Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why do we do this?

So, in contemplating the resting of the garden in 2012, Tim and I have had a few discussions regarding the purpose of gardening. First of all, it is NOT cost effective. As a whole that is. Granted, you can grow a shit load of green beans from a couple dollars of seed with virtually no other work or worry. But, you can still get Prego s'ghetti sauce from the grocery for a LOT less time and money than you can make your own. And I like Prego. Hasn't killed me yet. I think the tipping point for me was the last weekend I spent dealing with the harvest. I was on my feet all weekend, in and out of the kitchen, keeping an eye on things, countless sinks full of dishes, multiple trips to the compost bin. On Sunday evening I had a quart of tomato sauce, a gallon of frozen beans, and an apple pie. My thought was ~ "the weekend is over, I'm tired, I could have gotten this at the store for under 20 bucks." Doubt began to creep in....

Most of the money we spend gardening is for our own fun. Honestly. And if you like to contemplate the folly of spending copious amount of money on a handful of food, order the book the $64 Tomato and enjoy. So, we spend a lot of cash making ourselves happy in the garden, and another driving force, is the innate and inescapable hunter/gatherer in all of us. Case in point: this year's apple harvest.

My mother went on to gather dozens of bushels more from my orchard and any other orchard in the county that she could gain access to. 60 bushels was the official count, but I don't think she kept very good records. With her daily roamings of the orchard, there are still bushels of apples sitting on her front porch.

She referred to this hoarding as a "temporary obsession to eliminate fruit wastage". But I assure you it is not temporary. To my knowledge, it covers at least three generations and will reoccur annually for months at a time like snow. It's novel at first, but then it consumes everything, and makes getting around inconvenient. In the throes of her fruit obsession, my mother is even driven to call my father, her ex husband, and demand he come and get some pears/apples/whateverwehavebushelsof. And he unloads his unwanted raspberry runners on her. We have come to call this the "fruit exchange". Let the fruiting begin.

The "Mother Load" of Pippins on it's way to the mill
Part of this obsession is driven by location. This would be a lot harder to do if we lived in, say, New York City. In that case, we would most likely gather and hoard street trash instead (and I'm not saying we haven't). We have this stuff just laying around, for one reason or another, and if we don't pick it up, someone is going to have to mow around it.

And because my mother just happens to live half a mile from my orchard to the west, and half a mile from an old fashioned cider mill to the east, the logical thing to do would be to pick up the apples and turn them into cider to give to everybody. And this can be fun. Especially when the cider goes hard. The weeks I spent drinking the gallons I brought to the office were especially pleasant. Particularly after the caps blew off.

My mother was aided and abetted in her "temporary obsession to avoid fruit wastage" by Elsie the Amishwoman. Elsie is a thrifty, hard working woman who will can anything that she can get her hands on. I have given her jars of jelly and such and I can tell you, Elsie returns the jars in the best way possible... full of something else.

Elsie's Larder Part I

Elsie's Larder Part II

My husband has reminded me that we are not Amish. It is not necessary for us to grow our own food. Heck, we're not even farmers. Well, I'm sort of a farmer, but he's not. And we're not Survivalists. If there is a cataclysm, we will not be repopulating the Earth. If the Global Economy collapses, we can survive off the grid pretty easily. I do have some turnip and rutabaga seeds lying around. We're not going to starve right away.

In the mean time, we garden for pleasure. We know that fresh green beans are far superior to the canned ones. It's fun to grow catnip and other herbs. Digging potatoes is oddly satisfying. There are certain specialties, like Wild Plum Jelly, homemade Pickles and Glögg that can only come from your own kitchen and are delightful to share as gifts. Those are the things that we do not fret over the cost and work of making. We garden so we can feel the satisfaction of nurturing a seedling, amending the soil and reveling in the unique taste of a fresh, sun warmed tomato from seeds saved for generations. As long as we can keep that perspective, we will garden on.


  1. The reason you don't read about my vegetable garden is because I don't have one for every reason you mentioned. Our larder when I was growing up looked like Elsie's which was nice but a HELL of a lot of work. We gardened acres and we gardened so we could eat that winter, not for fun. I agree that fresh stuff tastes better, so we buy and trade with local market gardeners to get fresh stuff. It might be fun to try gardening as a hobby, but I'm sure not going to try it the way we did when I was a kid any time soon. That said, I must say I am envious of your larder. ;)

  2. I have a serious case panty envy right now. I thought I had a stocked pantry, but not compared to THAT ! Good for Elsie. I for one am tired of the crap they are calling food at the stores and wish I did not have to work fulltime outside the home so I could concentrate more time on my fruit trees/veggie garden.

    I love your shed and garden layout...very neat and tidy :)