Wednesday, April 08, 2009

To Garden or Not to Garden

This is the deal: every spring I get all excited about a garden, like cabin-fevery Minnesotans who, to quote Garrison Keillor, go careening through the seed catalog like submarine sailors on shore leave.

Every May we get Kenneth the BIL to plow the garden. And then we plant it and I go all crazy with the joy of the rich earth between my toes and the smell of summer coming and these packets of seeds in my hand.

And of course when the first radishes come up I go all crazy about that too.

Unfortunately things start to go downhill toward the end of June. All the weedlings explode out of the ground at the same time, usually when we're gone on a trip somewhere.

And then harvest starts and I am up to my ears in cooking and laundry, and slowly the garden falls behinder and behinder in priority, and the cilantro gets swallowed up by the zucchini vines, and the weeds take over the zinnias, and the back end of the garden looks more jungley by the day.

And by the end of August, when I am frantically sewing school uniforms and the flower beds are drying up and everything in the house is dusty, I wish I had never had a garden at all.

And then we go on another trip just when the corn is ripe, and I end up giving it all to Rita Baker.

So I am thinking about not having a garden this summer.
It seems downright un-Mennonite, un-Yoder, un-Oregon, and un-responsible, like next I'm going to start feeding the family canned Spaghetti-o's for supper.

But this is what I'm up against:
three and possibly four seedsackers to feed including a nephew
Emily no longer here and Amy here maybe half the summer [i.e. not much help]
One family trip plus two family reunions plus Bible Memory Camp plus maybe teaching summer Bible school

You know, I believe in growing my own food. It's just right. I also believe in taking care of my family and "being there" for others. I also believe in being involved in church stuff. But I can't do everything.

Quote of the Day:
"What does it mean--'come out in the draught'??"
--Jenny, in a loud whisper in the middle of church when Paul was preaching from the book of James. Later she asked, in another loud whisper:
"What do preachers do when they're up there and they have to go to the bathroom???"
Me: [Sigh]


  1. Tell everyone your garden is getting a long-overdue Sabbath rest this year. Then find a neighbor willing (eager) to raise some extra produce and sell it to you. Or get what you need at a farmer's market. You won't spend any more doing this than you would to hire someone to do the gardening or the cooking, which is clearly a more-than-one-person job.

    Go ahead and get your garden worked this spring and then mulch the whole thing and leave it for the summer. If you decide to pull the mulch aside in one corner and plunk in a tomato plant or two, make them Keepsake Tomatoes, which hold on the vine or counter (ripe) for weeks without declining in quality. Pick them when you get back from that trip.

    Work the mulch in this fall, and next year your lovely garden soil will be ready for you. By then you will have figured out what you are willing to tackle yourself during the summer, and what must be delegated or ignored.

    I am a passionate gardener, but I have not had a garden every year. And the Lord has always provided fresh vegetables anyway, either through generous friends with extras, or through enough income to buy it from someone who deserved compensation for their hard work in the garden.

    I've learned that I don't mind commercially canned, peeled, diced tomatoes for use in almost anything I would use plain home-canned tomatoes or juice for.
    I think it's a big improvement on commercially canned tomato juice, which has the peelings & all blended with the pulp and seeds.

    You'll still be a good Mom, Yoder, Oregonian, Mennonite--whatever when the summer is over. And you'll still be sane, which is worth quite a lot.

  2. Mrs I sounds like she knows what she's talking about. Gardens need rest, Moms need rest, 2009 might be a good year to try the non gardening route.
    I have a garden twice as big as last year, but 5 growing children and a husband willing and able to help, no trips this summer so we should be able to keep the jungle at bay.
    Love the quote of the day.... both of them:) SuEllen

  3. For years I put in a quarter-acre garden and, in August and September, canned 1,000 plua quarts and pints of vegetables, fruits, and berries. I had four teen-age boys to feed and, of course, they helped take care of the garden which made it, if not easy, at least manageable.

    Now, all my sons are grown and gone and it's just me and my husband. I still feel that urge to plant in the spring, but I've learned my limits. I plant tomatoes, herbs, and cucumbers but no more corn, potatoes, beans, peas, etc. I get those at the farmer's markets and local farms. I do plant flowers-- sweet peas, hollyhocks, carnations, snap dragons. I'm not willing to give those up.

  4. That's called "garden amnesia" in the spring - when you forget all the work and time involved in taking care of a garden while planting and dreaming about fresh things to eat. Connie (WI)

  5. I am not a Yoder or an Oregonian, but I am a Mennonite mom, Weaver and a West Virginian. A lot of West Virginians have a big garden.....especially older people. But my garden sounds just like at first, but downhill from there! Last year, I finally had a good crop of tomatoes and beans. I got one picking of beans and a few tomatoes to eat and then the deer got in there and wiped it all out. Not fun! This year our oldest daughter is getting married in I just may not get around to getting a garden started. I know a lot of people think this is the year to have a garden with the economy the way it is........but.... I hope we'll still have something to eat. : )

    Wish you the best!

  6. When a certain gentleman from church discovered that I no longer planned to garden, he looked at me as though I were crazy. I didn't change my mind. No one has to live by the stereotypes placed upon us!
    If you do decide to garden, check into Preen. SIL Arlene introduced me to it the last couple of years I gardened and it is wonderful. You can get it just as a fertilizer, or as a weed repellent, too. And it really does keep the weeds out. Marvelous stuff! Pauline

  7. With the economy the way it is this year I've decided on a bigger garden then ever. However, I'm having a baby right in the middle of busy canning season and I'm wondering how in the world I'm going to do it all. On the other hand I'm pregnant so I'm craving, craving, craving, fresh veggies. Hmmm, we will see.

  8. This may be your Year of Jubilee. We skipped a garden last year while remodeling our home and didn't die of exposure to store-bought food.

  9. the tree is gorgeous. I've not seen one so beautiful..Love reading through your blog.Thanks for sharing a little of your life.

  10. Aren't you supposed to rest the land every 7 years?

    We had a garden until a few years ago when LIFE got crazy and we were traveling so much that we could not stay on top of the gardening. And then we didn't have a garden. It made me sad. But you know what? All my friends who still had gardens shared with me :-) And life was still crazy but it was good.

    You know what you can do better than anyone else. Don't place unrealistic expectations on yourself. That's just setting yourself up for failure. Instead of having a garden, buy fresh produce from the gardeners around you. Only what you have time to can or freeze. Only what you really, really want. Not because it's there so obviously you have to use it.

  11. Here's a different twist on a garden. A little late for this year, but brought tears to my eyes nonetheless.

  12. Karen Layman4/10/2009 9:56 AM

    Dorcas....I think you have gotten very good advice from your readers/friends. I stick to the two words that I put on Facebook when you ask this question....."Farmer's Market". :-)
    It seems like a good compromise. You are a super woman....but even super women have their limits.

  13. We plant a garden that is about the same size some of my mother's flowerbeds used to be.

    I get my hands in the soil, which keeps me in touch with my genetic past. And assuages any guilt I may feel if I wouldn't have a garden.

    We don't depend on it as a major food source, but it does provide small amounts of fresh vegetables.

    When someone asks about my garden I can give them a full report without them guessing the minuscule amounts of each type of vegetable that are actually growing in my garden.

    Another advantage to a really small garden is that if you are not using a rototiller to deal with the weeds, you can plant things much closer together. Then with a hoe you can deal with the weeds. And remember, we are talking about flowerbed size here, so that isn't a huge chore.

  14. I know just how you feel about garden or not to garden this year... I feel really guilty by evens thinking about not putting one out and finally told Paul the only way I could feel halfways okay with it is if we leave for the summer!!!!HA But with my back problems I could stay on top just barely this winter let alone A GARDEN!!!! Well now we are having a garden but there is a couple moving in from GA with 6 children (coming the first of June)and so we offered to put one out if they help take care of it AND pick my beans!!! We have known them for years and so felt bad they would be coming in the middle of the summer with no garden and that many children!!!!So I thought that wasn't too bad of a deal even tho I still have to plant it!!! At least I won't feel quite so un-mennonite if its not just sitting there all empty while I go camping!!! But I agree with MRS.I to mulch your garden that really makes for a nice garden the next year!!! flowergirl_5

  15. I've had the same problem. Now that I work outside the home every day, I just cannot get the things done I used to. I've decided to cut way back. I thought about what I would miss: tomatoes, kohlrabi, lettuce, squash, and flowers. So that's all I grow now.

  16. No one is judging you here, I can totally sympathize. Gardens are great in the Spring when I'm loving the excuse to be outdoors, but I'm even having a hard time finding the time to get my garden in now.

  17. My garden and I are taking our scheduled Sabbatical this summer--guilt free! Infact, thousands of years ago God gave me permission to do this.

  18. I love to garden very much and just love the spring fever. I am dangerous in nurseries. However, even though I love it, I also get that overwhelmed feeling when it turns into a jungle in August or whenever a heavy rain comes before we got it rototilled, and then it can go crazy in a short time. We rested our garden in 2002 and went on a six week trip west. We sowed buckwheat in it as it curtails weeds and is good for the soil. Don't feel guilty, just be proud of yourself to know your limits! I like that idea of a flower garden sized garden with a few of your most favored veggies.

    Have a great summer!
    Lorene Miller (OH)

  19. Wow, this post really pushed everyone's "garden button" didn't it?! I've never been really crazy about gardening, but with five children, it was a necessity. Now that we only have one left at home, our garden plot is much smaller than it used to be and we've found a marvelous solution for caring for it! We farmed for years, but last spring Art & I both had to go and get jobs. He misses farming so much and so the garden is HIS baby! I just don't have the time or inclination and it's a relaxing and enjoyable endeavor for him. We just grow the things we actually want to eat or can in quantities that would be daunting to buy. =)

    As for your QOTD...nobody will ever accuse your Jenny of not being a thinker! LOL