“The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful,
rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” – Doris Janzen Longacre
I understand those of you who love to garden. You love to let the dark earth sift between your fingers and inhale the richness of your endeavours. I understand the desire to watch something grow from a seed to fruition—be it carrots or peas or onions or something more exotic. I understand the satisfaction of placing tiny little tomato plants into the soil and dreaming of toasted tomato sandwiches, and salads with olives and cheese, or just a slice sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. I do….I understand.
I come from a family who tilled the soil—both of my parents came from farm families—though when my father and his brother, my Uncle Louis were asked by my grandfather if they wanted to continue the family tradition, the reply was a hearty “Hell, NO!” (All three were musicians, both at heart and in practice, and played at local dances). My mother more fondly remembered her days on the farm and had a huge garden in our backyard when I was growing up. She had the proverbial green thumb which she passed onto my siblings. I must have been hiding behind the door, as they say, when the gift of gardening was given out. I am proud when I can keep a house plant alive for more than a month, and am quite happy mothering dandelions as they seem to need little encouragement.
That said, I too have had a garden off and on for years—and for the past five or so my eldest son (with a lot of help from his girlfriend, and a little from me) has taken great interest in planting a garden consisting of a lot of varieties of hot peppers, that he likes to dice up and put on all manner of food. But he makes some concessions for me and plants other things too. This year we will be planting about five varieties of peppers (yes we got some mild ones for me), four types of tomatoes, lettuce, peas, Swiss chard and onions. I snuck in a pack of seeds for ornamental gourds, and we are going to try our hand at growing kale this year, as it is, according to the website MindBodyGreen, the “queen of greens”.
As the years have gone by, we seem to be getting this gardening thing under our belts. Last year the garden was a sight to behold—it was kept weeded and watered and produced lots of peppers and tomatoes and salad fixings for the whole summer. I am particularly fond of a variety of yellow tomatoes that we have had some luck with, and they look quite fancy when arranged with slices of the regular red. Add some mozzarella cheese or feta and I have died and gone to heaven.
I remember reading some articles about twenty or so years ago about returning to the land, to the simple life, to our roots. Now technically my deeper roots are in farming though my parents did not practice the art once they married. But if my little taste of gardening has taught me anything, it has taught me that returning to the land is not a simple quest. Merely taking care of a small plot is a lot of work—the earth needs to be tilled no matter what its size before one can plant. And it needs to be nourished. And then the seeds need to be planted and the plants set. And depending on the weather, it needs to be watered. And babied. And weeded. The harvest is of course the reward. But it is not simple. It takes time, and care, and work.
A garden is a good teacher. But “keeping a garden” is also an exercise in optimism. If we did not believe that the work that goes into a garden will produce then why would we bother? We have faith that something will come of our labour. And that is why I understand those of you who love to garden. I am more than a bystander when it comes to our garden, but I am not the one dedicated to make it work. I love to see it newly planted; I love to see the plants grow and produce; and, I love to eat the harvest. But left to my own devices I am pretty sure my garden would be “hot mess”. Thank goodness the trait of the green thumb lives on in my son. I do love me a good garden tomato.