The Christmas tree has faded, jettisoned on the blueberry bed, composting itself.  (When it isn’t rolling into our neighbor’s yard pushed by roaring winds.) The strings of lights are finally down and boxed. Even the Christmas cards full of smiling friends are tucked away. Why does it always feel darker after the holidays, even though the days are shorter? But fear not — just grab your potting soil.

With snow flurries and bitter winds boomaranging us back into winter this week, I am a thoroughbred pawing at the starting gate. Too many times before I have been fooled by late cold! Too many times have delayed and missed the beginning of the Growing Season! But not this year.

Hiding behind the plates in my kitchen cupboard all winter long were seed packets. Nebula Black Carrots & Atomic Red Carrots, Deer Tongue Lettuce. Chervil. (“Parsley-like”) Heirlooms purchased months ago, impulsively, inspired by rereading Barbara Kingsolver’s classic Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Seed that I dried and saved from a particularly nice butternut or kobucha squash

My first trays got started in early February — tomatoes, brave onions, and hopeful peppers (peppers are picky– they want their native heat and moisture to germinate). At first I despaired of success. But then I found my old friend, the plate warmer given as a wedding present by a lovely lady who might be shocked at its current employment. And look– magic!

Heating pad below and plastic lid above coaxed peppers into the light!
A pepper seeding enjoying his tiny hothouse environment

This year I continue my quest. I want to discover: how much food can we grow in moderate sized gardens, with moderate effort? We all know gardeners with remarkable plots who are growing everything. They are an inspiration and a barrier to giving the garden thing a go. Not everyone has that time and energy. So, what can my 59year old self produce with a reasonable amount of time and without going into manic mode? What is the sweet spot between the work of growing and the expense of buying good food?

Garlic, thrown into the ground last October, standing up bravely against the March snow

Food prices have risen sharply. There will be pressure on farmers to produce food cheaper. What can this pressure result in but cheap food? Here’s my question: why do most Americans think that cheap food is a good idea? Consider: you put it in your mouth. Why would you put something cheaper, lesser, poorly grown, in your mouth? Don’t blame America’s farmers! They will grow whatever you will eat.

The idea that people will resolve their cost of living issues by eating cheap, chemical saturated food (chemically propagated, chemically fertilized, chemically sprayed) weighs heavy on my heart. All those babies and children eating toxic Cheerios… (Read up on residual Glyphosate in Cheerios here ) We don’t know for sure what this does to them (although some of us have a pretty strong suspicion). These young ones are the guinea pigs, the test cases.

However, I’m also not interested in hauling beautiful organic food in from across the country and around the world to answer my organically grown preferences. All those taxpayer-subsidized truckloads and planeloads full of organic salad (and not organic salad!!) greens. My goal is to eat local as much as possible, grow some of what our family eats, and eat moderately of foods from far away places. I don’t want to get ridgid about it. It’s fun to eat things from other places. But our local farmers need us to buy from them, if they are going to stay in business. And local food tastes so much better.

Lucky for me “Dave’s Backyard Farms” is just down Huntingdon Pike From my house. From there I eat whatever my local growers are producing right now. The meat is so good. The eggs are fantastic, with dark orange yolks. The rubber banded bunches of kale are delicious, the loose carrots SO good.

But I long for everyone to be able to eat sustainably grown, clean food. To make this happen, you got to take back your yard from that boring old lawn. Or, your gotta find some land. Don’t wait for what you need to eat to find it’s way to your regular grocery store. Don’t wait for the FDA to protect your produce, or get hopeless about the high cost of good food. Begin your own revolution! Tis the season….

…and it all starts with seeds.

Meet you in the dirt!

One of the author’s many compost(ing) piles…

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