These last few months I was busy teaching myself how to seriously grow food. With the help of my Aunt and Uncle, some advice from my Mom, and a bit of research via books/internet, I realize what it would take to feed MYSELF for a year. The work to grow it is one thing - it’s another to preserve it all to last throughout the year. Of course my family gets to enjoy the limited fruits of my labour; however, I will add that if gardening was entirely necessary as the primary food source for a larger family, it would definitely have to be a family venture so no one goes without the benefit of home-grown, organic, and nutritious food. I will also add here that if my family had to depend on my ability to secure food without access to grocery stores we would all be a pretty thin bunch.
In my mother’s garden I planted carrots, peas, beans, tomatoes, and dill. All of them did reasonably well with the tomato plants being the star of the show. I say plants because the small seedlings I secured from a friend in May grew to be lush and beautiful vines - just not overly bountiful. This seemed to be the case with several tomato plants this year. Still I was able to get nearly five pounds of them off before they were touched by frost. My Aunt gave me an awesome salsa recipe that I’ve used several times now so I can’t wait to finish the next batch.
Throughout the summer I helped my Aunt and Uncle a bit with their large gardens outside the city on a farm. Massive amounts of vegetables were planted including potatoes, corn, zucchini, spaghetti squash, carrots, cucumbers, onions, beets, parsnips, peas, and beans. This last couple weeks I’ve come home with an abundance of fresh vegetables and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about gardening and what it takes to get it done. There is much to think about and do: the weather (too dry, too wet, frost); the availability of seeds, the physical space the garden uses (sunlight/shade); the presence of animals who WILL eat your crop; maintaining quality soil from year to year; rototilling; weeding; just to name a few. Although fairly self-sufficient, a garden must be tended to regularly. One also must consider how the produce will be used and stored in order to keep it fresh and tasty as the beautiful short growing season here in Prince Albert is shadowed by the long, dark, dormant, and cold months that are beginning. Preserving food is definitely labour and time intensive but the reward is security and delicious tasting food that will last for many months, if not years.
If you think critically about it, most of us depend a great deal on resources from grocery stores. They became our primary food source throughout the years and I see how the access to them gradually erroded our own need to grow food. Many of us who were raised in this area come from a background where our family relied on the land for primary sustenance; many still do, but the grocery store is likely the main source for the majority now. We rely on them so we don’t have to put the work into doing it ourselves; a quick jump in the car and off to the store to pick up what we need. It’s easy and we have money to spend anyway. It’s comforting to know we have access to food at the snap of a finger - but do we? These times are very different and several grocery stores here in the city limited access to the food chain. Although I think that’s an interesting topic to discuss, I won’t this time. I simply care to take things into my own hands where I can. I’ve taken a few steps further now with my gardening interest and I continue to ask myself how I can be more self-reliant and practical. It’s nice to dream and shoot for the stars but to reach those dreams and catch those stars I realize being grounded is essential. I’ve learned work, actually putting in manual labour, is the only way to keep moving forward. So yes, there are no magic beans and honestly green thumbs are cliche. To grow, harvest, and preserve your own food takes some fortitude and grit, some may just not like it; however, the taste and satisfaction that awaits will be like nothing else on earth. I am thankful for everything I’ve learned and the diverse set of skills that come from paying attention to the land I call my home.
To serve as a quick update, as I said I would, my goal of walking the entire Rotary Trail is within reach. I completed half of it last week without it holding me back a day or two later due to injury. I still intend on walking the entire 22 km trail, in a day, by September 30th, 2020. The scenery is breathtaking and the beauty of Prince Albert is definitely shining. I hope you enjoy these last few weeks of sunshine whether it be out hiking, hunting, or helping yourself to become the best version of yourself you can be.