If there is one true thing I can count on, one thing that reconnects me with what is important and tells me, with certainty, that I am where I should be, it's gardening and pottering around outside. The sky was bright blue, the temperature was about 20C and with two jumpers on I walked outside on Saturday to follow the call: "I'm digging potatoes!". It gets to me every time; potato digging is always exciting. You never know what will be there; it could be rotting seed potatoes or half eaten spuds attacked by insects and rodents, so when I walk away with good potatoes, I'm happy. From one spot just two square metres, Hanno dug up a bucket full of spuds. Nice work! We'll leave the rest of the bed for another time.
There are quite a few vegetables that taste much better straight from the garden - potatoes are in that select group. Any trouble you might have growing and tending them for three months is forgotten when you bite into that first new season potato. They just need a little salt and pepper, a pat of butter and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley and you have a king's feast. If you've been thinking about growing a few spuds, but hesitating, dive into it. Your first good harvest will be your significant reward.
Just before I was called into the garden I was working in my sewing room, tearing my sister Tricia's old linen dress into tomato ties. I didn't know then that I would be using them within the hour but when I looked at the tomatoes, they had tangled themselves into a mess so I spent a few minutes untangling them and tying them to their stakes.
The tomatoes above are an unknown (to me) variety that grew out of the lawn just near our back verandah. They're a cherry-type tomatoes but larger than our the Tommy Toes we usually grow so I'm thinking they might be Gardener's Delight that I had some seeds of a while back. Whatever they are, the rogue seeds grew where it suited them and have grown into the healthiest tomatoes we've had in a long time. There are so many trusses like the one pictured above, we'll be drowning in tomatoes soon. We also have two large varieties growing in the garden and another batch I grew from seed planted yesterday. If they all deliver on their promise, we'll have an abundance of tomatoes in jars for later in the year. Bliss!
This dill plant is taller than I am!
When you think about it, apart from touching the skin and hair of our loved ones and the food we eat, there are few other natural things that pass over our fingers. Most of what we touch these days is man-made - furniture, cars, door handles, appliances, vacuum cleaners, irons, the kitchen sink and bench, shopping bags, and the rest of it. Reconnecting with the natural world brings me back to a more gentle and forgiving place where the soil feels right, the herbs smell divine and picking a snow pea and eating it straight from the bush assures me that even if I work inside amidst the artificial, the natural world waits patiently for me outside and always, always, welcomes me back again.
Eventually, when I came back inside, I had my little harvest basket full of produce. It was full of green tomatoes that will ripen on the bench, a couple of fat cucumbers and some green beans. A nice addition to our kitchen supplies.
Back yard food production not only gives you fresh, healthy, organic food, it also demonstrates the self confidence of knowing how to grow, of being a worthy custodian of the land you live upon and the wisdom of backing yourself by believing that a small seed, if tended and encouraged, will sustain you and your family. So many of our traditional skills have been lost to us, but food gardening is still here, available to all who wish to plan their garden and work to achieve that dream. If you're not gardening yet, I encourage you to start, even if it's in pots or containers. And if you're already out there with Hanno and I, breathing in the fresh air, getting your hands dirty and feeling good because of it, well you would know what I'm talking about. What's that saying about preaching to the choir?