Monday, April 20, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Yes, yes, I'll get around to Easter and Gareth's birthday eventually. But I have to get pictures onto the computer for that and I haven't done it yet.

In the meantime, I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. If it weren't for the amazing book group I attend, I would never have read this book. I've got to have it finished by Thursday, and for the first time ever I'm having difficulty with that. Not that the book isn't good. It is. But there are recurring portions of it in which the author rants about conventional farming methods and how they're horrible in various ways. Some of these are more interesting than others. Some I know have factual basis, but others seem exaggerated. They also start feeling repetitive. These portions of the book leave me desiring footnotes or parenthetical documentation, not only to back up her claims but also because they start to sound like a research paper. So, while I enjoy reading about her family's experience growing food and turkeys and hens and buying locally whatever they don't grow, I keep having to slog through the rant portions and it's slowing me down.

I'm having difficulty relating to some of her assertions, even when she gives anecdotes from her or her husband's own experience. Do the vast majority of kids these days, and even from my generation really have issues thinking of food and dirt together? Do they truly not understand that those peas and melons start as seeds or that a carrot grows underneath the ground? Really?? As far as I know I don't think I've come across anyone like this. And for me personally, I grew up helping plant all those fruits and vegetables in our small garden. I loved planting time. And I loved perusing the seed catalogs, choosing flowers and vegetables. When I moved away to college I actually missed weeding (the lack of landscaping at my parents' new home left very little weeding to do when I got home for summers). I certainly don't claim to be all-knowing about when to put various seeds in the ground or how to care for them, but I (and I like to think the majority of those around me) know that fruits and vegetables start as seeds!

What I'm enjoying most about the book is that it's giving me the gardening bug. I'm suddenly eager to grow tomatoes in a pot and some herbs and possibly, as the likelihood of our staying here for the summer increases, some chard, peppers and other vegetables. Even if all of those don't happen this year, I'm excited for the farmer's market to open again in a few weeks so that we can return to buying fresh produce from the local farmers. Because it really does taste better. Perhaps one day I'll even start canning a little here and there so that we can have some good fruit to use during the winter months when little of that is to be found at the store.

Now, I'm not going to order my own turkeys and raise and kill them (let alone try to get them to mate), but I am interested in one day trying out cheese making. The chance of that happening before all our kids are in middle or high school is very slight. But it sounds like it'd be fun (and is supposedly easy). I can picture me and my sisters and Kate (our honorary sister) pulling mozzarella (apparently you have to pull it like taffy). And I wonder how much better it'd taste than what I get at the store. Maybe I'd decide it's not worth the effort, but I still want to try it someday, just because. Until then, I'll plan for the day when we own a house with a large yard with plenty of room for tomatoes, peas, lettuce, strawberries, raspberries, and whatever else suits our mood. We'd better end up in a place that's good for gardening!


Myrna said...

What a lovely Spring post, Erin! I grew up on a farm, and I miss the huge garden we had then. I hope you can grow something wonderful this year!

Amy Rose said...

We have tried so many times to do tomatoes in pots, and they just don't work out for us, they grow and grow and never give us any tomatoes. It's depressing. I can't wait for a yard either. Also, I'm going to be in Lafayette in a few weeks! Can I come over?

Michaela said...

Count Kate and me in!! That sounds dizzyingly perfect! I've got some chives and parsley in pots in our south facing window this summer, and I can't wait for them to grow big enough to use. And our spinach is growing so big. You should definitely plant some things.

I'm sorry about those annoying parts of the book. Things like that can really ruin a book. I'm glad the rest is fun though.

In my philosophy of food class we talked a bit about the ethics of food, and about ideas like vegetarianism, etc. I think I got to the point, where although I could not slaughter my own animals, I do recognize and appreciate that I kill to live, and I think it speaks to some paradox of the way the universe works. And I think recognizing our dependence on the world can actually be a really spiritually uplifting thing. So bring on the dirt! I wonder if you would enjoy one of my texts for that class - "The Hungry Soul" by Leon Kass. It's philosophy, but a bit of laymans philosophy.

We'll miss you this summer! Love!

Alanna said...

That's totally how I've felt about Kingsolver's more recent books-- interesting plot if she could just stop preaching to me for a bit! (Are you on GoodReads, because I would LOVE getting your reviews of books...?)

Yeah, you should come help me set up a garden! I really would like one, but I have no idea how to go about doing that...

Erin said...

I hope so too, Myrna! Amy, absolutely! I would love to see you again.

The interesting thing is that their family is not vegetarian or vegan or anything. She (or her daughter) actually discuss how humans developed to be omnivores. So, although they agree with some aspects of vegetarianism, they still eat meat.

Yup, I'm on goodreads. I've got to update though. And I don't always have time to write reviews, but I'll try Alanna.

Pops said...

Here is how gardens grow in New Jersey:

1. Plant seeds;
2. Insert protective covers;
3. Tend carefully;
4. Be thrilled watching the plants grow
5. Say, in one more day these will be just right to eat
6. Deer rip your protective cover to shreds; eat your lovely food; and leave evidence behind as a thank you.
7. Cuss (very cleanly I must say)
8. Start over next year with heavy duty barb wire, land mines, motion detectors, auto sprinklers to shoot the lovely critters and that annoying voice from that princessy movie where Anne Hathaway walks on the grass only it says - oy deer get outta here.
9. Get a heavier dose of the stress reducing meds
10. Research retirement locations with lack of deer being a major consideration.

Can't wait to see how this year's reinforced garden covers work. If they get through these we may try reinforced concrete bunkers!

For tomatoes in pots - yes the deer cannot reach our deck so we are successful with tomatoes in a pot. You might consider these tips:

1. Get a bush variety designed for pots;
2. Fertilize regularly as the water and nutrients tend to not stick around
3. pinch the suckers, if any, to encourage more blossoms on the fruit bearing branches (sometimes we will pinch anywhere the plant looks to be getting out of control to keep it compact and neat) and
4. Make sure there is a lot of sunshine on the plants.

Good luck to all. I just ordered two apple trees for the deck and four more blueberries for the front porch. Take that you stinkin rottin smelly deers - I'll fix you little beasties!