Lessons Learned from a First Time Gardener

DSCN3493I have learned so much since moving here almost 2 years ago. My biggest learning curve has happened this year, particularly since May. That is when I broke ground and started using the land we have and planting food in it.

Looking back to 1/1/13, I had no idea what was in store for me this year (and I am not done yet!)  I look at the goals and intentions that hubby and I set and they were not off base, but they were just scratching the surface of what would really occur.  But you don’t know what you don’t know.  So when we said we wanted to garden a bit and work in the yard the intention was certainly there, but the scope and breadth of what would occur developed on its own while we learned and got more and more excited about the possibilities.

Going from a subdivision where vegetable gardening was not exactly encouraged to 5 + acres is a huge change.  Going from 1 basil plant, a rosemary bush and a tomato plant in a pot to digging into real dirt, prepping soil and growing food at the level that it not only feeds you but you also have a bit left for storing for winter is a huge paradigm shift!

I have learned MUCH.  These are a few thoughts and learnings:

  • You never know it all.  There is so much to learn-species of plants, soil biology, the insect and pest world, seasonal impacts, etc.  So much to learn, but that makes it exciting.  I will never sit back and say “I’m done, I now know it all about gardening.”
  • You can’t control some stuff.  Rain, temperature, amount of sunshine… this stuff is God stuff or nature stuff or higher power stuff.  We may disagree on what controls this stuff, but we all can agree that one human being does not.
  • The taste of stuff that you grow, pick and eat does not even compare with grocery stuff.  I don’t care where you buy it, it was still picked and had to be transported to the store.  I can pretty much guarantee that my commute with my veggies is shorter than any that commute to the grocery.
  • My maternal instincts really kick in every time I walk back to the gardens.  “How are my babies doing?” is what is frequently going through my head on that walk.
  • The excitement felt when things start popping through the soil is cause for celebration
  • AND the sadness felt by something lost is real as well
  • I love learning about soil biology.  Who would have guessed I would EVER say that.  What a fascinating subculture in the soil that I have to partner with to get this food. And it knows more than I do.  I learn from it, it definitely is not taking lessons from me!
  • I appreciate the cycle of days so much more now.  I cherish the early morning hours I had during the spring and summer to work outside at 6:30 a.m.  I don’t have light any more at that hour so I have had to adjust.  Again, something I cannot control, but I do have to work with it.
  • I notice more about daily changes in everything.  Even outside of my garden, when I am driving I notice others fields in a new way. Or notice our grass growth and changes more. Or the trees that need trimming or leaves that are changing. It has just made me so much more aware of the things that truly do change on a daily basis.
  • There is no sleep as good as the sleep you get after 8 hours working outside
  • There is no shower that feels better after 8 hours working outside
  • I love, love, love tomatoes.  I just liked them before.  Now I adore them.
  • Change of seasons is bittersweet.  I am so excited about fall and the new opportunities in the garden that will be all new to be also.  But saying goodbye to my summer gardens and eating the last freshly picked tomato or cucumber has  a sadness to it, but also has a way to cause me to really savor every last bite.

AND the NUMBER ONE thing I learned is that I have a PASSION! I am inspired me to learn more and more and do this more and more.  I have been reading and attending webinars. I made a decision this month to go back to school and learn more.

With that decision did come action.  I am registered to begin classes in January with Washington State University’s Organic Agriculture online program.  Talk about a curve ball.  I did not see that one coming but am waiting with anxious and nervous anticipation.  Will I learn it all?  Not a chance!  Will I love it?  I think so, but only time will answer that?  Will it lead me to do something different with my life?  Most certainly, but I just don’t know what yet.

It is all a journey.  It is all learnings.  I don’t know how it ends, nor do I want to, but I am loving the unfolding.

Happy Unleashing and learning!



Saturday Musings: Rain

Rain, rain go away, come again another day…..

That was the verse we grew up with and chanted as felt that the rain ruined our plans–couldn’t play on the swing set, go to the pool, play ball, ride bikes– it pretty much meant we were inside.  Of course we did not have cable or internet or even a phone that was not attached to the wall so options were limited inside.  We built tents, colored, played barbies, but we really just wanted it to stop raining so we could go outside.

Fast forward to adult life and commuting in the city I sang it again “rain, rain go way, come again another day….” That was because rain meant a 2 hour commute to and from work (yep 2 hours each way); it meant accidents, it meant nothing but trouble! It was an inconvenience and made me groan in the morning if I heard it was to rain.

It rained last night and this morning and I was so excited!  I did NOT sing the famous verse, but was rejoicing because I planted my fall starters in the garden yesterday. While I was planting them it started to sprinkle. I did not scramble inside and I certainly did not hope that it would stop.  Just the opposite.  I wanted it to come on and rain.  Planting in the mud is not only good for the plants but really fun for me too.  So it rained gently, I planted, the dog laid next to me and it was peaceful and good.

I came inside and was thrilled that this gentle rain continued.  I knew the plants were happy; I was happy.  This morning, I hopped on my tractor while it was still threatening some more rain and visited my newly planted friends and they were upright and bigger than they were yesterday afternoon.  They were happy, their roots are settling in, they are getting a drink, and they were smiling.

Rain in the country doesn’t always mean happiness and peace though.  Sometimes we get too much- not because of a commute but because of other reasons.  Sometimes newly planted plants get too much, they flood and just don’t make it. Sometimes your pole barn gets delayed by a few days because concrete cannot get poured (experiencing that one).

But I have found my relationship with rain is different.  It is just part of the seasons, weather, life. Sometimes there is not enough, sometimes there is too much, and sometimes it is just right.  I have learned though that you cannot control it, grumbling doesn’t help, you just go with it.  And when it is just right, like the last 24 hours, you smile along with your plants.

Hope you smile today whether you have sunshine or rain!

Happy unleashing!

Lessons Learned-Hauling Trash

One of the big differences between the sub division life and life in the country is trash!  And I am not talking about quantity or pollution or waste (that is another blog), but how you get rid of it!

In the subdivision we had a trash truck that came around every Tuesday a.m. at 7:30 a.m. and would empty our trash, recycle bin and take our bags of leaves and yard stuff.  On Monday night we would scurry, get all the trash and recyclables in their cans and roll them to the end of the drive and be so happy that someone was getting it the next day.  Never mind that we were limited to how much (if we had a big project going on we would get one of those construction dumpsters on the drive) and we just didn’t bat an eye at the $100 bill every quarter that we got for this service.  On Tuesday evening we would scurry again, but to the end of the driveway to pull up our cans and put them out of site so that we would not get evil looks from neighbors or receive the ever dreaded letter from the ACC reminding us that we needed to pull up the cans on the same day that they were emptied. Oh and by the way, don’t roll them down the night before–if you happen to be working in your yard on Sunday it was a “no no” to leave the bags down there for Tuesday; they needed to come up the drive and then venture back down for the trash crew.

When we moved and swapped utilities I noticed that we did not get info on our trash service.  At the closing table I asked “where do we take our trash?”  The answer was “you take it all to Chelsea”  and I thought “who is Chelsea and why does she want my trash????”  In further questioning we were told that several places had trash drop off and Chelsea was one of those.  We were in town for the weekend of the closing and had done work in the house.  Before heading back to Atlanta, we loaded up trash and headed to the town of Chelsea.  We had no idea what we were looking for, but thought that we would figure it out.  Sure enough, we got to Chelsea and pulled into the little market.  We looked across the street and there was a trash truck and a man sitting in a lawn chair.  We drove over.

Conversation went like this:
“Hi, we are here to bring you our trash.”
“You gotta card?”  (we must have looked like newbies I guess)
“Card? What card? We closed on our house and they told us to bring trash to Chelsea and here we are (big smile)”
“Need a card”
“Where do we get a card?”
“At the county but this is a holiday, they are closed”
“Oh, what county and where do we go?”
“OK… I will take your trash this time but you figure it out before next time, ok???”
“Oh thank you, thank you. We are heading back to Atlanta and we really don’t want to take the trash!  Thank you, thank you”
“No problem”– sympathy smile as I am sure he was thinking, “you city folks have a lot to learn!”

So we got the card which by the way was $24 for an entire year (jump for joy). AND have been dropping trash off ever since.

What I have learned from the paradigm shift of becoming my own trash hauler:

  • You are much more conscience about what you are tossing out!  Trash is heavy and less is, well more manageable.
  • It is a social event; you get to know your trash collector and others who drop off with you.  You look forward to saying “hi” to others. They become part of your weekly routine.
  • You help others unload and don’t mind asking others for assistance to help you unload.
  • If stuff isn’t really trash you save it to the side in your truck.  There are all kinds of people looking for stuff; there is the metal collector guy for instance that fills his trailer daily with stuff, sells it and feeds his household with his income from that.
  • You hear GREAT stories about stuff that people bring. Like the women cleaning out a deceased relatives house and brought everything in bags.  Our trash collector rummaged through and got an entire set of cast iron skillets in perfect condition. Or the couple who brought stuff they had “forever” and one of the items was an altar stone with a relic in it (for you that are Catholic you understand the significance and rarity of this event!)
  • I think of others as I sort through my boxes that I am unpacking.  There is a woman with children that now has some of the precious toys that my children played with.  It makes me so happy knowing where they are at and having a picture of her and her kids in my head with them.
  • No one cares what you look like!  Like I said this is a social event, but not one you primp for.  It is a true “come as you are” event.
  • No matter your income, everyone is totally the same when unloading your own trash and tossing it in!
  • I have to take a break from work to do this; it is a great thing to have on the calendar.  Every week for 1 hour I must be away from my laptop and work and thinking of only the basics!
I never thought that I would LOVE this change so much, but I do.  I think even if I ever find myself in a situation again where I can get pick up, I will still seek out where the real folks are, taking there own stuff, saying hello, helping out and giving to one another.