I suppose there are any number of reasons for why one grows a garden. Of course, in the early on there was but one, and that was to feed yourself and your family. More modern day reasons might include, keeping away from preservatives, controlling your use of pesticides, keeping your family healthy, etc.
I’d love to tell you these were my motivations. They were not. My number one reason for starting a garden was I wanted to learn. As one trained to ask questions for a living, my honest incentive for taking on this less than glamorous activity was I wanted to know what real farmers knew, and I wanted to write about it. How they did it back in the day and what old school wisdom could be preserved, was my initial inspiration as I have a sincere concern that once our old school farmers are gone, their wisdom will be lost forever.
I recently asked Thurman how many of generations of farmers were in his family, to which he replied “All of ‘em. Not a banker in the bunch.” I don’t think he’d mind me sharing that he dropped out of school because his family needed him to farm, which is to say he’s been farming since he was old enough to hold a hoe, working literally night and day to keep his family fed (something he does to this day). I’ve heard stories of how he worked alongside his father and his grandfather, how as a kid he could not WAIT to become a farmer just like them. I keep a journal on hand specifically for times like these.
His reasons for farming were survival, as was the reasoning of the generations before him. Mine, I confess, were born of wanting to make a different kind of cookbook this go round…one that had recipes starting from scratch; one that walked you through every stage from planting a seed to preparing a dish to preserving the rest in ways I’m just learning. In other words, while my motivation may one day shift to sheer survival (as many are contemplating these days), my reasons at the get go had to do with cookbooks and journaling more than they were about sustainability.
But that’s ok. To me it matters less how I got here as to THAT I got here, because now that I’m here, I marvel at how many folks are considering things like gardens and sustainability and self preservation. And since I’m here, it’s in my nature and skill set to share things I learn, not as the be all/end all, but as one girl’s sincere approach to figuring it out.
So as I wait out this last week of crazy Tennessee weather (can you believe it snowed yesterday?) I’m eager to get going. I’m happy to report that my land has been turned…(step one of the gardening process.) I’ve tilled my first rows (we call it “working the dirt”). My seeds from last year are in the freezer awaiting their proper planting sign and my hoe is propped and ready to go.
I’m happy to share what things I’m learning, as I consider the wisdom of a man like Thurman to be a light you don’t keep under a bushel. To be sure, there are as many tips, hints, interpretations and opinions as there are people to offer them, but as a matter of investigating a subject, I have found the best approach is to start digging, which for first time gardeners is something to take literally as well as figuratively.
To be sure, there is nothing glamorous about it. I know from what gardening I've done so far that this is back-breaking work involving blood, sweat and tears. (Again, I mean that literally.) But for me, the motivation of writing about it, reporting on it and packaging up info so others might benefit too, is plenty good incentive. But my deeper motivation is the process itself. To me “garden” is a verb even more than noun. It’s an action word in the truest sense…something you give yourself over to AND something you do. I have found no other activity that allows me to be feel life in my veins like gardening does. You got no guarantees on the outcome. Things like weather and unknowns will keep you humble. But I’ve found it well worth the energy invested, for whether you’re in it for the food or motivated by fear we may someday all be gardening, a garden nurtures in every sense of the word…body, mind and soul.
(Can I get an amen?)