As summer winds down, the garden is in its glory. Huge fuchsia zinnias are blooming their hearts out, little orange pumpkins are glowing under their vines, and the tired-looking tomato plants are finally yielding their heavy, luscious beefsteaks. Here in Wisconsin, we only get about a month of tomatoes before the frost claims the vines, so you revel while you can! The quote is true: “There are two things that money cannot buy: love, and home-grown tomatoes.”
I grew up in a garden culture. My parents always had a garden, as well as both sets of grandparents. I have a great-uncle who is legendary for his gardens. Even today at his assisted-living complex, he keeps one at 90 years of age. When my parents got into the homeschool movement, we found that most families considered it virtuous to have a garden. A big one. Then we met the Mennonites. Oh my. Not only did they spend many hours in their huge gardens, but also in the kitchen, prepping their harvests and canning, canning, canning. It seemed that they didn’t even give a thought to the lazier, more expensive method of freezing that we used at home.
So when I reached adulthood, it seemed a given that a good woman had her garden! I spent many hours trying to carve out productive garden spaces at our earlier homes, none of which had an established plot. When we moved to our current farmhouse, I was elated to discover it had an enormous existing garden. I pictured our family spending happy hours together there during those long, luminous summer evenings.
In reality though, babies number three and four arrived during the next few years and life took a turn toward the chaotic. My ambitiously-planted gardens were weed-choked by mid-July. I felt guilt and a sense of failure as I looked out of the window at my plot and remembered those Homeschool and Mennonite gardens. To make matters worse, as much as I loved puttering in the dirt on cool summer eves, I despised working in the kitchen. Canning and freezing rarely got done. I was doing well if I could get supper on the table!
I don’t know why it took so long for the light of Simplification to shine upon the garden in my life.
In my readings I came across a quote by Tolkien which said that his ideal would be to farm exactly three square feet of land and to do it perfectly. The light began to dawn. I had been paring back in other areas for years and enjoying the freedom and success it brought. It was only this spring that I stood next to the garden with The Man and his tiller at my side and said, “WE. ARE. DOWNSIZING.” We found a bag of lawn seed in the shed and reduced the size of the garden by 60%. (It was going to be more, but I decided to keep several extra feet for viney things which are so fun to grow.)
So now I have a salad garden. Everything we grow in there is just for fresh eating, so I can work in the garden and not the kitchen! There are flowers for cutting. It is small and achievable for a mom of young children. It is a blessing instead of a burden. It is gardening MY style.
A few varieties that we especially enjoyed in our little plot this year:
Caracas carrots – Cute baby carrots that stayed nicely-shaped and were easy to pull and fun to eat.
Orange Cutie pumpkins – Pretty little 3lb pumpkins with cream streaks. The plants are semi-bush and I was able to fit two of them in the garden, which produced 50 pumpkins! I will use some for autumn decor but they are supposed to make good eating as well.
Tudor Zinnias – The serendipitous freebie seeds that came with our order. 🙂