Eating From the Dirt: Cultivating an Authentic Relationship with Our Food
This past weekend was our third full weekend in Herbalism school. Once a month we meet for a full Saturday and Sunday, themed around something different each time. This weekend we had the amazing opportunity to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens in Chatfield, thanks to our fellow student Ashely who works on the farm. I would consider Ashley a "master gardener," because she is just that. I think a lot of us grew up helping our parents in the garden, pulling weeds and transplanting during the spring. But Ashley grew up doing it and made it her life. She has a wealth of hands on experience as well as a Permaculture Design certification... she's the real deal. So knowing her background I felt confident that I would not only learn a lot but also be inspired to take on my own gardening projects at home. I bought a house last year in the Highland's and this past spring spent many many hours preparing it for growth and harvest. I did just that. And I also had many failures. But what I learned this weekend is that you are not a true gardener without having a few failed crops under your belt.
Day 1 was a bit more of an extrovert day. We spent the morning pulling carrots and bundling them for the local CSA (community supported agriculture). My parents have always been part of a CSA, but never myself, and I intend on joining on in 2015. The upfront cost is a little pricey, but find a friend to go in on it with you and it will be totally worth it. You get weekly local fresh vegetables and always get to try something new. After carrot pulling we visited the herb garden and bundled sage for drying. How amazing it is to sit amongst lush rows of aromatic sage for a Saturday morning. It was perfect. After our lunch break we spent the remainder of the day walking through the fields and learning about the vegetables that they grow. What has worked, what hasn't worked, and how to grow in the clay soil that beautiful Colorado has to give us.
The most difficult part of starting your own garden is that is takes a lot of time and maintanence. Planting at the correct time, in the right kind of soil, staying on top of watering, thinning, watching for flowering and things growing to seed. And above all making sure nothing dies! It is for sure a full time job. I can say I had some initially successful crops that became failures due to my lack of maintenance. But that's all part of being a new gardener :) Becoming a gardener or developing that personal relationship with plants as a source of food is all about trial and error.
Day 2 was more of an introvert day. We spent the morning going over the simple things like where to buy seeds and tools to get your garden started. What I never realized before is that there is a huge movement of people striving to save seeds. I had no idea how important it was until this weekend to allow some of your plants to go to seed. And use them the following year! A lot of plants are going extinct and it's our job to make sure that doesn't happen. Find friends with gardens who's echinacea is end of season and save those seeds! Use them and share them.
Following the seed and tool portion of the day, we headed over to the greenhouse and took some time there to go over different ways that you can garden, and ways that you can grow into the winter.
Once upon a time, people really did live off the land and grow all year round. It can be done and is done, with a little bit of effort and patience. With growing through the winter we really can stay seasonal, healthy, and know exactly what we are eating. And not only that, but the care and love that is put into keeping your crop alive means that you are going to consume that same care and love right back into your system to help you as a person flourish and grow.
That's the real story here... you are what you eat, and vice versa. If you are feeding your garden chemicals and crap you are eating those chemicals and crap and not allowing for a healthy cycle to take place. Feed your garden with clean organic composted materials and you are going to thrive.
The final portion of the weekend was permaculture and garden design. It was so fun to map out my own garden to see that there is strategy and purpose for where I grow things and why. I figured out where I will plant my medicinal flowers, where I will plant my cooking herbs, and where my vegetables need to go. I hope that next year I start to cultivate an incredibly lush space full of natural healing. Being able to have such an up close and personal relationship with the food I eat is inspiring by itself. Understanding that growing your own crop means creating a full circle authentic relationship with the earth motivates me to be more sustainable and less reliant on grocery stores and coffee shops to get my fix.
Start small if you want to start growing your own food. Get some pots and plant some kale, tomatoes, herbs, and see how taking care of those living things will give you more light and life. Use what we are given naturally in this world to inspire your own health! I highly recommend visiting the Denver Botanic Gardens in Chatfield yourself to get inspired to eat better and have a more personal relationship with what's been given to us on this earth. Click here to check it out!