Monday, August 13, 2012

Planting Seeds

It’s the second week of August. This means that soon the kitchen will smell of sauce as the Roma tomatoes ripen. My daughter’s pumpkin vine has snaked around the garden border. And she’ll help me plant some cool crops before the month finishes.

Roma tomatoes, August 2012
Baby food occupies the edges of my cooking times. As a second go, I’m glad for the memory of easy first favorites and of utilizing the food processor. After two years, I need to brush up on windows as baby’s muscles and digestive system mature. My son won’t be six months old until the end of September, so ample time remains before the first gourmet meal of banana or avocado.

Liver casserole baby food, Feb 2011. Semi-chunky goodness, believe it or not!

It’s the second week of August, and because of the joy my veggies and herbs bring to my mouth and soul, I’ve already researched a CSA for next summer. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-operatives come in many flavors. Looking up my area in the local harvest index yields choices from my state of Illinois, as well as Michigan and Wisconsin. After conducting some web research, I emailed the farmer of a very local one that has drop off locations in our town and the ones next door. We pay for our share in November, and based on the shares sold, the farmer begins planning and planting for those families next spring and summer. In return, our produce comes from less than 50 miles away, we know the farmer, and each week we pay about $32 for more produce than I can buy for that money at the farmer’s market.

Why would I consider this? My mother grew up in a family of farmers, the kind that stuck in out in the prairie Dustbowl. If I count my grandmother’s leased land (she gets a cut of the yield), my family has been farming that western Nebraska land for about 100 years. I wish I could write that fresh produce has been a passion in my family. The fact is, one or two crops made up the bulk of the cash, and maybe a small home garden grew a few vegetables. Yes, we pick up greenhouse tomatoes from Walmart when we visit and the small town grocery store has a rather large freezer section of prepared foods that taste better than the Florida or California ‘fresh’ produce. However, my mother grew up in a family of farmers that valued making a lot from nothing and using everything.

I feel connected to my family when my grandma calls and gives me tips for how to know when jelly or preserves are set. Wish that phone call had come a bit sooner! I smile preparing dinner and returning pesticide-free veggie scraps to the compost pile, just knowing that the waste loop from my family is getting smaller. It makes me wonder what the 30’s were like for my great-grandma when $30 of seeds yields more than enough organic plants for my two tiny plots. You betcha those pearls have been stored carefully to retain viability for next year. When I take baby steps in saving seeds from mature plants gone wild, I think of my grandpa’s stash of nuts, bolts, screws, and parts in the shop.

Michigan Blueberry preserves and pie filling, July 2012

Our income would never permit me to feed my children organic produce from the grocery store… but I can grow some of the ‘dirty dozen’ for pennies, and join a CSA for fruit and berries. Hormone-free meat ranges the grass in our state, even if the homeowners’ association doesn’t yet permit chicken coops.

It’s the second week of August, and I’m thinking about maximizing those two small plots next year with crops not offered through the CSA or crops our family likes in abundance. Baby food seems as easy as pie for those 6 short months until my son can eat mostly cooked table food. But a garden should feed more than a body.

I hope that all this planting, growing, harvesting, visiting the CSA land, and cooking and eating with family will take a deep hold in my children’s minds and hearts. I hope that when we buy a house, the neighborhood kids will find our garden full of more than tasty tomatoes: that they will connect to their families and localities deeply, slowing down for savoring, and learning wholeness.

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