Reducing my work hours to part time has freed me up to pursue activities I used to only dream about.  One, in particular, that I really enjoy is gardening.  I have several gardens around the yard, my two favorite being the native perrenial garden and the kitchen garden. 

While I fully admit to being lazy and that, among other things chiefly spurred my move to simple living, I have to admit the kitchen garden wasn’t so simple to establish.  My husband jokes about my first attempt and my $50 tomato.  The first year, after staking off the bed, digging soil, lugging more organic garden soil to replace the stuff I dug out and planting my first plants, I harvest exactly 1 tomato.  Not easily discouraged, I tried again because it wasn’t about the plants any more.  There is something truly holy about working with the earth, planting seeds, nurturing the tender shoots into maturity and harvesting fruit and vegetables at the end.  I soon found that I meditate while gardening, I exercise while gardening and I just commune with whatever may be lurking.  I love my kitchen garden so much that I am always sad at the end of each growing season when I have to ruthlessly pull and dispose of plants that I have tended since their ‘birth’.   

I feel like the luckiest woman alive.  Not only do I have a wonderful family but we live in, almost inarguably, the most beautiful area of the continental United States.   We have warm temperate seasons and very little winter to speak of (except summer that isn’t temperate at all) and two extended peek growing seasons plus a winter growing season which means there is always something growing and harvesting out of my garden. 

All through the winter I harvested butter head lettuce, green and red leaf lettuce, swiss chard and wild spring greens.  Early in the summer, my son and his friends picked and ate strawberries right out of the back yard and I made my family sick of green beans by serving freshly harvested green beans with nearly every meal. Now we are eating the plethora of vine ripened sunkissed grape and roma tomatoes, often mixed with the fresh garlic harvested June, onions harvested as needed and fresh basil and parsley picked from the herb pot. 

I am eagerly anticipating the fall growing season, which officially begins this month, when we will hopefully have cantalope, black eyed peas and more tomatoes from the babies I am planting this afternoon.   My son’s friends helped prepare the soil and plant the peas.  They never fail to check the plants’ progress when they play in the backyard. 

Above all else, I love this garden because it allows me to serve my family wonderful, tasty dishes created with fresh ingredients harvest right out of the backyard where I control the soil and know, without a doubt, that these beauties are free from chemicals.  But it also gives me something else; a connection with a love lost.  Three years ago, I lost my grandfather after he lived a long 94 years on this earth.  As is typical, I grew distant from my grandfather as I reached my teens and his memory began fading in my twenties, making it impossible to reconnect.  But I share a vital connection with this man, a love of growing things.  As a child, I was as often as not, following him through his huge backyard garden.  He never complained of the fruit and veggies I would pick and eat as I wandered through the rows behind this man who was more a father to me than my own biological father. 

I am glad I took the time to slow down.  At the end of my life, I don’t want to count how many briefs I have written, how many laws I have changed and how many millions of dollars I have saved various companies.  What I want to count, at the end of my life, is the influence I have had on my family and friends and I hope that my own son will fondly remember the days with his mother pulling the few weeds and tenderly staking tomato plants or better yet, enjoying the bountiful harvest provided by the earth.  It is the closest this avowed agnostic can get to admitting that there may be something…..more…. out there to create these little packages of perfection. 

Do you pick the fruit?

July 16, 2007

One of my frugal/simple/organic message boards is having a review.   Simple/ecological living acts are designated as fruit and embarking on the simple/light lifestyle you begin by picking the low hanging fruit and moving up the tree as you get more comfortable.  Have you reached the top of the tree?  I am proud to say we have.   I have placed an asterisk next to the things we do to be more simple, ecologically friendly.  We do a lot but we could clearly do more.

Low Hanging Fruit

  • Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store*
  • use reusable containers rather than plastic bags or ziploc bags*
  • shop at a local farmer’s market to reduce petrol use in shipping food to your grocery store*
  • shop once a week*
  • increase ac temp/lower heat temp*
  • use compact florescent bulbs*
  • shop thrift stores and second hand when purchasing items*
  • Install a clothes line*
  • Drink out of one cup during the day, refilling it as necessary*
  • ditch bottled water, fill a pitcher in the fridge for quick access to cold water*
  • wear clothes more than once*

Medium Hanging Fruit

  • Plan car trips for maximum efficiency*
  • bike/use public transportation for work
  • have a producing garden*
  • mow lawn with reel mower
  • replace grass with native plants to reduce water and work* – in progress
  • compost kitchen scraps*
  • install gutters/rain barrels to collect rain water

Top of the Tree

  • buy appliances with high energy star rating*
  • install solar panels
  • install tankless water heaters
  • install solar powered water heater
  • buy a Prius
  • telecommute to work*
  • switch to front loading washer*
  • move closer to work