Now that she's going off to Haiti, I'll finally get around to Julie's question about why I bother gardening. Sorry, Julie!
Now this list, is of course, highly idiosyncratic. The reasons why I enjoy gardening are not the reasons that other people may enjoy it, or do it whether they enjoy it or not. And I'm a bit whacked as well, so let that be your warning.
1. It gives me a major charge to see things pop out of the ground. This is where that whacked thing comes into play, I guess. I have been known to cry at the sight of the first crocus of spring (of course, that was after a particularly bleak winter, but still). It does make me laugh to see the garlic popping its vibrant green stems out of the ground through the snow. Maybe it's the regeneration thing. It makes me happy to see the cycle continue.
2. I really really like homegrown produce. There's nothing like fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. I'm not one of those gardeners who picks tomatoes when they're only a little red and lets them "ripen" in the window. I let those babies suck juice out of their vines until they're a picture of redness and then I take them off. If I wanted to "ripen" tomatoes in the window, I could buy them at the grocery store.
3. I like the connectedness with the seasons that gardening gives me. It grounds me. Even if we school year-round (which we do), I know that we need to get out and plant the peas in March, the tomatoes in May, and the bulbs in the fall. It reconnects me to reality, which is sometimes sorely needed, as I live so much in my own sordid brain.
4. I like the budget aspect of growing your own produce. There are, of course, more expensive ways to garden but I do try to get by as cheaply as possible so that my luscious tomatoes taste that much better.
5. The convenience of growing my own produce appeals to me. In the summer, I've got my food right outside, ready for the picking. I don't have to drive the 10 minutes to Meijer, select it, then stand in line to pay for it. I can zip outside (or better yet, send a daughter outside) to pick some ripe tomatoes (and believe me, my girls know what's ripe and what's not, early on), some basil, and some oregano, and live it up.
6. Some part of me feels connected to my forebears through gardening. While they were larger-scale farmers, my mother's people did spend a fair bit of time mucking around in the dirt during the year. I often muse about how my great-grandmothers coped with their children, their housework, and being part of the family farm (and they had more than double the number of children that I have).
7. You never know what might happen in the world or in your own little corner of it. I like to think that I'm a little more prepared actually having grown things in the dirt, in the event that I actually have to do it to feed myself and my family in the future.
8. It is a pleasant form of exercise. I hate hate hate to exercise. I will try to find any excuse not to exercise. But I don't mind piddling around in the garden all day, hauling dirt, pulling weeds, harvesting various things, setting up more fencing, or digging. It's all good fun and sneaks in a fair amount of healthy exercise as well.
9. Gardening is one way that I can give to other people. I typically grow enough tomatoes to share with two elderly couples at church and my neighbor to the south. I grow enough lemon balm and catnip for almost anyone to share (want some catnip, anyone? It's on the drying rack right now.) I like being able to give the simple gift of a lovely, tasty ripe tomato.
10. Who doesn't love flowers? I do grow a fair number of flowers and I love to see them blossoming. Yesterday, the lilies in my Memorial Garden were quite a site. The lemony-colored ones and the darker yellow ones were all nodding away and it just made me smile to see them. It also makes my somewhat child-filled yard look a little better.
11. For some reason, gardening has always been a very soothing activity for me. It must be some interaction between the exercise, the fresh air, and the repetitive nature of the activity but I can really chill out in my garden.
12. As I've said recently, at least one of my gardens is planted in honor of our mothers and grandmothers who've passed on. I'd much rather have flowers growing in my garden to remind me of the happy things in our relationships than flowers at a funeral that die soon thereafter. A perennial is a gift that keeps on giving. But there are also parts of my other gardens that are memorials. The buttercup-looking flowers, columbine, and some other flowers whose names I've forgotten were given to me by my Friend Pat before she left town. I always think of her with gratitude when I see them bloom. My mom used to give me money for my birthday every year and often I'd go buy perennials to plant in my garden. When the coreopsis and glads bloom, I thank her again for that gift. There is a yellow-flowered bush in my garden that came from the garden of my neighbor, who died a few years back. He and I loved to compare gardening notes and he loved the little girls (and they loved him). After his house sold and I became friendly with the new owners, they let me know that they were getting rid of that bush and asked if I wanted it. It's huge now and I always think of Curmudgeon Bud when I see it.
13. What else can I say? I guess I like being someone who can grow a few things outside. I like working outside with my girls and seeing their delight when their gardens come into bloom or into fruit. I enjoy what I learn in the garden. It does, in a sense, bring me closer to God. There are many things about gardening that help me to personally thrive. I think they will vary from person to person, but you'll never know until you take the plunge.
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