We Are All Pieces of an Intricate and Beautiful Puzzle

9/3/2013 10:11:00 AM

Tags: Urban Farming, 1/8 Acre Urban Farming, Melissa V. Willis

Melissa V. WillisI have vivid memories of playing in nature as a little girl. I still hold visions of my three-year-old self watering my mom’s plants on the front porch of our tiny little adobe house on Polaco Street … the warm sun on my little body … my long hair pulled back in a ponytail … the buzzing of the honey bees around my ears … the crisp blue sky high above my head … the sweet texture of the soil in-between my toes … the smile on my mom’s face.

I remember running through the fields of wildflowers by my grandmother’s house in Truchas, collecting peacock feathers from the property next door and climbing every tree I could get a foot hold on. I investigated arroyos, teased the horny toads and actually took time to stop and smell the flowers that, along with countless cacti, sprinkled the expansive land around our temporary home in Lamy. I was hopelessly in love with the quiet nature I found all around me.

Chamomile flower
Growing chamomile to make our own teas in the winter has been such a wonderful experience! There really is nothing like homegrown tea!

As I got older and we changed homes a couple more times, I found myself spending every waking moment I could outside. It didn’t matter if I was simply playing in the rocky dirt or lying on a soft patch of grass, I simply longed for the expansiveness of the world outside the four walls we called home. I enjoyed watching my mom plant cosmos and tomatoes, carrots and sunflowers, but rarely helped out. Despite my early love of nature and all the beauty I could access around me, I didn’t find my passion for cultivating any small patch of earth until I was in my early thirties.

Garlic powder
Trying our hands at DIYing everything we can has been quite the adventure! Grinding our own garlic powder has been one of my favorite experiences over the past couple of years! 

My mom had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen, and while I wish I had had the foresight to glean some of her gardening wisdom from her before she passed, I simply wasn’t interested until a few years ago. It seems, though, that once my interest was sparked, it took off like a wildfire. One tomato plant became six, which quickly became 16. This year, our garden includes several different varieties; canning, cutting and (of course) cherry tomatoes are among our most favorite. In addition to the tomatoes, we are also growing a multitude of other vegetables, herbs and seeds, including, but not limited to, spinach and kale, cucumbers and butternut squash, bush beans and potatoes, basil and mint, broccoli and cayenne peppers, sunflowers and zucchini. Our garden has become a continued effort to grow as much of our own food on the 1/8 acre we purchased in 2007  as is possible. Our garden also works in a beautiful collaboration with our flock of laying hens. Everything is connected, and through that connection, we are learning how to grow, harvest and preserve as much as we possibly can despite the limited time and space we have. 

Now, if I could just figure out my mom’s famous tomato sauce, I’d be set. 

Putting up
We were not taught to put up food growing up, so we are doing our best to learn now. It's never too late, right?

Though I couldn’t tell you what exactly sparked this newfound passion, it could be a variety of reasons … The continued uncertainty of the economy and rising food prices balanced by the certainty of what we can grow on our own little plot. The cost to the environment of our food production methods and perceived necessity for planetary food imports and exports, and the excessive use of fossil fuels used to feed our wants and needs balanced by what I can find locally and sustainably. The pervasive use of genetically modified organisms in everything from corn to wheat to tomatoes and beyond balanced by my newfound love of the gorgeous heirloom varieties that so desperately need to be protected. There is much uncertainty on our planet right now, and cultivating a garden not only feeds my family, it also brings me a bit of comfort.

Peeking chickens
We absolutely love our laying hens, not only for their production of amazing eggs, but also for their silly antics!

So, while I don’t remember a particular “a-ha” moment, I do believe that my passion may be rooted in my life-long fascination with seeds. Those tiny pieces of organic matter that, when cared for, contain endless possibilities. One seed, when placed in a warm, sustaining environment, taken care of and fed, given love and attention, will grow into a plant that produces beautiful foliage as well as vegetables or fruits. This inviting environment becomes a haven for the organisms around it (be they microorganisms, bugs, bees, birds, or any number of animals and amphibians, depending on your individual ecosystem) which can be both harmful and helpful to the plant. If the plant can survive the heat, downpours, munching of bugs and a variety of other challenges, it can grow to produce delicious sustenance for humans and animals alike. It is all quite fascinating and reminds me of our own human existence on this planet.

peas
Fresh peas from the garden ... what more could you ask for?

What we have before us is a collective dream to produce more and consume less, to experience this world at its richest and leave it in better shape for our kiddos than it was made for us. Our collective goal is (most generally speaking, of course) to grow more, drive less, compost scraps, raise a few chickens (eat some good eggs), help the bees, know where our food is coming from and relish in the knowing that we are not alone. We do all this on our own itty bitty growing spaces in the middle of towns and cities and thousand acre parcels. We are all pieces of an intricate and beautiful puzzle, all working through the mud and the muck and sharing a common vision.

xoxo,
M



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NebraskaDave
9/3/2013 4:33:44 PM
Melissa, welcome to the Capper's Farmer blogging community. I too have some wonderful memories of Mom in the garden and little did I know that not only seeds were being planted in the garden but also in me. It only took 40 years before those garden desires began to surface and cause me to go back to the roots of my farm heritage. Now I have one urban garden and one inner city garden. I hope to read much more about your journey into the homesteading life. Have a great day in the garden.



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