Frugal Locavore

Putting Down Roots

By Anna Thomas Bates | Photos By Anna Thomas Bates and Jim Klousia 2

Ninety-eight percent of the vegetable garden are annuals planted as seeds or transplants every year, harvested and then planted again the following spring. But there are a few perennials—asparagus, rhubarb, some herbs and the fruits, of course (berries, apples, pears, plums, cherries, etc.)

It’s these perennials that flummox me. They take love and tenderness to start, and often don’t produce a harvest for 3-5 years.

And that’s when I freeze up—that’s a long wait.

Since moving to Wisconsin 13 years ago, we have lived in one apartment and three different houses.

I left behind a small but well-loved prairie planted from seed and three large perennial flowerbeds at my first house. At the second house I said good-bye to my first asparagus patch, a large slope planted with hundreds of native prairie species, a large herb garden and the biggest, most prolific rhubarb plant I have ever seen.

In our current home, I finally have a few acres to plant and roam, and an even larger asparagus bed and five miraculous blueberry bushes that both came with the house.

I also inherited three neglected apple trees, one of which is a Red Delicious. (Seriously, if you’re going to put in an apple tree, who puts in a Red Delicious? I’m in the market for a used a cider-press. If you have a lead, let me know in the comments.)

While I love my acres, my blueberries and my neighbors, I’m not sure this is our forever home yet. I don’t love the house and I’m not sure the local school is a good fit for my two boys.

My husband thinks I like to move every few years to keep things interesting (and him busy), but that’s really not true. I long to be settled, and the primary reason is that I want an orchard.

I’m hesitant to put down more roots here, of the literal kind.

The vision of my dream home is large enough to be semi-private and to accommodate a goat. It’s not in a subdivision so that I can legally have aforementioned goat. There is an asparagus bed, lots of berry bushes, sour cherry trees, pear trees, plum trees and apple trees that produce sweet-tart, thin-skinned apples.

But if we’re not going to be here for another 10 years, why make the effort?

To put down roots or not? If I do, only to leave shortly after, maybe my investment will make someone else as happy as my inherited blueberry bushes have made me. Or maybe we rent it out instead of sell, and part of the rental agreement is that I can come back each season and pick berries, apples and cherries.

Until our future plan is laid, I'll put down roots conservatively—one or two perennial additions each growing season. This spring? A Concord grape vine.

Anna Thomas Bates , co-founder of Landmark Creamery and a freelance writer, lives in Albany, Wisconsin, with her family, dog and chickens. She moved to Wisconsin 18 years ago and after visiting the Dane County Farmers’ Market and camping at Newport State Park, she’s never looked back. She writes a blog,, and contributes regularly to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online. You can taste her award-winning grilled cheese sandwiches at Landmark Creamery Provisions in Paoli, Wisconsin.

Comments [2]

Megan | June 10, 2013

My husband and I talk a lot about “house karma”.  We like to move and change things up in life, too.  We decided 10+ years ago that we would improve each place we live to the best of our ability and not worry about how long we were going to stay.  Then, if we are lucky and have diligently built up our house karma, the next place we move will have had someone like us and we’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor!

Anna | June 10, 2013

Megan, that is a wonderful perspective—I love it. You may have convinced me to go for it and get my fruit trees.

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