Monday, April 11, 2011

a new adventure

Today is the start of a new adventure. My friends Adam and Bonnie will be embarking on this adventure with my husband and I this summer: we are starting a garden. It feels ridiculously exciting just to type those words. I have been in sort of a funk all spring because it is the first spring where I haven't allowed myself the luxury of dreaming about a garden. Every year, until this one, I have gone home to my parent's farm in the summer and spent a good deal of my time with my head in the clouds and my hands in the earth. You see, I love gardening. I love the hard work and the promise it holds. I love starting with nothing and walking away with beauty. I love listening to audio books and my favorite music when I'm out there weeding, watering, and fertilizing. Or, better yet, I love being out there in the quiet evening and being surrounded by life and a visual representation of faith. It is a faith that the delicate seeds you put in the earth will come forth and nourish you and give you joy.

My parents did all of the initial hard work of our garden by themselves. Sure, I was there. Sure, I probably helped; but I can't remember. When I was a child I failed to understand how blessed I was to have parents who gardened. I had parents who taught me to love the earth and all of the possibilities that came from loving it. But back then, I wanted to be doing other things, as many teenagers did. But my mother and father (thanks Mom & Dad!) made me learn. Despite my impatience and failure to grasp how important it would be in my future, they required me to join in the rhythm of the seasons and plant, care for, and harvest food every summer.  My favorite memories are of potato planting on the old potato planter (much more fun than weeding the blasted potato patch), picking strawberries with my Mom (and sometimes eating more than went into the bucket), and shucking bucket after bucket of sweet corn with my family on some inevitably hot August day and blanching it, cutting it off the cob, and bagging it for our massive deep freezer. (I especially smile at the memory of my brother always "accidentally" dropping ears of corn into the water bath from too far away so that it would splash all over me.)

By the time I got to college, I started to understand the unique gift that is a garden. I started to dream about it, because it was the first time I was deprived of the constant luxury of the earth. I was surrounded by cement and people, and while there were beautiful parks and green things in the town of my undergrad, none of them were mine. And my parents were ready to turn over some of the responsibility to me. I got to take part in the planning and picking of varieties. I started ordering seed catalogs in my apartment and setting aside time to thumb through them with a red marker and circle what I wanted.

One crazy summer, my Dad and I even got it in our heads that we could possibly start a small commercial garden--one that would provide us with  food for ourselves and food to take to farmer's markets. He got a commercial tiller. He set aside extra space in the field in addition to our nine and a half raised 8x8 beds. We planted some 250 tomato plants, all of which we started in an old milk-room in our barn over spring break. My husband dug the holes for at least 200 of them in the less-than-ideal earth (not quite as wonderful as the soil in our raised beds). We had some 30 hills of squash, pumpkins, gourds, and zucchini, and 2 140-foot fences of pole beans and peas. We also had 25 or more pepper and eggplant plants. I also had a small cutting (flower) garden in addition to our raised beds. The raised beds held all of our leafy greens, potatoes, and other veggie standards. My husband and I refer to that as "the bad summer." We bit off a little more than we could chew! I think I swore of gardening that summer, but I still got that inevitable tug somewhere deep inside of myself in February, when I started to dream of being surrounded by green again.

Our garden with our friends will not be so grandiose or crazy, and it will be a cooperative effort between the four of us. We'll have to plan together, coordinate, and start fresh. This almost newly broken Indiana soil will be a little different than what I'm used to working with, but it will be an adventure in building up soil. We have 4 small 9.5x10 plots between the four of us. This will also be an organic garden. I am used to using synthetic fertilizers on flowers and tomatoes (like Miracle Gro) so this will be a new adventure in how to garden entirely organically and I'm excited!

I already have a little list of things I'd love to grow, but the list will only be finalized when we see how much space we have to work with and we put our heads and hopes together and figure it all out.

Sugar-snap peas
Pole beans
Swiss Chard
French breakfast radishes
Batchelor Buttons

And I consider that a short list! Crazy! I'm sure I'm going to have to make some amendments to that list!