I’m so happy to introduce Jo from A Little Pink, A Little Blue: a lovely lifestyle blog set in gorgeous seaside Australia. Jo writes about mothering in a creative and nourishing way and shares about her journey in feeding her family local, hand grown and traditionally prepared food. Thanks so much, Jo, for sharing today!
As a strong, salt laden wind blows in from the Southern Ocean, the ocean that lies only a few hundred metres away from our home, I sit here with a pile of gardening books and packets and packets of seeds… thinking, planning and plotting. I look out to the garden and I wonder why I pursue my interest of growing my own food. The gale force winds that ripped through here yesterday (and last week and the week before that) have left me wondering if it is all worth the effort.
What were beautiful sculptured artichokes bushes are bravely trying to stand up. Rhubarb that was looking like the best I have ever grown with huge glossy green leaves and thick red stems are tattered beyond belief. There are carrot tops that have little or none of their fine feathery leaves having been scorched by the salt air and a recently planted lemon tree with just a few leaves hanging on for dear life. Dill plants are bent to the ground from the wind. Basically, anything over knee height is having a very hard time. I’m lucky the deciduous fruit trees haven’t started flowering yet.
All this leaves me wondering how the tall growing summer vegetables are going to fare. Soon we will experience strong northerly winds which blow dry and hot and scorch everything in sight and then as the wind changes around to the south, it comes straight off the sea, laden with salt, to add to the scorching. How are the tomatoes, corn and beans going to stand up, how can they produce their best crops in such a climate. Is it worth it? What drives one to want to garden against the odds?
Some of my earliest memories are of times spent in the garden. Following my maternal grandfather, who not only had a large family vegetable garden but acres and acres of market gardens, outside to the hothouse, where he would show me his prized tomatoes which seemed to grow as tall as Pop himself (he was a very tall man). Watching as he tended his plants, pinching out a bit here and tying up a stem there. And memories of another garden, this time following my quiet and gentle paternal grandfather down to his strawberry patch to help pick buckets and buckets of strawberries, to pull up carrots, wash them off and eat them right there in the garden (still my favourite way to eat carrots). Another memory of gardening is working beside my dad, planting out seeds and seedlings, digging and raking.
Later in childhood I have memories of an enormous vegetable garden that dad, my brother and I created, full of corn, tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, broccoli, cauliflowers, pumpkins, you name it we had it. This garden was grown in a harsh environment too, not so far from here and I can still feel how the sun felt beating down on my shoulders as I spent many afternoons watering.
It was the produce from this garden that was used in my first preserves. I was twelve years old at the time and we had grown so much cauliflower, too much to eat. My Grandmother had sent me a recipe for cauliflower pickles after hearing of our excess and I made jars upon jars of pickle, yellow and mustardy. I can almost taste and smell it now all these years later.
In almost every house that I have lived in (all except one) I have made space for growing some vegetables and herbs, even if it meant growing them in pots.
For me, I think this drive to grow plants (particularly those which can be eaten) comes from those childhood memories and from the deep need to have my hands in the soil. I am never so happy as when I have been digging and planting, mud under my nails, the smell of earth and compost in my nostrils.
It’s also the harvesting that draws me in… washing off the soil, eating right there in the garden, the goodness produced by means of sunlight, water and soil… bringing that goodness into the kitchen, feeding loved ones, nurturing them. Also I love the storing of home grown produce, putting away the excess to nourish us another day, canning, making jams and chutneys, stewing, drying, blanching, freezing, it all just really appeals to me.
This is why I choose to grow my own food. The reason why I persevere. All this and the fact that I know I can pick some lettuce leaves, a tomato or a strawberry, fruit from the tree and know it has not been sprayed or tainted by chemicals. Knowing that it hasn’t been sitting in storage for months on end depleting its nutrients, knowing it is fresh and living food.
So as harsh as the environment is where I live, where I grow, I have to remember that there will be some glorious days in between the not so glorious ones. Days when the sunshine will be mild and the wind will lull to a gentle breeze and the plants will have a chance to grow and produce. Even now as the wind continues to blow, if I look outside my window, a little further, just past the destruction of yesterday or take a walk around my patch, I will see the lush green foliages of silver beet, parsley, coriander and lettuces, I will see the broccoli heads just appearing, the tender baby leeks and parsnips waiting to be picked, the strawberry plants starting to produce flowers, tiny figs and their leaves just sprouting from ghostly grey bare branches. I will see the first leaves of the potatoes emerging from the earth, the stems of garlic growing fatter everyday hinting at the size of the bulbs beneath.
And that is it, I guess. The hope and the promise that a garden brings, that keeps me going and keeps me growing.