Tag Archives: Sunflowers

Our Dirt: A Harvest Story

In the spring my boys and I tilled a quarter of the back yard, erected a small greenhouse and planted our largest  organic heirloom vegetable garden ever. 

I had several objectives in committing myself to this project, first a character in my book is a seed saver and grows rare heirloom vegetables and I wanted first hand experience. Second, as I researched seed saving I supported what these individuals were trying to accomplish…the preservation of diversity among species. Heirloom seeds evolve and reproduce at the end of their growing season whereas patented hybrid seeds do not.  Finally, I believe in living close to earth. What I mean by that is the least amount of processing…as nature provides. No hormones in milk, antibiotic free meats and cage free eggs.

This began with my youngest child who had allergic reactions to additives and preservatives, it also related to lobby work I did and coming to understand the FDA approval process. I appreciate ethics in food production because I value all life, on the flip side…cage free eggs have been shown to contain less cholesterol. As the concentration of agriculture changed the landscape of the traditional American farm from grazing cattle and roaming chickens, the vocabulary of Americans grew to increase the use of words like cholesterol, heart disease, antibiotic resistance, e-coli and salmonella,  byproducts of industrial scale farming.

At an Agricultural Round-Table meeting hosted several years ago by the University of Minnesota the presenting professor noted that at least one-fourth of all cancers come from the foods we eat. While many experts consider this estimate to be low that shred of information struck a cord with me. Uncle Roger died of cancer, Uncle Pinky died of cancer, Auntie Dee died of cancer, Uncle Denny died of cancer…as the list of cancer deaths grew I had to ask myself; if we changed our habits and became more sophisticated consumers who might still be here?

While our maiden voyage as gardeners produced varied results I appreciated my family members understanding first hand the labor involved in growing and harvesting food.

Last week I prepared some of our organic German Butterball potatoes with a roast. To my surprise my daughter winced and said, “oh, gross!”

“What?” I asked.

“Well, they came out of the dirt,” she replied.

“All potatoes come from dirt,” I said.

“I KNOW THAT… but these came from our of OUR dirt!”

Perhaps she thinks a farmers dirt is more sanitary than our dirt…

This year, in the absence of a heated greenhouse, I will begin seedlings earlier under florescent lights indoors to facilitate a longer growing season. I’ll use taller poles for the pole beans and I won’t plant them near the sunflowers, lest they improvise and once again climb the flower stalks. I’ve composted oak leaves which at some point will prevent me from having to haul in soil.  I won’t plant corn, I will plant Amish Snap Peas, organic potatoes, a variety of onions, and more salad greens. This year I will plant Nasturtiums for their edible flowers and I’ll go back to making salad dressings because the freshness is incomparable. Herbs I planted in pots so I could use them year around except I’ll add a broader variety of Basil’s to the mix this year and yes… we will once again grow food in our dirt:)

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I Forgot that Sunflower’s Die

The sunflowers were in bloom today, the ones my daughter and I planted as a memorial to her dad. One flower bloomed weeks before the others, then it slumped over and hung its head. My heart hurt. As I walked to the house I wondered how I would face the remaining 50. I wondered if my garden would look like the people who stood in rows at his funeral. I forgot that sunflowers hang their heads when their season has ended. I forgot that sunflowers die.

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