IMG_2766The start of my lovely peppers last season! Gardening rocks!

I actually come from a long line of farmers. My mother’s side of the family had been farming a small plot of land in the Roman countryside for literally hundreds of years (yes, we still own that land. Save that jelly for your toast!). My five foot tall, little Italian mother knows how to graft trees for heaven’s sake. I always remember my mom gardening for tomatoes and zucchini.
And I really didn’t do squat.

I mean, I did a little. I read up on how to grow amazing roses (and did), plant bulbs (and did), stuff like that. Eventually I moved on to a couple of tomato plants and that was about it.

Then came the day that I really, really got into the whole organic, farm-to-fork movement. I did not want to eat cherries from Chile in the middle of winter. I did not want to eat lettuce grown 500 miles away. I wanted to eat food that was fresh, free of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and I wanted the damn seeds to be those created by nature and not by a lab. I didn’t think I was asking for much.

Simultaneously, I was bitten by the prepper bug. Not the type of prepper you see on TV, building fortresses and hidden passageways with enough food stored to last 30 years; the type of prepper that was simply not going to be screwed in most situations beyond her control.

Recall that amoeba that infected the waters of Lake Erie a couple of years back that rendered all the water undrinkable and useless?  And who would have possibly imagined that boiling that same water- something we have all learned to do to make water safe to drink- actually made the situation worse? Who would have imagined an amoeba capable of withstanding boiling water and coming back with even more power- hell bent on sickening the poor bitch that tried to kill it? No one imagined it, that’s who. That is why there was a frantic run on bottled water in Toledo and why I store water now. It simply makes sense to keep the fluid necessary for survival at hand.

I live in the Midwest. Winters suck.  Sometimes the blizzards can make things downright impossible for a couple of days.  Do you really want to be stuck eating boxed mac and cheese because you can’t make it to the store? Or you can crack open that mason jar of organic blackberry jam you made a couple months back, slather that on some homemade bread and own that blizzard like a boss.  I have come to learn that being prepared is having the right amount of the right stuff on hand and knowing how to use said stuff in a variety of ways (pantyhose, beyond the obvious, makes great storage for onions, helps to stake plants in the garden, and serves as a decent rope substitute in a few situations.  Don’t ask how I know about that last one.)

So with this strong desire to eat healthier foods and maintain a proper disaster prep level, my gardening interests really went into high gear. I had grown tomatoes before, but let’s try to grow six different heirloom varieties. My family likes green beans. So let’s do those as well. And while I am at it, let’s add three varieties of peppers, two varieties of potatoes, corn, onion, gourmet lettuce, six herb varieties, raspberries, blueberries, pineberries and heirloom watermelon. All organically grown in my backyard, both in the ground and in containers. Hell yes.

My newfound fervor drove my family nuts. Whatever.

Whenever they complained of the “jungle” on the patio from my potted plants, I told them that they would appreciate my efforts in due time. And appreciate they did. They ate fresh green beans all season long (and months afterwards from the freezer). They rejoiced in watching the dark green heirloom watermelons grow. They were amazed to see me turnover a laundry hamper to release potatoes (more on that later). And yes, they were relieved when fall finally came and the garden was “put away” as my husband put it.
But the damage was done. I was hooked.

Now, there are some things I will change for this year. There are things I won’t grow again (corn). There are new things I am going to try. I am also expanding the growing season into early spring and early fall with veggies like broccoli. And the family is already sighing. But they will appreciate it again, too.

I am the definition of a dipshit when it comes to gardening. Trial and error is my motto. It is my hope to share what works well for me with all of you, because if I could make it work, then you will probably be a huge success. If nothing else, I will cherish the thought of your hands tentatively planting seeds in a pot of dirt on your balcony or garden, taking the first step to maintaining health and a connection to the earth around us by growing at least a small part of your own food.

It is worth it and you will love it. Promise.