Action expresses priorities
So many of us are experiencing the desire to reconnect with food or the land or just something, anything, in the natural world. Everything is just so…artificial these days. Companies are even tapping into our need to reconnect by greenwashing everything. Why on earth should a label have to convince you that a food is natural? What is everything else, then? And why should we trust them? Why do we feel better buying things in green and brown packaging? Could it be that our disconnect from the fundamentals of life isn’t sitting well with us?
So the movement to grow, to cook, to knit, to do something nurishing is growing. Do you feel it? Do you want to grow something, even a pot of herbs? Is anxiety about actually doing it holding you back?
I love growing food. I love helping people know their food.
Here is the thing: I’m no green thumb. I kill stuff. I screw up. I get burned out and let things slip. I lose the battle sometimes. This morning I found the guineas have eaten the leaves off hundreds of baby kale plants because I forgot to cover them. Oops. I have never once walked outside and had a pair of cartoon bluebirds come help me with anything. (I did once have a dragonfly land on me and stay awhile but my love affair with dragonflies will get its own post.)
But there is good news. You do not need to have a green thumb to do this. You need to decide to do it and follow through with action. You need to be resiliant. You need some information, which I will help supply, and some perseverance.
Now, let me interject with a story about our first garden as a couple because I feel sharing our failures is cathartic and I’d hate for you to think too much of me.
We both grew up on farms so we should have had an advantage when we finally moved back to the country and got out of cities after college. But, alas, we had never had our own garden and we took stuff for granted, like that we had any idea what we were doing.
We moved to a rented home in rural western Kentucky. The huge yard had wonderful fruit trees that made up for the poorly maintained home. As I was having our first child, my in-laws were moving us into our rural haven. Before I was done healing from my cesarean, we had picked the sunniest spot on the property, tilled it and planted it.
It was 100+ yards from the house and there was no water source back there. I spent nap time (sleep when the baby sleeps, my butt) everyday lugging jugs of water to the large garden in a rainless Kentucky summer trying to save the plants we had put in the infertile dirt. Note I call it dirt. Soil is alive. Dirt is dead. (My husband was working out of town all the time in those days and the budget was so tight it squeaked.) Not even weeds would grow in the plot. No kidding.
It died. All of it. We got exactly 1 watermelon the size of a tennis ball.
That was eight and a half years ago. We have moved twice since then and are now in the most acidic, nutrient poor soil I have ever experienced. And we garden like crazy.
Yes, we knew we should have done a better job on that first garden but we didn’t. We let it be an aside and that was reflected in its planning and maintenance.
The point is, I am not some savant in the the garden. I am just evolving, learning, willing to experiment and tenacious. And you can be, too.
You can grow something and enjoy the physical and mental benefits of that subversive act.
If you are new to growing, start at the beginning:
Have you ordered your seed catalogs yet? The fall is a great time to get them so dark winter days can be a time of planning.
Here are my recommendations.
www.rareseeds.com (Baker Creek) 417-924-8917
Contact at least two of these seed companies and request their catalogs. Yes, paper catalogs via snail mail. No, it is not the most ecological choice in the short term but this is important. You need to hold these in your hands and look through them like so many do fashion magazines or trade publications. What we are doing here takes more of your brain than a screen can stimulate. You need to put these in your WC or on your car seat for when you are waiting to get the kids. But for today, just request them. We will deal with them when they arrive.
Why am I suggesting these catalogs? First, they provide heirloom and/or organic seed stock. Second, I have first hand experience ordering and using seed from each of these companies and have been satisfied. Third, I enjoy looking at and reading these catalogs. They are pleasant and easy to use. They provide the information I need to make informed decisions.
If you really want to get good at this…
While you wait for your catalogs, use this time to start preparing your mind for growing. You read that right.
If you really want to start growing at least some of your food you need to get in touch with the outdoors in a deliberate way. Don’t make a habit of gardening in a hurry. (Not that it has to rule your life or take all your time either.) So, whether or not you find this silly, do it. Dismiss your propriety. I won’t tell anyone.
Go find a grassy area and go stand in the grass barefoot. Is it sunny? Feel the sun. Is it breezy? Feel the breeze. Is it humid? Chilly? How does the grass feel under your feet? Is your breath shallow or deep?
THIS IS YOUR NEW OFFICE! Okay, if you are starting small, it is like a therapy couch. But it is far better. It is not a part-time job you are about to undertake or an occational appointment with a helpful soul. It is a way of life, joining a family, shifting your awareness and anything you let it become. No matter the size of your project, eating something you have grown reconnects us to something critical in our being.
This is a bit of romanticism, I know, and I used to shun it with everything in my being. And that was a mistake. This is the real world, not just figuratively, but literally.
Are you ready to go one step further?
Find some soil.
Soil, not dirt. Dirt is dead. Soil is alive.
Get a handful of soil. Crumble it between your fingers. Smell it. If this bothers you, you are going to miss out on part of the experience of growing food. Of course you can still garden with gloves on your clean hands. In fact, if you find it pleasing, you can wear pearls and evening makeup. I will not discourage and would love to name you among my quirky friends. Please send a picture. But don’t miss out on experiencing soil with more than just your eyes.
So there you have a place to start and some steps to keep you motivated. You can do this.
On your next trip to the produce department, read the country of origin label on every type of fruit and veggie for which you shop. Just read them and make it a habit.
How much of what you buy has traveled further than you have traveled this year?
Just read the labels. We will discuss them another time.
Happy Eating, Katy