Growing up my parents kept a lovely yard–a lush green lawn, pretty flower beds, and nicely trimmed bushes. Perhaps because of this, I actually enjoy doing yard work! I love spending time outdoors, I like physical activity, and I like the visible results you get from working in the yard. When Jaime and I bought our first house, we did all the landscaping ourselves. The house was built in 1978 and the bushes had been growing uninhibited since then. They were giant. And ugly. So we pulled them all out, built a little retaining wall, and had a nice little flower garden.
When we moved to our current house in 2008, the yard was in better shape, although it still had some issues. We worked at it the first few years, but then our sweet-but-high-maintenance little boy was born in 2011. I had serious demands on my health and my energy, and our yard beautification efforts went on the back burner.
This summer, all that changed. Lucas had read some books about flower and vegetable gardens and had seen some shows on television where kids were growing and eating fruits and veggies. We had visited our local botanical gardens in the spring. He had it in his head that we needed to plant a flower garden and a vegetable garden and would not be dissuaded. He wouldn’t stop talking about it. And really, it was a great idea!
It was the kick in the pants I needed to get back out there and make the yard look nice again. And at three and a half, he was at the perfect age to participate and learn. We live in a shady area, and by shady, I mean lots of mature trees. I didn’t know how a veggie garden would do. I knew I could find some flowers to grow, but most vegetables require full sun. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, and with some advice from my neighbor, I selected the west side of the house. It’s not anywhere near full sun having large trees and the neighbor’s house to contend with, but it gets a few hours of the hottest afternoon sun.
A lot of sweat and salt (I’m a CFer after al!) went into this venture. First Jaime and I had to attempt to fix the retaining wall in the front which had both settled and been disrupted by a large tree root. That took an entire weekend. Then there were so many weeds that both front beds needed to be completely overturned. I had to dig out a spot on the side of the house for the veggies and make a border and fence. I went to the city recycle center and shoveled loads of compost and wood chips, by myself, to keep costs down. Jaime would have gladly helped, but he was busy with soccer and the clock was ticking for getting plants into the ground. (Okay, maybe not gladly…he doesn’t share my love of yard work. But he would have helped since he loves me!)
It was a great deal of work, but taking on this project got me on the road to good health this summer. Coming out of an awful winter healthwise, it felt so wonderful and healing to spend time outdoors, digging, shoveling, hauling, planting–panting too, but making visible progress. It felt wonderful to have the strength to work again, and cleansing to breathe deeply in the sweet summer air. Working outdoors helped me to regain stamina and gave me so much satisfaction after spending months behind closed doors unable to do much other than fight against illness.
The flowers and veggies both took off and are doing great. Lucas is one happy camper! He helps me water the garden every day and is happily eating the produce, which is a big deal for a picky eater. He will munch a little lettuce right out of the garden and has been enjoying kale chips on a regular basis. He likes to pick lettuce and kale and wash it himself, in “his” bathroom without any supervision from Mom. Thankfully it only took me one time to figure out the funny taste was the hand soap he was using 🙂 The cucumbers are ready now and the beans and tomatoes will be ready soon so I’m hoping he will gladly eat those as well. There are carrots, bell peppers and squash that are still growing. I put in a few strawberry plants which are multiplying, and I hope we will get berries on them next year.
It’s been a rewarding experience for all of us, and we’ve learned a lot. It feels great to grow and eat our own food. I’m already scheming ways to make the garden larger next summer. Lucas insists that we have potato chips and string cheese growing in our garden as these are his favorite foods. With that in mind, maybe we’ll try potatoes next year. But we just don’t have enough room for a cow.