Community Food

New Home With Garden Plots

*A word of warning, this post about my new home and gardening, may wander a bit. I hope you will stay with me, and in the end find that it does indeed all connect together.

If you have stories about receiving or sharing a garden’s bounty please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

I moved at the beginning of the month. I had been in my previous apartment for almost 13 years. My landlord wanted to renovate, and so I started to look for a new home a few months ago. Eventually I rented a house from friends who have left the province.

apartment home
The old apartment building which I called home for almost a quarter of my life.
Gardening and allotment diary 2 Oct...
Gardening and allotment diary 2 October 2015

There’s a variety of things I’ve noticed. The first is that I’m sleeping better at night. The apartment I was in had an old, basically useless, air-conditioner, and windows that only opened north, so there was no airflow. Being on the third floor, the hot air would rise and for several weeks every year sleep would become very difficult.

The new house I’m in is a two-story, with lots of windows and plenty of airflow. There is air conditioning, but I haven’t needed it, as the furnace fan has done a good job of cooling down the house every night. Life is so much better with regular sleep.
Another thing I’m really happy about is that the house has a full sized oven. Living with an unreliable apartment sized oven, I’ve done much less cooking and baking over the last several years. I hope in the next few months to get back to doing more of that.
However, the thing that really got my attention and makes me happy is that the house comes with a garden. The owners planted their garden as they always have even though they knew they were going away. So, I and previous to my arrival, their neighbours, are able to enjoy the fruit of the work that others put into the garden.

Home tomato
The first tomato I picked off of the plants in the the backyard.

Of course, I think that’s a fundamental aspect of gardening. I’ve been reading a lot about gardening in the last little while, and it seems to me that gardening breeds sharing. I noticed this particularly in Patricia Klindienst’s book, The Earth Knows my Name, but I’ve also noticed it in books such as Fred Bahnson’s: Soil and Sacrament.
I’m also glad that the garden was started for me, because my first attempts at gardening weren’t very notable. When I was little, I was banned from gardening by my mom, because I was pulling up the plants when I should have been pulling up the weeds. This always pops up in my mind when the Lectionary records the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.
Gardens can also be a place where children can learn about business and being an entrepreneur. My only experience was this was when we lived in Chilliwack, B.C., and I as a tween or just turned teen(it was along time ago, so I’m a little hazy on the actual year), tried to sell our surplus zucchini on a little table out front of our house.
The zucchinis were huge, and only 50 cents each. The only problem was that pretty much everyone in the neighbourhood had far more zucchinis than they knew what to do with them. In the end the only zucchini I sold was to one extremely kind neighbour. So, my lesson on being an entrepreneur that day was: I’m not one, and that’s okay, because not everyone has to be etnrepreneurial.
Another topic I’ve been reading a lot about lately is famine. Particularly how most of the major famines of the last 175 years or so have largely been the result of human activities such as war, government oppression, racial hatred, etc.
That’s not to say that weather conditions didn’t play a major role, but it was more often than not that governments used famines as tools of repression that turned disaster on a local level to disaster on much wider level.
Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962, recounts this in harrowing and overwhelming detail. Chairman Mao’s mad dash to collectivization was a disaster for the Chinese people. Yang’s estimate is that 36 million people died in this famine.
For Mao, collectivization meant everything must belong to all, so family garden plots were taken away. Not surprisingly, this exacerbated the famine. If you read Yang’s book, and at 500 pages you just might want to simply skim the index and find the topic’s you’re looking for, you’ll discover that where and when this policy was either not followed, or even temporarily reversed, the starvation numbers declined significantly.
I’m going to be reflecting on famines this Sunday, when the lectionary Gospel reading is the Feeding of the Five Thousand, as found In Matthew’s Gospel. If all goes according to plan I’ll post my sermon here on the site, either Sunday, or Monday. If you’d like to check out some of the resources I’ve been using over the last little while you can find them under hunger or general in my Eucharistic Eating Bibliography.
So, there’s a practical side to gardens. They are a last defense against hunger and starvation. Even little amounts of fresh grown foods can make a huge difference in life and death, and in general health.

Kale home
A couple of healthy kale plants, along with a few beans in the corner. A little bit of fresh food goes a long way.

Gardening does more than that though. It teaches patients. It helps us to increase our sense of anticipation. Below there is a picture of a tomato plant from the garden at my new home. As you can see, most of the tomatoes are varied palette of yellow. In a few weeks those will change hue into a various shades of reds, with little bits of yellow here and there.

home ripe tomatoes
The tomatoes starting to come to ripeness at my home.

Until then, I won’t be able to eat more than one or two of them. Then, for a short period, I’ll have a surfeit. Then, shortly after that they will be gone. Gardening helps me live in the moment. For, although there will be tomatoes at the store, they won’t be the same. It’s not just the flavour either, it’s that extra little bit of resistance that the skin of the garden grown tomato gives when you bite into it.
Then there’s the whole effort that goes into collecting the tomatoes. That need to bend down and work your way around the vine to make sure that none remain hidden under leaves only to drop away and rot because you weren’t paying close enough attention .
Paying attention and taking care is another important lesson from the garden. In the front yard of my new home. there are a couple of small raspberry bushes, which yield small raspberries. The first time I tried to pick one or two, ended up with one of them being crushed and falling to the ground. I forgot how delicate raspberries can be especially when they are fully ripe.

A raspberry bush at my new home.
A bush with small, delicate raspberries.

The raspberry bush also helps me to remember the concept of enough. It’s easy to go to the store and buy a pint of raspberries. Having bought them it’s easy enough to eat the whole pint at once knowing that I can simply return to the store and get more any time I want. However, as you can see from the picture, the raspberries on the bush are rather few and far between. Once I empty the bush there will be no going back. So, although I had one little bowlful, I’ve been enjoying the raspberries one or two at a time as I enter or leave the house. Somehow that makes the whole experience just a little more enjoyable.

Bowl of raspberries at home.
My big bowlful of raspberries.

The house is more expensive than the apartment, so it may put a bit of a crimp into my reviewing days. I don’t intend to give that up, but it will require me to become more selective in my dining habits. That will require a little more organization on my part, and if you know me, you know that organization isn’t my strong suit. Just out of curiousity, do you think it might work if I started a GoFundMe page to support my reviewing habit(yes I know that makes me sound like a drug addict)?
With the new home and a garden and a full sized stove, I hope to be able to do a lot more cooking and baking over the next little while. This also means that I hope to have a lot more to share with people. Some of that may be sharing of recipes on this site, or with hosting gathering and dinners. Anyway, I hope you continue to come along with me on this food journey that I am on.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.