Monday, March 12, 2012

a dream being realized

I don't think I can pinpoint the exact moment my thinking changed; I know that much did when my first son was born, and when we opted to cloth diaper him at 7 months old. My focus was on making the world a better place for my children. Last year around this time I read Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which changed the way I thought about the food we consumed. I couldn't do much about it at the time other than look for local (when possible) organic food. I'm pretty sure that I turned many people off by oversharing all my new knowledge about the conventional food industry (arsenic in chicken, ammonia rinsed ground meat...) and I know that although I'm no expert I probably came across as holier-than-thou which was by no means my intention.

Slowly though, a dream emerged about growing our own food and teaching my boys that with a little patience and knowledge, we could plant seeds and care for them, ultimately eating what we have produced ourselves. We've had a tiny plot of dirt that isn't quite a garden each summer since my oldest was born in our rental house; and had different successes each year. The first year the three tomato plants we put in the ground on Mother's Day exploded and produced more tomatoes than we knew what to do with so we ate them warm off the vine, made more grilled cheese and tomato sandwhiches than we could count, and gave them away to friends and neighbors. The following year the tomatoes didn't do as well, but the zucchini plant (I think there were two) gave us enough zucchini that my son, then 2, would pick them off the vine and walk around the backyard chomping on fresh zucchini. That was also our first year growing snap peas, and our little one would pluck them off the vine and eat dozens without realizing that he was eating something healthy or good for him. I'm pretty sure he ate his weight in home grown vegetables that summer. Last year was the year of lettuce. We had a perfect shady spot in the garden and while we couldn't get much else to grow, the lettuce took off and we had a few months of delicious salads, along with the peas. This time it was both my boys, running through sprinklers with handfuls of romaine lettuce and snap peas. It might sound crazy but even if I hated gardening, I would do it just for them since they get such a kick out of picking their own food and being part of the growing process.

Last year we moved out of beautiful Colorado back to my husband's home state. One of the reasons was to be able to buy a nice piece of land and expand our garden. Somewhere in the process my husband moved from a mindset of "how much is that organic heirloom tomato???" to "you can't put a price tag on our family's health". We have continued to educate ourselves on the food industry and spent far too much time researching heirloom seeds and planning our garden. The garden technically began the weekend after we moved into our house when my husband built the compost bin, and we have been slowly working toward being ready for the spring (which I highly doubt we are). This past weekend we were outside tilling the ground and preparing the garden beds. We'd like to do all raised beds, but given the size of the garden that I/we want, I think we'll start with 3 4x16 beds, along with the 3 4x6 beds we built a few months ago. This will give us 264 square feet of raised beds, and another 4 beds that will not be boxed in.

I'm looking forward to the possibility of what will come from the garden. We have planted hundreds of seeds so far, and have transformed our mudroom into a seed growing room. Many nights have been spent transplanting seeds from their original peat pots to larger containers before they will be ready to move outside. I am certain we have bitten off more than we can chew on this. I am also certain that we could have scaled down this first year because I will be disappointed if/when something doesn't work. No matter. My oldest helps me check the water levels on the seedlings everyday and they are having as much fun as we are.