Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Family Garden

Anybody who knows me (Mitch) very well would not be suprised that my first posting on this blog (with the exception of my description of my career as a children's silly song writer) would be about gardening.

I love gardening. It is very much a spiritual act for me. It combines worship, art, a little science, some good physical exercise and a lot of fascination. I think what I love about it most is the opportunity to work together with nature. I love learning about how nature operates--its common patterns and structures--and then figuring how to work within that using nature's patterns as a model. For me gardening is not an attempt to overcome nature in order to grow what I want. Rather it is tending to the living soil and enhancing it in a way that produces healthy results. Of course, if you are wanting to have a productive vegetable garden, it takes a fair amount of 'enhancing.' A lovely crop of tomatoes does not just appear in some spot you pick in the soil. Still, there is a way to go about it that treats nature as a teacher more than as an adversary. Maybe I love this aspect of gardening so much because I feel like it takes me back to part of the original mandate given to mankind by our Creator--to be stewards of the earth (some people might have translation issues with that, but that is a different matter). This is where the spiritual aspect and the worship come in. Aside from reasons to worship over the shear wonder of beautiful, nutritious food forming out of a tiny seed in a mass of minerals and decaying plant matter, there is also the sense in which gardening gives us a bit of a glimpse of the good earth as God designed it and a foretaste of what is to come. Wendell Berry, who writes far more eloquently than myself on these matters, wrote, "To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration." I hope for our family's gardening to be a small act of the former.

There are many other things I love about gardening: the look, smell and feel of healthy, living soil in your hands, the cycle of the seasons that defines our gardening activities, the great satisfaction of serving healthy food to our family that we harvested hours or minutes before and tended with our own sweat, the beauty of a diverse mini-ecosystem of plants, insects, animals and microorganisms, the opportunity to always learn more, the mystery of it all. I could go on and on. Today I got to enjoy one of my other favorite parts of gardening--working in the garden as a family. We have two garden areas. One is a small onion patch and herb garden with salad greens mixed in just outside our front door. The other is our main garden, about 200 sq. ft. in the family housing community garden. With spring break just starting, today was the first chance to really work in the main garden. When it was nap time for Katie and the girls, I headed out to work, and later Katie brought Anna, Josie and Ruthie out. Katie and I have always hoped that gardening would be a delightful actvitiy for our whole family, that our children would develop a wonder and fascination in it as well. Today we got to see that happen.

-Ready to work in the garden

-Planting arugula seeds that we grew from last year's crop.
-After helping me plant shallots and carrots and investigating numerous creatures they found in the soil, Anna and Josie moved to playing in the water. The water to the spigot is not turned out yet, so Katie hauled water over in buckets in our wagon. Anna and Josie found this pot to be an acceptable wading pool and got soaked, loving every minute.
-Planting beets with Ruthie.
Tonight as the girls were going to sleep, I was lying next to Anna and asked her if she had a good day. She sat up with an excited smile and said, "I liked working in the garden. That's my favorite thing." We went on to discuss all the parts she enjoyed. She had nearly been asleep, and it took a while to get her to lay down and settle down again, but it was well worth it.


akamilby said...

Love the pictures! Especially the one of Anna in the hose.

Jack says: "we didn't get to see their hose when we were there, did we? Sometime we should go there and pick some beets with them. When they grow up I mean (the beets that is)."

We're going to have our cuddle time on the couch now, Jack and I. Love to you all, and enjoy the garden. Thanks for the post Mitch!

April said...

That is going to be an amazing garden! How fun for the kids!

Chad Clement said...

I'm sure all of your neighbors are quite jealous of your rich soil. Mitch, your comments make me want to go start my own garden. Enjoy the fruits of your more ways that one.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

I'm a little late getting started on our garden this year, but your comments just inspired me. :) We don't have a lot of space for planting, but I do hope to get a tomato, some peas, and some beans in this spring/summer.

The pictures of your kiddos are sweet. :)