Pioneer times were tough, and we would never suggest life without modern plumbing, refrigeration, or electricity! But with the fast pace of modern life, some folks have decided to learn skills from bygone eras. This includes purchasing local products made closer to home with more care and quality materials, unhooking from technology, and embracing homesteading. In our Pioneer Life in the 21st Century series, we’ll help you embrace a few pioneer-like actions, create mindful moments, and perhaps save a few bucks, whether you live in an apartment in the city or a planned community in the suburbs.
In pioneer times, the big box hardware stores didn’t exist, and there certainly weren’t any plant nurseries to go with them.
Heirloom Seeds were just that; seeds that had been passed down through generations, and were treated like treasures. They weren’t genetically engineered, either. With the seeds came history, and stories of family survival.
We imagine that the pioneer folk were also good at striking trees from neighbors, and working well with what they have. Seeds were saved for the next year, protected from hungry birds, and nothing was tossed away.
Let’s take a look at how we can garden and grow like the pioneers, build an orchard, and spend very little money doing it!
If you, your friends, or your neighbors are gardeners, then let them know you are looking to harvest seeds, and save them once the flowers or herbs they are growing go to seed.
Going to seed is when a plant begins to flower, and then the blooms turn to seed. This signals the end of the growing season, and the end of those vibrant green leaves, stems and juicy fresh herbs. But this is the exact time you want to keep an eye open for.
With cilantro, parsley, Black-Eyed Susan’s, sunflowers, and other flowers that produce seeds inside a rounded center, you can expect them to dry out and hold their seeds. Don’t let the birds get these seeds before you do.
To collect seeds from large sunflowers, you can put a paper bag around their dead heads, and collect them that way. With purple cone flowers, seeds usually stay on the stem and simply turn black. Snip them off, and store them, labeled in a brown paper bag. Store them some place dry that doesn’t receive any moisture.
Plant when it’s time, which in the southern states is typically in the fall, or if you’re up north, in the spring. Look for these free and gorgeous flowers and herbs to bloom in the summer!
There’s no doubt about it that in pioneer times, everything was turned into something useful.
A Compost Pile was surely a part of a garden where veggies grew, and all gardeners know that this black gold, as we call it, is the key ingredient to healthy, nutrient-rich homegrown foods.
Select a part of your yard where the compost can sit and decompose. It needs sunshine, air and rain so don’t build one inside your garage.
You may also want to build three sides around it to keep the pile hemmed in. Using up cycled wooden pallets is one way to go. You need to have access to your compost pile to turn it, so make sure that it’s accessible.
Think of a compost pile as a sandwich with layers. You want to start with a carbon-rich waste product such as leaves or grass on the bottom, and then layer your nitrogen waste on top.
The nitrogen elements of compost can include your fruit, vegetable, egg shell, and other plant based food scraps. Do not add any other animal products other than egg shells, meat, or fat to your compost pile.
Once your compost pile is high, let it sit. This can take 6 weeks to 3 months. Turn it every two weeks. In no time, you’ll have a rich soil to amend your garden with that didn’t cost you a dime!
Grafting and Propagating Fruit Trees
Grafting trees to a healthy root stock is one way to grow a tree for free, but you can also take a direct cutting from a healthy tree and grow one in its entirety.
For example, a fig tree is an easy tree to strike and grow from a cutting. You first want to find a fig tree that produces sweet, delicious fruit in your area. There is no sense in growing something from another state that won’t thrive in your region. You also want to strike the tree in the winter, when the tree is in dormancy as opposed to when it’s trying to fruit.
Simply cut a piece from a healthy mother tree measuring approximately 14 inches long. Take a knife and slit the cut end about 2 inches. Plant the cut end into healthy soil in a gallon pot. Keep watered throughout the winter until you see a green leaf appear.
When the tree is strong and has 5-6 leaves, plant it in the springtime in an area that achieves full sun and will handle a tree canopy of 6-8 feet. They get wide!
If figs aren’t a popular tree in your region, do some research to see what will work. Apricot and peach trees are two other trees that grow well from striking.
Growing Oak Trees
Gather acorns and a few gallon-sized plastic pots with decent potting soil. Plant your acorns about 2 inches deep, and keep them watered until you see a little sapling appear.
Keep tending to them, until your little tree is large enough to transplant into a wide open, sunny space. You can do the same with pecan trees!