Growing up in a small town in Alabama with two sets of grandparents who lived in even smaller “communities” (town is simply too generous a term), I almost always had access to a summer garden. Like most young people, or at least the ones I knew, I didn’t really “appreciate” the experience back then. (Hard to appreciate purple thumbs from helping shell purple hull peas when you’re a self-conscious young pre-teen girl).
But I look back now on those summers with great fondness and truthfully, a bit of sadness that I don’t get to enjoy that time with them now. Oh what I would give to have one more lazy summer afternoon shelling peas with my grandparents. (Fortunately, I am blessed to still enjoy the company of one of my grandmother. But she’s more of a cake baker and less of a gardner. And we all know my affinity for the cake stand. So I’m happy to leave her to her craft.)
I guess it was in the years following the deaths of my Dad’s mom and dad (feel free to call them Buddy and Ween... we always did), I really began to wish for a garden of my own. I don’t know if it’s because I feel like it draws me closer to their memories, if I feel like it’s part of my heritage to continue something that was so important to them or just the need to provide the experience of knowing where food comes from for my own children. I suspect it’s a combination of all those things.
But time, space, condo balconies and neighborhood landscapes just haven’t, up until now, provided the opportunity to till the soil.
And then there was Georgia.
My new home state for the last year, Georgia is where we purchased a home this time last spring in a lovely neighborhood close to a river. At the time, I was still a new mom to a five month old, had a 3 year old going through the normal adjustments that come with a new brother coupled with a multi-state move, switching roles with one of my most important (and valued) clients, and overall, just feeling overwhelmed at all the change 2010 was bringing.
And then there was 2011.
Life has finally taken on a new sense of normalcy, so when the neighborhood issued the annual “call for garden plots” I was first to raise my hand. Admittedly, I’m very, very fortunate to live in a neighborhood where you can have your own community plot, in perfect sunlight and scheduled watering. But since I didn’t really feel like luck was on my side when the impromptu move forced me into leaving what was still my “new” (and cherished) Texas home, I’ll accept my good fortune gracefully and make no apologies, thank you very much.
We decided as a family to plant the garden and to start out small. My husband, two kids and myself spent a small portion of a Sunday afternoon a few weeks back (after Good Friday of course... I learned a few things from my grandparents during those purple hull pea summers) planting basil, boxwood basil, oregano, rosemary and cilantro. We also planted tomatoes, squash and bell peppers.
As you can see, the basil and boxwood basil (the small leaves with the tiny white blooms) are already beautiful. My boys and I stop in every few days to check on everything and it’s wonderful to see the four year old light up when we talk about how the plants are growing, what the yellow blooms on the tomato plants mean and observe those tiny little buds on the pepper plants. He is so excited, in fact, that he broke off a few leaves of basil this weekend to let one of his grandmothers who was over for a visit, smell. And he said “doesn’t it smell wonderful?”
I. Kid. You. Not.
I know he’s heard me say it, so he’s really just repeating it from memory. But isn’t that what it’s all about?
Planting. Cultivating. Experiencing. Smelling. Appreciating.
And I know from experience... making a memory.
Here's a sampling of a few of my recipes I plan to make just as soon as my crops start coming in!
Tomatoes and Cilantro
What about you? Do you garden?