Friday, October 15, 2010

Why Oh Why

I'm always struck by why people garden. Today I was reading a post by Laura at The Modern Victory Garden. Her preamble to her "Day In The Slow Life", talked a bit about why she gardens. She gardens to eat locally and to avoid factory farming. And to eat more healthfully. But she also gardens for the process itself. To get away from the noise of a modern high tech life and for physical exercise.

I've been a crafter for years now (though am having to give it up because of repetitive strain issues, but that is another story), so getting away from the high tech life isn't really an issue. I never really bought into cell phones or being constantly connected. I have one mind you, but those that have my phone number are told to only call on my cell if it is an emergency. Mostly it was gotten for meeting up with my kids. I've found it good for meeting up with others too. But I don't gab on it all day long, nor does my phone ring every three seconds. People can call me at home. If I'm not home, then I'm out busy doing something. I'm not free to talk.

I appreciate local, organic food, but I can buy it at the farmers' market easily enough. I like to exercise, but there are a million ways to do that that I love. So why do I garden?

I think I garden for the feeling of the miraculous. For the feeling of beauty. For the feeling of wonder. I know in my logical brain - that very important part that lets me plan and keeps me organized - that gardening is unnatural. It is a warping of nature. Agriculture is humanity forcing nature to do its bidding. Even organic agriculture. Even sustainable agriculture. Even hedgerow or diverse forest agriculture that gets about as close to nature as you can get and still be called agriculture. The logical part of my brain is the pessimist. It knows not everything I plant will live. It knows I'll forget to water sometime when I should; that a disease will come through and kill something; that a groundhog will eat all my squash.

But I don't garden for the logical part of me. I garden for that emotional side. The spontaneous, irrational side of me. The optimist in me. The part in me that built a circular bed outside my back door, when the logical side just told me why it wouldn't work as well as the rectangular beds. That part of me thinks that every seed I put in the ground will be a perfect plant. That part of me that sees my garden as an extension of nature, despite the weeding required or the raised beds that contain it.

Every seedling that pops up awes me. I'm always amazed every time the seeds come up. I've done a lot of things over my life. I've been in the computer industry and I got a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. I've crafted, which sometimes come closer at least for my art pieces. But only raising my children have surpassed the feelings I get from my garden.

Every seedling is a miracle. Every tomato harvested is an amazing gift.

The groundhogs might have eaten most of my squash, but the one that was left was a wonder to me. I could grow flowers and I do, but they don't give me the same feelings as growing food. I think growing food adds to the feeling of wonder as it is part of the web of life. Part of something greater than just beauty. Part of something magical.

So I confess to not being an altruist in my gardening. I don't do it to save the world, to eat locally and use less fuel. I don't do it to save money even though I keep a tally. I do it because I'm drawn to the marvel of nature. I want to be a part of it all and to see it all happen before me. I do it for selfish reasons. If I'm ever stressed out, all I need to do is go into the garden and listen to the bees hum. I do it to be connected.

So why do you garden?


  1. Yes, exactly.

    Love that top photo too. Amazing!

  2. I garden for many of the same reasons as both you and Laura. It started out small and became an obsession. In many ways, it's all about the food for me. I can get some great stuff at the farmer's market, but it's even better at home. If I need something, I can go out and pick it. Does it get better than that?

  3. I honestly started because I was bored one summer while off of work. I was bored, I tried some pots. Pots bored me so I tried a raised bed. One raised bed bored me so....well, you see where we're going.

    Now I've found a passion that just when I get bored with it, it gets bored with me and winter comes. Then when I'm bored with other things, spring is looming on the horizon just waiting for something to do.

  4. I am cultivating the garden because I find pleasure in getting dirty and getting soil under my nails. I would grow vegetables, even if I could not enjoy eating them... Why? No idea... I follow my heart.

    Thank you for a very interesting issue, today:)

  5. I can remember planting a squash seed when I was little and marveling at it turning into a plant and then a squash. I've never lost that fascination with watching things grow - edible or not.

    But I also enjoy just getting outside, and getting lost in whatever I'm doing in the garden.

  6. Lovely post, Daphne. I, too, am amazed by every seedling that pops up. Gardening is a creative outlet for me and a healing process for the everyday stresses of life. The fact that I grow food is partially a "stick it to the man" kind of thing. A bit of "take that, factory farm!". Not that I have anything against the farmers, themselves. But it's the "industry" part of it that I don't like.

  7. When we started blogging about our gardening (and food) adventures, we wrote up our "background and motivation" page for our site:

    I was actually inspired by a post Laura at Modern Victory Garden did previously to save a couple of quotes to a file. The file is dated 5/16/10 so it probably was around that time... Laura posted: "While I could quite easily just buy vegetables elsewhere, the point is I choose not to." We feel much the same way. We're making conscious decisions about our lives and food and not just blindly following the pack.

    And I saved a quote Thomas wrote as well: "Call it my silent rebellion against modern day living but I really feel like my life has slowed down for the better and I now have a more appreciative sense of time while waiting for things to grow." The idea of a silent (or not so silent) rebellion against the modern world is one of our motivations - opting out of the modern industrial food complex.

  8. This is a beautiful post.

    I get satisfaction from nurturing, seeing sprouts break the soil, and eating sustainably, but more than anything, gardening is my meditation, the only time I really slow down and live in the moment.

  9. Well said Daphne. That's the beauty of a working food garden - it feeds us body and soul. There must be real magic in something that does all that.

  10. maggie, thanks. I love photos of bees. I know a lot of people are afraid of them, but I so love bees.

    The Mom, It does have a way of taking over. The garden I'm making now is certainly bigger than anything I've had before. Part of me is really excited about it and part of me is a bit scared that I have to take care of such a huge garden.

    Ribbit, lol when I first started gardening it was a great thing to do with my kids. I was a bit frustrated that there were so many things that I couldn't do anymore with them in the house (like paint). I confess it does keep me busy.

    Madame C, I like that too. I sometimes don't wear gloves when I should. I have a nice black fingernail right now from laying bricks. I should have used my gloves. But no I didn't even contemplate it. The funny thing is that I've grown veggies that I don't eat just because I love them. I loved the look of sunburst squash, but hated it. So I would always give them away. I really like when my vegetables are beautiful.

    villager, I get lost too. I often intend to just go out for five minutes and end up staying in the garden over an hour. It sucks me in that way.

    Jackie, I find it a great stress reliever. I do love to just stand in the sun and listen to the bees when I'm stressed out. I really want to try to grow sweet dreams coreopsis again. I had marginal luck in my old garden. I'm hoping my sandier soil is better. It attracted the most diverse group of bees I've ever seen, including two kinds of green metallic bees.

    foodgardenkitchen, I'm a bit different. I actually enjoy shopping at the farmers market. I would love to support them more. The little local farms that grow things with fewer pesticides deserve my support. Though I might be running away from the supermarket, I'm not running away from the farmers market. I love buying my meats from Chestnut Hill Farm, my apples form Kimball's Farm, and my eggs from the Golden Egg Farm. I can appreciate the sense of time though. I've always felt connected to the seasons here and the slow passage of time they represent. We once came close to moving to the San Fransisco area and I was freaking out since they really have no seasons there. Yes I know they have some changes, but not like here. I actually like the modern world. It has issues - lots of them, and I reject parts that I don't like (like staying connected with a cell phone), but I love other parts of it. I love Skype. I can talk to my daughter and see her now that she is in Canada. I worry about her less when I can see her. I like my iPod which I listen to when I spend hours digging in the garden or weeding. I love going out to eat and I love cooking what I grow.

    Jain, that sounds a lot like why I garden.

    Laura, it does. And I love hearing about why everyone gardens. Everyone has their own reasons, all good reasons. Anything that makes you grow your own food has to be a good reason.

  11. I began because I wanted to recapture the nearly magical flavor of those home-grown vegetables of my youth. But what I found is that gardening is more about the future than the past. It's: "Yes, Martha, there will be a great-tasting cucumber down the road if you take the time to tuck a few seeds into the ground now." Wow.

  12. I'm with you, I'm always in awe when something amazing grows from a little seed. I get giddy everything I'm in the garden, because it's a lot of fun.

  13. I garden because I can't help it. I am a plant woman, I just need to hang around plants. I grow vegetables because I like to eat. But I also grow all sort of other plants and try to care for as best I can the wild plants I live with.

    I also enjoy my local farmers' market and buy the animal products we eat from nearby farms and local fishers.

  14. I had to think about the why of my gardening for a bit and I've come to the conclusion that it is purely for selfish reasons.

    I love the whole process, choosing what to grow, finding the seeds or plants, propagating the plants, growing them, harvesting them, even the clean up parts. I love just being in the garden, it provides endless interest and is never the same from day to day or year to year. I'm addicted to home grown vegetables, which I'm pretty selfish with also, my goal is to grow enough to provide a good variety of veggies to eat without too much of any one thing. It is said that gardeners tend to be a pretty generous bunch of people, but to be honest, I don't really like giving away the literal fruits of my labor - seeds yes, I'll share seeds any time - but keep your paws off those tomatoes!

    It would be easy to say that I garden because it's a good thing to do, reduce my carbon foot print, be green and sustainable, eat healthier, etc. Quite frankly, those are nice side benefits, but they are not my main motivation. I just can't stay out of the garden, that's why I'm there.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  15. Hi. I found your blog from Heather's Homemaking. I've been interested in the Day in the Slow Life meme and saw that she had tagged you. I've been curious in people's answers.

    I found this to be a very interesting post. I've been noting some "whys" around the blogosphere too, but more about why folks homestead. Yours is a very unique answer and one that I can very much appreciate. My answer wouldn't be exactly the same, but like you, I'm not gardening to save the world or the environment. I agree about the quality of food, but mostly I do it because it just seems like what I ought to be doing. What we all ought to be doing.

  16. I love to hear it put so clearly. The joy growing vegetables brings to me has to be the same as that flower growing brings to those enthusiasts, but it's different for me. Constant, near constant interest. As someone who craves stimulation, it's pretty important.

  17. A lovely post to read and I like very much how you've articulated a feeling that I have but haven't perhaps even been conscious of. Now that you mention it of course that's a big part of why I garden but did I think of it yesterday writing my post - no, perhaps I think too logically too much of the time.