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Wednesday, 08 August 2007

Shopping Locally Done Outside My Back Door

By Marti

Eating local does not get much closer than stepping outside my back door and reaching for the tomatoes growing in the pot near the back door.

A few steps down, I find Swiss chard, bell peppers, poblano chili peppers, serrano chili peppers, tomatoes, parsley, oregano, cilantro, green beans, and cucumbers. Just around the corner, radishes are sprouting alongside a rogue cabbage that the wind brought over from our compost pile. I look out from the deck of my small back patio to the corner by the fence where butternut squash are now crowding out the last of my assorted lettuce mix.

All of this bounty comes from the backyard of my small rental house near Austin, Texas. Since 2002, my husband and I have traveled around the country on a journey of discovery. We sold our home in California with its half acre garden that included many of the vegetables that I described above with the addition of cherry, lemon and peach trees and two flower gardens.

In these five years of travels, I have gotten my hands in the volcanic rich dirt of Maui, the cold soil of central Washington and now, the limestone and cactus strewn land of Texas. What links all of these various locations is the fact that we are renters and our criteria for choosing a rental home is the ability to garden.

In Maui, our rental home had two gardens containing several trees as well as lush tropical landscaping, fragrant plumerias and hibiscus. Beautiful as these were to behold, we were overjoyed to find the following trees on the property: papaya, fig, guava and banana.

The land made available to us for a garden was sloped and just fine for growing zucchini, tomatoes, bok choi, oregano and rosemary. We never were able to grow the famous Maui onions.

Living in Maui was a terrific experience until the morning, fourteen months after we arrived, we woke up and realized that we were on an island and had explored every inch of it. Island fever struck and we longed for a different place, a place with tall trees, mountains, and snow.

A harsher landscape beckoned and we moved to the climatic and geographic opposite of Maui. We moved to the land of snow, tall trees, rivers, lakes and streams near the Cascade Mountains in Central Washington.
Our rental home came with a compost pile hidden under snow and two raised beds. The previous tenants told us that surprises lay in store for us when the snows melted.

Moving in December, all we could see was a white wonderland but when the snow melted, strawberries, cilantro and garlic ran rampant. We added tomatoes, more squash, more herbs, Swiss chard and peppers plus sunflowers, salvia and bachelor buttons. Our Washington garden yielded food for nourishment, our flowers, food for the soul.

After our second year in Washington and 29 straight days of snow and gloom, I chanced upon some information about the Texas Hill country, land of limestone and cactus. We flew out in April of 2005 to see if this geography beckoned and found that it did. We moved to Texas that July.

Now as I look out over this garden strewn with limestone rocks, the lushness and greenness belie what is coming later in the year. This year the rains have been unrelenting in Texas so the tomatoes are taking their sweet time in ripening but the peppers, of all kinds, bell, poblano, serrano are producing as if they were on an assembly line.

Cracks have appeared on the skins of many of the tomatoes due to the wet, but in this month of August, I have great hope that the Texas heat will do what it does best this time of year, cook the land and turn the green of my tomatoes into mouth watering red.

We thrive on our wanderlust but are sustained by the fact that we have gotten our hands in the dirt in so many places. Different gardens in different places yet all connected. What remains the same through all of my gardens is the joy of digging in the dirt and knowing that wherever I have lived, I have only had to step outside to be nourished.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


This is great!!!!! And interesting, too, to see how you adapted your love of gardening to your surroundings. Thanks!

I cannot imagine that I would ever leave Hawaii, if I were able to move there in the first place. I might have left for the Big Island (where there is snow on Mauna Kea) - or Kauai! I used to have a wonderful garden, but that was more than 25 years ago. Our soil is too hard for me to amend easily, so I gave it up. Too bad.

You're living my dream! This was a great story.

Kay: Thank you for your comments. It certainly has been an adventure not only in the moving from state to state but in digging in the various "dirt-scapes" to see what we can grow.

kenju: We thought we would never leave Maui until island fever, which we always believed to be a myth, "attacked us" one morning. We are active people, who like to keep busy exploring and Maui held no further surprises.

travelinoma: Dreams come in many forms, we never thought we would ever leave our island home. What we have learned is to be adaptable and now as we look back, we are grateful for the opportunity to see so much of this country.

Thank you one and all for your comments. Sending you all aloha and traveling blessings.


Fabulous story -- even more fabulous life!

What a great witness! You set the wheels of my mind spinning in a consideration of such adventure! If I could just figure out some way to take the grandkids with me.....

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