Since encountering the garden paths of other spunky growers like Mrs Be, I have also been thinking a lot lately about what got me started growing food. It feels like the right time to consider it and get it down in writing, the respect and gratitude I have for so many of you out there.
I know that it all started with Tracy, my closest friend and also the one who lives farthest away, in central Germany. I used to live there, too, and remember so well how awed I was when I first learned that she had a garden of vegetables and herbs. She said it very matter-of-factly, but I was just blown away that she was growing her own edibles and usefuls, as someone my own age (meaning someone on the younger side of twenty), and as someone with a lot else going on in her life (like studying and working and going out and just generally being a very brave American transplant in a foreign country). So, in addition to that, she was also just brazenly digging into the local soil. As I got to know her better, it became clear that growing was essential to who Tracy was; I would ask her, “How do you have time for that?” and she would answer along the lines of, “I make time; I need to.”
A couple years later, Tracy was the one who saw me off at the train station with a piece of homemade cheesecake and a film-vial of mystery seeds. Written on the label, so much like Alice in Wonderland: “Who is who? Who will be who?” I never gardened in Germany, but she pretty much knew that all I needed was a little push to get into it. Soon after moving back to my parents’ house, I started a garden.
And that Fall I met Neville — I had never been more excited to meet anyone as I was to meet him. He’s also the kind of person who hones in on friends’ dormant dreams and inclinations and gently encourages them to…well, gently encourages them to kick ass. In particular, he found “You Grow Girl!” at the bookstore one day and told me I really should just plunk down the money for it, it was practically written for me. I did, and I inhaled that book, and I started growing stuff, starting with the calendula, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds that Tracy gave me.
It’s a year later and I’m now a mom, and a blogger, and pretty sure I’ll be growing things to eat from now on. Lately I have encountered a lot of people who are just starting to do the same — and if not while having kids, then while having a lot of other responsibilities and monsters filling up their days. It’s like there’s a rising cavalry of resourceful, industrious, blogging young gardeners out there. Your blogs are full of enthusiasm and mishaps and humor and wisdom. Carrie the monster-keeper is one of them, she who carves out a rooftop garden overlooking the concrete jungle, she who is not to be deterred by pounding heat and PO’d transplants, she who sweetly wrote about my blog and encouraged me to come out of my shell and just love this shit. I’m consistently humbled and moved by Nici’s moxie as she spends entire days outdoors with her baby daughter, growing and building and tearing down and raising chickens and loving her family, her dog, and her chock-full life. I get such a kick out of how Heather writes about growing and working and playing, like raucous and melodic at the same time. Meanwhile, Zora Naki is hell-bent on squeezing everything she possibly can out of her urban plot, and baking loaves and loaves, and just generally plying her kids with good stuff. I only hope that one day I’ll be out there teaching my kiddo all the important things about life in the garden, like she and Amy must do just about every day. How does Mrs Be stay so humble when she’s kicking mounds of ass over there in the U.K., gardening and spreading gardening to the next generation?
Close to home, I just discovered that my friends Claudia and Katie garden, too. Claudia, who does everything and then more while being so well-spoken and warm and resourceful, is cultivating veggies and continues to open up her home to a little universe of friends; Katie is growing tricky things like lavender without a hitch, so much of it that she’s like, “I have a lot; Do you want some?” Reminds me of my grandfather, who, according to family lore, quit smoking from one day to the next because he simply didn’t know it was supposed to be difficult.
I don’t know how to end except to say thanks, every one of you and more of you, if you read this, for encouraging another shoot onto the garden path.