Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Gardening: or, My Favorite Bedtime Reading

Dear Dad,

It wasn’t until I was almost an adult that I realized not everyone had John Seymour’s The Complete Book of Sufficiency read to them as a bedtime story. It came as kind of a shock when I realized my error. Other children didn’t daydream with their father’s about how to turn a 1-acre plot of land into enough food to feed a family of four? (or better yet, a five acre plot, because then, as you know, you can grow enough food to also feed your cow instead of having to buy in hay. Or resort to having a goat for your milk-producing needs). Really? They just read Narnia? I mean, we read Narnia and loved it. But how did other kids learn how to double-dig a garden bed?

I was fascinated by that big brown book, which always seemed to be hanging around our house. I’m still fascinated by it. I keep my copy on the coffee table. You know, just in case I want to re-read for the hundredth time his witty commentary on the lost art of basket making, or how his kids ate all of his home grown poppy seeds hoping (unsuccessfully) to get a buzz off of them.

Or if I have a pig butchering emergency. It could happen.

I can close my eyes and see the charts about when to start growing what, which only apply if you live in his particular part of England but which I still look at every spring. I can picture the pages about weaving a skep for keeping bees and the different layouts of garden beds for maximum food production.

That book has led me down the crazy path many-a-time. And I’m sure it
will again. I have a hard time resisting the siren call of wanting to live off the land. It’s one of the main reasons we ended up living in the woods in Vermont and responsible for more than one far-too-big-for-me garden. Like the time I planted a whole packet of tomato seeds in little pods and all of them came up. I couldn’t bear to throw any of them out, which led to the great tomato hedge of my junior year in college, a massive jungle of vines and tomatoes that took over one of my already over sized garden beds and filled our fridge, counter, table and more with piles and piles of tomatoes. (Who has a giant garden while they are in college? People who read John Seymour as children, of course! Remember when I planted winter rye in that garden, as per the book, for a cover crop and then almost killed the rototiller trying to work it into ground? Ah, good times.)

This year I’m being quite sensible. Between work and school and traveling this summer, that fantasy I have of plowing up the whole front yard Victory-Garden style just isn’t practical. Nor are chickens. Or a goat. At least, not this year. This year we are keeping things small. Just a wee (17 foot long- but only two feet wide!) raised bed that we’ve divided up to try out square foot gardening. And only three tomato plants. So far. I mean, three is enough! Three is plenty (but I might need a few more because you can never have too many tomatoes!)



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