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A gardener’s education

June 7, 2011

Gardening must begin somewhere for everyone. Either with a seed. Or a plant. Or a mother. Or a grandmother. Or consuming a fresh vegetable. Gardening begins for all of us at some point in our lives, whether or not we are in fact, gardeners. I would not call myself a gardener. I would call my maternal grandmother a gardener. I would call my friends Janet and Pat gardeners (serious gardeners, to be exact). But I, I am a lover of all things food. I am a gastronomista, married to a man that, well, gardens, in big and small ways. So, by extension, I become a gardener. But I do believe that gardening starts long before we sow our first seed, consider our first earthworm, compost our first bit of scraps and manure. It begins somewhere in our spirit, where we recognize that there is an abundance beyond our wildest imaginations that is alive and vital all around us, and that if shaped by our hands, can become the miracle of a garden. It begins with the recognition that food is more than edible, it is more than sustenance. It is the most vital miracle of our existence. It makes no sense that a little inert seed–being that small can become the life-giving growth of a cabbage plant or a tomato plant or a potato plant. And it is in this making-no-sense that life begins to make sense, and that you begin to breath with all of the life that surrounds you, rather than just imagining yourself as a separate being.


Our garden this year, is well, a late summer garden. Most things didn’t go into the ground until late May–although some seeds started in the house back in March. Undoubtedly we will go to garden war with bugs, deer, chickens (they were eating my cabbage this morning!), opossums (he ate my basil!) birds (they love the cayenne pepper plants), drought, too much rain, and a lack of knowledge. But hopefully, we will have a bounty of greens to outfit the table, fill the pantry, and stock the shelves. The gardener’s education begins.

Our seeds and seed list in March

Repotting into peet pots (I wouldn't recommend peet pots, now that I've done it...)

Organizing pepper and tomato plants

Building raised beds out of old barn wood behind the house in April

Jason laying out the ties while I screw them together

Screwing the wood ties together, with Wile as an assistant

Wile is very proud of his work!

Resting in the setting sun, imagining the future possibilities of the garden

Raised beds are great, for many reasons (so we’ve read and been told). For one, you can contain your soil and minimize your weeds more easily. Another reason is that you can concentrate your soil feeding and production in the smaller, more compact area that the raised bed offers. You have a better opportunity to allow the microorganisms to multiply and grow in the condensed area. But the question becomes, where do you get all that soil? We only have four tiny little beds, smaller than some rooftop gardens in Brooklyn, and where in the world do we get all that soil? Well, for starters, we don’t buy it. That would cost, we calculated, somewhere around $250 for the good stuff, for the well-composted, organic material that you’d like to have in there! So we had to be thrifty and find our own. And that we did, after a little trial and error.

I’ll bet you that like there used to be water witches in the old days, there must have been soil witches. Or soil doctors, or soil experts–whatever you call them. (Have you ever heard of a water witch? A person that comes and witches out the water on your land to tell you where to put your well? Well, they exist my friend, and not so long ago, they were the primary source of expertise ’round these parts. Our neighbors say its the only way they found their well–up on a hill!). We could have used a soil doctor of sorts, as we scanned the Bowman farm for the prime suspect!

We settled on a combination of soil–some soil that was dug up from the bottom of a dried up pond–lots of little fish bones in it, mixed with a bunch of llama manure (thanks, girls!), mixed with some topsoil mixed with some fermenting cow poop from a field. Yum. But hey–this is a recipe for rich micro-life! The raised beds are at the Rudy Farm Garden, with a more traditional plot at the Mill Creek Garden–bon chance! Or, more in a more optimistic spirit, bon appetit! Let the labor and dirty finger nails continue!

Filling the beds with soil collected from around the farm

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2011 8:53 am

    You are going to have some healthy veggies.

    I would have had raised gardens long ago if I had help to make them or money to buy them.

    It is the “way to go”.

  2. June 8, 2011 10:24 am

    I wish I had a rooftop and I would put them up and watch them grow! Instead I’ll watch yours grow, can’t wait to hear more. What an inspiration.

  3. sam permalink
    June 8, 2011 7:59 pm

    the light in these photos is absolutely stunning.

  4. carly permalink
    June 8, 2011 10:28 pm

    I love how entranced Wile is in all your photos! Its like he’s posing for you

  5. carly permalink
    June 8, 2011 10:29 pm

    ps. could you invite my mom and dad to read your blog? He’d totally love to read about your gardening adventures!

    • June 11, 2011 11:57 pm

      Sure, will invite them, but it’s a public blog! Just give them the address– Wish your dad could be here in the summer while the gardens are in full bloom! Wish he could see Janet’s garden!

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