Two Sundays ago I was staring down snow coating our back yard yet again. It was apparently Spring, but Mother Nature moves to her own schedule, especially around these parts. But instead of complaining (okay, there were complaints, but not nearly as loud or fierce as usual), I did what I had been fantasizing doing for months: I started seeds. Two weeks later, we have egg cartons and toilet paper rolls proudly sprouting marigold and tomato seedlings.
Last summer was the first year our family had lived in a house, and the first time for me as an individual in over a decade. The prospect of having a garden was what excited me most about living in a house with a back yard. I longed to get my fingers dirty, to grow real tasting tomatoes, but more importantly, to give as a gift to my children.
The garden of my childhood features prominently in my memories. My mother was a quiet, prolific gardener. I grew up in a small town with quarter acre back yard with a good portion of it devoted to garden space. She grew tomatoes, beans, peas, broccoli, kohlrabi, zucchini, chard, and strawberries. We had bushes of raspberries, currants (three kinds), rhubarb, and fruit trees (two apple, one cherry, one yellow plum). There were flowers and I'm sure there were other vegetables, too. Despite how much time she must have spent gardening, she seemed to have done it under the radar.
I have no memories of her starting seeds inside or obsessing about varieties or provenance (unlike nerdy me). But I do remember seed catalogues arriving in the mail, her bent over in the garden as my sister and I played in the yard. She never forced us to weed or water, but would hand us freshly plucked peas or other goodness as we ran by. Late August was canning season and we did help then, cutting beans or peeling apples, but what we were asked to do was just a fraction of what my mother did.
Last summer, we had a very modest garden. I was afraid to commit to too much with a toddler and a newborn demanding most of my attention and energy. I wasn't sure how aware my older son, who had turned two in the Spring, would be of the garden. But once he tasted his first shelled pea, he was hooked, often helping himself when my back was turned.
It felt idyllic. Our afternoons were spent outside, a blanket in the shade of our mountain ash, books and blocks strewn about, frequent trips just steps away to the garden to pull some peas or pop cherry tomatoes. Months later in the depths of a brutal winter, he would ask, 'help in the garden, mommy?' and how I wished he could.
He helped me sow the seeds now sprouting in our makeshift grow-op and checks on the fragile tendrils almost as often as I do. We gave him a gardening bag with a rake, spade, and shovel for his birthday. I'm sensitive about not wanting to push this on him, but I see how excited he is when we're digging outside or talking about the garden and I, in turn, get excited. Even his younger brother, at thirteen months, shows interest.
Any gardening knowledge I acquired growing up was through osmosis and this activity still feels very new to me. I hope this new
obsession hobby is something we can discover together, develop as our family grows. I know the boys' interest will wax and wane just as mine probably will at times, but I'd like it to become part of our burgeoning family culture.
Do you have any family hobbies or interests that began when you had children? Or did they spill over from your pre-child life? Was it conscious or organic?