The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

04 May 2010

The Greening of the thumb

The growing season is upon us. All but the biggest trees have leaves, the fruit orchards are in blossom, lilacs are blooming and the grape vines are starting to show green life. It wont be long before we hear the grapes sighing!

We've been watching for these signs of Spring since the end of March and have been very impatient for them all to arrive. Several times a day we would update each other with reports on how big the buds were on the trees, watching for the moment they became leaves. And of course we missed it! It happened entirely without our help, and while we weren't looking, leaving us in awe at how lush it is here already.

Though very novice gardeners (with one season of maintaining a pot of herbs now firmly in our belts), my sister and I are eager to tackle a somewhat more substantial garden this year: lettuce. Maybe potatoes and onions and such. All in pots of course. We attended a 'Growing vegetables in containers on your veranda' sort of workshop a few weekends ago, and learned that we had virtually killed our unsuccessful tomato plant last year through starvation and dehydration. Oops. We also learned that this area has a blight that attacks cucumber and zucchini which is very good to know because as every vegetable gardener seems desperate to give away their surplus zukes, we were going to try some of that and would have given up gardening entirely if we had failed.

After reading The 100 mile diet, we've become very aware of the fact that most of the produce we eat comes from parts of the world we've never been. We live here, in 'The Fruit Basket' or 'Greenhouse' of Ontario, and still the apples stocked by our grocer come from the States and our lettuce from Mexico. How does that make sense? What happens to everything grown here? Where does it go? Just what exactly is going on in all those massive greenhouses if they aren't feeding us?

Being at this point on the learning curve, with no land or cold storage, the idea of attempting self-sufficiency even just for produce during the summer months is very daunting. How to begin? We're already late for lettuce, it turns out and I don't want to be responsible for another dead tomato. What to plant? How to care for it, when and how to harvest... all of that is a vast unknown.

Besides the nutritional benefits for us, I think it is important for the Peanuts to experience a connection to the food they eat, to see how it happens and what is involved. Therein lies another challenge: how to keep five very active and inquisitive boys out of the garden when they're playing Star Wars with sticks or Rickshaw Driver/Roman Charioteer with the bicycle carriage all over the yard. I'd love to be a confident gardener with a flourishing vegetable patch, and a few fruit trees and be able to preserve the bounty for colder months. It would be great to have a some chickens and a goat, and I've always wanted to have a cow (not that kind of cow! I mean a living, breathing, pooping sort of cow).

I should probably reign in my expectations though, eh? This year: lettuce. Next year: the cow!

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