It’s often in the dead, stark, chill of winter (known as January or February…) that my mind wanders, fast forward to Spring. As much as I love snow, winter and downright frigid temperatures; by February; I’m done. It’s an annual dilemma I find myself in, because winter can hang on here through March….April… May; hey—we’ve had snow in JUNE.
I find myself thinking ‘Winter can be over now’ or hollering to the children, “HEY…isn’t that a ROBIN?!!” For some reason, I just don’t get the same giddy feeling when it’s snowing in late March as I do when it’s snowing in November. Given our location in the northern most part of the continental USA, in the MOUNTAINS, at high elevation…you’d think I’d accept it by now: Winter is long here. Imagine that.
So, I do what I can. I console myself with a nice hot mocha and seed catalogs. I daydream of what I would love to plant, and where. I start to plan spring cleaning, chores and errands. I’m eyeing all the winter garb in the entryway (wondering what I can start to realistically store away, without anyone noticing). Before I know it I’m planning for the Passover, baby chicks are chirping, the grass is peeking through the snow and, hey (!) wait a minute—was that a ROBIN?! Spring is here—and I’m not ready!!
This year, I am embracing Spring with extra joy, intensity and energy! Last year we let our land rest, a ‘Shmittah’. As God gives us a new year to start fresh with each Spring (Exodus 12:2), I pray that I truly seize each moment He gives! I can’t wait to begin this new year, this new season! I hope to spend much of it in His creation, in the garden! Gardening is a skill I want to my children to master, and while they don’t have to ‘love it’; I want them to be able to grow their own food, a skill we believe is crucial. I love that God’s plan for the family living & learning alongside each other, is the same foundation for our homeschooling. Real Life. Real Life Skills.
So we gather up all our saved seed, my garden planner and the children around the table. We prayerfully consider our garden. What do we hope to plant this year? Are we starting seeds indoors ? Are we going to finally get plastic over the hoop house? Anyone have any new ideas for deterring the deer? Do we need to order any seed? The list goes on; however having a plan in place gives us direction. We make a list of what we need/want to plant this year. We list the seed we have on hand, and the seed we’ll need to order. Do we need any fencing, wire, supplies or equipment this year?
Once we have these things nailed down, we pull out the garden graph. Our “Garden Graph” is a piece of graph paper, printed out onto card stock that I turn into a map of our property to line out where we are planting. I draw in where the house is and where the outbuildings/animals are. Then I start mapping out on my graph where I’ve started flower beds, a raspberry patch, and where I hope to expand this year and with what. For instance, this year I want to take one of the flower beds right in front of the house and plant mint. I want to plant a patch of catnip over by the barn for our barn cat, Jonah. You get the idea.
I then take a second piece of this ‘garden graph’ paper and map out the main garden spot. I judge what will be planted where, based on the sun / shade factor of any particular area. I then label out my graph; potatoes will be planted here, carrots here, beans here, etc. I also note by number, on my graph, what needs to be planted when. I have a short grow season and need to make the best possible use of the season I’m given.
We tend to plant a fairly good sized garden, that we eat while fresh; but also to ‘put up’ to feed us year round. We also like to have extra planted to donate to the local food bank and to share with others. Therefore, I need a plan in place, a plan we can work together as a family.
As food costs rise (and WOW are they rising fast!) and the quality of the food offered in the grocery store continues to decline; a garden just makes sense. You can grow the best quality, for very little cost and in abundance for your family. Customized food production, tailored to your tribe! I really enjoy growing herbs, I dry them and put them up for use all year round; big $$ savings! We eat lots of potatoes and carrots, so we plant, can and store as much as we can. We love cool salads on summer evenings; we can have our fresh beautiful salads all summer long with just a walk to the garden. All Kosher and NON-GMO. That is a BIG DEAL, considering so much of our food supply is ‘frankenfood’ these days!
Whether you choose to grow a simple windowsill herb garden, some tomato plants on the patio, make all your landscape edible in your flower beds, till up a patch of grass in the yard or use the back pasture—gardening is beneficial for the whole family and offers so many life lessons! The lessons of a garden offer up so many metaphors for teaching His word. Not only does it teach the obvious ‘physical labor = eat’, but the dropping of seeds; cultivating; watering; growth. It is the perfect teaching medium for us as a homeschool family, so many lessons and valuable conversations can grow from the garden (pun intended). What other project can cover every subject; from P.E. to Bible to Math to Science to Nature Journalling…the list is only limited by your imagination!
So, grab some seed catalogs for ideas (my favorites are Barker Creek, Irish Eyes, Seeds of Change and Seed Savers-all online and they’ll mail you a physical catalog too!), pick up a Garden Planner that are out there (Here is a really neat one- a downloadable) and check out the highly recommend “Back to Eden” video, as a wonderful guide to the foundational nuts and bolts of gardening! You can find it at backtoedenfilm.com or on Vimeo, http://vimeo.com/28055108 .
Prayerfully consider planning & planting a garden this year—big or small—it will bless your family in so many ways!