As one season comes to a close, a new one begins. I live in a climate that actually has 4 seasons. We see winter, spring, summer and fall. Sometimes during the winter months I long for the warmth of the sun and smell of fresh cut grass, but then I take a deep breath and remember, this is my off season. Why you might ask? Because I am an avid gardener. I stay busy tending to my garden Spring, Summer and Fall. Winter is the only season where I have a few moments to rest and breathe. Some days gardening feels like a chore, but most days, it is my serenity. It is my calm and my storm.
Why I Garden
In the Beginning…
I grew up living in an old pre-civil war era farmhouse on 5 acres. We raised cattle and hogs for our freezers, and for income. We had chickens for eggs. Our livestock were year-round responsibilities. However, our garden toil only lasted a brief 4 months out of the year. As a kid, I would loathe the garden work. Tilling, hoeing, planting, watering and most of all WEEDING. Boy did I HATE pulling weeds. But the reward was the beautiful harvest every fall.
All that weed pulling taught my hands a beautiful mastery. To this day, I am able to tell a weed from a precious vegetable plant simply by touch.
All of this work, my mom and I toiled in together. While my brother did help occasionally, this was something for us. Luckily, we had some awesome farmer neighbors that helped us to chase down and capture runaway livestock (Which I regret to say, was quite often!) But for the most part, all the labor involved in our homestead took just my mom and I.
I learned quickly that if I wanted to have some uninterrupted time with my mom, I should go pull weeds with her early in the morning. We would scoot our bottoms along the dirt lined rows pulling weeds and chatting about whatever was going on in my pre-teen/teenage world at the time.
Everything that I know and love about gardening came from those dirty-bottom mornings with my mom.
We picked beans together, gathered tomatoes and peppers, onions and zucchini. The work didn’t end at gathering though. Once we had gathered our bounty, it became time to preserve for the winter.
Making it Through Another Winter
We canned our green beans in quart sized jars. Made salsa from tomatoes, onions and peppers. Canned whole tomatoes for things like chili and meatloaf. We grated and froze zucchini for zucchini bread and soups. We also baked and froze zucchini bread for a mid-winter treat. The canned and frozen produce from our hard work during the summer months is what helped us to get through the winter months. My mom was a disabled, single mother who was unable to work. Finances were tight, but gardening was one of the ways my mom got us through.
Reap the Benefits
Aside from the obvious produce reward at the end of the season, there are a great number of other rewards to be had in gardening. In the same way that my mom always included me, I include my three children and my husband. Gardening for us is a whole family ordeal. Together, we all decide what we are going to grow each year. You see, we have a limited garden space, so we have to use it wisely. They help me get the soil prepped. We plant the seeds and plants together, water them and pull the weeds together. We harvest the fruits of our labor at the end of the season…together.
The world needs more family time and gardening is how we do family time.
Gardening has given me an outlet for frustration. Its amazing what kind of mood booster pulling weeds can be. I love to be able to physically see improvement in something I am working on. It provides some sort of validation in my mind and gives me just the mood boost and self care I so often need. When I pull weeds, I get physical exercise, a boost my mood, and the visual reward when I’m done… well there is nothing quite like it.
It has also given me a priceless educational tool when homeschooling my kids. My children know where their food comes from. As a family, they learned how to grow and nurture a small seed into a beautiful plant that provides them with food for their bellies. I love watching them dash out the door in late summer and early fall, the garden in full bloom and the sun beating down on their excited faces as then bend to check on the garden. Last year I don’t think that any of the cherry tomatoes made it in the house! They would go pick them all and sit down in the yard to eat them. It is gloriously fulfilling to say to my children when they want a snack, “Go pick some tomatoes”, and know I don’t have to worry about washing off any chemicals. (We do not use chemicals in our garden, at all.)
What is the Take Away?
So, today I still follow what I was taught all those years ago. Granted, I am only 31, so it hasn’t been THAT long. (Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself as the years tick by.) However, I am sadly finding that more and more of my generation are not familiar with the process of gardening and its benefits.
It’s my hope to change that with our Squad! Make sure to subscribe to our site, because in the following weeks, I will be writing several pieces about how I plan for my garden, how I maintain and how I harvest.
This is just the surface of this wonderful world of gardening. Join me in becoming the next gardening family!