There is nothing more therapeutic than digging in the soil, breathing in fresh air, getting sun on your face and eating fresh produce from your own garden. This is the exercise that improves health in body, mind and spirit. This is the well-being that you can’t bottle and sell as a medical cure even though it is more effective. Combine this with the sense of community that fills the soul when many people work together, nothing else can compare. This is what we were intended to do with our time, our energy and our strength.
I worked together with my neighbors in a community garden. We found an elderly gardener who could no longer continue to keep up with her beautiful garden and yard. She was an extraordinary gardener with all the tools we could ever want. She had planted and nurtured grapes, figs, apricots, mulberries, pomegranates and a large, well fertilized garden spot. When she went to live with her daughter, a few families helped her by taking care of her yard and keeping it watered. She in return allowed us to garden in her garden spot and reap the fruits of her years of labor that went into preparing and establishing that little piece of ground. It was a win/win partnership.
By working as a group we added even more therapy to the garden experience by learning to work together, sharing and being generous with the riches that come from the sweat of our brow. We thrived! Look around your neighborhood. There may be a situation close by where you can garden with a community of like-minded people or bring new life and vitality to an elderly neighbor’s yard. Or if you have plenty of garden space, why not invite neighbors and friends to work with you to create a result far more spectacular than you would be able to do by yourself. There are those around you who have no land to work with and would love an opportunity to learn how to garden.
We found another spot of ground that was up to our waist in weeds and seemed to be abandoned. My friend, Deborah Curtis, said this little spot of ground “called to her” every time she walked her children to school. With a little detective work she was able to contact the owner of the abandoned property and get permission to garden there. They had access to irrigation water that came every five days for a yearly fee.
We paid the fee, cleaned up the yard and dug ditches to distribute the water as it came into the yard. Many families worked together to dig the long ditch that took the water from one end of the yard to the other. A community filmmaker stopped by to film what we were doing and ended up putting his camera down and grabbing a shovel. There is something contagious about gardening!
I wanted to have enough tomatoes to bottle salsa for the year. For our family that would be 24 pints. In order to have so many ripe tomatoes at one moment in time you have to plant 20 tomato plants or more—way more than one family would need. If there are more families involved, they can plant 20 tomato plants together and then harvest them in turns to make all the salsa or tomato sauce they want at one time.
I made a goal for my family to eat out of the garden entirely as long as it was producing a bountiful harvest. I allowed myself absolutely no trips to the store to buy produce. We ate gourmet meals every day of the week. I abandoned all my food production such as making bread and cooking beans. We didn’t need so much food. We were able to create meals from the garden without much else added; chili Rellenos, colorful salads, stir fry, spaghetti squash, or pizza topped with tomato sauce made from garden tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and oregano. It was food heaven.
I planted new seeds as soon as my plants were done producing. This keeps the garden at its maximum production at all times. Next, I made a goal for myself to keep things growing in the garden during the winter months. Potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, onions, garlic, spinach and bok choy are able to live and survive mild winters. I also found out that Winter Wheat is planted in the fall and harvested in the Spring. I have so much Winter Wheat in my food storage, I felt like I had to try planting some. After all, if one grain of wheat produces 20 grains, then one bucket produces 20 buckets. Where will you find better increase from any other investment? If I could plant the whole foods I had stored, I could replenish my stores without spending any money in the years to come. That sounded very intelligent to me. I wanted to try it.
My trips to the store were diminishing significantly. We were down to a few grocery items that we were not able to produce; eggs, milk, ice cream, butter, cheese, honey and chips! I realized that in the Old Testament God promised a land “flowing with milk and honey.” That means a land that had cows and bees. I began to wonder, though I lived in a city and didn’t own land, how I could reap the benefits of a “land flowing with milk and honey.”
I decided that our garden area would have to expand to produce some of these products. I fenced off a small area in a shady corner of the yard where we gardened and got three chickens about half grown. In a few months we have more eggs than we could keep up with. Next, I have my eyes on a bee hive set up as soon as we got the money. I want that ¾ cup of honey for my bread each week and 1¼ c honey for my granola once a month or so.