This first guest post is from my wonderful husband, who has been very supportive during this whole urban homesteading process.

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We bought the house at auction. I can highly recommend buying at auction. No negotiation, just a balls to the wall thrill ride of finding out who has the most cash on hand to throw in the money pit. That day in late 2008, we did. So we had a house. But that’s a story for another day.

Annette had already started gardening small scale with tomatoes that lived an abused life on the steps of my college apartment, but I didn’t imagine that she would start gardening on any scale beyond a few convenient containers. (I later learned that container gardening could scale up… way up.)

But we’re both academic big picture people, so we have to analyze everything. Gardening had to find a place, a way to function within our goals. A square within the grid.

Finding a place in our life.

There are certain things that we believe about life. I could go on for quite a while about them at length, but here are two.

Thing one: People do what they want to do.

So, the answer to the question of “Why did someone do that?” is almost always “They wanted to.” This thing isn’t relevant to this post, but I thought I’d throw it out there for you to ponder. Again, story for another day.

Thing two: Saying yes to one thing, means saying no to another.

Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.

People who can’t understand this tend to lead desperate lives, overtaxed, always overwhelmed whether at home or work. They’re passive aggressive and secretly hate a lot of people; and really — they hate themselves for being such a coward that they can’t say “no.” to an unreasonable request.

For example, I’m a graphic designer. I work extra side jobs. This does take time away from something else, it’s just a matter of choosing what. My options are:

  • mowing the lawn
  • working on the house
  • spending time with my wife

So, it’s mowing the lawn that goes — that’s easy. I make enough as a freelancer to pay someone else to mow my lawn. Even if that cost was at parity with my hourly rate, it would still be worth it since freelancing helps build my career; mowing the lawn doesn’t. And besides, I’d rather be designing something than pushing a mower.

Working on the house has definitely suffered, but we’ve been able to get closer to being debt free while making (what I think is) reasonable progress, so I’m willing to put up with a certain amount of ugly in exchange for less burdensome debt.

Spending less time with the wife isn’t a good tradeoff. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Paper with Michael Keaton as Henry Hacket and Marissa Tomei as Martha Hacket, there’s a fabulous scene in which Martha has a meltdown over Henry’s workaholic tendencies and states something to the effect of “Of course if someone said it was life or death, me or the newspaper, you’d choose me. It’s never one big choice, it’s a thousand small choices every day.”

I don’t want to be Henry, so I love my wife enough to pay someone else to mow my lawn. :)

So, here we were, and she wanted to garden. Seriously garden.

The only way this could work with both of us working 40 hours a week and still being husband and wife would be to have a maintenance free garden. I guess you could have quality time picking weeds, but we have just as much fun sitting on the couch making fun of people in the shade, thank you very much.

The sacrifice you make for maintenance free is two fold:

  1. Cost of materials — we have hundreds of dollars invested in cinderblocks and fancy soil mixtures
  2. Setup labor — building the beds, mixing the soil, planning long term.

The cost was a hurdle for me — I’m really focused on paying off this house as soon as humanly possible. But I also like that my wife continually educates and challenges herself – it makes her a more interesting and engaging person. Providing an environment where that can occur is part of what being a husband is about. So, I sucked it up, and said “okay.”

The setup labor is pretty intense without serious earth moving equipment. It only takes a few seconds for that Bobcat operator to dump a pickup load of mulch in your pickup, but it’s gonna take all afternoon to mix it and dump it in the new bed.

The Magic Part

But here’s the magic: Once it’s done, that’s it. You’ve made a long term investment that will pay off year after year.

And I’m okay with that.

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