Thursday, May 17, 2012

moms & gardening

Since we just passed Mothers Day, I've been reflecting on the moms in my life, and on my own status as a  mom. (Here's me with my mom and sis last weekend!)

For the record, I wish that Mothers Day was Women's Day or something (and Fathers Day changed likewise), because I feel like it means we only celebrate those who have kids, as if only parents are valuable members of adult society. Having kids doesn't make us somehow whole or better, and it is not only our parents/grandparents who've shaped us. Why not celebrate all the women and men in our lives who have influenced us into being who we are today?

Anyway...growing up, I lived on 5 acres a few miles outside of a small town. (That is NOT me in the photo at left--this is my eldest last weekend when we went to the Bloom Festival at Tryon Life Community Farm.) Our 5 acres had a forested canyon, wide open fields and a huge garden. It was mostly my mom who grew vegetables, raspberries, kiwi, blueberries, rhubarb and strawberries. I remember my own little section of a bed one year in which I grew nasturtiums and cucumbers, but I wasn't really much of a gardener. My parents paid me 5¢ a hallek to pick berries, but other than that I was mainly tromping around in the canyon or inside reading books. My mom spent hours out in the garden and she enjoyed growing things, for reasons I couldn't really fathom as a kid.

My mother-in-law is a very talented landscape designer and she is also an excellent gardener. She and my father-in-law have transformed their .91 acres in town into a beautiful space that also produces a lot of food for them. They work together: my mother-in-law creating the plans and using her wealth of plant-knowledge to grow things, my father-in-law doing a lot of the weeding and harvesting, as well as picking fruit from the trees and drying it. We all worked together in the last 10+ years to create a trail that winds through the yard and a brick patio just outside the back door, but it's my mother-in-law who had the vision and could make the plan. Through her vision they've created a sanctuary back there that is beautiful, kid-friendly and lush, meditative and fun, practical and exotic.

(My step-mom has taught me a lot, too, but I've talked about her influence before, and though what I've learned from her has been similar in terms of creativity and the importance of doing things that are literally life-giving, her influence has been on slightly different topics. Many, many of the novels I've reviewed on this blog have been ones I've received from her. She's taught me a lot about what it means to live art, to cultivate and honor feminine spirituality, and to love dark chocolate and tea!)

My mom and my mother-in-law are very different people, but they both find joy in growing things. They, like the physical spaces they create, are beautiful and practical, joy-filled and in-process.

This year, we're putting a lot more time and effort into our little suburban farm. It's interesting, because I really don't like the concept of land ownership, especially since we took this land from Native Americans. It bothers me that this land is "mine" (at least it will be once we pay off the mortgage). It helps somewhat that it's not just mine, but it's my husband's and my mom's and it also belongs to my kids--we live in community, we bought this house and the lot on which it sits together. I struggle with the idea that we can "own" land.

And yet, having a sense of "ownership" for this land has been really helpful, too. We're learning to care for a physical space in a way we never have before. We're making it our own, but we're also attempting to make it beautiful and functional in order to better sustain life here and around the world. We have our own chickens, as I've discussed before, and we have a small garden this year. My mother-in-law made us an absolutely beautiful landscape plan for the back yard, which we mainly implemented last summer and are still working on this year. Incrementally, the space is coming together. And little-by-little, I'm learning to grow green things. In our garden we have raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, various lettuces, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins, peas, and we'll soon plant beans.

We also joined a community garden this year. We have a bit of space but not tons of space, so it's good to be part of a community of people who are growing some more things. Each individual or family is in charge of a bed, growing a particular thing. We meet for a few hours on Wednesday nights to weed, plant, harvest and share a meal together, and then we tend the garden when we can throughout the rest of the week. We're in charge of the peas and beans, and EP wanted to plant some flowers, so he has a little bed where he planted sunflowers. Hopefully it will turn out a little bit like the sunflower house pictured here. I'm excited to be part of this community! I want to learn what others know, experiment together and build community in the process.

I reviewed the book Dirt & the Good Life a few weeks ago and I'm excited to start putting this into practice in my own life. I'm grateful for the moms in my life who have cultivated me, even when it's messy and tedious and takes years and years and doesn't always go as planned and feels more like an experiment than something about which we have real expertise. By now they're "expert" moms, though, and I can go to them for advice not only about actual gardening but about growing up kids!

(By the way: another backyard project right now is the clubhouse that Joel's building for the boys! This blog post wouldn't be complete without some pictures of that! We also built a raised bed. By "we" I mean I cleared the space and measured things, Joel and Mom built it and I took pictures. There are also some pictures of us clipping the chickens' wings.)

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Hi: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, Cherice. You've certainly learned alot about parenting, etc. and are doing a good job of applying those things for the benefit of our two great-grandboys! Thanks!! Enjoy your kids and your garden and your chickens! Hope to get to see y'all before the summer is over.