Thirty minutes. That was the rule.
Thirty minutes of work in the garden before we could go to grandma and grandpa’s house to swim in the pool. To three boys under the age of 10, that was a long time to spend in the garden every day in the summer. All we wanted to do was swim!
No 7-year-old can appreciate the work or the reward of a garden. We ate, and we ate well because of that garden. Corn, cucumbers, peas, beans, I can’t remember everything that was in that garden. I just remember spending what felt like far too much of my summer mornings pulling weeds – so many weeds – and watering plants with a bucket.
I do have fond memories of our little farm. We had a garden; mom says it could have been in Better Homes & Gardens. To which we all reply, “You’re welcome.” We also raised rabbits (150 of them) and chickens; then there were a couple of goats and a couple of pigs for a little while. We weren’t self-sufficient, but it was a productive couple of acres.
That little farm gets all the credit for instilling in me a desire to have a farm of my own. Hindsight is always romantic and now it seems normal and natural to grow at least some of our own food.
Thirty plus years later, we have our own home. Not in the country, but the suburbs. It’s not a couple of acres; it’s a double corner lot. Still, we wanted to make the most of our own little piece of creation.
When we moved in, there were three trees in the yard. As we decided how to landscape, we wondered what would be beautiful and useful. We added some trees. A couple of pears trees and a peach tree, a cherry tree that didn’t make it. It’s been a tough learning curve. Some years we have lots of pears and peaches and other years, not so much. This year the peaches weighed the branches nearly to the ground.
In the backyard we planted a garden. It started small, and I learned what the curse meant when it says in Genesis that through sweat and toil we would eat of the ground. Over the years it has grown to about 20×40 with all the sod dug out by hand. We now enjoy peas and beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, popcorn, peppers.
We’ve continued to chase the cultural mandate of developing nature in our own little postage stamp of property. Several small patches of raspberries line the edges of our yard—the fruit is barely ripe before our youngest devours it. Interspersed with the raspberries are a few struggling blueberry bushes. They’ve fed the neighborhood rabbits more than us. I suppose that’s okay.
Along another section of fence are a few black and red current bushes and a couple of gooseberry bushes. Each of them lending some color to the yard and some flavor to our snack plates.
My favorite addition to the yard has been the grapes. The chain link fencing that surrounds the back yard provides the perfect support for the 5 concord vines and one red muscadine vine. Straight from the vine or made into grape juice, these fruits are delicious.
We eat well from our yard. It takes work, a little more than 30 minutes a day, but it’s worth it for the satisfaction of growing some of our own food and to be able to pass on a love of nature and stewardship to my sons.
We didn’t have to plant the things we did. We could have gone in a completely different direction. But we decided to grow some things that we could enjoy and share with others. Planting our yard with fruits and vegetables gives us the chance to love and thank God, to enjoy some delicious produce, and to connect with our neighbors by sharing some of the provision God’s good earth gives us.