I didn’t get started with gardening until the mid-’80s. My wife Sharon and I and two daughters were living in Austin, Texas. She wanted a vegetable garden and I had just started a landscaping and landscape maintenance business. I had no knowledge of gardening at all and didn’t know the difference between compost and mulch.
Truthfully. I was that ignorant. I built a small garden and piddled with it for a couple of years but didn’t do much with it. I remember that we grew some tomatoes and beans. It didn’t amount to much.
Then the worst news came
Unfortunately, in 1986 we learned that Sharon had breast cancer. After a mighty battle, she passed away in December 1988. Our daughters were 8 and 10 at the time. In 1989 we spent the year kind of settling into our new family reality and I was trying to make decisions about our future.
I was continuing with the landscape maintenance business and decided that I wanted to get us to a rural area and give organic market gardening a try. ‘Organic’ was becoming a much-used buzz word at the time so I knew the interest was there. Plus, I wondered if there was something in the air or water or food we ate that had caused Sharon to get sick.
A synthetic chemical ‘mechanic’ no more
For my landscape maintenance business I had become a mechanic of sorts using chemicals to control this or that; an herbicide for this problem or a pesticide or chemical fertilizer for that problem. By the late 80’s I was through with that stuff.
A new small farm for us
In 1990 I wound up buying a 9-acre place for us on Windy Hill about 6 miles west of Dripping Springs, Tx, and about 25 miles west of Austin. We had a fabulous view and deep, rich soil for the garden. I deer proofed about 4 acres for the garden.
For equipment, I purchased an old, almost worn out tractor with a loader bucket and a new 6′ tiller. We had well water that was almost as hard as the limestone it came out of. About the only thing that qualified it as the water was that it was wet.
Our new farm was very peaceful and quiet. The county road made a turn and went around our place on the east and north sides. The south side was a forest and to the west, the hill dropped off about 300′ affording us 30-mile views and fabulous sunsets.
Since the county road dead-ended a mile or so past us, rush hour traffic consisted of about a half dozen cars and pickups in the morning and evening. It was great. I could go for several hours without hearing a sound made by man. The sounds I did hear were made by me and nature; the mockingbirds, canyon wrens, and other wildlife.
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I devoured books and magazines about Organic Gardening
I read voraciously and took what I learned into the garden. In the mornings I would wake up early, make coffee, and take a cup back to bed with me to read and learn. I immersed myself into learning all I could about how to become an organic gardener. This was a great time for me as I learned so many new things.
I will tell you that this was a very healing experience for me. Many mornings I would put the girls on the school bus and head back to the house for a bite of breakfast. Sometimes I would detour to the garden for ‘just a minute’ to do a little hoeing first and then later realize that I had not only missed breakfast but it was now 2 PM and I was hungry!
I was amazed when that happened at how the time would just go away and my burdens with them. My mind would just drift away as I got into the rhythm of hoeing and the pain of losing my wife and life partner would ease up for that time.
I wasn’t a Christian then but I was aware of God’s healing hands being with me. I remember once having to talk to a neighbor about something when I was so intensely feeling grief that it was literally painful to force words through my vocal cords. They really wanted to come out as a wail and I had to force them to sound like normal words. It was not easy.
Then I put what I had learned to work in the garden
So I applied what I was learning in the garden and it paid off in tasty vegetables. I made some mistakes but learned from them. I was growing a market garden to sell for income and I had an abundant harvest; tomatoes, carrots, beans, okra, peppers, squash, etc. I sold my produce on the roadside in Dripping Springs, to grocery stores in Austin (including a fledgling grocery named Whole Foods). Many times I would take my excess vegetables to a soup kitchen or the Salvation Army. They were always so appreciative to get it. I would call it a success.
I learned a lot by being still
I spent a lot of time just observing, sitting on an overturned bucket. This is when the pieces of the puzzle really began to come together for me. There are many truths about life one can learn in the garden if they will just be still and observant. Just be still. Be quiet. Try not to capture thoughts or let any become dominant. Be at peace. Refresh your soul. This time is a gift. Just be patient. Something will catch your eye and then you can study it if you want to.
I gained many insights from my time spent in the garden. I wish I would have been better about writing them down because some of them have gotten away from me. Those that I do remember I will be adding soon.
So dear friend, enjoy your time at this web site. Feel free to offer your thoughts and experiences to help others along and to take what you can use. May God richly bless you and your garden.
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