Jonathan and I had always been good about keeping our pantry well-stocked and growing a token hobby garden every year. But as our family grew, so did our concern about being able to provide for our children in a world of growing concerns. It seemed that there were dangers threatening our security everywhere we looked. We needed to find a way to build an ark to protect us from the impending storms. That ark included producing as much of our food as possible.
We lived on a one-third acre urban lot where farm animals were prohibited. Not ideal, but we could definitely provide for some of our family’s needs. We got busy incorporating fruit trees, grape vines, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and such into our landscape.
The berries were the favorite. In order to take advantage of every inch of available space, grapes and berries were planted inside the fence line. The little ones loved to go and pick berries while they played. It was difficult to pick enough berries to make jam or to freeze. My bowl was magically emptied as fast as I could fill it. Their red and purple stained faces attested to their guilt. I really can’t complain. Those berries were packed with nutrients that made the children healthy and resistant to disease. They preferred fresh berries to candy.
Grapes lined the entire back fence and thrived. Within three years, we had more grapes than we knew what to do with. We dried some into raisins but most of them were made into grape juice. We produced enough grape juice to last through the entire year. It was a fun for the teenagers to tell their friends it was “wine of our own make” and enjoy the delicious taste unavailable anywhere else.
Fruit trees graced the landscape in both the front and back yard. Providing us with an opportunity to battle the birds for the cherries, enjoy peaches so juicy that juice dripped everywhere, and Fuji apples that are wonderful dried, stored and eaten fresh. Raised garden beds spanned the length of the yard. We grew potatoes in tires, feasted on tomatoes, squash and peppers. Every evening we made a trip out to the raised beds and harvested to supplement the evening meal.
Eggs provided a little protein and fat. Chickens fell under the nuisance ordinance. If they didn’t bother the neighbors, we were allowed to keep them. One day our backdoor neighbor called and told me that the most beautiful exotic bird had landed in her back yard and I should come and see it. It turned out to be one of our hens. We remodeled the chicken coop to prevent any future escapes. We could not keep a rooster.
We fell in love with our chickens. The children played with them and they behaved much like dogs, thoroughly enjoying the attention they were given on a regular basis. Collecting the colored eggs was like having Easter morning every day. However, this relationship made eating the chickens nearly impossible. We rotated our flock by posting them online in the classified section of a local paper. They were gone within a day. Somehow it was easier knowing they were in someone else’s freezer.
Our children expressed that they loved living on a farm. It wasn’t really a farm, but we had created a wonderful little Eden in the midst of the city. There was so much more we wanted to do to build our little ark, but were trapped by local ordinances. Eventually, once our trees were full grown and producing like crazy, we moved to a little bit larger piece of land to build our dream ark. It has been a lot of work to start from scratch again. We now have opportunities that alluded us in our tract lot and are expanding our ability to produce a greater percentage of our own food.
Our decision to grow our own food was based on the desire to feed our family even during the hard times. However, the blessings went well beyond food security. If all of the dangers lurking in our society evaporated today, we would still grow our own food. Allow me to illustrate a few of the benefits we experienced:
• The overall health of our entire family increased due to exposure to sunshine, exercise, and increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
• We don’t have to worry about what has been sprayed on our food. The soil is rich with nutrients so the produce is fresh, tasty and highly nutritious.
• We learned to work together as a family. Planting, harvesting, preserving, and caring for the garden provided us with unique opportunities to work together and enjoy the products of our labor.
• Growing your own food is a great teacher of important life lessons.
• Knowledge is power. Our children know where their food comes from and how to grow it.
• We saved significant money on our grocery bill. We are spoiled by the taste of fresh eggs, fruits and vegetables. Store bought eggs and produce just do not have the superior flavor of the foods we grow in our own backyard.
• Life is beautiful. We found beauty and peace as we were surrounded by nature … trees, vines, plants and chickens.
• Relationships with neighbors are enhanced by sharing fresh produce, with the possible exception of zucchini.
• A sense of security permeated our home. We produced everything we could and stored what we could not produce. We developed the ability to provide for our needs for an extended period of time if the stores closed or our income was interrupted.
As you can see, we have been greatly blessed in remarkable ways as we worked to master our home production skills. The decision to grow our own food has enriched our lives. It has enabled us to build our family ark, along with precious memories and relationships.