“From the grocery store” was the childes reply when he was asked, “Where does your food come from?” I suspect this is not an uncommon answer. For most people, lettuce comes wrapped in cellophane and green onions bound with a rubber band. Beans are from cans and tomatoes are sold in cartons. While I think I always knew that it all had to be grown, until starting anything more than a sixteen square foot garden, I never realized the amount of work involved in producing food.
Last year, my participation with Grow Appalachia began by finding someone with a tractor to plow up a fifty by forty foot patch of lawn in my front yard. When he was done, I walked the area and pulled out as many boulders, well some of them were boulder sized, as I could see. Then there were several days of tilling, stopping every few feet to clear the rocks that had clogged the machine. The good news, the rock wall grew significantly higher. Then there was the soil sample to the extension office and the wait to find what I needed to add to the soil. While I awaited the results, there were the discussions about what we would grow. To make a long season short, I made it through and even last night enjoyed beans and corn from the 2014 season.
A new season is here. I learned a great deal that first year, but have much more to learn still. The planning went on in December and seeds were ordered before St. Patrick ’s Day. While we had some very cold weather in February I was ready to go. Early in March, after some heavy days of rain, on top of a snow melt and river and creek flooding, the garden was again tilled and the first plants went in on the twenty-fifth. This year, there would be cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and peas before the heat of summer. Of course, two days after the planting we had the prediction of frost so it was out to put on the crop cover. Another two days, and off it came so the newly planted transplants could have the soaker hoses set out and get a drink. On April first, another tilling and out went the first set of seeds other than the already planted peas. And then the thunderstorms hit. Within less than twenty-four hours, five and three quarter inches of rain and more supposed to arrive in the afternoon. While the garden is pretty flat, it is not perfect and as I looked out the window the first morning, the stream of water that ran into the newly formed pond at the side of the house had an unwelcoming muddy hue. Late that afternoon, with the impending storms scattering, it was time to survey the damage. A large number of the pea seeds, which had begun to sprout, were still in place but uncovered from the rain. The transplants looked like they had fared well, but the newly sown seeds were all too small to tell, but since were to be planted no more than half an inch deep I will have to wait a week or two to see if we need to reseed.
No, it is not as simple as scattering seeds and waiting for the produce to jump onto your plate. There is a lot more to growing one’s own food than the child or most people realize. We are beset by extended cold of winter and the wet springs that delay planting. In the summers we try to cope with the heat and lack of rain. It is like the years I spent roofing. In the summer we complained of the heat and in the winter the cold. When I find myself this summer picking off potato bugs and Japanese beetles off my beans, at least I will be able to think of the spring crops already consumed and look forward to the fresh vegetables to come. Yes, it’s more work than I had expected a year and a half ago when I first talked with David and Mark, but I suspect it is a task I will continue to look forward to as long as I am able, because no bean from the store can compare to one straight from the plant.