Roots of an Urban Farmer
|Pa and I watching his cows graze|
If I really want to go back in time I suppose it should be no surprise that I am an urban farmer. My last name means "Wheat Acre". It refers to the plots of land that existed in English cities where wheat was grown for consumption by the residents of the densely populated areas. This is not to say that my family was responsible for growing the grain but rather more likely they resided somewhere near it and it was a way to designate a family's whereabouts.
Genealogy is a passion of mine and you can only imagine my surprise when I found that a distant relative, who was a colonial farmer, is buried 300 yards from my current property.
In truth I know very little of my fathers side of the family. I was raised by a single mother and her relatives. Though my fathers bloodline left the genetic blueprint for a future farmer it was my mothers relatives whose practice of the ancient art left a lasting impression.
|One of our first gardens nearly 10 years ago|
If memory serves me correctly I believe that one of my first references would have been my maternal grandmothers father. I remember as a child walking through the dense foliage of his gardens. Peppers and tomatoes the size of an adults fist. People would come from miles around to buy his produce I was told. As my family has grown and it has become necessary to be more frugal I remember his practice of reusing ordinary items around the house to prolong his harvest, for example, half gallon milk cartons with frozen peppers in them. I sometimes wonder while digging through the soil in early spring while occasionally referring to his Dick Raymond gardening book what he would think of my plot.
Even before my father left I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandfather. He was a man of extreme values, to put it lightly. He had a tendency to treat me kindly but I do believe I may have been the exception. He preferred the solitude of his land to that of other people, something I can certainly relate to.
|Our kids and our gardens have grown|
We would also go to livestock auctions. A funny twist of fate is that I recently started attending the same auction house with my own children so that we could sell some of our rabbits when the need arose.
My parents planted a rather large garden one year at my grandfathers. They only did so once. To this day I do not know if they simply did not like the labor involved or if they chose to abandon the venture for some other reason. Personally, I fell in love. It was my first opportunity to work the soil and it has held a place of nostalgia in my mind. I can still taste the baby carrots washed off in the aluminum watering can, the peas fresh from the vine. I can even remember the wind bending the pines that bordered the plot.
|More lovely than any flower|
My uncles gardened as well. One was what we would most likely call a "guerrilla gardener" back in the 80's. He introduced me to the concept of gardening by the moon phases and the science of soil health. Both of which I now realize are Steiner influenced methods of biodynamic gardening. In fact, soil health is the foundation of my practice at this point. Though it is gaining popularity among modern farmers and gardeners such a method would have been pushing against the social norm back in the 1980's.
His younger brother and sister-in-law used to have me spend the night at their farm house in Sidney Center. One very hot summer day we planted 100 trees, just my uncle and I. We planted 99 blue spruce and 1 weeping willow. I always considered this a lesson in environmental longevity.
There were a number of other influences along the way great-aunts and uncles who let me explore their chicken coop at a young age for example.
|The flood of 2011 devastated our community|
but we were able to be somewhat self-sufficient
with our gardens
|Our homestead still provides in the depth of winter|
Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead https://www.facebook.com/seedtoharvestbossyhenhomestead/ which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here https://amileinhershoestalesofastayathomedad.wordpress.com/