Last spring I found myself in the midst of my normal chaos. Too many jobs, too many projects and too little balance. That was when Ben told me he thought we should plant a garden.
A garden that needed weeded, watered and looked after. He said that to the girl who could barely keep a “no one can kill this kind of plant” alive.
I think I laughed.
We were rarely home as it was. It is hot in the summer and I have an aversion to mosquitoes which happen to be Michigan’s state bird.
The pessimist in me obviously wasn’t convinced. We decided to start it late in the spring and had everything else going against us. Poor soil, a local covey of deer, and two hunting dogs that like to dig. Did I mention the mosquitoes?
I reluctantly began to buy in to his hair-brained idea and figured the act of working up the plot of yard would be exercise at a minimum. What I didn’t realize was that spending an afternoon working manure into the soil would be the beginning of my finding balance, patience and a reconnection with the many life lessons my mother taught me as a child.
I remember the day we first found plants coming through the soil. Vivid memories of green bean plants popping through the dirt in our family garden were floating through my mind as I stared at our rows in wonder. The veggies I despised as a child were now a thing of peace as I spent time determining what was growing by intention and what was growing by opportunity.
Ben & our garden last spring, just after planting
I was still at war with the mosquitoes.
And the deer.
I almost cried the morning Ben walked in the house and broke the news. Our tender shoots were devoured by deer in the night. A tasty snack for them supplied by hours of our hard work. The look of disappointment on his face was something I hope to never see again. It would have been easy to quit. We overcame the odds and grew plants from seeds when everyone said we should just by plants. They were now just green stubs. Instead of quitting, we pushed more seeds into the soil.
And put up a fence.
We learned a lesson in patience. We learned a lesson in persistence and were rewarded with new shoots.
Throughout the summer, we took the time to walk around our creation in the morning and work the soil when we had time.
I learned to love the garden.
New possibilities began to present themselves as I recalled the rows and rows of beautifully preserved vegetables, fruits and meat my mother canned. I remembered the huge binder twine loop that we threaded through the Ball canning jar rings and the piles of lids which were ever present in the dishwater.
I began to ask my mother questions about when during the year she canned certain things. Her cherry jam, which was preserved in the freezer, was my favorite. Chemotherapy wracked her body during that time, but not her mind. We spent hours talking about what to plant and what we should do this spring.
As summer turned to fall, and our first garden went from beautiful plants to baskets of broccoli, peas, green beans and peppers, becoming more self sufficient didn’t seem like such an insurmountable undertaking. Instead, it became a passionate winter time conversation.
First of our Peppers last year
This morning, I checked on our chickens, excited about Ben finishing the chicken coop this week. I admired the beautiful dark soil we worked last night in our garden.
Lucy watching our chicks the day we brought them home
My sisters express their shock at my “domestication.” I view it more as living with intention. It takes time to plan, plant, harvest and preserve. As I look forward to buying my first pressure canner and seeing shelves lined with vegetables and jams, I realize that my life has lacked intention. I grew up reacting instead of being proactive. This new found perspective on life is bringing peace, happiness and balance.
And lots of fresh vegetables.