Sunday, August 3, 2008

Like mother, like son?

"Where's the red pepper?" I asked E as I spooned the pesto out of the VitaMix. We'd just returned home from a week in Maine. While I unpacked, my husband came in from watering the plants with a huge bunch of basil and a small pepper that was about the size of our toddler's fist -- a little bigger and much redder than when we left. Volia: a dinner concept.

The pepper plants were gifts from an apartment-dwelling friend who ran out of room on her patio. E and I planted her leftovers in containers, too, because the plot where we used to garden in-ground has in the past two years become too shaded by ill-conceived pear trees (even though we removed two of them), and we weren't willing to utilize more visible parts of the yard for a garden. We did a few herbs in the ground in our side yard but did the peppers, tomato, basil, oregano, rosemary and some peas from seed (way too late, but they sprouted) in containers near the kitchen. I figured he'd benefit from the experience of a little planting even if it wasn't in the ground. He loved his Toddler-sized garden gloves and Kids' Hand Tool Set I bought from The Wacky World of Children, but the Toddler's Single Watering Can has gotten the most use.

"I eat it," he said, pointing to his empty mouth to clarify he meant past tense. LJ and I looked at each other.

"What do you mean? Where?"

"In the dining room."

We looked around for evidence. Nada. No seeds, no stem. A week later, we believe him; he really did eat it all, apparently while I was whirring away with the blender and stirring the Tinkyada rice pasta. We picked a green pepper a few days later, and his first thought was, "I want to show Daddy," who wasn't yet home. His second thought was to lick it and tease me that he was going to eat it. His third thought was crunch. The half-eaten pepper went into the fridge as evidence.

I'm told I did the same thing as a child -- ate peppers right out of the garden. But a major difference is, we really had a garden. We outfitted my whole fourth grade class with pumpkins. There were rows and rows of vegetables, thickets of berries, huge sproutings of rhubarb. Somehow I keep thinking my son will have those memories of living in the country even if it's not his experience.

LJ and I have been flirting with the idea of adding on to the house for a long time. Recently we've thought that we just need to purge all our unnecessary stuff and then just move out of the DC area to somewhere with clean air -- a place where our money will buy a bigger house and a bigger yard where we can grow most of what we'd want and live with less negative impact than our current suburban lifestyle. I loved that my son got to pick asparagus and strawberries at my parents' house in Michigan in June and that in July he walked right up to fennel growing at Beech Hill Farm in Mount Desert Island in Maine. (Well, I liked that he had the opportunity, not so much that he was so manic my husband had to take him out of the barn while I bought produce). Part of me wishes gardening was an everyday part of our lives.

But there sure is a lot of driving that goes on to get to my folks' house and to get to places out in the country. Maybe moving out to the western DC suburbs isn't such a crazy idea after all, LJ and I started to think. Housing prices are tanking. We could get something roomy and with a big yard and still be commutable to lots of places without much more time/gas/money than we currently spend. Why do we need to live so close to the city?

But I think we've come to realize we do like where we are. I've got a lot of friends here. I can walk to a grocery store and quickly get to whatever other places I need to go without having to cross town or country. And I can be on the bike path in about three minutes, carrying me to parks, a nature center and miles of wooded trail. I've got several options for natural foods grocery stores. I can get organic (and local when available) produce delivered to my home through Washington's Green Grocer, I'm not far from a farm drop where I can get pastured eggs and grassfed beef, and I could be part of any number of CSA's (community-supported agriculture) for produce if I could get over the issue of negiotiating an afternoon pickup around a child's sleep schedule (the main reason I didn't continue this year with Potomac Vegetable Farms).

And honestly, we have a big yard for this area. There's an entire steep slope that gets plenty of sun, and it's no picnic to mow it. So why don't we just make it a priority to garden? That would take something of a mindshift for us, since I'm not my dad and my husband is not his step-dad, who last year donated tons of produce to Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor. Somehow my fairly mainstream neighbors can find the time to grow a nice garden with three kids. The mom recently told me, "R just picked a green bean and ate it. Now I don't have to worry about her getting a vegetable!" As the parents of a son for whom green beans are our default/backup/quick-easy food and who will choose my sugar-free cookies with zucchini and carrot over frozen Van's (gluten-free) waffle, surely we can muster the mettle.

So it's not a done deal, but our next quest -- along with purging our junk through Freecycle and Craigslist -- is to research what we'd need to do this fall to prep our slope for a terraced garden in the fall.

I hope that by next summer we won't have any more Fuzzi Bunz diapers drying in the sun to broadcast our crunchiness, but I do hope we can build a decent garden.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Even though we live out in the country and have five acres, we garden in raised beds--they're so much more manageable (physically and psychologically) than a big tilled area, you can grow a lot in a little space (with lots of cow manure--that might be harder to get where you are) and almost no weeding required. We started with one bed and have added 3 or 4 more over the last few years. It may not work on your sloped yard, but might be worth considering.