Get Down and Get Dirty

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Visiting Aracari
Visiting Aracari

I can tell you that Mate and I are SO READY to get back to our gardening passion, get back to work and get some food going on in a big way. This piddling around with a little bit of this and that is just not happening, we need to get our legs and butts in gear and sharpen up those shovels and machetes! I must say that one of the phrases that has been lobbed our way a few times over the years, not for a long time yet oddly it has come by us again recently (in our search for the new casa), is this:  ‘Hey, when are you gonna realize that we are getting old?  Why do you want to keep working like that when you can go down the road and buy your vegies?  Come on, let’s go play.’  Old?  What’s this ‘we’ stuff?  Alright, we agree that we have been workaholics for the better part of our years, but we were like building our dream and digging in while we were still young, busy bees making the honey and we still got play time in, but we also enjoyed what we were doing.  We had no thoughts about getting old or stopping, not for a long time yet at best.  Even now that we are ‘retired’, getting old is not even part of our equation, and I believe that we owe our attitude to the fact that gardening is one of those ‘work’ scenarios that will give you longevity on many levels, and gardening has been a predominant percentage of our life. When you stop doing and dreaming chances are that you might stop living soon, as well.  Gardening is a topic that  I have not had much to speak about recently as our ‘garden’ has been reduced to several grow bags with plants that will be going with us, primarily seeds and cuttings planted for trees, flowers or herbs, and a few portable tubs that we are growing some fresh greens in.  It has been a tough call for us here lately to either jump in and do it here (uh, nope – canna do it), do it a little bit (yesss…) or don’t do it at all considering how many times we have been packing the truck and ready to move, only to unpack it again to stay.

Therefore we have not done much with vegie seed planting, but when we get to the farmer’s market there is a great source of seedlings there to choose from and so we have been doing that, getting some of this and some of that and pretty much eating fresh lettuce and greens growing under the house.  We also have some green beans that are now climbing on the upper deck railing – from below – and they are offering us an occasional infusion of green beans in our meals.

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But what I wanted to talk about is the great joys and rewards of growing your own food, we are  adamantly encouraging anyone and everyone to grow whatever they can however it is possible, wherever you might be living.  Here we have the advantage of good weather year around for growing, and yes, some elevations are more suitable to growing many more types of vegies than others, some may be limited to what they will allow to grow – i.e. coastal areas.  As we get higher in elevation, and thus cooler, it seems that you can grow just about everything in the vegie realm pretty well.  Growing organically with methods of permaculture and food forests and raised beds and/or container gardening is ‘the way’ to go, but always there is a challenge with the wonderful variety of bugs that we have here that love to feast on those organic vegies, but we are learning.  Insects are what you deal with when gardening organically no matter where you live.  At present we are looking into neem oil for use in the garden, it is beneficial in virtually every imaginable way – insecticidal, fungicidal and plant well-being enforcer (immune builder) extraordinaire.  To successfully grow organically you need as much help as you can get and this is the wonderful community aspect of gardening, sharing your ideas, tricks and solutions to help balance the garden when dealing with what comes naturally (weather and bugs).

As we have been traveling around and looking at different gardening potentials and projects we have seen so many abandoned efforts, begging to be rekindled back to life.  Let it go for a few weeks and you might not ever see it again here, as the jungle will take over again in a heartbeat.  We will be traveling again soon to visit yet again another once thriving and now very much in need of TLC garden, which we are really praying will allow us the opportunity to come and be a part of the rekindling of its life force, as this is where our hearts are.  How we are looking so forward to getting our fingers back into the earth again and creating safe havens for little seedlings and aspiring tomato plants, cucumbers and the rest of the family.  It will truly be wonderful to have the opportunity to bring back to life an area that is so willing to provide an abundance of food and herbs! And even better, it is on flat ground!  We are so done with trying to garden on steep rugged slippery slopes.

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Yesterday as I was browsing the local farmer’s market I stopped at a table that was loaded with seeds, seeds for sprouting, seeds for eating, seeds for planting.  Wow, I was drooling, so I stopped and talked to the young man and we shared some stories about gardening and raising a family, he is married with a couple of young children and attempting to juggle growing a garden with animal husbandry and trying to make a living, not to mention raising a family – he also had some beautiful bread that he bakes to sell – I was taking a trip to the past and visualizing those days again that we share in common.  The conversation reminded me of all of the years when we were raising our children in the remote mountains in the states and we had an enormous organic garden, which the children were a large part of.  Of course when the little ones were disappeared you could pretty well bet, depending on the season of course, that they might be sitting in the strawberry patch or the cherry tomatoes, with a beet red face all broke out in a rash, as well as covered with juice.  Of course they were as happy as a pig in a poke, but these are some of the rewards of raising children in a garden.  Some years as they got older we would give them their own sections to plant as they like, water and nurture and harvest.  Many times they tired of their space, but these young babes are all grown up now and growing their own home gardens and they know how to do it quite well!  They now are teaching their own children how to grow their own garden and reap the rewards.  Does it get better than this?

There are so many blessings of raising a family in an organic garden that continue to reward for generations, and I am so happy to have been able to share that life with my family so that they could carry it forward with them.  Raising your own food, from shoveling the poop from the chicken coops (this was the least favorite chore, for sure) and the horse corrals to mixing the compost, working the dirt, planting the seeds, nurturing the plants – including those times of picking the Japanese beetles off the cukes and squashes, and looking for the horn worms (yuck) in the tomatoes – and then eventually slicing that big ripe tomato for a sandwich, or eating the gorgeous multi-greens salad, or fresh baked winter squash, fresh apple pie…I could go on, but my mouth is now watering so I had better stop.  The point is that the rewards are endless, and the therapy is beyond what you could get when you pay to sit on someone’s couch so they will listen to you – plants and the earth listen just as well, and you can talk all you want to your garden, the plants (of course the elementals – fairy folk – are there listening as well) and it doesn’t matter if anyone thinks you are crazy!  Give them a few tomatoes or a bag of fresh green beans and they will probably forget about it, or maybe – just maybe they also will start talking to their own plants?  You never know, the therapy spreads like a thick fog, infusing all in the path.  (And if you listen, you will hear advice coming from that other world…)

Mate and I are chomping on the bit to get a place that we can return to our gardening practice, and with a blessing or two the situation will undoubtedly be a benefit for more than just us, we wish to help implement land preparation and self-sustenance as much as it is possible in a given situation, and see where things go from there.  The benefits of having all of our food fresh from the garden to eat, and to share – those are the sweetest parts of the deal, not to mention just sharing the tricks of the trade with those that would like to learn.  And we must include the role that having farm animals around plays, not only for poop in the compost but as the local buggers.  Not only do chickens and ducks help debug your garden, they are the best at breaking down the fresh compost while picking out the bugs and larvae from it!  It is a win-win situation with the birds doing the bugging, and the rewards of fresh eggs and meat to boot.  Yep, we are ready to get our shovels in the ground and set up a new greenhouse, too.

When you don’t have much of a space to grow in, maybe no dirt to dig, it is not difficult to plant a few things in containers, as we are now doing.  All it takes are some grow bags, planters of various kinds, some wooden or plastic flats work also, and some organic soil.  It is amazing how much food can be grown in a small space, with an amazing variety, too!  Fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and beans are easy.  Green onions and a few radishes fit in easily with the vegies, and companion planting a few flowers with the vegies too will enhance the vitality of the food by attracting the bugs, give some flower power all around and some flowers like marigolds assist with any nematodes problems you might encounter.  It is fun to experiment and to learn as you do.  As a ‘farmer’ there is always room for crop disasters, so do not lose heart in the project – I cannot begin to tell you how many huge young gardens we have had wiped out in a hail storm in a matter of moments, yet miraculously survive and come back to life (usually much more of it than it seemed possible, as we looked at the damage).  Growing your own food is an amazing learning adventure, a joy, physical and spiritual therapy for all involved and a wonderful way to raise the kids or the grandkids. If everyone raised at least some of their food, the world would be a much happier place.  If you check out via the internet some of the amazing permaculture gardens and food forests that are being created in the most unlikely places (city cement wastelands turned oasis), it will warm your heart to see people anywhere working together to make it work, with smiles on their faces along with the dirt.

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A little bit goes a long way, it doesn’t take much space or working too hard to grow some stuff and gift yourself the benefits, as well as enough to share.  It is a peaceful way to success, and a healthy one as well.  Step out of the mainstream ‘boxed poison called food’ delusion and take a step into the realm of the joys of gardening.  This kind of ‘work’ will not make you old, it will keep you young!

(And just for worthy mention, one of those folks that adamantly advised us to stop working so hard years ago, well he retired to retirement on the slow side and has had nothing but physical trauma ever since, and the hospital bills increased and well, he did indeed get old.)



Author: Elena in the Jungle

Living a very simple reclusive and self sustaining life way out in the jungle with my husband, growing as much food and medicinal plants as possible, I find my freedom and sanctuary in the amazing and spectacular array of life that surrounds me, gifts of Gaia, most especially while traveling around on my horse.

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