Gardening for Life: Growing your own food brings sense of satisfaction, excitement

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By: Jim Carpenter

Jennifer Shephard/The Elkhart Truth

Just these past few days, I have started to feel something a little different when I am out in my garden. Finally, just now, I realized what it is. I am starting to feel the certain type of joy you get when you first start to harvest multiple types of vegetables from your garden — when you get past those first few early vegetables and start being able to harvest more variety for your table. I think this type of joy in gardening is special because it ties in with the whole idea of growing your own food, providing for yourself, being self-sufficient. In our society today it is very difficult to become self-sustainable to a very large degree, but bringing some of your daily nourishment in from the backyard just really ranks up there for me as a pretty special feeling.

OK, so I guess I can get a little carried away by my passion for gardening, but truly I feel it does connect you with something much larger than yourself, and that is generally a good thing. The main reason for my recent “giddiness” starts with the fact that I needed to thin my carrots again, as they were still growing too close together to promote optimum size. The neat thing was that most of the carrots I pulled out were of keeper size and were enough for a good helping for my wife and myself. I suspect those baby carrots would have fetched a good price at the market!

So now I get it into my head to maybe dig under a potato plant or two and see what I might find. The Yukon Gold plant I dug up just had about a half-dozen nickel-sized potatoes, but I did keep them. Then I went to my Norfolk Red potato row and dug up a few plants from there. I knew the red was a shorter season variety and hopefully might provide bigger potatoes. Sure enough, the red potatoes I dug up were about quarter size. Not to leave out the third potato variety I planted, I pulled a Kennebec potato plant up and finished my spud harvest with some more small ones. Enough for us to have a good taste of very fresh, very young potatoes. I should mention that I plant quite a few potatoes each year, and that allows me the luxury of harvesting a few of them before they reach full size.

Even though I have not harvested any of my cucumbers yet, I can see the little bitties on the vine, and that gives me a thrill. (OK, I admit, I do lead a pretty quiet life!) My zucchini plants have also started doing their thing. It’s hard to believe how excited I can get about my first few zucchini, but as the season progresses, my taste for them seems to lesson. My onions have also started making bulbs, and we have just started enjoying a few of those.

Along with the last of the asparagus and with the broccoli we have been enjoying, I can harvest a little something every day. Now the strawberries are getting picked every other day, so that provides a variety of dessert-type additions to our menu. The rhubarb is finishing up, but the raspberries are starting to fill out and will provide for us once the strawberries are done. I should mention that the cabbages are starting to form, and it won’t be long before they can make an appearance on the table.

The work is not over yet, but truly this is my time of year when it comes to enjoying the garden. As a retired person with a passion for gardening, I can only speak for myself when it comes to the enjoyment I get in producing some of my own food. However, with the the price of fresh produce in the store and the question of how and where that produce was raised, I find even more satisfaction in raising backyard vegetables. Whether people garden a little or a lot, no matter what they might grow, raising some of your own food supply provides a bounty for you that goes beyond the actual nourishment you get from it. I have found not only a physical benefit from gardening, but a spiritual benefit as well. Working with the soil and coping with elements of the weather to bring something to the table gives a source of satisfaction that truly might add to a healthy life in more ways than one.

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