Getting my hands dirty

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Last summer we transformed our front yard into a garden. We had tried our hands at gardening numerous times before but never had a garden space that included adequate room, sun, and good soil. In one location we had good soil and no sun, in another, hail took down our garden and then lawn took over….. so, inspired by our the folks in our potluck community, we broke ground, turning our ugly front lawn into 10 3×6 garden boxes. We brought in soil that was loose and lovely (as opposed to the gumbo of Regina’s natural earth). We built the beds ourselves, used a couple of shovels to dig up the highly compacted lawn (because it was so hard I thought no veggies would grow.) We borrowed a wheelbarrow and filled beds with earth, surrounding them with mulch from a tree company. I was sure we would be kicked out of the community the day five cubic yards of mulch was released on our driveway. We planted, and watered. We watched our garden, for the first time, flourish. We ate kale, carrots, snap peas, beets, onions, tomatoes, basil…..until we could eat no more and then we processed the rest for the long winter. (and oh, what a long winter it has been).

We made connections in our community because we were outside, in the front yard, playing in the dirt. We gave away piles of kale, and beet greens. I even stopped a guy riding by on his bike to offer him cucumbers. (he returned the next day to ask if he could still have them as his girlfriend was sad he had turned them down, but by then they were deep in dill brine, awaiting their rebirth as pickles). A fellow neighbourhood gardener brought us some egyptian walking onions to plant in our garden. People stopped along their walks to chat with us, and we learned their names. People stopped their vehicles to ask us how our tomatoes got so lovely, where we got our boxes. The kids made friends in the neighbourhood as other kids came to eat carrots and peas out of the gardens, to help plant and weed, to learn about first leaves and true leaves…. we dug in the dirt and a community of sorts was born. Each day, Peter walks by and we say hello. An older neighbour gave our girls doll strollers from when his girls were small.

And now, in the darkest, coldest, LONGEST parts of winter, when everything in me is longing for the sun, for the heat of its rays on my back as I bend to the earth in gratitude for the abundance, it is the hope of that garden greening again that sustains. The promise that those packets of seeds (way too many) will come soon to our door. The hope that the beds we will build in the back yard will also nourish our growing littles. The knowledge that we have only scratched the surface of the knowing that is needed for this endeavour. The anticipation of watching those first wee sprouts come up, trying to discern whether they are weed or food, and in many cases, finding that they are both. Will the beans do better in the full sun of the front yard? Will the neighbour with the perfect yard finally accept some produce? Will bringing better soil to the back yard be enough to help the dappled shade plants along? Will the voles still dominate, eating everything in sight? The wondering, waiting, knowing that the green will come and that this season of never-ending cold will be a memory….this is what sustains.

And in the meantime, I bide my time, preparing to start seeds indoors, watching documentaries of the power of urban farming to build communities and change lives, reading and learning more…..hibernating in the cold of winter so that when spring comes, I too can grow out of the darkness and into the light, seeking warmth on my face and nourishing those around me with beauty and hope, and somehow inspiring another to stick their hands deep into the earth and breathe life.

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