Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What NOT to Say to a Gardener

I like to refer to myself as an "urban farmer" because I grow an incredible amount of the food my family eats in the summer and fall along with the flowers that are always on my table. What we don't eat gets frozen, dried, or canned to supplement our diets in the winter and spring.  I also can specialty items that I give away to friends and family.

I do have a few pet peeves:

1.  Assuming I don't really "need" the food I grow.  Usually this comes in an off-hand comment, something like, "Too bad blight/insects/drought killed your crop of tomatoes/beans/squash.  But you don't really need it.  You can buy it at the store.  It's not like you're an actual farmer and need the food".

Yes, I AM an actual farmer.  I plan out my garden.  I work the beds.  I eat what I grow.  I would never say to someone, "Too bad that tree fell on your car.  But you don't really need it.  You can take the bus or ride your bike.  It's not like you're a taxi driver."

2.  Assuming that because I'm growing food or flowers that you can just have some.

Now, I am generous with what I grow.  I love to barter.  I do give away surplus and if someone were financially struggling, I would invite them to come harvest some food.  However, I would prefer to offer.  Most people have no idea when food is ripe or know what my plans for the harvest are.  Asking me if I have some extra tomatoes because you forgot them at the store and you have a potluck is one thing.  Saying "Can you give me a bag of lettuce because I hate dealing with people at the farmer's market" is another.  Just don't.  Don't ask doctors for free medical services, or artists for free paintings, or gardeners for free food.

3. Telling me I HAVE to do the latest gardening thing on Pinterest/Facebook/whatever.  This always comes from nongardeners.  I like to try out new techniques and projects.  However, if I wanted to grow potatoes in a stack of 18 car tires or construct my raised beds and patio furniture out of wooden pallets I found at the dump I'll let everyone know. Which will be never.  If it sounds ridiculous, it probably is.

I am serious about gardening/urban farming. So if you wouldn't want someone to come into your office and say it, don't say it to a gardener, either.  Just because we love what we do and make little money at it, doesn't mean it isn't hard work. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Making Friends With Uncertainty

This house was fugly before I added window boxes, a fence, paint, and a Little Free Library.

When we bought our home in the city last year, to be able to use mass transit, be near our favorite brewpubs, and be within biking distance of my husband's job, we assumed we'd live in this house for another 10 years or so.  We now have no idea how long we'll be living in this home-it could be 2 years and it could be 10.  Our governor's budget, released in early February, eliminates my husband's department. He works in environmental education and outreach and that is a very low priority for this administration-they've even banned the term "climate change" from being discussed in some state agencies/committees.  So we're uncertain of where we will land.

 It's been two months and I've decided that since I cannot control the outcome, as much as I'd like to do so, I can control what I do now, in this house, and in this yard. 

We have only ever bought starter homes.  This house is the 4th that we have owned in 18 years.   We buy starter homes because we like to travel A LOT and experience concerts and restaurants, not have a big house and not be able to afford to leave it.  A starter home also means that I can teach piano part-time, do intensive gardening, and be around for my kids.  Two are in college, but my oldest has Bipolar Disorder and being "on-call" for her so that my husband can focus on work, is a priority for us.  Lastly, we buy starter homes because THEY SELL FASTER than bigger, more expensive homes. 

When we bought this house, it had been a neglected rental and was UGLY.  We updated and/or renovated every single room.  I put a small garden in the yard, but that was all I had time to do.  This year was to be the year I transformed my yard into my garden oasis.

Then that stinkin' budget got released.

Once I accepted that I just wasn't going to know how this would play out, I realized that I could only control what I did right now.  So I  began planning out my gardens, again.  After all, unlandscaped yards are ugly, especially in the city and I am very good at turning ugly yards into lovely yards.

Sometime in the next week, I'll buy a dozen or more shrubs to add some privacy in our backyard.  Planning to have my husband build a large trellis to screen the rental next door from direct view and plant some hops to grow on it.  And while I may be here for 2 years or 10, know that I've improved the yard for the next people to enjoy.