June marks the beginning of our sixth month in urban gardening and general homesteading shenanigans. Happy half-birthday to us! Hubs and I have learned some hard lessons (watermelons will overtake everything if you’re not careful; without thinning, peach trees drop their fruit; and the dogs will poop in the garden boxes given the slightest opportunity), and I don’t doubt the next six months will continue keeping our egos in check.
Some of the lessons have been absolutely necessary, namely: patience. Though we both have country in our background, we’re city folk these days. And although our particular city prides itself on a laid-back, casual lifestyle (we named a downtown street after Willie Nelson, my friends) we are guilty of getting swept away in the flurry of work, volunteer obligations, birthdays, baby showers, and everything in between. Growing our own food has required –demanded– us to slow down. We pay attention to the details: the weather patterns, the birds and insects on our property, and does that Ancho Gigantea look a little droopy? And we wait, wait, wait, until just the right time to plant those seeds or thin that row. Nowhere has anticipation been more painful than waiting for harvest, as my mouth practically waters everyday I see our tomatoes on the vine. I’m this close to pulling them off, green, and frying them in a pan.
But not all lessons have been so difficult. One in particular has been delightful: sharing. In our excitement to garden Hubs and I maybe –okay, absolutely– overdid it with our summer vegetable sowing. Hear me now, believe me later: no two people need four watermelon plants, six okra, eight squash, or seven cucumber (I believe wholeheartedly we need four tomato plants). While I’m giddy at the prospect of learning to can, our pantry space might not support my new hobby. So. Giving away it is.
A few weeks ago, we were hosting a cookout and after a couple glasses of wine, I gave a giggly tour of our newest garden addition– the front yard rows. Star of David okra, Lebanese squash, Yellow Crookneck squash, and Pencil Pod beans were barely peeking out of the soil. I beamed with pride as our friends oohed and aahed. Exactly seven days later, they had more than quadrupled in size and were becoming proper young plants. I was thrilled. We again had friends over for dinner. One in particular praised the new veggies and wished she had her own. While everyone finished dessert I snuck out to the front yard, gently dug up a few plants and put them in small pots with soil. I loaded them into her arms on her way out.
Okra seedlings turn out to be a great gift.
I prized those veggies. I carefully nurtured them to life, protected them from the elements and helped them grow. I couldn’t wait to eat the fruits of my labor. But more than that, I realized, I wanted someone else to feel the same quiet satisfaction of growing something good. That day, our rows were a little bit thinner but our hearts a little bit lighter. The cherry on top? Getting a message the next week from our friend, glowing about her new plants and how much they perked up her backyard. She, too, is excited for the harvest.
The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, tells us “kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
I have a feeling our garden will be creating a lot of love in the coming months.