February 23, 2011

The evolution of a gardener

 I grew up half of my childhood on a 16-acre farm. It was a gentleman's farm, really - my dad had a day job and worked on the farm after work and on weekends.

We had chickens, pigs, horses, a Christmas tree field (8,000 all planted by hand), and a giant one-acre garden. We had so many cantaloupes come late summer that, to this day, I can't stand the smell of them - that overripe, too sweet, half-rotting smell of cantaloupe which hung thick in the kitchen year after year - bleh!

Our chores as kids included watering the chickens every day (the three of us rotated weeks), mowing all the acreage in the summer (alternating weeks), mowing the rows between the Christmas trees, and Christmas tree planting bright and early every Saturday morning in the spring. My Dad's motivator was: "Come on, kids, this is your college education!" - and it was, Dad made a killing every December selling trees. We joke now that it was slave labor, but it wasn't all bad. We did learn hard work and responsibility, even though we grumbled through most of it.

I was never interested in the garden, and my Dad didn't make us do it. I don't know now if I wish he had or not. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been interested anyway - the neighbor's pool was much more appealing!

Gardening didn't start interesting me until I was in my mid-30s. Because my Dad never dragged us into the garden, now I find myself having to learn it all from scratch! But, I like to read and learn new things, so I'm mostly trying to teach myself. Fortunately my Dad is still around, and as spry at 76 as he was back then, so he and some gardening friends pitch in their knowledge, plants, tips, and help from time to time.

I am so excited to garden again this year. This is only my 3rd year, so I'm still totally amateur (ie., I started my tomato seed in February, probably a month too early). But I'm looking at it as a learning experience - gardening is a process, constantly evolving. One does what one can, learns through mistakes, takes what works, and adapts as one goes. And because it's highly likely we may be in Argentina next year, I can't do anything permanent in our garden this year - no raised beds, no strawberries, no perennials. Sigh.

My motive in gardening is two-fold: 1) I want to eventually be able to off-set food costs by growing most of our own vegetables and some fruits, AND 2) I think it will be a step in the direction of self-sufficiency should things get financially tight on the mission field. At least we'll have vegetables to eat! (at least that's my reasoning :D). Throw in a couple of chickens for eggs, a goat for milk, and maybe a cow or two for meat, and we're not devastated should the American economy nose-dive even more than it has leaving us with less support than we need. You never know.

I read once that you should never depend on anyone to support your work (meaning ministry/missionary endeavors). Ehh, I don't know about that, but it's something that's given me some good food for thought since then. Like, "How can we move more towards self-sufficiency and away from depending on others 100% for our survival?" (meaning depending on a day job or support).

Well, how about Backyard Homesteading? Or, hey, if you're stuck in the city, Urban Homesteading!

Food is very expensive in Argentina. We will probably pay more for food than for our rent. An old high school classmate of Tony's living in Patagonia said average rent is about $500/month, but food for a family of 5 would be $600 or $700 a month! CRAZY.

So, being the visionary that I am (oh, I've got visions coming out of my ears :))  I envision a nice little, semi-self-sufficient homestead somewhere in Argentina that would serve as a means to help support ourselves as we reach out to the needy around us. You know, like Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie lol... or something like that.

And, down there, you don't really need to check with the township or municipality or even city for permission to have chickens. You can just have them. Come on, folks, it's South America! In Tony's old neighborhood in Buenos Aires (population 12 million) the neighbors three houses over had free-range chickens, or at least a rooster whatever-they-were, that made all. sorts. of racket - oh, and the cumbia. Lord have mercy, I don't even LIKE cumbia. Can you turn that down, please?? And, excuse me, but do you have a permit for those chickens?? I think not. I can guarantee they never checked whether there was a city ordinance on having chickens, and how much acreage you need and yadda yadda. When we went to Ecuador a few years ago, same thing. The rooster at the house next to our hotel decided to get vocal at FOUR AM. I wanted to kill that rooster. But I was confined to my very uncomfortable bed, freezing in the high altitude, convinced I was dying of some strange disease I had picked up after less than 8 hours in country. Turns out I had altitude sickness. And let me tell you, it feels like death. I couldn't even raise my head or get up to nudge Tony warning him of my imminent death. It feels like the flu TIMES ONE HUNDRED (obviously I lived to tell about it).

Anyway, rabbit trail... back to my garden.

When we moved two years ago, I had one year of gardening under my novice belt and had just begun composting. I was so into it that I announced to Tony that I was not leaving my organic compost behind at the old house. Since I had just had a baby and was overweight and out of shape from stuffing everything in sight into my mouth for 9 straight months (oh, and don't forget C-section #3), he was kind enough to bag it up for me in heavy duty bags and drag it to the new place. Now that's love.

we had 6 other bagfuls around somewhere...

And here the boys are breaking ground...
I was SO proud of my city-slicker husband for doing this for his lovely wife. Wow, I thought, as he tilled away for HOURS, he really does love me! At least enough to humor me. 

But, sorry, no more photos of the glorious mid-summer garden. The groundhogs had a hey-day gorging themselves on my organic garden all summer long. I was still not sleeping through the night, so the poor garden didn't get the attention it needed. I did discover, though, that groundhogs apparently don't care for the taste of tomato leaves - they ate everything else but the tomatoes! See, learn something new every year.

This year, it's war. I'm sleeping through the night, so they better watch out. I'm up for the challenge. Just you wait, groundhogs. It's fence time for you.

1 comment:

Annie said...

Great idea! The ability to be somewhat self sufficient and self providing will be so helpful!

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