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I really love this time of year.  My weeks are long and filled with exhausting work, and when the weekend arrives I can rest.  I haven’t had this feeling in a while.  Throughout the school year my weeks are filled with classes and homework (and a little work), but when the weekend arrives I don’t feel as though I am really resting from anything.  Perhaps that’s because I still have home work and projects to work on, but I think it’s largely due to the fact that my body isn’t engaged in physical labor like it is now.  Winter itself is a form of rest from all the work done throughout the rest of the season, but over time I get antsy to stretch and tare muscles that generally are underused.  When winter slowly turns to spring and then summer and carries into fall my body and spirit rejoices in the work that’s needed to be done.

I’m not very good at resting, though.  For such a simple sounding thing, it can be quite elusive at times.  I feel the need to do something.  To check something off of a list.  To accomplish something.  But that is not rest.  So I force myself to sit and be still.  To listen to the sounds of the world around me and to the voice of GOD speaking in a gentle breeze.  Last weekend I felt very restless in my attempt to rest.  I decided to go for a bike ride.  I grabbed an apple, some water, and a book and took off with no purpose in mind.  I rode in the direction that the road guided me, and in spite of the 25 miles I rode I felt rest.  At times I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to push myself.  I needed to slow down and enjoy what I was doing.  The bike ride wasn’t a means of transportation; it was the purpose.

I still find myself waking up early on weekend mornings.  I might be able to sleep in until 7, but that’s usually it.  I don’t mind, though.  The mornings are peaceful and generally quite.  Songs of crickets and birds slowly crescendo as the morning moves on.  During the business of the week I stockpile articles and blog posts that show up on my Google Reader account or through recommendations given by my Twitter friends.  Saturdays are days for me to sit with a cup of coffee and read through things I didn’t have time for during the week.  I really like that.  Waiting until Saturday also allows for a type of “time filter.”  On a Tuesday I might save an article thinking that I will really want to spend time with it, but by the time I get to it over the weekend it seems much less important.

I spent a little time this morning reading an article on The Jesus Manifesto blog.  Their blog is one of a handful of Christian blogs I still follow because their voice cries out against much of the marriage between the Kingdom of GOD and the Kingdom of man.  So many “Christian” blogs seem to be trying to evangelize Christianity though the American Dream.  That doesn’t sit too well with me, and The Jesus Manifesto people live in a way that challenges that.  Here’s some links to a 3 part series:
Part 1: “Come to me, all ye who labor for a living.”
Part 2: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Part 3: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Another exciting thing for my upcoming weekends will be cheese making.  Are you really surprise?  L and I are now participating in a form of food activism by drinking raw milk.  Raw milk you ask?  I’m working on a post to explain all of this a bit clearer but here’s the gist.  Milk that is bought in a grocery stores has all been pasteurized, which means that the milk is cooked for a period of time at about 160 F.  Like cooking any foods, nutrients are lost in the process.  A benefit to the pasteurization process is that it lasts longer because there is less living bacteria in the milk itself.  (Bacteria is not a bad word, here.  There are good bacteria and bad bacteria.  The goal is to have enough good bacteria to kill the bad.)  Food scientists have used Ultra-High Pasteurization to allow milk to last for months…on the counter.  That really creeps me out.  Because raw milk is not pasteurized it has a shelf-life of about a week.  Our lovely USDA has decided that raw milk is unsafe and therefore cant be sold.  Every state has a different law on raw milk ranging from straight-up illegal to acceptable to sell if the dairy has a permit.  In Colorado the law says that you can drink raw milk from a cow that you own.  So we now own part of a cow and are legally allowed to drink raw milk.  Now that we have a source of good, fresh milk I can start making cheeses.  A while back, when a few dear friends were up for a visit we made some ricotta cheese and then made homemade ravioli.  It was a lot of fun.  I’ll be stocking up on rennet and cheese cloths and molds so if you want to come over and make some cheese with me let me know.

It’s 8am now.  Time to make some pancakes.  But I’ll leave you with a question.  Is resting an easy thing for you?
peace.

I’m on fall break this week.  No classes.  It’s a strange feeling.  School has become my main focus and to have a break from that main thing is weird.  I’m sitting in Cafe Ardour in old town Fort Collins enjoying a cup of coffee and reflecting on the past few months.  The transition for me back into school has been slow.  The semester has left me feeling more like a visitor on campus every day and less like an actual student.  But I have my schedule set for next semester and I’m really excited about it.

I mentioned earlier that Lauren and I are watching every film that has won an Academy Award for best picture.  If you want to hear about some of the films we’ve watched you can read Lauren’s impression of them here: Cimarron, Grand Hotel, Cavalcade, It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Great Ziegfeld, and The Life of Emile Zola.  It’s been fun ( and sometimes painful) to watch these old films in order.  Many of these early movies have taken place between 1890-1910, which at the time was only 20-30 of history for them.

I have become very excited about planting next year.  It’s never too early to start thinking about next year.  Soon our mailbox will be filled with seed catalogs and Lauren will find me surrounded with dog-eared catalogs and sketches of the soon-to-be-filled garden beds.  Along with the process of planning for next year comes reflecting on the previous season.  I didn’t take any notes this year.  I debated about taking notes, and decided against it since I wasn’t spending a full year in the garden.  I planted later than would be ideal, and because of that my whole schedule was different.  This year I’ll be able to start more seeds indoors, plant cold hardy veggies in the early spring and plan on growing food to put away for next winter.

I’ve also been thinking about putting together some posts that can offer some insight into the things that are shaping my thoughts about food and farming.  I’ve seen a number of videos that showcase young farmers that greatly inspire me.  I’ve also read a number of articles about our current food structure that scare me.  I’m going to start posting these things to help offer an explanation as to why I’m going to school to study Horticulture and what I hope to do with it.

Well that’s about it for now.
peace

I’m sitting on the back patio wrapped in a flannel shirt.  Drinking a hot cup of coffee.  Eating a Cranberry, White Chocolate scone that just came out of the oven.  I could sit here all day.  I love the fall.  Have I said that before?  One of the exciting things about the fall is the realization that it’s time to turn on the oven and start baking again.  The heat of the summer forces you away from the oven;  the cooler temperatures of the fall pull you back.  In the past two weeks I’ve made a loaf of banana bread, a batch of zucchini muffins, a loaf of zucchini bread, and cranberry, white chocolate scones.  Not a bad start to the season, huh?  I anticipate the season to be filled with fruit tarts, sweet breads, pumpkin bread pudding, peach cobblers, apple crumb desserts, more zucchini breads, more banana breads, more scones (maple-walnut mmmm), and who knows what else my taste buds might force upon me.  I’m sure most of the baking will be done on Saturday mornings, because who could resist starting the weekend off with a thick slice of apple-walnut bread still warm from the oven?  Not me.  And not Lauren.

I often get asked where I get my love for being in the kitchen, cooking and baking, and I usually respond by saying, “I don’t really know, I just really like to eat.”  That’s about as truthful answer as I can offer.  I’m not sure where it came from, but I love the creativity that can be found in the kitchen.  I think that I find myself most creative when I’m thinking about Grilled Chicken with strawberries and a balsamic glaze or Blackberry and Rosemary scones or Ginger and Clove cookies.  I love to cook for other people and I love to share food with people.  I see food not as an obligation for life (although it is), rather and opportunity for community.  I want to share a bit of what that looked like last weekend for me, Lauren, and two of our dear friends.

Lauren is getting used to my coming up with “out of left field” ideas, and so I’m sure it was no real shock when I announced to her “I think I’m going to try to make cheese.”  I don’t fully remember her response, but I’m sure she rolled her eyes, shook her head, let out a slight grin and said “Of course you do.”  I started to wander around the web to find out some information about it and learned that Ricotta cheese is the easiest cheese to make because you can make it with two ingredients commonly found at the store: whole milk and buttermilk.  I didn’t really have a plan for when I would make the cheese, so for a few days the idea of becoming a cheese maker sat in the back of my mind.

Two weeks ago we made plans with Cuyler and Shannon for them to come up and stay at our place for the weekend.  Cuyler and Shannon are a hoot and I’m very glad to call them my friends.  They were a part of the house church I led and I even had the honor of preforming their wedding ceremony.    When we started making plans to get together I knew that the cheese making hour was near.  Suddenly plans in my head were coming together.  “We could make Ricotta cheese, and make ravioli to fill with the cheese, and make some pasta sauce from tomatoes and veggies from the garden, and we could saute a bunch of vegetables together for a side dish, and we could make bread, and…um…oh yeah, caramelized shallots.”  I knew that they would be up for a evening of “Slow Food,” and when I asked them if they like that idea, they were more excited than I anticipated.  I told Cuyler, “Shannon and I can make the cheese, and you and Lauren can sit around a make fun of us.”  He was up for that.

They came over on Saturday afternoon and after a short catching up session we were making a plan for the cooking.  The bread and the ravioli dough would need some time to rise.  The pasta sauce could sit cooking all day.  The cheese could be made then popped into the fridge until we needed it.  And the side dishes would take about 20 minutes each.  We started by making the pasta sauce and let it simmer on the stove for a few hours.  It was filled with tomatoes, peppers, onions, oregano and chives from the garden.  Then we started on the Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia bread.  Cuyler went to work kneading the dough for 10 minutes.  He was a real trooper.  Once that was ready to rise Shannon started the dough for the ravioli.  The ravioli dough needed rest for an hour, so while that was doing its things we moved on to the Main Event: Cheese making.  Lauren went to work on the cheese.  Bring a gallon of whole milk and 4 qts of buttermilk to 170 degrees while stirring, then ladle out the curd that has separated from the whey.  Put the curd in a cheese cloth to drain add a little salt, and it’s ready to go.  Homemade cheese in under 20 minutes!  Once the ravioli dough was ready we rolled it out into a big circle, filled one half with some ricotta and seasonings, folded the dough over and cut it into bite sized pieces.  For the veggies, I just cut a bunch of squash and zucchini up and threw them into a skillet with some red wine and shallots and let that simmer for 20 minutes.  The shallots were caramelized in butter then baked in the oven until they got nice and soft.

Shannon made a flourless chocolate cake for dessert!  We ate like royalty that night.  Everything made from scratch.  Everyone cooking.  It was beautiful.  I love to be in the kitchen with people, so if this inspires you to get in the kitchen but you’re still a bit overwhelmed by the whole process I’d be glad to help.

Happy fall.

I wonder what it would be like to live in a culture that celebrates food and cooking the way that we celebrate sports.  We prize people for being able to put a ball in a hoop or hit a ball over fence.  At all levels of athleticism people are idolized for the ability to play.  I’m not trivializing these people abilities and talants, but making an observation of our culture.

I wonder what it would be like to open the paper and read stories about Joe Schmoe, who was able to make an entire meal out of ingredients already in his kitchen.  Or perhaps Jane Doe finally broke the record for the baking the best cranberry and rosemary scone.

I’m sure some of you dont see any value in celebrating food and cooking in the way that I do, but then again I don’t find much value in celebrating sports achievements.

This morning I woke up to dark skies, cold weather and rain.  I decided to make some banana bread.  I had everything I needed to bake the bread already in my kitchen, so putting it together was easy.

3-4 ripe bananas (mashed with a wooden spoon) mixed with 1/3 cup of melted butter.
Add in 1tsp. vanilla, 3/4-1 cup sugar and 1 egg (beaten).  Mix all the ingredients together.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt and 1tsp baking soda over the mixture, then stir it in.
Last, fold in 1 1/2 cup flour.
Pour the mixture into a buttered 4″x8″ bread pan and pop it into a oven preheated at 350*.  Wait patiently for an hour and pull the bread out to cool.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.

There is no comparison to the taste of fresh banana bread.  Touchdown!

I love the cooler morning temperatures.  I love the warmth of the sun on my face in the morning.  In the middle of the summer, the sun warms the morning temps to 70 degrees Fahrenheit , but now it’s almost 20 degrees cooler in the morning hours.  This morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and a sweatshirt and headed out to the garden.

We have had a strange growing season here in Colorado.  It appears that most begetable growth is a few weeks behind the norm.  There’s several key factors in this:  above average rainy spring, freezing temps in May, several weeks above 90 F. in July with no rain.  All in all, these things remind me how “out-of-my-control” growing vegetables really is.

The past few weeks I have been harvesting beens and cucumbers beyond what Lauren and I could eat ourselves.  Recently the zucchini and summer squash have picked up the pace.  But now, the moment we have all been waiting for, the tomatoes are here.  With in the past two weeks I have picked almost 3 dozen tomatoes from 9 plants.  The most abundent variety is called “Black Plum.”  They have an tall, elongated shape with dark red coloring at the base and deep maroon/black at the shoulders.  The inside is often remarked as looking “rancid.”  I assure you that this isn’t the case.  The inner wall of the fruit has a black shadow to it, and the seeds are almost green.  I can understand the comparison, but I wish there was more of an encouraging way to describe it.  I also have some Amish Paste, Black Krim, Hillbilly, and Costoluto Genovese plants that are slowly turning.  The tomato plant that taunts me is called Bloody Butcher.  It produces small, round fruit (about 2-3 oz.)  If you make an “O” with your hand, the fruit would fit nicely in the empty space. (Ok, be honest.  Who stopped to make the shape with your hand?  You can tell me.)  These plants are taunting me because they overheard me say that they could be in the running for the best tomato I’ve ever tasted.  Since they hear me say that, they have slowed way down in maturing.  They are, how you say, “very sneaky.”

So, there’s a little Garden Update for you.  How are your gardens doing this year?  Do you have a bumper crop of anything?  How about failures?

May your harvest be abundant.

“I believe in agriculture,” she said.

Then she paused and nodded her head slowly while letting out a sigh.  Her presentation continued, but I was stuck in that moment.  Her statement was so simple, but it has left a lasting mark on me.  I understood her words to mean that her life has been deeply affected by agriculture.  The pause and nod were a silent reflection of the impact that has been left with her.  Her words struck me so profoundly because I think I am starting to be affected by agriculture in a deep way, too.  I feel as though my journey into agriculture is taking me down a path that is showing me familiar scenery from a different angle.  I am seeing, or perhaps, re-seeing things again in light of my understanding of agriculture.  Words and phrases that I am leaning in the context of agriculture are being applied to non-agrarian aspects of my life.

The biggest intersection has been between gardening and faith.  Words originally associated with gardening have been transplanted into my “Christian” vocabulary.  This certain isn’t unique to me.  My Christian heritage is filled with agrarian language:  The psalmist sings “the Lord is my shepherd.”  Jesus often began his parables by comparing the Kingdom of God to a man who sows seeds.  In contemporary culture  the word “organic” has become a buzzword for many churches.  I recognize that these images and phrases have been a part of my vocabulary for quite some time, but it hasn’t been until my hands were covered with the soil from my garden that I felt like I could really understand these images.

I hope that I will be able to unpack my thoughts clearly.  As I have thought about what to write for this collaboration I realized that I couldn’t/shouldn’t pack all my thoughts into one post.  I expect this post to be like preparing the soil in the bed; it’s the first step in the whole process.  In the coming weeks or months I’d like to cultivate a few ideas regarding the comparisons between gardening and church in three areas: 1. Organic vs. Conventional  2. Local vs. Global  3. Heirloom vs. Hybrid.

For this post I’d like to begin with a quote by Wendell Berry:

“We must learn to see that every problem that concerns us as conservationists always leads straight to the the question of how we live.” (Conservation is Good Work)

I think that it is important to define the word conservation before moving too far forward.  Wikipedia defines conservation as “a political, social and, to some extent, scientific movement that seeks to protect natural resources including plant and animal species as well as their habitat for the future.”  Our contemporary infatuation with sustainability is, at the core, a focus on conservation.  Conservation must attend to the needs of the future.  Conservationists recognize that our actions today affect our opportunities of tomorrow.  We cannot separate our beliefs from our actions.  I see the truth of this quote living itself out in both my understanding of gardening and of faith.

A quote by Joel Salatin:

“You know what the best kind of organic certification would be?  Make an unannounced visit to a farm and take a good long look at the farmer’s bookshelf.  Because what you’re feeding your emotions and thoughts is wht this is really all about.  The way I produce a chicken is an extension of my worldview.  You can learn more about that by seeing what’s sitting on my bookshelf then having me fill our a whole buch of forms.”

After I read this quote I went to look at my bookshelf to ask the question, “What do these books say about me?”  I haven’t been able to figure out what they say, so if anyone wants to come over and take a look let me know.  But I do agree that my worldview is shaped by the things that I read.  As I have started to buy books about gardening I have been conscious about what the books are really saying.  Beneath the surface of planting instructions you will see the worldview of the authors.  Is the author promoting actions that encourage sustainability or are they giving easy answers encouraging a regular pesticide used?  Does the author encourage the reader to look at long term plans about crop rotations?  When I look at the theological books that I have I ask the same questions.  Does the author offer a quick solution to the problems I’m facing or is there encouragement to look beyond the immediate to understand what’s going on.  Does the author recognize the seasonal cycles of growth that we go through?

My decision to tend a vegetable garden has affected most areas of my life.  It has caused me to look at the things that I had been throwing into the trash, which I now add to the compost pile, and seeing that I don’t need to be producing that much waste.  It has helped me slow down.  I am starting to see the purpose of growing vegetables is more than just recieving the harvest.  The purpose is in the harvest as much as in the planting and as much as in weeding.  I see this change of thinking in my understanding of my faith also.  I believe that the purpose of Christianity is not simply to get “butts into Heaven,” but rather about the journey with GOD.

I feel as though I’m trailing off in my thoughts.  I appologize if this is incoherent.  I hope to take some better time to work on the next three posts.

These pictures were taken about 4 weeks ago.  I’ll try to take a few this week and post them up so you can see the progress

This is what I started with.  I divided the space and set in some brick for a path.

And after (mostly) everything was planted.

It looks pretty pitiful in the pictures.  I’ll have to get some current pictures up.

Nine days ago I placed small seeds in row, covered them with two inches of soil and spoke a quick prayer. Each day, as I was out checking the garden, I would look to see if there were any signs of life for those beans. It can be a tense time, waiting for the seedlings to emerge. I found myself questioning whether or not I planted them at the right depth. I wondered if they were getting too much water. Or too little. I wondered if the seed would not germinate. Yesterday, though, I started to see signs of life. Small, quarter sized cracks in the soil. As if something was pushing up from below the surface. That’s exactly what was happening. This morning when I went out to water the garden I found a number of bean seedlings emerging from the hard soil.

Some of the seedlings were barely visible except for a small green stem poking though a crack of soil. Others had poked through and were almost ready to completely emerge. (They come up like an upside down “U” with the leaves still underground. It’s as if the stem is checking their surroundings to see if it is safe for the leaves to be exposed.) A few of the seedlings are fully emerged and standing tall.

It’s quite a relief to see the been growing, but I know that there is a long road ahead. Now that they are exposed, they are far more susceptible to insects, animals, and diseases. The again, the beans growing above the soil is the whole point of growing beans. You could never expect a harvest if the seedlings never emerged from the soil. Sure, there are only a small number of problems that they might face down there, but the seeds need to extend out of the soil. Yes, there are lots of potential problems, but if they do not take the risk of facing those problems, they will not mature.

At this point, I’m only interested in mature bean seeds. I would rather take my chances in learning how to prevent disease and insect attacks, then spend my time watching a “safer” patch of unbroken soil. I’ll spend the next 50 days wondering if I’ve chosen the right thing. But I’m sure that the moment that I can stand in the garden and snap a bean of of the plant and pop it right into my mouth, I will know I made the right choice.

peace.

[editor’s note:  Thank you to my lovely wife for pointing out my error.  Bean and “Been” are not the same  word.  Apparently I shouldn’t post anything before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.  I apologize for the  poor grammar.  I hope it didn’t bother anyone too much.  I’m a dork.]

I’m sure there will come a time when I will dread having a list of things to do, but for now I am enjoying it. I think I got a lot accomplished this weekend. At least I hope I did, I sure felt busy. One of the hard parts of living in the apartment was that I didn’t feel like I had room to move around in. I certainly didn’t have enough room to do any serious gardening with, and any woodworking was out of the question. Toward the end of our stay in the apartment I was going stir crazy. I could feel it; and I know Lauren felt it too. Living in the house, however, offers room to move, room to garden, and room to build. And that’s precisely what I did this weekend.

The most involved item on my to-do list was to build a coffee table for our living room. A few months ago I picked up a number of old, wooden window frames from a job site that I was working on. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do with them, but I knew they would come in handy. Lauren hung two of them up in our living room, and we thought that if I could build a table out of another frame they would compliment each other. I thought it was a great idea, except for the fact that I hadn’t made any furniture before. Sure, I could hammer some legs onto a piece of plywood, but that wouldn’t be what we were looking for. I spent a good amount of time with a pencil and paper in hand trying to figure out the best approach to this. I went to Home Depot to pick up materials, then back home to get started. I looked at the materials and tools and felt pretty certain that I was in over my head. I spent, what felt like all day, in a trial-and-error mode only to end the day frustrated. The table wasn’t complete, and in fact, I had disassembled most of what I did have together. I knew that I needed to sleep on it, so I did.

Working on the table wasn’t all I did yesterday. I transplanted some raspberry plants into the back yard that our landlord had planted in a shady spot. I transplanted them next to the existing vegetable garden which will give the raspberries all the sun that they desire. I also planted some more cucumbers. I know what your thinking. “Steve, didn’t you already plant cucumbers? What are you going to do with all those cucumbers?” Well, since planting the garden, I’ve had to pull out a few of the cucumber transplants. You see, cucumbers don’t like to have their roots messed with. They do best if the seeds are sown directly into the ground that they will spend the whole season in. You can start the seeds indoors, but you must transplant the seeds before they get 5 weeks old. If you wait too long their roots become too established and they wont acclimate to the new soil. The cucumber transplants were very close to that 5 week mark, and I expected that some wouldn’t make it. So the seeds that I planted this weekend were to make up for the plants I had to pull out.

I also planted carrots and radishes. I wasn’t going to plant radishes, but I have heard from a number of people that the two vegetables pair well together because the radishes mature so much quicker than the carrots you can use them to mark the rows of carrots. Carrots send down a taproot before they sprout any leaves, and the process of sending the taproot can sometimes take up to 4 weeks. That means 4 weeks without seeing any growth above the surface. Radishes, on the other hand, can be harvested in 4 weeks. So the radishes will act as a border to my carrots and a reminder to me to not step there.

The garden is growing along, for the most part. I spent last week fighting flea beetles off of my tomatoes. More on that in a later post though.

I also planted two grape vines next to the shaky awning the landlord build over the back patio. We wanted to grow something up and over it to give us some shade during the day, and the fact that the grapes will produce a tasty snack is a bonus. This will be another experiment for me. I’ve never dealt with grapes before, but “How hard could it be?” (he says with a tilt of his head and a slight squinting of his eyes.) Around the whole I placed some red brick. I’d like to fill the middle with some rock to help retain moisture, but that will come at a later time.

The last project that I undertook this weekend was to redo the two compost bins. Our landlord has a plastic, fully contained bin and a cinder block, open structure. Both types of bins have strong benefits it they are used properly. The plastic bin, however was filled with mostly dead branches and dry garden waste. Left like this it will take years to decompose. The other bin was filled with rich black composted material. My plan was to empty the plastic bin and layer it correctly, so that it would do its thing most effectively. I layered some of the good composted material, shredded newspaper, some of the woody material, and some fresh kitchen waste. Watered it all down and sealed it off. Compost needs just three things: the correct material, moisture and heat.

That was my weekend. I stayed pretty busy, which was good, because Lauren was gone shooting a wedding. The more work I was focused on, the less my mind wandered to thinking about how much I was missing her. It’s a good thing she’s back, though, I was starting to talk to myself.

cheers.

It was Sunday night. I was overlooking the 200 sq. foot vegetable garden that my mom and I had just planted. Soy beens and string beens. Honey dew melons and cucumbers. Broccoli and cauliflower. Summer squash and zucchini. Onions and peppers. And eight different varieties of tomatoes. Oh, yeah. Okra. How could I forget the okra? It was all there. Carefully placed in just the right spot to utilize the space most effectively. I wanted to plant more, but I don’t have the room for it. I thought corn would be fun to try. I really like eggplant, but didn’t have the space. I would love to have a separate bed for pumpkins and gourds, but that’s not going to happen this year. After all, I only had 200 sq. feet to work with.

So there I was enjoying a peaceful moment of reflection when a thought crossed my mind. “I’m in way over my head!” After a few moments of stunned panic I was able to slow my thoughts down and think through exactly what was creating this worry in me. I had come up with three things.

1. I’ve never tended a garden for a whole season before. I’ve done my fair share of planing annuals and perennials. I’ve even planted more than my share of trees and shrubs. I have done enough weeding to last a lifetime. But I have never had a plot of land that is my own like I do now. As I was standing and looking at my garden I thought, “Well, now what?” I know that I’m not going to see things growing right before my eyes, so what am I supposed to do now? I know I’ll need to weed, but there aren’t any weeds right now. Do I put mulch down to suppress the weeds and hold in moisture now, or do I need to wait until the plants get established first? Am I supposed to fertilize everything? What kind of fertilizers should I use for each plant? Oh, crap! Are those bugs? What am I supposed to do about that? The questions continue to fill my mind.

2. I want to garden organically. I would feel very hypocritical if I stepped down from my “organic soapbox” just long enough to spray some Miracle-Gro on my veggies. I want to enjoy the sensation of eating a tomato directly from the plant. I cant wait to snap a bean off of the bush and pop it right into my mouth. I don’t want to have to worry about what chemicals I’m ingesting when ever I eat something. (I know that some of you don’t care or want to know about the chemicals on our foods, but since I’ve learned about it I couldn’t blindly go back down that road.) How do I go about “organic gardening?” I mean, what is organic anyways? Are “organic pesticides” any better than conventional ones?

3. I’m using mostly heirloom seeds and plants. This probably doesn’t mean much to any of you who don’t garden, so let me give you a short explanation. There are essentially two types of seeds used when growing anything, hybrid or open pollinated. Hybrid seed are seeds that are altered in a way that allow them to be disease resistant, have a shorter or longer growing season, have specific color or size traits, or any other number of specific things about the food it will produce. For instance, Red Delicious apples were hybridized to have a shiny red coating and that trademark shape, but because the hybrid focuses on the color and shape, the taste of the apple is bland. People buy Red Delicious apples because the apples look like what people think an apple should look like. The problem with hybrid seeds is that the offspring from the seeds will never be the same as the parent. So if I plant a “Super 100” variety of tomato and try to save the seeds to plant them again next year, the plants grown from the seeds of the hybridized tomato will not be the same tomato. Hybrid seeds beget worthless seeds. It is a way for the seed companies to patent their seeds. Open pollinated seeds, on the other hand, beget the same seeds. Open pollination is the natural process of plants. If you take the seeds from a “Black Krim” tomato and plant them the following year, you will have a new “Black Krim” tomato plant. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated seeds that have been carefully passed down from generation. By planting heirlooms I am joining myself to the generations of gardeners. I will be tasting the true flavor of a tomato that my great-great-great-grandparents enjoyed. The difficult part about choosing heirlooms rather than hybrids is that for the most part the open pollinated seeds offer little disease resistance. Hybrid seeds are bred to fight against the more common plant diseases, and I opted against that little extra help.

A few days have past and I’ve been able to calm down a bit. I am still trying to figure out what to do about the flea beetles that are after my tomatoes, but I feel better about my options. The thing that is increasingly reassuring to me is that I am finding a wonderful network of people who love to garden and are passionate about passing their knowledge on to whoever will listen. When I was struck with that moment of panic on Sunday night I was standing before my garden by myself, but I am realizing that I am not as alone as I thought.

May your harvest be abundant.
cheers