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Doing without a Garden

Ever since the first summer after we were married, which is now 25 years, we’ve had a garden of some sort. Our first gardens were small and located in reclaimed flower beds along the south fence. Each year, they got a little bigger in size and variety. When we moved away to Toronto, we had congenial landlords who let us plant small vegetable gardens so we were able to keep our hands in the dirt. When we came back to Michigan and had our own place, we devoted a larger area to our garden. Our “annex” in the neighbor’s yard this summer has given us a generous addition of space for even more growing. In short, in our married life, we’ve never gone without a garden.

So when we decided to participate in the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge, we decided that eating from our garden was going to be acceptable. As Jim wrote, “We consider our ‘kitchen garden’ to be a political-spiritual practice that reminds us that food is not essentially merchandise.” The food from our garden is not “free” of course, but it’s something we’ve consistently budgeted for and planned around, always. Our gardening is not ‘just for fun.’ We grow what we eat and we eat what we grow. We garden purposefully and without any chemicals of any sort. Our garden is very much a part of our lives.

That said, I don’t know how we could have done the Food Stamp Challenge as successfully without having a garden of our own. We’ve eaten our own produce for every lunch and dinner. Our shopping budget was used to buy the things we don’t grow, which is really a lot of things: milk, eggs, bread, bacon, and on. Our fresh produce this week has essentially been what we’ve grown: kale, yellow squash, tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplant. We would have been hardpressed to buy those on the Food Stamp budget. We would have had to go without something.

Many lessons have come my way this week. I’ve been reminded how easy it is to take food for granted when you can. We planned our meals for the whole week ahead of time, a practice that we have used from time to time; under the constraints of the budget, planning was completely necessary. This has reminded me that spontaneity is costly in the food department. I’ve been surprised too at how much food has been on my mind. We haven’t gone hungry certainly, but I’ve spent a lot time thinking about the planning and preparation of inexpensive meals and the small shelves which hold our groceries. I’ve looked at our garden in a new light. For many reasons, it’s a place and practice I could not do without.

Posted in • Growing.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. About Gardening » Blog Archive » Pilgrim in the Garden linked to this post on November 24, 2011

    […] Doing without a Garden […]