I recently bought a house, and the goal was to find a place with a large enough piece property so that I could grow an abundance of food and even, potentially, house a few livestock. While the livestock has yet to arrive, the food has shown up in spades.
We were ambitious this year and decided to plant a huge variety of food stuffs; zucchini, corn, three types of beans, tomatoes, melons, winter squash, turnips, beets, carrots, peas, parsnips, potatoes, leeks, onions, peppers and my all time favorite, brussel sprouts. We added three more fruit trees to the unkempt orchard and now have two apples, a cherry, a pear, an apricot, and a much neglected plum which sadly did not produce any fruit this year. We also started some berry groves, strawberries and raspberries, which have given us mixed results.
For a woman who tends to kill house plants pretty regularly, this was quite an undertaking. Luckily I had help – grandma, who lives with us, has planted gardens large and small since I was a wee one, and my lovely son helps out in any way he can, which at eighteen months typically involves watering mom and petting the beans. He has learned, slowly, not to step on the plants, or kick them, and I hope that his little brain is making the connection between the round green peas on his plate and the oblong pods growing on the twine out back. We shall see.
In either case gardening has made my connection to food real. It has taught me that brussel sprouts, while delicious, may not be suited for the high desert climate – something of which I am reminded every afternoon when I check on the garden only to find the poor things are wilted to the dirt in an effort to get away from the relentless sun. I have also learned that nine tomato plants will, in all likelihood, produce enough fruit to feed us until next spring, but that six rows of corn isn’t nearly enough.
This week, thanks to copious rain followed by copious sunshine (plus a good mulching with our compost), the fruits of our labors are starting to pay off. We have zucchini blossoms and fruit, the aforementioned tomatoes, corn has sprouted from the strongest stalks, and our peas are finally weighing down their vines. I am excited for harvest, yet at the same time I am wondering if we can do all the work necessary to make the garden yield work to it’s fullest. Do we have enough space to can all those tomatoes? Do we have enough cans? What are we going to do with all those potatoes when we don’t have a root cellar? How many loaves of zucchini bread can one woman make before she goes completely insane?
I realize now that modern life is an departure from years of human history. Our ancestors routinely thought about their food – how much they had, how to store it, how to grow and prepare it. Food preparation was a daily experience, it was an essential part of human experience. Gardening produces a different mindset about food, forcing you to think about what you have when you have it and, most importantly, appreciate all that you have to eat.
So while gardening is definitely better for your physical health,producing nutritious, organic and fresh produce, I think it is ultimately better for your spirit. This post has been my weekly contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s. Happy Eating!