I had no interest in gardening as a child. I remember my parents putting in a large vegetable garden. All I could see was that they had less time for me because they were busy and tired. And they wanted me to eat the vegetables they had grown – that was never going to happen! They did try to give me my own little plot but it had worms and beasties in it – ugh! I was eight, a confirmed carnivore and truly couldn’t see the point. Why tire yourself out growing vegetables (which are disgusting to eat) when the supermarket is full of them? And the ones in the supermarket don’t have creatures crawling on them! I really didn’t get it.
When I was ten or eleven I was given a book token at Christmas-time. I was a big reader and nothing would stop me walking to our little town centre to spend it as soon as the shops were open again. Not having waited for the my mother to take me to the bigger shops in the city my choice was limited. I bought a couple of books which I read and quickly forgot. But one has stayed with me – I finished re-reading it today: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods.
I was enchanted. Laura and her family stay in a little log cabin in the woods. Pa farms and hunts. Ma cooks the produce Pa provides. Laura and her sister, Mary, help her. As the book opens, the family is preparing for winter and ‘as much food as possible must be stored away in the little house’. Laura tells us about Pa smoking venison, Ma making butter and the attic where the girls would play surrounded by garden produce stored for the winter. The venison was interesting – I was a carnivore and refused to eat fruit or vegetables. Making butter sounded like a lot of work (it isn’t if you have a food processor). But what I loved most was her description of squashes and pumpkins stored away in the attic. I don’t know that I’d ever met squash or pumpkin. I’d certainly never eaten either. But there was something magical about a family working through the year to grow and produce the food they needed to eat. Somehow that made sense to me.
Of course, I had to read the rest of the series. And I did. Over and over again. And each time I reached into that world I wished that their world could overlap with mine. And I remembered the vegetable garden my parents had planted. But I didn’t eat vegetables and the bugs – ugh!
This winter has been my ‘Little House’ winter. I grew vegetables all last year. I cooked them into dinners and froze them in portions. It’s June now and I’m still eating my way through what I grew and produced and hoping there will be room in the freezer for this year’s harvest (if Mr Rabbit leaves me some!) That older, simpler world is overlapping mine. And it’s better than my childhood fantasies. It is real. And includes indoor plumbing.