Lifestyle Gardening

Tonight's dinner was, I think, my favorite kind. It was brought to us largely from our garden. Green beans from the garden. Couscous with zucchini and basil from the garden, plus chick peas and feta. Homemade crusty wheat bread with basil butter (again, basil from the garden). This is how I want to eat all the time. Good protein, clean flavor, herbs, freshness, and stuff I grew or made myself. I'd need about three times the garden space I currently have, or more, if we were going to make a real go of growing most of our own vegetables... and wouldn't it rock to have some blueberry bushes like Jack's parents have, and/or a couple of citrus trees? I'm dying for more space to grow greens, and I want to try winter squash this year after some of the summer stuff is out of the way. Lumber and dirt would cost a lot upfront to make a super-expanded garden, not to mention the carpentry hours to build more raised beds. At least my husband does carpentry for free. Sometimes I feel like I'm always planning the next season. Though I love the sprouts and flowers and vegetables I'm seeing, I'm always itching for the chance to try new things the next time.

Anyway, this is all to say that I really enjoy deliberate growing and cooking when they're this closely tied together. I enjoy growing for its own sake, and cooking for its own sake, but it reaches a wonderful new level when they're intertwined, when I've planted the seeds and nurtured the plants that sprouted the vegetables we're enjoying for dinner. I'd imagine it would feel much the same way to raise a calf, then make butter or cheese from her milk. Don't worry. I'm not looking into livestock just yet. However, I know too many chicken people, and they have definitely tempted me with the promise of quirky pets and fresh eggs. (Z and Lauren, meet Jon and Emily.) I already have names picked out for our someday chickens...

Also, can I just say how amazing it is to watch my children take up this cause of mine? Kent is a wonderful helper, going on green bean treasure hunts with me, and turning on the sprinkler, and getting so excited about the growth of vegetables and herbs even though he cares nothing for eating them. This summer's corn crop will be a little present from me to him, since our carrots fizzled out last year, and corn on the cob and raw carrots are basically the only vegetables he enjoys. I want to reward his hard work and excitement with something he really loves eating. Dean is too young to harvest much, but is an avid leaf grabber, and he eats herbs straight from the garden. He'll just walk around the back yard with a sage leaf in his mouth. He also loves my cooking, at least for now. Today, when I harvested our very first okra pod and then sliced and fried it, he got his first taste of that amazing snacky thing and couldn't get enough. And I noticed that our watermelon plants have three teeny-tiny bumps already, so all of us shall watch those grow with much anticipation of the sticky summer days to come.

Even though Kent doesn't do the eating part of our vegetables, he still loves to help in the kitchen, so today I gave him my old job from when I was a kid: snapping the beans. I showed him how to snap them in half so the two halves are almost the same size, because his first few were about 1/5 and 4/5. He was so darn proud of himself once he got the hang of it. It reminded me so much (and I told him this) of the day not so many years ago when he sat with my grandmother in her living room and watched her snap beans.

This afternoon (don't you love his determined expression?)

Kent and my Granny, September 2008

So I'm calling this whole thing Lifestyle Gardening. Gardening for the kind of life you want to have. Last week, we picked and immediately took some green beans to our very good friends who live about ten minutes away, just because we were thinking of them and wanted to bring them some of our harvest. And I had so many green beans yesterday that I shared some with our neighbor, and she returned with a finished dish about an hour later for me to sample. I barely know her, but my garden brought us together. That's just awesome. Flowers are beautiful, but I feel like I have to concentrate my efforts. I want to grow things that mean something and that nourish my family, and that I can share to nourish other people. So each year, I ask my husband for a new raised bed, and I continue the dreaming that, over time, works its way into magic on my plate.

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this is so lovely Erica. We have just gotten about all the plants in the ground and our (tiny) peach tree already has about a 100 peaches on it. We had to take some off for fear of the branches breaking. I can't wait for fresh veggies and jam, cobbler, and tart making. mmmm yummy!
Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"?
Hey! Don't forget me! We have chickens. They are just a couple months away from actually laying. ;)
Um. Not so sure how I feel about being a chicken! LOL! I'm so jealous of your garden and your adorable children. Know you are prayed for and remembered often! Love you
Emily, don't worry, our someday chickens won't be named after you, though that *would* be fun. I want to use some of our grandmothers' names, because I crack up every time I think of chickens named Sissie, Phyllis, and Joan (and Violet and Elizabeth, if we have more than three).
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