My best friend has called me a Renaissance Woman for years now. She calls me that because I have many varied interests. I am a writer, community action worker, gardener, salsa maker, forager, jam maker, candy maker, fish catcher, deer processor, and country cook who follows my heart whenever possible. I have never considered the things that I do to be that special. I am simply staying true to my raising. I grew up in a family that did everything from growing our own food and foraging to bee keeping. We have always made our own jam, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, and processed meat.
When I was a kid, we grew a huge garden every year. We grew green beans, corn, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, zucchinis, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, green peppers, peas, potatoes, and onions. It was my responsibility to weed the huge plot and harvest the bounty. I often resented this task because it’s hot during the summer in Missouri, and I didn’t really understand why we had to grow all of this stuff ourselves, anyway. After all, those things were available at our local grocery store.
As I grew older, I came to realize that our family garden was so big because we needed to be able to preserve our vegetables for winter. My family was a working class family, and we didn’t have much money to spend at the grocery store. Our garden was as much about survival as it was about quality food. My parents instilled the philosophy in me that if I can grow it myself then I should.
My dad hunted for our meat, and my mom planted our vegetables. We picked wild asparagus, blackberries, cherries, elderberries, and persimmons. We had an apple tree and a pear tree, both of which provided fruit every year. In fact, the pear tree is over 30 years old and still going strong. Mom always loved foraging for wild food so we could “eat like our ancestors ate.” That left us only needing to purchase things like bread, milk, eggs, and cleaning products.
As an adult, I have a small garden in my back yard. I grow tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, jalapeños, zucchinis, cucumbers, peppermint, stevia, asparagus, and basil. I also have two cherry trees and a blackberry bush. My husband and I can afford to buy all of our food from a store, but I just don’t feel right about it. I can grow better food in my own back yard. I control what chemicals are used in the growing of my food, and I get the satisfaction of watching something start as a seed and end up as a huge beautiful plant that nourishes my family.
I have a deep sense of satisfaction when I grow something, harvest it, and then preserve it. There is nothing as sweet as eating something I lovingly plucked from a plant that I grew in my own back yard.
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