Archive for September, 2009

Living Close

September 18, 2009

Digging Potatoes in the Community Garden

Digging Potatoes in the Community Garden

Three weeks ago I officially began my role as stay-at-home dad, and so far I love it. My son and I both spend most of our time barefoot. For me, this is a recent phenomenon that my beautiful little boy has reintroduced me to. In the past, I have had a very serious issue with having dirt on my feet, and I would cringe when walking around the house barefoot if the floors hadn’t been recently swept. Going to bed with dirty feet was absolutely out of the question (I have been known to hand wash my feet prior to going to bed; I know, this is neurotic!) Lately, my feet are unshod unless absolutely necessary.

Other than walking around with my feet directly touching the ground, what does living closer mean to me, and why is it important? I clarified this question for myself during a conversation that I had with my spouse, when she asked me “What do you want to accomplish in your life?” I replied by explaining that I wanted to spend my life making good artwork, being a decent/good human, helping to raise a decent/good (e.g. liberal open minded humanist) child, and live close to the earth.

All these aspects of living close require much diligence, time, and consideration. However, lately I have placed much of my time, energy, and focus on gardening and food preservation. Which to me is a very obvious and direct way to live closer. I am gardening and preserving food for a variety of reasons:

  • I enjoy the results of my labor, good wholesome vegetables and hand-canned foods are exceptionally tasty.
  • I was raised in a large one income family and my parents gardened and preserved food to supplement their grocery bill; so, it is in my blood.
  • As many of us know, the world’s economic, environmental, and, social climate seems to be pointing to humanity’s need to live more locally, with a deeper ecological awareness, and closer to our food sources.
  • I want to contribute to this revolution based on healthy food and land preservation. I garden, because I love working with the dirt, plants, and the seasons. Helping feed my family from vegetables that the dirt and I have grown together, just seems to make sense to me.
  • Lastly, with my family’s decreased income, raising vegetables has dramatically cut our grocery bill.

My family and I have been eating out of our garden since May, and I anticipate pulling vegetables out of the ground until mid-October, and possibly into early November. Once we are unable to harvest directly from the ground we will start using our supply of canned, frozen, and stored food. I am proud of our work as gardeners and food preservationists, and I am even happier to be slowly teaching and watching my son take an interest in garden plants, wild berries, and dirt! I am thankful to be able and willing to live so close to much of my food; I love harvesting food with my son and in our bare feet!

Living Close Tool Tips
Growing up on “the farm”, as some of my relatives used to refer to my childhood home (¾ acre house plot with a large garden) had, as I recall, only meager, old, and dilapidated hand gardening tools, and a well-worked tiller. The one tool that I do not remember using was a file. Filing my shovels, hoes, and spades has made a huge difference in their functionality. Most of the garden tools that I have purchased did not come sharpened, and until I started studying various gardening techniques, I never knew that these tools are supposed to be filed on a regular basis. If you are interested in gardening and you are going to buy your first shovel, buy a good file to sharpen it with. Steve Solomon in his book, Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times has a good explanation on how to file and take care of your tolls.

Living Close Reading List
Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth and Kenty Whealy

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader

Ball, Blue Book of Preserving by Ball Brothers Company, Inc.

Living Close Playlist
“The Birds and the Bees” by Mother Nature

My Son’s Contributions

  • Many smashed and pulverized tomatoes, the seeds and innards seem to fascinate him and gives him much pleasure, as is evident by his laughs and giggles with each squeezed tomato.
  • A bucket of produce: full one moment, and then quickly emptied by small but vigorous hands.