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Bigger Isn’t Always Better – for Apr. 23, 2009

Iwanted my own big garden and last year I got it. My husband added dry manure and we cultivated and tilled the soil until the rich black mulch crumbled in our hands. Finally, warm weather arrived and in May, I placed hundreds of seeds in the ground after carefully reading the instructions on each envelope.

Every morning, I was disappointed when I saw that nothing had germinated. I called my grandmother who has gardened for years for some help. “It’ll come. Just give it time,” she said.

Eventually green sprouts appeared in rows amongst the mat of weeds. My summer battle began against the byproduct of fresh manure. When Grandma came to visit, she was shocked at my long rows of cucumbers with three seeds per mound. “My girl!” she said, “What were you thinking?” She knew the potential of each cucumber plant but I assured her that I wanted to make a lot of dills.

It was late summer by the time my garden reached peak production and I was swamped. I was picking five-gallon pails of cucumbers and giving away bags of tomatoes. There were approximately eight large potatoes in each hill. Neighbours began giving away zucchini while I offered anything from my garden in exchange. I hated to see organic garden produce rot, so during my spare moments I waded into my weed jungle to pick more cucumbers. I dreamed of a flourishing garden but hadn’t calculated the work involved.

Completely exhausted from parenting two toddlers and being pregnant, I still spent hours canning, only to realize half the jars didn’t seal. Sometimes I incorrectly measured the ingredients like vinegar, and ruined whole batches. Then in winter, I noticed that some of the sealed jars had become unsealed. We also discarded boxes of potatoes that accidentally froze in our cold storage.

Now I think back on the tears of last summer and shake my head at the list of minor tragedies. I have since heard a response to these frustrations that I’ve come to appreciate. When something doesn’t go the way I might have wanted, I simply say, “Oh well.”

There will be years when I have more time and energy to enjoy a large garden. Then I’ll have helpers and it can be a family project. But for now, as my baby sleeps in my arms and two toddlers tussle on my lap, I can only say, “Oh well.” This summer, I will do less, not more. And what will my family get in return? They will have a happier and more relaxed mother in a calmer and peaceful home.

So this year, I want a small garden. My son already informed me he wants a little row of peas. I envision one tomato plant and three cucumber plants. We will enjoy the short row of fresh potatoes while they last and consume the garden produce as it ripens. And for the first time, we’ll probably purchase corn on the cob. Oh well. We’ll eat purchased potatoes in winter. Oh well. But we’ll enjoy summer without fretting over unsealed jars and carpets of weeds.

– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba

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