Sunday, August 17, 2014

How does your garden grow?

Mine grows haphazardly, riotously, gloriously, weedy-ly, and organically. In the spring, little fingers helped me tuck seeds into the garden's soil a bit willy-nilly. Those same fingers may also have switched around the popsicle sticks that labeled the seedling trays. Volunteer plants like kale, dill, sunflower, and red amaranth sprung up from last year's dropped seeds and I let them grow where they chose. Because of this lack of attention to straight rows and organization, there are always surprises.

When I finally tied up my jungle of yellow pear tomato plants, I discovered full-grown purple sweet peppers that I had forgotten existed. There are watermelons growing in the carrot rows, a giant pumpkin all but obliterating some of my sweet basil, pink and blue bachelor buttons brightening up my row of kale and broccoli, and a wild mix of beets, calendula, yellow beans, and snow peas that need to be waded through to actually harvest. My honeycrisp apple tree hangs low and shades out a corner where I tucked in thyme, pak choi, lettuces, and spinach. They grow slowly in this low light, but are also slow to bolt and wither in the summer heat. The lemon bee balm is mixed in with what I thought was honey dew, but is looking more like butternut squash, and when I finally weeded a cucumber patch, I also found a surprising amount of baby cantaloupes.

It seems to be something like this each year.  I used to vow that the next year I would get more organized and tidy and efficient, that I would stop overcrowding my space, and keep up on the weeds before they got tall enough to hide a young child. This year, I realized that my garden is exactly the way that I like it. It's surprising, messy, experimental, colorful, and yet has a productive harmony that feels just right. It might look like an out-of-control mess from the outside, but there is secret hidden beauty tucked in all around when I look closely. I think that's a fairly apt description of our unschooling life around here as well.

Even if gardening isn't your thing, there are little gems unique to you, your family, your life and your surroundings. Maybe you have a favorite cafe within walking distance that's quiet on a Tuesday morning, or a science or art museum that you can reach by public transportation. Maybe your kids can ride their bikes to a neighborhood friend's house, or can walk to their favorite park. Maybe you live in an area with strong community support, or have close friends/family nearby when you need them. Maybe you can take a day trip to see mountains or the ocean.

There are things that are harder for us because of where we have chosen to live (in the rural midwest US, quite a distance from any cities), but the benefits outweigh the challenges for us.  When I am feeling restless or wistful, it helps immensely to share my garden with a little sprite (in a newly knitted bonnet) to help me see all of the benefits of our chosen life in the here and now.


  1. Looks amazing to me as I can only dream about having such a green thumb! Your pictures are as beautiful as alway!

  2. Thanks, ladies. It usually looks pretty darn good to me too. Sometimes, I start feeling a little too rooted and itchy to travel, or a little too far away from civilization, and then I need to remind myself. :)

  3. this is all beautiful!! we came home from our trip to find the morning glories have made the place their own;) so...i go out and sit with the morning glories and drink my coffee and just enjoy! it's the price for being gone so long!


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