Saturday, January 5, 2008

You Reap What You Sow

I have wanted to be able to provide for my family by growing my own fruits and vegetables and getting some chickens and a milking cow would be nice, too. I don't know if I will ever go so far as to have a cow, but it is something I think would be nice to have. I like to can and preserve my own foods and there is something about looking in my pantry and seeing foods that I have made that sustain my family. I know there is so much more I could do, and I am looking forward to exploring my options and making it happen.

A greenhouse would be a dream come true for me, and I think of all the lovely garden-fresh foods my family could eat year-round. I may not be able to get one this year, but I do have a sun light that I rescued from the trash a few years ago. I am thinking up ideas on how I can put it to work on a little indoor potted garden and trying a few things. It would also be turned into a little science project for a home school lesson, teaching the kids the life cycle of plants and how they grow.

If more people would grow their own foods, made more meals from scratch and bought less processed foods, think how much healthier we all would be. First, we would be out in the fresh air, physically working on a garden which equals exercise; secondly, we would be eating organic fruits and vegetables that have no preservatives or chemicals that you cannot pronounce. That alone equals better health right there, because it has been shown that some of those preservatives and chemical agents and dyes can cause health problems. Thirdly, by growing your own foods and incorporating that into meals made from scratch, you know exactly what is going into your body and it tastes so much better than something that came from a box. Finally, you are helping the environment by driving less because you need less food because you are growing your own, so it all equals into using less gas and sustaining your family yourself instead of depending on a country halfway across the world for a head of lettuce.

It really isn't that hard to grow a garden. If you have never had one before or are hesitant to try, start small. Try a potted garden by using a few large pots and planting one tomato plant in one container and some herbs in another. Water every so often and you'll be able to reap the rewards in a couple of months. Try a small plot if you have the space, and make a little 5 by 5 foot square. You can work that size by hand easily with a hoe and plant a couple tomatoes, some lettuce, a zucchini plant, snow peas and maybe a compact cucumber plant. There are all kinds of possibilities and lots of missed opportunities to grow your own food.

Gardening is something that has been done for generations before us and sadly, it is becoming a lost art. There seems to be a surge in eating organic and buying and eating locally grown foods, but why not try growing your own foods, if you haven't already? Many of the blogs I frequent are gardeners and it feels like it is a growing trend, but when I step out of Blog world and into reality, I can see that it isn't happening here. There aren't enough people trying it for themselves and seeing how easy it is. Living in the mountains like I do, there are a lot of old-timers here that garden and preserve their own foods, and I see ads in the local papers offering up surplus potatoes and tomatoes at the end of the summer, but the younger generation isn't continuing that tradition. I would hate for people to become so dependent on grocery stores for food and microwaves for cooking that they have forgotten where food comes from. That they would think nothing of forcing a farmer off his land so they can build their 25 room house on an acre of land and then the poor farmer has lost his livelihood. That they would never eat a tomato right out of the garden, still warm from the sun and taste it's sweet, juicy goodness.

Mom, who grew up very poor, had a mother that grew her own fruits and vegetables and preserved the bounty from the garden, had chickens and pigs that she butchered herself and stored in the cellar. Worked on a farm in the summer to help two farmers with chores while they were busy with planting and harvesting and came away with food for them and some for her in return for her work. She always used to complain about canning and how much work went into it and told my Mom that if she could, she would buy from the store. Easier and cheaper, time-wise, she said. So my Mom never learned to can and preserve her own foods. She might have helped do the prep-work, but she didn't learn how to can. I remember having a garden only once in my childhood and the next summer, a pool was plopped on top of the old garden plot.

When my Mom sees me canning my own food, she can't understand why, because all she remembers is how much her own mother complained about it. I tell her that I enjoy canning because I want to do it, because it tastes so much better than store bought and because I don't have to do it. I could easily go to the store and buy a can of corn and a can of peaches, but in a taste test, they don't beat the corn I have frozen in the fridge or the jar of peaches in their own juice and not a heavy, sugared syrup. My grandmother had to do it to survive. Doesn't any chore become a burden when you are forced to do it? Gardening is enjoyable to me because I know the rewards at the end are so much sweeter than anything I could ever buy at the store, grown halfway across the world and picked before it was ripe.

What else do I have to say to convince you to grow a garden?


barefoot gardener said...

I think the difference, like you said, is in the attitude. If you HAVE to grow your own food and you don't want too, then it becomes a chore. If you CHOOSE to bless your family with homegrown, home preserved foods that you have poured your love and attention into, then it is a source of joy and pride.

I think too often people don't think about how FUN it can be to provide your own food. If more people would try it as a hobby, I think they would get hooked and do more and more. The trick is getting them to try.

Karen said...

I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who canned and preserved a lot of food. She is in her 80's and still does it. In fact, just a few weeks ago she was at my house making applesauce with the last of the Michigan apples that my Dad picked.

We are fortunate that my father still works on a farm and is friends with several farmers so each year, we reap that bounty and get to preserve it. There's nothing like a fresh Michigan strawberry!

Wendy said...

Unfortunately, I don't think you'll be able to convince people who aren't interested, and those of us who are interested in growing our own food, already are. What's sad is that many people won't even try until it's their only choice (that or starve), and by then, it may be too late to learn.

But keep trying to spread the word. That's all any of us can do. We may find a few converts, yet ;).

jenny said...

Barefoot-- That's very true, people don't realize it would be fun and only think of the hard work it would be. Sadly, people also think why have a garden when the store has it all.

Karen-- How lucky that you have parents who preserved while you were growing up and still do it today! Do you can? And do you teach your children to do the same?

Wendy-- My husband often says that should something major ever happen to this country and we are forced to survive on our own, us gardeners and canners will have an edge over everyone else. I have friends who say they want to learn and ask me to invite them over to help when I make jam or pickles. I invite and then the excuses come. I have since learned that if they reallly wanted to learn, they would have done so on their own or keep on asking me when was I going to can, huh? huh? huh? But they sure do like to EAT the jams I make!

Lantana said...

I would like to pass on a little knowledge that I have. is a wonderful website and sprouts are so easy to grow inside the house in the wintertime (or anytime). They are delicious and so good for you!

I mainly sprout for my parrot, as my husband does not care for the taste of them, but I do use sprouts on my sandwiches instead of lettuce and they add that extra touch!


DJ Kirkby said...

Great post and you convinced me last year!

The HOR blogger said...

Aww Jenny you're so awesome :) My Mom has always had a VERY large garden and in the summer time we would eat off of it constantly. I can't even begin to count how many nights it was a "garden night" where everything we ate came from my Mom's garden. God we had some wonderful food! Even now when I go to visit I look forward to eating dinner :) Plus she would save the seeds from her best produce and plant them the next year (no need to buy more seeds when you can save your own AND have the BEST of the bunch and cheaper!! YAY)

OH JENNY and just THINK of the unbelievebly awesome healthy baby foods you'll be able to make and can for #4 (congratulations like 1000 times btw) :) :) :) :) :) :) I am so excited for you and your family and your garden. OOOO!! And ya know, before my mom got her greenhouse she used (ha ha and still does) those flats that you can pre-plant seeds in in her house. In the EARLY spring she'll start planting flat after flat in the house and every window will be taken up with early starting beautiful little sprouts. It's like a green promise of what's yet to come - and who doesn't love that smell of fresh dirt! :)

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Honey, you're preaching to the choir. I've been growing my own vegetables for a good long time now. And I have a greenhouse that nearly got destroyed in a storm last night.

Lantana said...

I am wondering if any of you veggie gardeners have discovered "pellet seeds" yet? Pellet seeds are just for the tiny seeds,like carrots and lettuce. Each seed is individually coated with white so you can plant your seeds far enough apart to avoid over crowding. My husband's uncle who was a an agriculture extension agent told me about them years ago. Most of the seed catalogues carry them now.


jenny said...

Lantana-- Oh yummy! I love sprouts and we often eat them in our pita pocket sandwiches! Good idea, Ill check into growing some of my own! Thanks!

Dj-- Yay!! If I can convince just one person to make a change, and then you do the same and so on and so on, we done good! :o)

Hor-- Yes I remember you telling me about your yummy caterpillar meal! ugh! But besides the bugs (gotta inspect those veggies before you eat them!!), having a garden and eating fresh is SO SO worth it! I haven't started to save the seeds yet, that's something I want to try this year. I did the flats thing once but it didn't work out too well for me. I plan to try again and keep them in out big bay window in the living room.

And Thanks for the congrats on our new baby. How did you miss that??? :o)

jenny said...

Coffee-- Ooh! Did it sustain any damage?? I will try a hoop house greenhouse that I've seen on several other blogs and it is a cheaper alternative to a traditional greenhouse. I saw a nice greenhouse for $4,000 and that would be the ultimate, but such a drain on the wallet in my case!

Lantana-- I have heard of those pellets and used them with the lettuce I planted one year. I havent planted lettuce in awhile and that is one of my veggie plans for this summer's garden. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! :o)

Sparx said...

I've said this to you before but I SOOO want a vegetable garden. We grew everything from scratch when I was a kid including chickens and goats and geese and we also had a cow for a few years which was brilliant (and the reason I'm vegetarian ;) ).

It's such a good thing to do and children love gardening instinctively!

Back to work for me...