A New Venture: Getting My Hands Dirty

I realized recently that I haven't written much about something that is consuming most of my thoughts and a good deal of my time. And that's weird because I usually write about all big things happening in my life. So what is this thing that I stay up late researching and think about almost constantly? Well, if you follow me on Pinterest you can probably guess... It's my garden.

Any of you who've known me for a while will know that I do NOT have a green thumb - I have killed (sometime brutally) every plant I've been responsible for. Bryan and I have had a few plants that have managed to live, but that is only because I was not allowed near them and Bryan was the one who cared for them.

But, that being said I've wanted a garden for a while now.

All three of my grandmothers are excellent gardeners and I always respected their knowledge of plants and their beautiful gardens/landscapes. My dad's mom has a gorgeous vegetable garden, which has always been particularly lovely to me.

I feel like I've been on a bit of a journey with my relationship to plants and the dirt over my adult life and it started with my grandmothers gardens. I remember picking strawberries in Grandma Helen's backyard and visiting her when she worked at Sherman Gardens in Newport Beach. I remember going with Grandma Bev to Rogers's Gardens and picking out flowers for her yard, our favorite always being the snap dragons which we would pinch and play with. I remember how Grandma Bear would always send us home from a visit with a box full of fresh veggies from her garden. These are beautiful memories for me and I can't talk about my current interest in gardening without first talking about them.

But, my interest grew from simply a pleasure in enjoying other people's gardens to a deep determination to overcome my gardening inabilities not through memories, but through conviction. I have always been fascinated by health and the study of health and over the past ten years in particular that has brought me to study nutrition and alternative remedies and that has lead me to form some deep beliefs about food. I saw a quote recently on Pinterest that said,

"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison."

I believe that. And because of that I desire to know where our food comes from and what goes into it. We've seen Food, Inc., we've read Plenty and Nourishing Traditions and Michael Pollans books and more blogs and articles about food than I could ever count or recall. These things shaped us. I do believe that our food should be as local as possible. I do also think there are benefits to living in a global economy though and I love my imported salt and chocolate, don't get me wrong. But, eating local, in season, organic, well grown food as much as possible is a value for me and gardening feeds that. You can't get more local than your own back yard.

Gardening also hits other cords. It gives me an outlet for creativity, for problem solving, for my innate love for researching. It gives me a way to try new foods that I may not be able to find easily in the grocery store. It has potential to save us money and make us more sustainably self sufficient - something that strikes a particular cord in me as we begin to come out of our own personal "depression" years.

But, gardening feeds other things for me as well, deep things, even spiritual things.

I long for rhythm. I crave the harmony of consistent patterns. It's part of what draws me to the church calendar and high church practices (mass, etc). That regularity of practice stricks a cord in me. Maybe it's partly because I tend to be completely incapable of keeping any kind of schedule or structure. Maybe it's partly because I need to be continually coming back again to the same story and the same point in the story. The church calendar does that for me and I'm finding gardening does that for me as well.

Gardening forces me to get in touch with a larger cycle. It calls me to remember the same stories over and over again. The story of new life, fruition, death and life again. It gets me in touch with a rhythm that is not my own, a rhythm that is bigger than me. I always said that I deeply desired to be part of something "bigger than myself", and I ached to find that, but perhaps all I really needed to do was start a garden. Maybe that sounds silly, and maybe it is silly. But, sometimes, especially since becoming a mother, I wonder if the little things like starting a garden, or holding my son close and letting him know I love him, or wiping a tear from a friends eye, or being there for a neighbor when they call, are really the big things after all. Maybe?

There's just something that feels right about getting outside and working along side my husband with my children nearby, getting our hands dirty and feeling our muscles ache a little at the end of the day. I'm enjoying it and looking forward to more of it in years to come.

So, all that has led me to where I am now. So excited and anxious to start a garden that we've started one at my in-laws house (right next to the chicken coop they let us keep there as well - yeah, they are pretty cool). And this weekend I was feeling so antsy about only being able to work in the garden on weekends (or whenever we made it over there) that I bought some more plants and started a little garden on our apartment patio in cardboard boxes (figured with my track record, and the fact that we've already spent a good deal on the garden at my in-laws, boxes were a good practical choice - we'll see how they hold up though). Anyway, whatever comes I'm excited about taking these small active steps towards turning my brown thumb into a green one.

If any of you are long time gardeners or newbies like me I would sure love any advice, tips, tricks or fellow gardener prayers you'd like to send my way!

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany Stedman