GROW A GARDEN!
If you’ve had time to wander around the Self Help Legal Services, P.A. website, you may have found the photos of some of my previous gardens. My interest in gardening began at an early age, stopped and sputtered, began anew, then stopped again, and I started growing food for real around 2011 and farmed around 1/4-1 acre of land by hand with the no till method. I took my produce to market for about five years and learned a lot about farming, the soil, and how to find free substitutes. The cash flow from the market financed the infra structure that has gradually been evolving ever since. The experience was large, including but not limited to hard manual labor, great satisfaction, curiosity, artistic flair, disappointment, amazement, a lot of sweating, and loads of learning.
My penchant for gardening began in the spring of 1973 when at 12 years old I planted my first garden all on my own. I dug the bed, acquired and planted the seeds, and went earthworm collecting in rain storms to bring back to the garden. I didn’t get to watch my garden grow that summer because my brother and I were shipped off to the all time best summer camp ever, but I did get some frozen corn my mom saved from the harvest, and I heard all about the radishes and lettuce and how awesome they were.
Fast forward to being a small business owner during the roaring early 2000’s and then experiencing an economic down turn for five consecutive years beginning in 2008. Back in 2008 and for all preceding years, I have to admit complete and total ignorance of the financial world, but that ignorance did not last too long. Due to growing worries about the economy, and the reverse trickle down effect of consecutive bad years for the business, in year 4 of the economic tumble (2011), I started growing food for real. When I started the first thing I realized was, ‘Man, am I out of shape.’ The second thing I realized? I was not acclimated at all to working outside, and the third thing I realized? If I had to depend on what I grew, I would be starving.
I for sure learned the scientific definition of work: moving one item from one location to another – for me, that translated into moving earth and liquid fertilizer by wheel barrow from one location to another. Earth and water are heavy elements to move around. The satisfaction that comes with a huge harvest is hard to describe. Imagine the satisfaction of harvesting four or five 10 gallon buckets full of big heads of cabbage, or 40 pounds of lavender-speckled broad beans. Imagine the amazement of growing 30-36″ sweet squashes that are shaped like bananas and have blue tips at one end. Imagine finding a large harvest of hidden eggplant in an ocean of giant, large plate size pumpkin leaves.
Imagine a bright blue sky, with a few puffy white clouds, it’s springtime and warm with a cool breeze. You’re listening to the woodpeckers, the hawks, the crows, the warble of a wild turkey, the near by tree frog. Imagine seeing a riot of colorful blooming flowers, the neon bright orange marigolds, the wispy long legged delicate pink and white cosmos, the sturdy deep purple and red zinnias, the delicate white flowering cilantro, carrots, and r the yellow brocoli flowers. For stress relief, there is nothing like it.
On the flip side, imagine the disappointment and curiosity of growing giant, beautiful watermelons that taste like water! I did not immediately learn you have to harvest your watermelon during a dry spell. Imagine working in the fields in the middle of July or August in Florida, and then imagine yourself working in the sprinkler. Imagine finding an invasion of aphids all over your long bean crop, or waking up to discover that your entire crop (about 1000 plants) of fine heirloom lettuces have been eaten to the ground. Imagine planting 50 pounds of organic barley only to lose the entire crop to a neighbor’s wayward cow. Gardening/Farming is a happiness/distress sort of activity.
Imagine learning that the best time to harvest fruits and vegetables is when they are a little bit thirsty, which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Imagine learning that cilantro, carrots, kale and cabbage can take heavy frosts. Imagine learning you cannot put fertilizer directly around the plants. Imagine learning that cheap Styrofoam cups can be used to protect your seedlings from a freeze.
Since my farmers’ market days of 2011-2016, I’ve always managed to grow a small crop of carrots, cilantro, flowers, kale and lettuce for myself, maybe some tomatoes and peppers in the spring/summer. Over the years, I put in fruit trees and from time to time manage to get a harvest. I’ve harvested peaches, pears, and apples so far. Two years in a row that were warm, I harvested some bananas and a volunteer crop of papaya. After 2016, I can say I did not take gardening as seriously, but now it’s 2022 and things are different. More reminiscent of 2008 but worse.
Food and gas inflation are happening right now in real time and are likely to get worse. Supply chains have been disrupted since health policies have been implemented. Now supply chains are being hacked. Fertilizers are in short supply and governments are paying farmers to retire early, destroy their crops, and/or leave their land fallow. The war in Eastern Europe will result in higher prices for everything we use and need. The one thing guaranteed to disrupt society is a food shortage or high food prices resulting in food shortages. Another way to think about food is terms of security.
The more food security, the more security.
If there was ever a time to grow food, the time is now.