Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I Garden

While I have grown up having a garden, it wasn’t until a few years ago that it became a hobby of mine. I distinctly remember back in late summer, early fall before the economy tanked watching a report about the impending crash. My husband and I sat down and tried to figure out if there were things that we could do to better prepare us for the whole thing bottoming out. We quickly realized that the best thing that we could do was to look to our grandparents for advise. Both of our grandparents lived during the time of the Great Depression- in fact, I would argue that that experience forever altered their lives. Two more frugal people you would be hard pressed to find- unless perhaps your grandparents gave you free product samples and toilet paper for Christmas? Yeah, I didn’t think so!

Anyway, after lots of research we determined that surprise! Self-sufficiency was big back in the day. People relied on themselves and their community to get by. They bartered and traded and generally helped each other out. They grew gardens and had chickens and mended their old socks instead of just running out to buy new ones. They learned to enjoy each others company and didn’t rely on a dinner or movie date night to ease the tension in their homes. They expected less- they were happier with less than we could ever be today.

Not knowing where else to start, we created a small garden in our tiny patio area at our apartment. We grew tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, basil, flowers, and I think, oregano. It wasn’t much but it was a start. We also focused on paying down our debt and living as frugally as we could.

matersandbasil(and yes, this was before I had any understanding of the importance of spacing, light needs, or apparently, pruning!)

My husband was promoted and we moved into a larger rental house, a year later he was promoted again and we found a house to buy. The week before we closed on our new home he received word that he was being laid off. Two full years after the economy officially tanked- two years after we began to adjust our lifestyle our bottom fell out.

We've managed to survive because we learned to be happy with less. Our debt to income ratio was below 30% when he was laid off- it’s even lower now. Had we not done the things that we did when we did them we would have been completely screwed. Don’t get me wrong, there was a heckuva lot of Grace involved in how things worked out too; but I think we can take credit for the choices that we made. Especially the good ones!

All of that brings me to today.

Two and a half years later he is still looking for employment. He’s not been idle, in that time he has gone back and finished his Masters degree and is currently in the final stages of completing his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. He lacks two assessments and the national certification test. We are praying that once his certification has been completed that the economy will be stable enough that someone to decide to hire him. He is past ready to go back to work!

During this time we have also ramped up our gardening efforts. The more we’ve delved into the gardening arena the more enamored with it we’ve become. We have found it very difficult to go back to grocery shopping the way that we did before. I balk at the prices of organic produce and frankly, don’t like the idea of purchasing produce from halfway around the globe. My husband has become more and more concerned with GMO seeds and the effects of large scale pesticide and herbicide usage.

What started out as a small patio garden has now grown to just under 800 square feet of usable garden space. When you use the square foot garden method that’s a lot of space to grow food in! This year I have fully doubled my gardening area so I’m still playing around with the placement of things to see where and what I want to grow everything. Last year was my first year growing anything from seed (successfully) and frankly, I STILL can’t believed that I dove in as fully as I did and made it work. I wouldn’t have found the success that I did were it not for other gardening bloggers out there. I learned so much from them (and still do)- there is truly a great community of people out there.


I’ve come to discover what it means to be connected to the food that we eat. The average vegetable can travel 1500 miles just to get to your doorstep- unless you garden. I can’t express the excitement I feel every time I walk out and check on my little seedlings and see them coming up. To nurture them from nothing to harvest and then to dinner means to have played an integral part in the circle of life. It forces  you to acknowledge the time, effort, and yes, work that goes into growing your own food. It becomes an intensely personal process and one that can bring you the thrill of victory like nothing else really can. It grounds you and it keeps you humble. It saves you money and it’s better for you.

Much like our grandparents before us I believe that we will be forever changed by this experience.

I’d like to think that change is for the better.


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