I got started gardening in high school, at my parents newly bought home in a hamlet in Central New York State, a 100+ year old Greek Revival frame house with four columns and its own barn and very sturdy “out house”. The lot was actually near the middle of the side-hill settlement, a 40 MPH zone on State Route 26. It was a long triangle shape between two roads, dominated at the narrow end of the lot by a pair of Norway Spruce trees that towered a hundred feet in the air. The shade beneath was to dense for grass-or anything else much-to grow. Hence, gardening was confined to borders around the house and a small berry patch and vegetable garden at the wide end of the triangle. Restoring the Ostrich Ferns that ornamented the front of the columns and old fashioned Bleeding Heart to the west side porch was all it took to draw me into the antique plant fold and seed the idea of ‘the old ways’. I listened too long to the old men and ladies, most of them farmers children. I drank deeply from their cisterns of self-sufficient farms, kitchen gardens and heirloom vegetables, of fresh-gathered eggs and of milk-still-warm-from-the-cow. I needed a farm, a small, self-sufficient farm!
That dream-need survived through six years in the Navy and many more years of marriage to a Long Island Secretary (it was OK to call them that then: we were married on one of the first celebrations of National Secretary Day.) We had something growing all those years, beginning with a live Christmas tree our first Christmas ( paired with my first potted palm, later gifted to a sister in Sacramento.) One time it was tomato plants under the stairs to the apartment above ours (too shady to set fruit, but hey the marigolds did OK.) Another time it was a papaya ‘tree’ in Honolulu that got 25 feet high with swiss chard that would not die growing under it. There was a time the growing was confined to “Secretary plant” (pothos vines) that started in a pot in the middle of the china hutch (lit by a shop light turned on its back, to shine up like indirect sunlight). The stems rambled across the top and poured down both sides of the hutch, almost to the floor. Wherever we lived, we grew… something.
Today, we own our own home in Dallas, TX. On our quarter acre, we still have a small garden in back that has evolved from tomatoes only to include black berries, peaches, herbs and earthworms. (The open mulch pile had to go due to rats, but I am not defeated on that yet!) Landscaping in the front of our very normal looking ‘cracker box house’ includes herbs, a fish pond and another peach tree. And loads of blossoms for bees and hummingbirds. They made me cut the long grass in the alley which housed lightening bugs the first couple of years here. The cats continue to hunt much smaller ‘mice’ and occasional grasshoppers.
And Tomorrow? We are thinking of fixing up the house and selling it in favor of a smaller, cheaper condominium. With room to plant. And still, in the back of my mind… a self-sufficient farm. Maybe on a smaller scale than originally envisioned.