This past winter on our travels we stopped in Los Angeles and visited our long-time friends, urban homesteading rock stars the Dervaes Family.
Many a night in the girls' infancy was spent at potlucks in this garden or sitting in their living room listening to whoever happened to gather there playing their instruments and singing. As I have mentioned before, I love people who do things, and the Dervaes' certainly fit that bill. Their suburban backyard is a jungle of edible plants populated with chickens, ducks and goats. Every year they produce thousands of pounds of food, which they sell at their front porch farmstand. They host teas in their garden and sell coffee, pastries and ice cream on their patio.
It really is such a beautiful and unique lifestyle they have and it all started because they decided to do what they could with what they had. Then, little by little, they tweaked the things that didn't work, tried new things and when things got tough, stayed open to changing direction. I have been really inspired by their example. I am not a patient person. They are a good reminder to me that sometimes starting small can grow big, big things.
This spring, the kids decided they wanted to start a vegetable garden of their own. They had grand dreams of an urban oasis similar to the Dervaes. My initial reaction was to remind them that we live in a townhouse and the reality is we will probably never have a goat or a back-porch cafe. I had to stop myself. Why am I throwing up obstacles before they even begin? Why am I so tempted to point out all of the ways we can't be the Dervaes' and, in the process, limit what it is the Griffith kids can be? Why do I want them to be afraid to dream? I took a step back and decided that instead of creating my own obstacles with a list full of cants, I'd let them see what we can do. What's the worst we could end up with? Tomatoes? That hardly seems like something to be feared.
Cheyenne looked at seed catalogs and the University of Minnesota Extension website. She wrote to my friend Diana, an accomplished gardener, and asked for advice on growing tomatoes in pots. She learned that tomatoes need calcium and that eggshells are almost entirely calcium. Diana reccomended saving them, crunching them up and mixing them with the soil. She learned the difference between a determinate tomato plant and an indeterminiate tomato plant and which varieties of tomatoes work best for which applications.
We ordered seeds and planted seedlings, which were sadly killed when the cover was left off of their greenhouse and the wind dumped them out. Lesson learned. We went to the farmers market and started over again with new seedlings and renewed determination.
This is the result.
They call it Saint Fiacre's Vegetable Patch after the Patron Saint of gardeners. I think it's a nice start. We've even got a few small, green tomatoes forming. Time will tell if they are committed enough to this dream to keep growing it, but you never know until you try.