My love for food started at a young age, but I didn’t start gardening until middle school when my mother felt I needed to take up a new hobby. She said having a garden to tend to daily would keep me busy and distract me from reading too many novels – I had become something of a book nerd spending much of my down time reading every book I could get my hands on, which were mostly romance novels.
Every year was the same: Grandma Dots instructed where to plant each seed while mum measured each row to precision using measuring tape and two wooden steaks. I would break up the soil and plant each seed and seedling as instructed. Together, the three of us planted each year, rows of corn, tomatoes, strawberries, green beans, peas, onions, potatoes, and cucumbers. The garden continued to expand in size until I decided there wouldn’t be a garden worth tending. You see, for two years straight, the cows got out of the pasture and trampled through my garden, stomping on my lovely, ruby red tomatoes while eating all the corn. Each time it happened at the end of summer when I was ready for harvest. But instead, I watch it being devoured and abused by cattle.
It was years later when, after college, I left the city life to work on Riverbend Farm for Greg Reynolds in Delano, MN. Thirty acres of land needing constant attention was challenging, but certainly rewarding. I learned about food on an even deeper level; not something that can be learned in a classroom. Using my hands and body, I learned about the labour of love with each food grown, from digging potatoes through patches of thorns to moving irrigation lines to quench the thirst of the crops. It wasn’t all about the labour either. At the end of each shift, I’d bring home produce and make some of the most amazing meals from the foods I had grown. Rapini pesto, potato dauphinois, beet zucchini bread, panzanella salad, strawberry rhubarb open lattice pie, were just a few.
As all good things, things must come to an end, however, I left Delano and went on a three-month trip to South America, mostly Brazil, and accidentally got an apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Well, it wasn’t exactly accidental, but I had no intention of moving to Chicago: A big snow storm hit the city the day after I landed from São Paulo and all transportation was shut down, thus planting a seed for what-if-I-lived-here thoughts. Nearly three years went by before I had my first bit of yard space to once again tend to crops. I salvaged pallets to build myself a raised garden bed. It was absolutely brilliant! Simple design that only required me to purchase nails to hold it together (there’s a facebook picture out there somewhere…). It was a bountiful year, and I had such joy getting my hands in soil again. Sadly, there was only one year of backyard gardening before I would move to a location without a place to garden…
Fast forward to today, three years later, and I’ve returned to Minnesota. I once again (finally) have a lovely garden plot to satiate my appetite for freshly-grown foods. This year, I’m growing pansies, nasturtiums, a variety of herbs and lettuce greens, French leeks, and various varietals of radish. Who knows if I’ll stop there – it has been so long – but I will for now. Then again, there’s always another garden plot nearby.
For more gardening tips, read this next: Spring gardening tips: When you can finally start planting
This article appeared originally on www.ranellekirchner.com.