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Tending the garden

(post, Marjorie Taylor)

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There is something very therapeutic to me about digging in the dirt.  I have always enjoyed gardening and have big aspirations to create a large traditional potager or French kitchen garden as soon as the stars line up and I'm settled in my little stone cottage.  Until then, I am digging away, more like a rogue gardener, in tiny plots of dirt or vintage containers just outside my door so I can gather the ingredients for my dinner in the months ahead.

When I visit my local market in Beaune, I pick up a few starter plants from my favorite biologique, or organic, market vendor.  Right next to the colorful assortment of spring vegetables and fruit, is a lovely display of heirloom starter plants and herbs to add to your home garden.  Even though the space that I have for planting is fairly small, I have plenty of room for tomatoes, tender lettuces, a variety of herbs and peppers.  With names like Joie de la Table, Giant Belgium, and Poivron des Landes, I am often tempted to fill up my market basket with many more than I have room to plant.

There is so much to think about when one is trying to live a sustainable life.  It requires you to really think about the choices that you make everyday, to ensure that you are following the best practices for a healthy planet.  For example, when planting a garden, it's important to garden organically.  Take it a step further and you quickly realize that it is also important to choose seeds or plants that are not genetically modified and to also be aware of what those starter plants are packaged in.  At my market in Beaune, many of the starter plants are from heirloom varieties and are sold in recycled newspaper pots, which are better for the environment than the plastic variety.

Given our current economic situation, there seems to be a lot of talk about how you can eat cheaply and, unfortunately, many of the suggestions send you right back to the industrialized food system that many of us are trying to avoid.  Instead of buying into that philosophy, wouldn't it be great if more people, even if in just a small way, use this opportunity to return to the simple pleasure of a kitchen garden.  America, it is time for us to rethink our priorities.  I've been a long-time supporter of my local organic farmers, eating locally and living a sustainable life. Some people feel that eating sustainably is an elitist idea.  It's not;  it's just the responsible thing to do.

We all need to watch our budgets, but to me eating well is connected to the quality of life and not an area I am willing to compromise on.  When things are tight, I never skimp on the quality of food, I simply choose to eat less meat and enjoy more things from the garden.  I believe that life truly is in the details and for me, gardening keeps me connected to the larger picture.  Today, many of us have lost the basic ability to feed ourselves.  We depend on large industrial companies to raise our food.  Having your own garden means your food travels just footsteps to your table, rather than the average 1,500 miles most food travels to your local grocery store.

We are getting very strong reminders every day of the importance to change the current way that we think about food in our country.  Having a kitchen garden and making the effort to grow at least some of your food is much more than a political statement.  Try to find a little spot of dirt, even if just one pot, and go ahead and get your hands dirty.  You'll quickly realize that not only is it good for the earth, it will also be good for your soul.