In this post, we feature guest-blogger and our assistant Admin, Angie Bare. She’s a military wife and the mother of three boys, staking out her claim on an urban homestead in the Pacific Northwest. She spends most of her free time behind a camera.
I wouldn’t have called myself a gardener. It’s not something I was ever passionate about before. But a few years ago, I got curious. Could I grow things? Could I make my own food? How hard could it be, right? After all, people have been doing it for thousands of years, throughout all of human history. I could do it too.
I picked a patch of yard, and started my preparations. I cleared a small area, about three feet by eight feet along a fence. Added some gardening soil, found heirloom seeds, and planted. Cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, carrots, broccoli and corn.
And then I waited. If you’ve ever grown something, you know how exciting it is when you see those first sprouts pushing up out of the ground. I spent far more time outside than usual, watching my little plants. Is that another leaf bud? I think they grew a whole inch overnight! Soon I had cucumber plants running riot up the fence, gorgeous yellow flowers peeking out from behind tomato leaves, and stubby little corn plants becoming recognizable with their long leaves.
And then, the unthinkable happened. A hailstorm. We’ve all read about it, we all know that farmers are slaves to nature…that no matter how well you plant and prepare, no matter how good your land is or accomplished your farming skills, nature can destroy your crops.
That day in June, I finally understood a little of what that must feel like, to those who spend their lives farming. These little plants in my backyard were by no means our only source of food, or income. But I had come to love them and care about them. I had sweated over my tiny little plot of ground.
And so I ran out into the terrible hail, and tried to cover my plants, to save what I could, which was nothing. I ran back inside. Then I stood in my doorway, and called my husband at work to lament what was happening. I’ll admit it. I cried as I watched those tiny leaves being shredded.
When the hail finally stopped, I trudged outside to survey the damage.
To make matters worse, the water escaping my roof had gone straight down the length of my garden, washing plants, seeds and soil away.
Hail Pouring Out the Downspout…
Washing away my Little Garden…
Leaving Me With Only This
I was certain that my garden was over. Dead, finished, kaput. How could these delicate plants survive such a beating? They didn’t have an untouched leaf amongst them. Over the next few days, I did what I could, propping things up here and there, but mostly I waited. I had no experience in this, I didn’t know what to do, or if there was anything I could do! I watched some leaves wither and brown, and waited for the rest to follow suit…
I did my best not to hold my breath. Over the next days and weeks, I watched as each plant sprang back into vibrant life. The resilience of these tiny delicate growths amazed me! They had seemed so fragile, and yet they grew strong and started to produce.
Soon, we had fresh vegetables for our table every night. And what vegetables! They were brighter, and more delicious than anything we’d ever bought at a store. It didn’t take long before our garden was outstripping our ability to eat what it gave!
I started giving cucumbers and tomatoes away to neighbors, friends and family.
My little garden had survived a huge trial, and would continue to produce a bumper crop for the rest of the summer.
I learned a lot that summer, and I enjoyed my time more than many summers in recent memory. I learned how incredibly satisfying and empowering it is to produce my own food. Nothing tastes better or is appreciated more than something that you’ve had to work for. There is a wonderful quiet satisfaction in plucking a lovely red tomato from a plant that you’ve watched grow and change from a tiny seedling to a full grown plant.
I learned the pleasant ache in my muscles that comes from spending days digging and planting, weeding and watering. I truly invested in something, and was rewarded with such a return!
So often, we don’t think about our food. We eat because we must to keep our bodies running. We enjoy what we eat, but most of the time we eat something that was prepared by someone else, grown by yet another person, and very often not even placed on our plate by us. We have no contact with or investment in our food until it’s on our fork, and heading to our mouths. And sometimes, this is ok. But sometimes, it would be good for us to think about our food. Where does it come from? How was it prepared? There is so much history there, and we never know it.
Spring is coming soon, and I am looking forward to planting this year’s garden. It won’t be large, but it will be mine. It will help provide for my family, and it will provide me with daily satisfaction and work that is really, truly useful. I encourage you to give it a try, too. Plant a garden!
If you’ve never done it, start small. If you have no space, buy a few large pots, and a tomato plant or two. Even in the tiniest of apartments, you can grow herbs on your window sill. Make the time to try something new with your food, bake bread, make your own noodles, or try a recipe completely from scratch. You won’t regret it.
It may take a few tries, but when you get it right you’ll find renewed confidence in yourself and what you can do. You’ll be taking that first step towards living a life that is more Independent, Resilient, and Sustainable!
With hands happily covered in dirt,
If you’re in a small apartment check out the DIY instructions from Window Farms!
Look for or start a Community Garden in your area…an added bonus is advice and tips from more experienced gardeners!