A Garden Tour

| 5/6/2010 1:49:13 PM

Tags: Gardening, Children, Vegetables,

A photo of SMR SaiaLast year’s garden fundamentally changed me.

For one thing, it took the pleasure out of shopping for produce. We had such  bounty and for so many months. Potatoes freshly dug from the ground were far superior to any potato that I’d ever had before. I ate sweet potatoes from July until March. I was in constant supply of fresh greens, and my freezer stocked with green beans and squash lasted me for several months. Those big baskets burgeoning with colorful, fresh produce made me ambivalent about buying produce in a store on a good day. On bad days it made me feel downright resentful. Soon, I would tell myself. In a few more months, I’ll be able to get this stuff out of my own backyard. In the meantime, my obstinacy on this issue took its toll on my diet – and the snow and general low spirits took a toll on my exercise routine. By the time the weather started getting nice again this year I was feeling restless and impatient; sluggish and thick.

I started sticking seeds in the ground in early March – carrots, beets, spinach, peas – and I started planting flowers. I added compost and mulched. I laid down paths, a project that is still ongoing. I made teepee-shaped trellises out of bamboo stakes. By late March I had broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower seedlings installed. I planted turnips and kale; strawberries and spinach transplants (my spinach seeds just did not take); onions and leeks. I harvested my first salad from the garden on April 16; my first strawberry on April 23rd.

I write this post at the beginning of May, and already I can feel a great sense of satisfaction opening up inside of me and swelling like a balloon. As yet it is only part hope and part expectation, but these things are underpinned with a few years of experience, and a lot of preparation and effort. I feel kind of – well – normal again. And perhaps that’s the biggest change of all, that over the course of the last year, what is “normal” for me has been redefined.

I do not have the ability that some people have to manipulate the physical world. Anything that I try to make with my hands inevitably falls short of my imagination, my plans, and my expectations. My garden is what I’m starting to think of as a “working garden.” It’s no showplace – but it’s the best I’ve been able to do so far – and it works.

Everyday Veggies

There are a few parts of the garden with a variety of things planted that I will be going out to harvest from time to time as I need them. They are primarily herbs, beets, lettuces, carrots, turnips, spinach and kale. These are the areas where I have the biggest problem with weeds, and things just don’t look, well, pretty. But there is food forthcoming, so I’ll just do my best.

5/28/2010 7:22:43 PM

Beautiful job! Looks like things are coming right along this year!

5/17/2010 11:37:22 PM

Hi Shannon, Another awesome post! I really like seeing how other people do their gardens. I like your paths. I stuck a few flattish rocks into my garden bed this year, too, since last summer my back seemed to kill me everytime I got out there. Now I can reach stuff easier. I also really like that you're letting your daughter do whatever she wants--learning her own style and lessons. Thanks for the photos, too. Susan Close to the Earth in Alaska

s.m.r. saia
5/13/2010 2:38:36 PM

Thanks Jane. We definitely keep an eye on the tick situation. And thanks for reading!

jane r
5/13/2010 11:58:59 AM

Shannon, I Love your posts. I is so nice to hear young people discover the joys of growing living food, and some, even raising chickens. PLEASE check your daughter for ticks every time you come in....I speak from experience having suffered Lyme from undiagnosed many years. I hope your experiences are all Good ones...

s.m.r. saia
5/11/2010 8:41:47 AM

Thanks Andrew! I truly appreciate that.

5/10/2010 8:12:27 PM

I just read your post 3x in a row. I am kind of addicted to your energy, your spirit, and your writing. Your commitment to family, self, sustainability....well, it just rocks! Thanks for sharing with us.

s.m.r. saia
5/10/2010 8:32:05 AM

Thanks everyone. Pam, Cindy and Vickie, happy Mother's Day to you all as well. Cindy, the strawberry buckets sound really nice. I would like to do some more with containers, as I think it adds so much character to a place, but I haven't gotten that far (in life!) yet. Nebraska Dave, it's been my experience that NO effort in the garden is puny! I think your raised beds look great. I've always wanted to have raised beds. They look so much more orderly.

5/8/2010 10:25:40 AM

Hi Shannon, I know what you mean about the produce you buy just not tasting like what you grow your self. Your garden sounds and looks wonderful. And what a cutie pie is the little helper you have! You are planting a life time of love of gardening in her and she will remember the good times always of helping you garden. Have a great Mother's Day weekend. Pam

nebraska dave
5/7/2010 10:05:01 PM

Shannon, hey I got your name right this time. You have really been busy with the garden this Spring. Your plans are impressive. I’m tired just reading about all the garden work. My paltry three raised beds look rather puny compared to your garden. I will have one bed with Yukon potatoes that are already up and growing, one bed with tomatoes which haven’t been planted yet, and one bed with onions that are planted and bell peppers that are not planted. I must find a spot for dill weed. I haven’t any use for it other than I like the smell of it. It reminds me of gardening with my Mom when I was a kid. She always had dill weed in her garden. It’s funny that would be the thing I remember the most. We used to have big gardens until we moved to the city. So after 10 years old, we didn’t have a garden. I tried to garden in my late twenties but it was just too much with family, job, yard care, and life in general. Fast forward 30 years and here I am gardening with joy. It’s great. It’s a wonderful thing that you are starting your daughter out gardening at 4 years old. Already she is respecting the plants and learning the rules of gardening. Gardens are a great place for conversations about life’s issues. I wish you many wonderful gardening experiences with your family this year.

cindy murphy
5/7/2010 8:07:34 PM

Shannon, what a beautiful photos of your daughter! Your garden is pretty darned beautiful too. Like your daughter, my youngest (she's eight; almost nine) loves to help me in the garden. Shelby, my oldest, and I have "our thing", (as she's always telling me), but Shannon and I have our own thing too - gardening (and nature). Every time she comes to visit at the nursery where I work, she has to pick out a plant...nothing extravagant, just something she can plant and call her own. This year she wanted strawberries....I didn't necessarily want them taking over the vegetable garden; we have so little sun in our yard, that every bit of sunny space is precious. Instead of planting them directly into the garden, I dragged home two wheelbarrow buckets from work that were cracked on the bottom, and set out for the recycling man to haul away. Perfect strawberry containers, I thought - and the strawberries definitely need to be contained. Shannon and I planted each container; one has 5 June-bearing plants, and the other 4 ever-bearing. This ought to keep her busy - both caring for, and eating, this summer! Enjoy your Mother's Day.

5/7/2010 11:40:54 AM

Shannon, I love this -so exciting this time of year. Such a good read I felt as though I was in that garden with you! Your bean teepees look great - I did have my strawberries in my flowers but they kind of took over (the strawberries) so now they are in their own bed too. Isn't it nice to go and pick strawberries for breakfast? Only thing is they are blooming and we are scheduled for a frost and snow this weekend so I'll have to remember to cover them up. I like your childs garden too -what a neat idea. She will love the outdoors as she grows. Have a wonderful Mothers day. vickie

s.m.r. saia
5/7/2010 10:19:54 AM

Thanks MountainWoman!!!

mountain woman
5/6/2010 4:12:42 PM

I loved reading about your garden and hearing all your plans and I'm so envious because we are not able to plant outside yet and your garden is beautiful. I have to say though the thing I liked the most was hearing about your daughter and the garden. It was so wonderful you've set her aside her own special place and hearing about your conversations in the garden about life and her carefulness of her surroundings and her joyous play just made my heart glad. It's really what life is all about. And if you do make your own biodiesel, let us know. We've been thinking about trying that as well.

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