Hard Work and Wonderment
The other day when I was out in the yard tending the petunias, I heard a mother and son walking by our fence. They paused to marvel at the impressive size of our grapevine, which spills over the fence and trails down toward the sidewalk. The little boy exclaimed, "Wow! Look at how big it is already!" (They must have been observing the progress of the grapevine for a while now.) It made me smile to hear the wonder in his voice.
A garden is a wondrous thing. At risk of sounding like Mr. Douglas on Green Acres, it's remarkable to watch the plants shooting up out of the ground and reaching toward the sky. Or as his glamorous Hungarian wife (Eva Gabor) would say, "shoosting" out of the ground. :) A garden can offer many pleasant surprises, like a cantaloupe you completely forgot you had planted, or something blossoms that you didn't know even had a blossom (potato plants, who knew!)
As romantic as a garden seems, it is hard work too. Berries don't pick themselves, plants don't water themselves, and the entire garden plot certainly doesn't weed itself. All of these tasks are up to the gardener. So, we endure scratches from berry bush thorns, sore shoulders from carrying heavy buckets of water, aching calf muscles from crouching to pull weeds. All of these mild discomforts are worth it however, when you can serve a homemade meal made exclusively from your own produce (like my ratatouille recipe!) You know exactly what has happened to those vegetables ever since they were seeds in the ground - that they weren't sprayed with insecticides or subjected to some other unnatural process.
Our family has always gardened to some extent, but in 2008, it became not just a hobby, but an economic necessity. Food was one of the few expenses we could take control of, so instead of spending as much at the grocery store, we decided to grow more of our own produce. All in all, the garden provides about 30% of our food year-round, saving hundreds of dollars on grocery bills. "How is this done?" you might wonder. Firstly, garden size is everything. Our yard is quite small, but is mainly comprised of garden beds. When it comes to a choice of food or a plush green lawn, the answer is pretty obvious. And there's less grass to mow that way. ;) Also, timing your grocery shopping is important. Wait for sales. As an example, if big-ticket grocery items don't go on sale until next week, this week's dinners can include more fresh garden salads or homemade canned soups. Another good, but frugal supper is frozen vegetables cooked with rice or pasta. We call it "vegetable medley." (I will note that we don't eat meat all that regularly. We're by no means vegetarian, however, our meat consumption doesn't usually exceed 3 days a week.)
There are so many benefits to keeping a garden - getting exercise, eating healthier, saving money. In return for some hard work, you are rewarded with a beautiful and productive space, full of wonderment.
Please feel free to share your garden stories in the comments! What do you love most (and least, haha) about gardening?
'Til next time,
P.S. Do you remember how I was all worried that the gladiola bulbs wouldn't sprout? They did. :) Here's the very first gladiola of the season!