Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Street Cred in Photos

Like most Michigan kids, I've been digging in the dirt since I was kid.

But when we moved to a 3 acre place in the midst of a bunch of fields and swamps, we suddenly had lots of land. And no money. We were so broke that oftentimes we could only shop the second hand stores when they had sales.  In an effort to alleviate the grocery bills, my mother (who had been an urban girl her entire life) decided to start gardening.

And typical of my mother, once she decided to do something, she did it with a fervor, scale, and energy that make most normal people jealous.

Within a few years of living in this rural community she was growing acres of corn, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, beans, peas, and anything else that struck her fancy. We had things like kohlrabi (which my brothers and I used as baseballs when they grew too big and tough to eat), lemon cucumbers (which I still don't like), cross-polinated squash that turned all sorts of funky shapes and colors, and all manner of bizarre flora that eventually turned into supper.

Of course, half the point of growing all that stuff is figuring out how to keep it in a way that would make it last. Thus, my mom learned how to can. She canned everything - veggies from the gardens, fruits from local orchards, etc.

Of course, this had to be done when it was so damned hot that using and indoors kitchen was inadvisable. So she would set up a makeshift kitchen in the backyard with a little Coleman stove and hope the bees and wasps didn't get too eager before the cherries and peaches were done.

It didn't last all that long in the scope of things. We spent a lot of time in other midwestern cities, like Muskegon, Toledo, etc., when my dad followed work. And my brothers and I got jot jobs relatively young, so my mom lost her help even as we gained a little bit of income.

For a long time, I had no interest in gardening. Production gardening is, well, such a chore! When you do it out of necessity, it's tedious, hot, dirty work.

But now, on this end of life, I've gotten back into it. When I first moved back to Grand Rapids about 4 years ago, I cleared out what had been a garbage pile in the back of my postage-stamp back yard and planted just a handful of veggies. Then, I moved to my current house, with it's .7 acres, and started digging in.

I enjoy it because I loved playing in the dirt and mud. I love digging my fingers into the soil and feeling connected. I love the taste and flavor of homegrown stuff. I love teaching my boys where food comes from, and that they can grow it themselves. I love showing them the magic of the process. And because I don't have to do it anymore, it's the best stress relief I've found yet.

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