Learning to Work the Land
My household is currently focused on turning our lawn into a working vegetable garden. We’re planting vegetable, fruits, and also medicinal herbs. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years but it’s been a little overwhelming. Now, being at home due to Covid, it’s provided a perfect opportunity to really focus on learning how to work — and work with — the land.
Actually, while Tatyana had a thriving herb garden since last year (she’s our housemate) this was really my first go-round with any type of gardening (though I did grow a few herbs years and years ago when I lived in Queens) and it was prompted by news reports that Michigan was banning the sale of seeds in local stores as “non-essential.” That triggered something with my Lithuanian ancestors and they started hammering me hard to plant. Something about government stepping in and preventing local stores from selling seeds well, it was like it flipped a switch for them and they started hammering me so intensely to create my own garden, to get it up and running right away, that I had no choice but to comply.
Now, I have severe spinal damage (remnants of a career as a ballet dancer and one of the main reasons I retired in my early twenties) so bending and working the soil is not something I can easily do – one of the things that was very intimidating to me about all of this. I solved that problem by starting with porch boxes, pots, and standing boxes (these latter haven’t yet arrived). We discovered our local gardening supply shop is open and that they deliver so Tatyana and I went to town. While she’s busy setting up our in-ground vegetable garden, I decided to start with about a dozen porch boxes. I planted marigold (keeps pests away and leaves are edible), lettuce, onions, peppers, brussel sprouts, strawberries, cauliflower (I accidentally planted Tatyana’s cauliflower and it’ll have to be replanted when it really starts to grow), basil, thyme, oregano, woodruff, parsley (I have seeds for marjoram and sage on their way). For medicinal purposes I have feverfew, calendula, chamomile, lavender, lobelia. For beauty, I have a rose bush, poppies, and already had lilacs and forsythia. My ancestors don’t care about flowers unless they are medicinal or edible but these were available and I like them. I also ordered a lemon tree –potted so it can live inside during the winter.
Tatyana is planting carrots, zucchini, peppers, squash, peas, potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, parsnips, lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, cucumbers, a passel of medicinal herbs including yarrow and elderberry, and a ton more that I can’t recall at the moment. I think this is something anyone can do, but it’s important not to get intimidated. Starting with a single herb in a pot is well begun. It helps us connect to the cycles of nature, to the spirits of herbs and trees, plants and the land, and as we work hard to build communities, well, there’s no functioning community without food. We’re a long way away from being self-sustaining but it begins with willingness and putting those first seeds into the dirt.
I’ll be blogging about this as we go and you can join us on this journey.
(our porch garden. there are more boxes to the left not pictured here).
In the meantime, here are a few sites that have been both inspiring and beneficial:
Then there’s Townsends, which focuses on 18thcentury cooking, crafts, and gardening. It’s a great site and it’s way too easy to go down the rabbit hole emerging hours later with a desire to build a log cabin, cook weird dishes over an open hearth, and make one’s own clothing. LOL.
Finally, there’s this channel Homesteading Family. They know how to do things and their channel is a treasure trove of info (even if I find the ever-growing passel of children off-putting lol).