Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Garden

Did you grow up with a garden in your life? I did. It was a huge rectangle, full of the food that fed us all summer, fall and winter. It was also full of itchy plants which I had to wade through ~ carefully, oh so carefully ~ so as to get them to surrender their bounty to my unwilling hands. Our whole family helped with harvesting, though planting and tending the garden was my Dad's domain. In fact, we were never allowed in the garden, unless we were there to harvest. Which is why this picture means so much to me.

A few years ago, before my Dad got the tiller out to go over the garden for the first time before spring planting, my sister and her kids were there at my parent's house. I don't know how it happened, but suddenly, my sister was racing with wild abandon through our Dad's garden - and guess what? She didn't get in trouble!

And then there was the canning. No way my mom could can all of that food for the six of us without help, and since I was the oldest, it fell to me to help. Not only did we can what my Dad grew in the garden, but whatever else my mom could get her hands on that could withstand heat and pressure. I remember stopping on the side of the road, more than once, because my mom saw berries, plums, peaches or something that she could use to feed her growing family.

I remember the hot, steamy kitchen, the ceiling fan spinning lazily overhead and the old yellow pressure cooker with the paint peeling off the outside. Never did trust that thing, but it never did blow mom was a master at making it sing...and then out of the dark depths would come glistening glass jars, full of wonderful goodness, and I had helped it happen - it was an amazing feeling!

After cooling under towels on the kitchen table, we carried the jars to the basement and stacked them on the pantry shelves by the back door. There is something so satisfying and comforting to go out a door on a regular basis and as you pass by to see row upon row of glass jars, full of yellow peaches, green beans, purple jams and strawberry jelly...just to name a few!

Fast forward 25 or 30 years and now I live in the great wild west, with a yard half the size of my parent's, with three kids under eight, and find myself home for the summer for the first time since I quit my full time job! So, do you know what that means?!?! It's Garden Time!

See, when I was a kid, it was not so fun to harvest beans, tomatoes, and the like. I did it because I had to, but somehow, the beauty of the early morning rendezvous, the dew on the leaves, the bees buzzing lazily about their work...somehow, it got under my skin. I am hoping to share that with my children.

I read years ago about Square Foot Gardening, and was intrigued with the idea. Finally, finally, we are going to have our own garden! Seeds have been purchased, dirt has been dug, and tomorrow we have a trip to the lumber store planned so that we can pick up the boards for our raised beds. We are in the planning and building stages right now, so stay tuned for updates on our garden and canning experiences - it should be a blast!

I am a visual person, so I have made a grid of our garden, so I can decide where to plant what. This is not the final arrangement...just a cool tool to help me figure out what plant should go where, and whom it should live next to. This is either going to be really fun, or a total disaster! Either way, we get to play in the dirt, so it is a win-win situation!

Some of the seeds we started: