Salad greens picked this December morning – not that big a deal for a full-time grower, but we aren’t that. Edward and I struggle to fit gardening into our schedules. He is a CEO and I am a writer, when I am not everything else including landlord, which is my contribution to the cash flow. We are suburban Marylanders with chickens. I love the idea of calling myself an “urban farmer,” but it isn’t really true (only in the most romantic sense – and the fact that I would consider farming romantic is a dead giveaway). We are growers though, and proud of it.
And those greens, small a harvest as they are, are pretty impressive considering the bed isn’t even tarped up in plastic sheeting, but just sitting out. Oh yes, of course I was going to make a mini greenhouse over the top of those plants! On the south side there – it’s the perfect spot! I can just see in my mind’s eye how to do it. But we haven’t made the time. Still, a bountiful parsley and some tiny kale plants grow, in this semi sheltered garden, with the house between them and the north wind. (That reminds me, I should move the fig over on this side…hmmm) It just shows what’s possible, if you set out to grow some of your own.
Why would I? you ask. Are you nuts?
Yes I am generally considered to be nuts, but the answer is “It’s yummy.” Our eggs, our peppers, green beans, lettuce – everything grown this way tastes so good. Better than the beautiful, organically grown stuff in my favorite health market. And miles better than the cardboard-y stuff you can get at a big grocery store. There just is no comparison, flavor-wise.
It’s a lifestyle. Edward and I agree that moving soil, planting and growing things, observing how things grow, and getting our life into the rhythm of eating from the garden (that means picking in the morning, not harvesting beans right when you need to be making supper! ack!) is part of us. We love being connected to those earth cycles of growth and decay and regrowth.
Mostly. Let’s be real – there are times when you slave over planting and neglect to prepare the soil as the plant likes it, and watch the blueberry bushes die. Or you plant all the beans and forget to put strings on the bean tower (one of our favorite mistakes) or, worse, you don’t fence the garden and the ever watchful bunny bites through the bean stalk for reasons known only to itself, killing the whole vine. Or you plant a lovely flowering shrub, but forget to water that lovely shrub, and tune back in at the end of August to find a shriveled dead thing in it’s place. Growing food has joys and sorrows, like anything else.
But the point of this blog is that YOU, the ordinary person, can contribute in a significant way to your food supply without being a hippie and even if you have no desire to retire to the country and generate your own power or wash your clothes in a stream. My point is that, in spite of a recurring fantasy about being a farmer, I LOVE suburban life. I love going to the movies, and theater, and having access to the metro (when it’s working).
I recently got a posting from the blog of Shannon Stronger a Mennonite farmer (check it out Nourishing Days). Now I love reading this lady. She is charming, and inspiring, and honest, loves to ferment foods and has messy kitchen. What could be better? But I could let her passion overwhelm me. I could never keep up with her gardens, or her canning. And I believe that many “ordinary American suburbanites” think that this is what growing your own has to look like – either this, or Martha Stewart the glamour goddess of domestic engineering! And that just isn’t true. You don’t have to be a totally put together god-dess nor a totally off the grid and self-sustaining to GROW YOUR OWN guru.
It is possible that “you do you” and you do growing food – at least if that firre is in your belly. Of course ya gotta wanna. But you don’t gotta be a goddess, of any description.
Let me add that I admire Martha and Shannon equally. They both are fighting for the same thing, in the end. They are preserving wonderful knowledge that parents and grandparents used to teach and now mostly no longer know how to teach. I do not resent that. I love what they do. I am grateful. And I am no goddess – just lucky enough to still have some parsley on the south side of my house.