My mom maintained two massive gardens for most of my life. Fertilized with pig manure, the sandy loam bed was magic. Everything grew and grew well. We kids logged one hour of weeding each day during the summer. Our childhood friends pitched in, too, if that meant we could get to the swimming pool quicker.
I may not have appreciated dirt under my fingernails then, but gardening has become my therapy. I begged My Farmer to till a small bed the first spring after we married. He grumbled, "I worked so hard to get this yard looking nice."
Now, I have a vegetable garden, numerous flower beds and am granted a good section of the adjacent field to plant pumpkins, gourds, melons and other viny plants.
I gather seed catalogs like some collect sire catalogs. I study the stats, take notes and create a wish list. The process of planning for the spring brightens the short, dark winter days. Although I have my favorite varieties, I always try something new. This past year, it was luffa.
Planting a seed, spying that first sprout and reaping a delicious meal from it is still miraculous to me. Regardless of my efforts to circumnavigate Mother Nature, she always has the last word. Our gardens served as the forerunner to the kids' venture into farming, and they learned responsibility and accountability to something other than themselves. There is real value in literally growing the food that feeds one's family.
The pandemic fallout gifted me an extraordinary amount of time to devote to gardening. Last year, I harvested a ridiculous amount of vegetables to share with family, friends and food pantries, and put up more sauces, salsa and beans than ever before.
If there's anything more satisfying than growing your own food, it is sharing the bounty. Bring on spring, and let the dirt therapy begin!
> Katie Pratt writes, tweets, farms and gardens from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter @KatiePratt4.
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