tips or tricks on gardening, please don’t hesitate to send them my way, or comment below. We want to double our garden size next year, so I’m sure we’ll need all the help we can get!

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