The sage and thyme are already turning green in the front flower bed. I love just smelling their leaves between my fingers as I go for a walk. I just love growing things. It is like witnessing miracles constantly.
Gardening isn’t a hobby for our family. It’s in our family culture. It’s the way we fill our freezer for the winter. It’s addicting. Once you go to garden produce, it’s really hard to go back to grocery store produce. My kids absolutely love our garden vegetables, and are incredibly spoiled by them.
But how on earth will I manage our huge gardens this year in my 3rd trimester, and continuing on after the birth of our baby?
I have been brainstorming, and mapping out some ideas. We have one huge garden on the south side of our property. Our kids have named that garden: “Gardentopia.” It can grow massive amounts of food. In past years, though, we have wanted more space. That’s why we dug up “Versailles” which is the French style beds near our chicken coop. It has a makeshift fence around it since it’s by the chickens. The beds are smaller, and we can do some different gardening techniques that we like to experiment with in that space.
I think the major thing that my car accident 2 1/2 years ago taught Knut and I, as well as events surrounding previous births, is that I have a high pain tolerance, and if the pain is so bad I have to communicate it, he should be on high alert. We also learned that I have limits about what I can handle, and be stubborn about it. I can’t do everything. I have some factual needs. Also, we learned that when my anxiety attacks start waving in, our whole family shuts down. My mental health just effects so many people right now.
Let’s just say we’ve come to a place in our marriage where Knut has become very protective of me both mentally and physically. We have both seen me go into a dark hole, and neither one of us wants me to go back there.
But not planting a garden would be tragic on more than the surface level. If we just leave it, weeds will grow up and age and leave thousands of seeds that I will be battling for over a decade to come. That idea sounds incredibly discouraging.
So this presents a challenge for this whole garden thing this year. Our family needs this garden. The garden needs us. Our whole summer always revolves around it. Our health revolves around it. What we do with our kids all day revolves around it.
So my first thought was to just fill the large Gardentopia with roots that require little maintenance and late harvest, up to 2 months after the birth of this baby. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions. We’ll just plant more than we need. Then in Versailles, I’ll plant just a few fun crops, like a few fresh tomatoes, some peas for the kids to snack on in early summer, and maybe some salad greens.
Knut and I were brainstorming what to do, and he suggested we just plant a cover crop on Gardentopia. Just pull back our mulch and cover crop it for the season. He and his farming partner have been experimenting with cover crops, and have some extra seed we could buy from our business. That way we get nothing out of that garden this year but we protect it from being overrun with weeds for years to come. That would be amazing.
We could plant a few fun things in Versailles for the kids to manage. I love this summer salad: equal parts cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil. It eat it like it’s an addictive drug. I’d love to keep a few tomato plants and salad plots just for fun. I may also keep my rainbow carrots up there in Versailles too, because they make me smile like crazy.
But what about winter? I said. How can we just give up our garden produce for those months? He wants us to get a CSA share this year. I’ll get a box of produce for our family every week, and we’ll have 10 harvest events a year where we can get massive amounts of produce for freezing/canning and he can be around to help on those days. It’s much easier to have big family harvest days with all the kids than asking them to do the gardening for me 2-3 hours each morning all summer. That way I’m not harvesting on my hands and knees various crops daily all summer. I’ll still have my strawberries and raspberries to handle daily in early summer, as we cannot force them dormant for the year (nor do we want to!) but the kids are actually really good at helping with those ones.
I was concerned about the price of buying a share, but as I have been hospitalized past pregnancies for completely preventable things like exhaustion and dehydration, he basically said it’s less than half the cost of 1 hospital visit, so it will save us money in the long run as opposed to me once again trying to do everything and ending up sick.
But it turns out, that our local CSA is moving it’s delivery boxes to about an hour from our house. We can still get their produce at our local grocery store, but that’s not a desirable option when we’re looking for some bulk produce.
So, we’re looking at some options. We’re calling around to some vegetable farmers. We’re going to make this work.
I don’t know if I’m more excited that my garden will be tiny this year, or that my husband is really prioritizing keeping me sane and healthy during this pregnancy. When we were first married, he had this picture in his head of peasant women who would give birth and head back to the field because it was harvest. I was told over and over again from family members the story of someone local giving birth and then canning all their cherries for the year that same day because you just can’t afford to lose your food for months. Women who put aside their pain and emotions and just do what needs doing is just so esteemed here.
I think all moms do that to some extent. I think sometimes that putting aside our pain and emotions and just doing what needs doing might be the very definition of motherhood.
But the longer we’ve been married, and the longer I’ve been a mother, the more short-sighted that image has become.
It elevates mothers from creatures God designed to rest at night as well as one day a week, to these super-human-above-God’s-design goddesses. Our culture says that mothers don’t need rest, and we turn into these PPD zombies and people wonder why we don’t just get with the program. I have been there, and done that.
Going back to God’s design is something my quiet time has been continually drifting towards these last few years. I’ve written about it here before. God designed us to rest, pre-fall, and we should not feel we are above his design, or that is a part of our sin-nature.
And when are we going to figure out that community is required for some people to get rest? The commandment to rest is not an individual one, but a communal one.
I remember after Ingrid was born, my midwife handed Knut a long list of things I wasn’t allowed to do, and a very tiny list of things I could do. She didn’t even want me walking down our stairs for a few days. Knut carried me, and I felt silly. But my midwife had told him and he followed her rules to the letter. I had no responsibilities for weeks. Knut and the kids took over. That never happened after any of my other births. Knut would help for a day or two then, and the doctors would say things like “take it easy.”
But my midwife had built up such a trust with Knut. She liked him because I liked him, and he felt she respected his input. She was the first person to figure out why I was always anemic in pregnancies, and why I always tested positive for GPS in pregnancies and she was able to rid me of both of those things through diet, that changed everything. I had never experienced pregnancy and energy at the same time before then.
So when she told Knut that I needed to just rest after birth for a few weeks, he listened. And he was pleasantly surprised how much faster I recovered from birth and how much less zombie-like I was. PPD was simply a thing of the past. I just needed the rest. Seriously, why don’t we always do this in our culture?
There’s something to be said for working with your body’s design, instead of trying to work above it.
So, per Knut’s idea, we aren’t doing a big garden this year. This fact is still sinking in for me. Our big garden will be cover-cropped. This year I’m growing a baby, and we don’t want to distract my body from that goal. We’ll have our little Versailles for our fun summer traditions and delicacies, and a CSA…or something…for our winter storage. I’m so relieved. I don’t have to do everything this year. Whew.