Buying Supplies

So here’s where the rubber hits the road – I’m actively spending money on seeds and equipment, and trying to do it in a manner befitting an apprentice Woodchuck.

Which makes me think of a cartoon from The New Yorker about 25 years ago in which two joggers are standing alongside a path, dressed in the latest jogging attire: color coordinated sweats, headbands, running shoes, and nice hair. They are watching a third jogger approach. This one has long, straggly hair, mismatched shorts and shirt, the shirt with sleeves torn off, and old tennis shoes. As he approaches, sweating, one of the coiffed joggers comments to the other, in a clearly condescending, elitist tone, pointing at the disheveled runner, “You know, if you can’t afford to jog, you really shouldn’t.”

There’s the difference between a yuppie and a Woodchuck.

Years later, I was visiting with a new friend in Maine. She had built her house as a dome, the wood was all natural, the toilet a waterless, composting unit. In the course of our visit she commented that living simply costs a lot of money. Yuppie.

So, where am I? Somewhere in-between, I think. Last night I settled my tools and seeds order for $400, with another $400 yet to be spent on the hoop house and low tunnel supplies. A real Woodchuck probably could have shaved that order by a hundred dollars or more. And would find a way to make a cold greenhouse from scrounged and used supplies, shaving another one or two hundred from future expenses.

Me? I have to take into account the standards of the homestead. I share a home with my in-laws, who have spent a lot of money creating a beautiful house and grounds. My garden plot and the new hoop house cannot detract from that.

That’s where yuppie and Woodchuck intersect. Yuppie gets the cosmetics, Woodchuck gets the substance.

On the plus side, I can rationalize my expenditures as leading to a greater economy of future effort, expense, food security, and environmental impact.

I did need to replace some garden tools, and purchase others that I didn’t own – which I sought in junk shops and second-hand stores without success. I will purchase recycled barn boards and old house windows for my cold frames. And, by investing $100 in soil blocking tools and supplies I can forego all of those biodegradable seedling pots that have to be bought anew every year, or the reusable plastic pots and trays that both add to the landfill and need to be periodically replaced.

Plus, I got enough seeds to last at least two years. This year’s farmer’s market seedling and produce sales should allow me to recoup my whole investment. Thereafter, I’ll be ahead of the game – especially because my garden should produce enough to make it unnecessary to buy vegetables after June.

So I see my recent spending splurge as a pragmatic, modified Woodchuck practice. By making these initial investments I will be able to pay off my investment, get my newly self-sustaining garden off the ground, take advantage of modern low-tech strategies to extend the Vermont growing season into the fall, and harvest fresh vegetables all through the winter – something the old-time Woodchucks were not able to do.

My Supply Sources

I chose to purchase organic and heirloom seeds. That’s partly a commercial decision: they will have greater appeal to my target market, and will command slightly higher prices. It’s also a decision based upon wanting a seed and a harvest that is sustainable in my local environment and has a lower impact on the environment. FEDCO Seeds and Johnny’s Seeds are well-established and highly-reputable New England-based suppliers.

FEDCO is a significantly cheaper seed and ground-cover (green manure) source. I cut my seed bill by more than half purchasing from FEDCO rather than Johnny’s. Partly that’s because I could buy smaller quantities.

On the other hand, Johnny’s proved to be 10% to 20% cheaper for the seed blocker equipment and garden tools, which I purchased from them.

My strawberry plants are coming from the Vermont Bean Seed Company.

For used barn boards and other construction supplies, I use ReNew Salvage in Brattleboro, VT,  and the ReCover Store in White River Junction, VT.

Here’s an article from the Seattle Times that discusses several high-quality sources of organic, open-pollination, and heirloom seeds: