October 4, 2013 by jeliwobble
While I was growing up, my grandparents both had a garden that they tended almost every day. They grew absolutely everything in it, from potatoes to pears, cauliflower to courgettes, loganberries to lettuces, greengages to gooseberries, asparagus, cabbages, carrots and cherries. My grandparents had lived through times when scarcity was commonplace, when foodstuffs were rationed and shops had waiting lists for flour, butter and sugar. If you didn’t grow your own, you often didn’t have anything. Even when they worked, they would get home of an evening, eat a meal then go out and weed and water their gardens. Autumn evenings were spent picking and cleaning and autumn weekends were filled with the smell of vinegar and hot sugar and the sounds of clinking jars. I remember my grandad’s box room being a treasure trove of demi-johns filled with interesting coloured liquids, bottles of brown onions, purple beets and jewelled jam jars.
When we moved into our first house, we had 100ft of garden behind it and a greenhouse at the end, some of it laid to lawn, some to vegetable patch. It was a natural progression to start growing our own food; both sets of our grandparents had done so, our parents did in a fairly haphazard way, so we joined them. It was fun! We never did it in such a way that we were ‘self sufficient’ and could avoid going to the supermarket for things. Sometimes, because of the way we gardened, we would lose crops (the year the cabbage whites decimated our purple sprouting broccoli for example), but we picked and processed and froze and bottled and we did have a pretty good thing going. That said, my nana always managed to make green gooseberry jam and mine was always pink…never worked out why!
Then we moved to the States. Our first rented house had a big garden but nowhere really to plant food. When we moved into our own house, I had big plans for growing fruit canes and trees, and cutting a plot into the ground where we could grow vegetables. The first year, though, because I had a baby and not much time, I bought pots and put beans, courgettes and tomatoes in them to grow on the deck.
The raccoons and deer enjoyed my endeavours, but not before the ridiculous growing conditions had turned my beans into inedible sticks and my nicely turned out courgettes into marrows overnight.
Since then, I haven’t really bothered. Much of the issue is that the growing season is such that the food plants need the most tending in the six weeks during which we often go back to the UK. We joined a local Community Sponsored Agriculture collective for a while but it became ridiculously expensive for food stuffs I wasn’t particularly interested in cooking or bottling.
I do miss it though. I have been reading my good friend Nikki’s foraging and canning exploits and her rosehip syrup and elderflower cordial both look yummy. I remember fondly my scarlet redcurrant and rosehip wine…and the year my rhubarb wine had a second fermentation in the bottle and you couldn’t stand upright after one glass!
It has made me more determined to garden for food again! I *will* fight the critters! I will make the man do some graft when we’re not here!
I do have a nice-ish plot in the back which I could possibly fence off for potatoes, corn and carrots and I would love to put a few fruit trees in the front garden for spring blossoms and autumn fruits.
This is not so much ‘austerity’ as a feeling that I should be feeding my own family from our own land. There’s so much we should be able to grow ourselves, so much land we could be using to feed ourselves. I don’t really know why I have been so reticent to do so.
Maybe if we all put food in our gardens we could all feed ourselves better…as well as getting much needed exercise!