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Discovering That Which Brings Joy

February 23rd, 2012

We realized that we had a collection – a passion, actually – that required attention. This happens often, and we have learned over the years not to ignore the signs. For that is where joy lies.

Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd (Our Life in Gardens)

My childhood was filled with gardens. My parents tended a huge edible garden which we dreaded having to work in all summer long. The house was always brimming with houseplants of all colors, shapes and sizes. Since my childhood was spent in both a northern climate in the United States and on the equator in Colombia, I’ve lived in both extremes of gardening climates. The gardens of my childhood contained everything from exotic staghorn ferns and papayas to common snap beans and marigolds. (I’m the one on the right)

Even though my parents were avid gardeners, I never really was all that enamored with it. My mom let me choose something interesting to grow in the edible garden and a few blooming things for the front flowerbeds. I had a few plants in my room during college and herbs in pots on my first apartment balcony, but gardening wasn’t something I’d even mention when talking about my hobbies. When Mr Chiots and I purchased our home ten years ago that was still the case. I had no desire to garden. For some reason, I still felt the need to feed the soil even though I had no plans of lush gardens nor vine ripened tomatoes. For the first few years, I added chicken manure and mulched leaves at intervals throughout the year and replaced a few uninteresting plants with ones that caught my eye.

After few years of tending the soil and I started to develop a green thumb, before I knew it, I was spending most of my free time in the garden, planting, making compost and expanding the flowerbeds. I found myself frequenting the local greenhouses in search of interesting plants. I woudl check piles of gardening books out of the library. I was discovering that deep down I really enjoyed gardening and the peace and satisfaction it brings.

Five years ago, three 4 x 10 raised beds were built in the back garden “to grow a few vegetables and strawberries”. Little did I know, when we built these raised beds that a new gardening passion would be discovered. My love of ornamental gardening hasn’t been lost, it’s simply been overshadowed for the moment as edibles have taken root. Growing edibles was a natural progression since cooking is one of my other loves (something I’d always mention when talking about my hobbies). Living in a rural area doesn’t mean that fresh vegetables are easy to find. I quickly found out that if I wanted them I had to grow them myself.

Since then, my love of edibles has grown stronger; we even purchased the lots of both sides of us to have more space for popcorn, pumpkins and what ever else interests us. From regular edibles my interest deepened when I discovered the world of heirloom vegetables – and what a wonderfully interesting world it is.

Growing heirloom vegetables can be addictive, when you savor the first ripe ‘Brandywine’ tomato from the vine in July, you want to grow every single colorful variety mentioned in the seed catalogs. Who can resist not having a bouquet of fresh tomatoes on their table in August?

The ornamental gardens at Chiot’s Run have not suffered from my newfound love of edible gardening. I use the world “ornamental” loosely since a well-tended vegetable can be every bit as lovely as a perennial border.  When you take the time to cultivate good soil a strong foundation is developed and the plants that take care of themselves. Besides weeding twice each summer and adding a thick layer of chopped leaves and manure in the fall, my ornamental beds pretty much take care of themselves. They also provide a beautiful backdrop and beneficial biodiversity for the edible garden.

As I discovered my passion for edible gardening, my mom rediscovered her love it edibles as well. When I started growing a few vegetables, she tilled up a section of her lawn that had grown vegetables when I was still living at home.  Like mine, her edible garden grows each year.  I often head over to her garden and we plant and grow a variety of things together there. Since her soil is already well established, it has been a wonderful place to garden as I work in building up the soil in my own gardens to produce more bounty for my table.

If you’ve never grown anything edible in your garden I’d highly recommend that you try.  Even if it’s only one tomato plant on a small stoop you’ll be amazed at the deep sense of joy and satisfaction that comes when you pluck that first ripe fruit from it’s branches.  Deep down I think we all have the need to tend a small plot of soil and provide for ourselves.

How has your gardening evolved throughout the years? Do you have a passion for a particular area or plant? 

21 Comments to “Discovering That Which Brings Joy”
  1. Andrea Duke on February 23, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I love the part where you mention that just because you live in a rural area, does not mean you have easy access to fresh produce.
    I don’t neccessarily live rurally ,but the same is for here.

    I started with a 8 x 8 bed in 2005 and have been hooked ever since! I have an acre of land, but live on a large, clay hill, which I would love to trade in for some flat land. I am learning to use what I have for now.

    Last year I tore out our landscaping at the front of the house, which was full of shrubs and was going to fill it in with knock out roses, then I had an idea. I filled the landscaping with tomatoes, lot of tomatoes :)
    I had so many, I had to pick everyday. I plan to do the same thing this year. Some people may scoff at the idea and that’s fine, but I am thilled to have found a place that I can ‘throw’ another 50-60 vegetable plants :)

    Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

  2. Kathi Cook on February 23, 2012 at 6:38 am

    What a beautiful,thoughtful post. My gardening has most definitely evolved over the years and stilll is I am sure.Like you,I had lots of exposure to gardening as a child. I think that is a key to future hobbies. All of my neighbors had vegetable gardens. My brother was a fanatical (I thought at the time)flower gardener. When we bought our first house with almost no yard, I planted a few annual flowers. I also had a vegetable garden at my mother’s house and used a community garden plot for a few years. It wasn’t until I took the plunge and planted vegetables in my own yard,that I really felt like a gardener. Now I can’t imagine being without a garden-especially vegetables.Now of course I want to expand and have chickens,fruit trees etc. I want to be like Tasha Tudor and garden until a very ripe old age. There are some great on-line videos of her giving garden tours of her Vermont property.

    Reply to Kathi Cook's comment

  3. FarmgirlCyn (Cindy) on February 23, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Having just lost our home to foreclosure this December, I find I am starting a garden from scratch once again. A clean palette. A fresh start. New beginnings….
    Just yesterday I began making a list of herbs I want/need and am overwhelmed with starting over completely. This year I am afraid I will just get some basics in, and branch out from there. It will be an interesting year in my garden, for sure! I am counting on friends to help with adding color here, as they divide their perennials this spring….
    It will all be good in the end!

    Reply to FarmgirlCyn (Cindy)'s comment

  4. Victoria on February 23, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Your garden is magnificent. I can see the deep love and affection for each plant. I think part of being human is finding the (ever changing) balance in life. Perhaps your attention on edibles & homesteading is the foundation of your life in the garden. As you master new talents, you may unlock more time for the flower garden.

    Keep up the amazing work – you have always been an inspiration!

    Reply to Victoria's comment

  5. Melissa on February 23, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Well said! Similar in a lot of ways to my gardening story and how I came to love it!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  6. judym on February 23, 2012 at 8:41 am

    We’ve always had a garden of some kind. In one of the apts, we lived in early on, our windows opened to the top of the porch roof, There I grew flowers. My hubby loves tomatoes and that’s almost always been a staple for us. We always planedt green beans as well. The rest varied from year to year – corn, onions, peppers, etc. We’ve expanded into peas, leafy greens, potatoes, carrots, radishes even beets (hubby hates beets!).

    We’ve grown since we’ve built here 30 yrs ago. From no landscaping to 9 flower beds, 2 asparagus beds, 4 raised beds and counting, 6 apple trees and counting, 2 pear trees, raspberry and strawberry beds and one grape vine. More to come and more to do. It’s great being outside digging in dirt! Can’t wait to get going!

    Reply to judym's comment

  7. Brittany P. on February 23, 2012 at 8:42 am

    We started with two trees (existing) in our yard and built from there. I started building the bones of the garden with shrubs and trees and then we discovered edible gardens and we were hooked. I often look at an area and try to figure out what type of edible plant I can put there instead of flowering only. With edible plants I get flowers and something delicious and toxin free to eat.. and much cheaper than buying food at the store too. It’s a win-win situation.

    Reply to Brittany P.'s comment

  8. Misti on February 23, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I think it is fascinating how people come to gardening. My grandmother and grandfather (on different sides of the family) always had extensive gardens. My parents grew things for awhile but they swichted to mostly bedding plants. I think it was natural that my brother and I inherited the green thumb….it just took awhile!

    Reply to Misti's comment

  9. Rhonda on February 23, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I have a tiny back yard and a strict HOA on what can and cannot be frown in the front yard. I started with a couple of tomatoes in a half barrel and now I have 4 raised beds, an old sandbox filled with herbs and a big circle where there used to be a small children’s pool was used last year to grow lots of peppers. I’ve got a fence that I use to trellis gourds and cucumbers and I’ve got plans to increase even more this year. If we don’t move soon, I’ve got my sights set on turning the back yard into something like Jules Dervaes has in Pasadena. I hope … :-)

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

  10. Jennifer Fisk on February 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    As a child in the 50’s, I was raised on “what’s in season” that either came out of our garden or could be freely gathered such as dandelions, nuts, apples and mushrooms. After I had my own home with a postage stamp back yard, I was frustrated by not being able to raise much more than a few tomatoes. That was in the 70’s and 80’s, so roadside stands of veggies were still reasonably priced, not GMO and not horribly pesticided. In the 90’s, with a new address and acres, I began my gardening with a 10×10 plot which has grown to 25×50 and this spring I’m planning on a hoop house. My motivation is to eat what I’ve grown as it is cheaper than the Farmer’s Markets and heirlooms are tastier than organic frozen. I know there have been no nonOMRI pesticides used. I produce almost all of the fertilizer from the chickens, turkeys and rabbits. I get a lot of satisfaction from producing and freezing my own food. It is certainly way more responsible and healthy than supporting agribusiness.
    While I love all the varieties of tomatoes and right out of the garden broccoli, I think the veggie I look forward to the most is Patty Pan squash. I’ve even mastered freezing this squash.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  11. Whit on February 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

    A very beautiful post, Susy! One of the Top 10 Chiot’s Run posts, in my humble opinion. :)

    It has me thinking about how i got started. I started writing a comment here, however it turned out so long, i think i will write a post on own blog recommending your site and answering your questions in the future. I love how you end each post with a thought provoking question!

    Continued success to you and Mr. Chiots,

    Reply to Whit's comment

  12. Vonnie on February 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    It’s lovely to reflect on how we came to be where we are and where our passion might take us, without ever losing sight of those precious and wonderful moments in the present time. I developed my love of gardening when I got my first home nearly 30 yrs ago. Like you I’ve moved a number of times and lived in different zones, so created European cottage gardens in old historic houses and now starting my first tropical garden in my new build. The best of both worlds (ornamental and edible) is of course the traditional old English & French Potager’s garden with companion planting of flowers such as marigolds that help to keep pests off the edibles. That is my plan when I finally get around to building some raised beds! Keep up the good work and keep inspiring fellow gardeners and would-be gardeners who haven’t quiet discovered the love as yet.

    Reply to Vonnie's comment

  13. Donna B. on February 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    As many have said above – what a lovely and beautifully articulate post!
    I agree with everything on here, and it oddly mirrors my life also! My mother always had a garden wherever we lived [having a father in the Military, one does move around a lot…] – even today as she has a huge back yard [albiet in MD hardpan clay] her garden is beautiful and lush. I always helped her take care of the garden watering and collecting. When I had moved out, I showed little interest in gardening again until I bought my house. First year, a 4×4 plot was dug and an 8in deep area along the path to my front porch. Second year a 150sq ft bed was dug in the front yard. 3rd year the 4×4 pot was extended to 10×14! and now in year 4 – I’m digging up the back yard! Mwahahaha~
    This year will be so much fun!
    [and I adore the photo of the bucket of tomatoes~ ♥]

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

  14. Sofie Dittmann on February 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Yeah, so I’m now gardeing, where for years I said I had no inclination to. Today I ripped out all the rotten raised beds, soon to be followed by other stuff, in order to rebuild what we neglected last year. And it’s actually FUN. :)

    Reply to Sofie Dittmann's comment

  15. KimH on February 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Hmn.. good question.. how has it evolved.. With each move in my life, and there have been quite a few, I’ve been met with different challenges and so with each move, I’ve risen to the occasion.

    Both sets of grandparents gardened, and we had olive, lime, & orange trees, my father was in the agriculture business so I was always around food growing, both commercially & non commercial.

    There was never a time I didnt love gardening, especially food gardening. My sister had a few house plants as were growing up,as did my mom & grandmother, but I didnt. I didnt have my own house plants until I moved away from home & had a baby. I guess I thought they were a requirement. ;) My step daughter says my house looks like greenhouse now. I do have too many plants, but I cant help it.. they just keep multiplying.

    I’ve gardened in huge acre sized gardens, down to small 6×12 ft gardens, raised beds, rows, pot & other container gardens, I’ve grown potatoes on top of the ground under hay and tomatoes in those topsy turvey bags.. I’ve done an awful lot over the years including gardening in a community garden.

    I always loved growing food, and added annual flowers, I grew herbs, both culinary and for medicinal purposes, but it is the medicinal properties that I love more than anything with the herbs. I accidentally grew an herb farm once, just cuz I wasnt paying attention to what I was doing. ;)

    After I moved to Ohio, I think the biggest challenge & newest adventure has been gardening under the shade. In Texas, most of the time where I was, there was very little or no shade, so I’ve had to learn a whole new crop of plants that thrive in the shade & in the north. I only wish I had a larger place to garden in.. both shade & sun..

    Do I have a particular passion for any plant? I dont think so.. not at the moment.. I think the last plants I really had a huge passion for were the hellebores.. I ljust adore them so much.. and other spring blooming bulbs.. Love love love them..

    I’d have a passion for okra if I could get it to grow here.. sigh.. It just doesnt want to happen… Maybe this year will be hot again like it was last year & okra would thrive.. if I could get it up out of the ground first. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • KimH on February 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      I always forget to say, I love your pictures.. Im always thinking it. ☺ That picture of you & your sister is too adorable. I could definitely tell which was you too.. You look just the same, still.

      Im not really fond of strawberries, but that basket full just draws a person in.. I can just taste the warm sweetness of them.. fantastic photo.. Im afraid I’d have to try one. ;)

      I love photos of veggies.. and yours are always beautiful. Im so thankful you share them with us all. ♥

      I was a huge David Cavagnaro fan back in the 80s.. Im sure he’s still taking fantastic photos and I still see his name on occasion, but not every day like I used to.

      Reply to KimH's comment

      • Susy on February 24, 2012 at 7:10 am

        Thanks so much – you’re very sweet.

        to Susy's comment

  16. alison@thisbloominglife on February 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Beautiful, reflective post. For me, I wanted a house so that I could have a garden. After year’s of improving the value of rental homes I wanted a go at creating my own patch of earth. Funny, each time I start, I imagine this will be my forever garden. Maybe, probably, this one is! My son asked me the other day where I learnt to prune the roses, I told him from my mum and she learnt from her mum. I have plants in my garden from both of their gardens, even though my grandmother isn’t with us anymore. From generation to generation…

    Reply to alison@thisbloominglife's comment

  17. Songbirdtiff on February 24, 2012 at 8:48 am

    My passion is definitely vegetable growing and I’m struggling with the fact that my garden won’t be all that I want it to be due to the move. I am, however, planning next year’s garden in my head already. I plan on bringing in many more heirlooms and interesting varieties of corn, etc. One of the things I am most excited about with this new garden is that my mother-in-law, who is moving with us, is a big fan of ornamentals while I general spend all my time growing food crops. It will be a nice balance and am looking forward to to the expanded bounty in coming years.

    Reply to Songbirdtiff's comment

  18. Carlie on March 6, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Argh! Those strawberries! Am just ordering plants now for a first strawberry bed at our house. Cannot wait anyhow but seeing that glowing picture makes it practically frantic.

    Reply to Carlie's comment

  19. Lisa Orgler on August 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    My passion is perennials, with vegetables close behind. I discovered your lovely blog today…what a wonderful treat!

    Reply to Lisa Orgler's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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