Archive for Agriculture & Giving
Last winter as I imagined my future garden I had 3 underling thoughts in mind for why I wanted to do it. As I mentioned in the previous post I needed to reconnect myself with some aspect of the natural world in a dedicated and regular way. I wanted to garden to challenge myself in being able to grow, manage, and take care of other living beings, aka – a whole lot of plants. Knowing that I would end up with way more vegetables than my family and I could eat I also wanted to build this garden with the idea of being able to give back to my friends with food. And I wanted to create a garden at the scale I did to test out in real life ideas I had in mind for some agricultural related businesses and plans I currently have in the works.
For more than any other reason the party portion of my gardening experiment was envisioned to function as a gift – to my friends.
Perhaps my feelings of disconnection from the environment were also closely related to my feeling of being somewhat disconnected from any sort of real community. I have a great family and wonderful friends, but like most Americans how rare is it that we all get together? And how much more rarer still do we consider ourselves a community and function with each others interests in mind?
Through my business and my personal life I am blessed to have close relationships with many insanely talented creative individuals. Maybe we all feel this way to a certain degree, but I consider my friends to be the most amazing people in the world. A part of my personal style has been and likely will always be to have many different types of friends that function in lots of different interpersonal circles. I love developing friendships with interesting, unique, motivated, talented, and rare individuals – who are often doing their own thing. And unfortunately doing your own thing often also means doing it alone.
A big underlying motivator for me in doing the work and spending the money required to throw a huge garden party was to bring together people who wouldn’t necessarily already know each other. I wanted to physically, ‘bring people together’ who I knew would appreciate each others unique talents and possibly form new relationships from this experience together as a unit.
As I have gotten older I have started to feel that the people who you surround yourself with often define who you are and will become as much or more than you do for yourself. For me, being surrounded by unique, motivated, and creative people has helped me become a better person for myself. My friends inspire me. And the best of them are truly there for me as guides, caretakers, kindred-spirits, fellow adventurers, and humble, honest, decent human beings.
In my attempt to reconnect with the natural world I also wanted to reconnect with the best of my own human spirit and find a way to express my deepest gratitude for those people in my own life for whom without their presence I would be a lesser person.
And for that I thank my friends.
This was the invite that was sent out for the party. I wrote the phrase, “A Garden’s Keeper Lives Life Deeper” to function both as an invite for the party and to be a submitted piece for my good friend Anne Ulku‘s two year long project, Six Word Story Every Day. The cards were letterpress printed by Kira Bavender’s letterpress company Cherry Pi.
Before the party my dad and I built a 75-foot long table made of old pallets and other recycled wood. The seats for our table were red buckets that were formerly used to store fast-food cooking oil (I used them to be slightly ironic). And the tops of the seats were large wooded planks cut from dead trees off of some our family’s hunting land. My sister decorated the table and other areas of the party like a pro using all recycled or found items. And even the dishes all came from a thrift store. I was determined to create a wonderful environment for the party without buying new things and adding any more waste into our already way too wasteful society. This party was about bringing people together to celebrate each other and eating natural home grown food – not about creating unnecessary waste in our already way to fragile natural world.
This was one of the 64 final pizzas getting loaded up with the good stuff. For the party my Dad, Step-Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, Sister, Cousins, Nick Patrek, and one of my sisters awesome co-workers – Riley, prepared homemade pizzas with ingredients mostly coming from the garden. Riley saved the day in a way none of the guests knew and is a Jedi pizza cook in his own right. My Dad bought a ton of pizza ovens at garage sales all summer to be prepared to cook for all our guests.
Here is some homemade cucumber salad from the garden.
I spent over $300.00 on the finest cheeses I could find from all over the world. It was wonderful.
I made sure to list everything that was in each pizza so everyone knew all the good stuff we had in there.
We all played a number of different yard games before dinner. Here’s Anne flashing a smile. Our group was definitely competitive. And I lost.
We had to make a special meat pizza for Cloud!
Jack kept his eyes wide-open on this crowd.
My sister collected flowers from other people’s gardens the day of the party and arranged them in Bell canning jars.
We used my dad’s collection of vintage minnow buckets as our Champagne buckets.
We also used vintage milk jugs for our water containers.
A few of my friends played some wonderful music after dinner around the fire.
I smoked a Cuban cigar after dinner by the fire to celebrate all the hard work I put into the creation of my garden, preparing the food, and bringing everyone together for the party. It also marked a completely different personal milestone for me as well, one of those things you keep to yourself, but that means a lot.
Here’s Jack making shadow monsters.
The raspberries in the Champagne all came from our garden as well.
In the end I hope everyone who attended this party had a good time. I know I did and look forward to our futures together.
All the photos taken in this post and for this party were shot by my friend David Mendolia.
Oh, how far I have traveled only to return to myself.
Last winter I started feeling a somewhat unidentifiable sense that something was wrong. Or at least that something was missing in my life. While digging deeper into that sensation of uneasiness I realized that I was feeling very disconnected from the natural world and had been feeling that way for a long time.
Growing up I was fortunate enough to have extended periods of time to live in and experience nature. It was a fundamental part of my upbringing and a core part of who I was — and who I am.
After internalizing this realization I decided I needed to do something about it. Staying in-line with my usual ‘go big or go home’ approach to life, business, and art – I immediately spent hundreds of dollars ordering nearly 200 hundred varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds. And of course before making my final order I obsessed over thousands of total varieties from many different seed vendors before settling on some of the rarest seeds I could find.
Once my order was complete I announced to my father that, “We were going to make a garden.” My dad, a retired teacher and former hippie, had managed to maintain a garden to one degree or another most of his adult life, but was somewhat skeptical of the scale of my vision. However, being retired he submitted to my wishes and we began to work.
After ordering the seeds we created a garden plan. We mapped out where everything would go in our garden on graph paper and determined which varieties to try narrowing it down to about 60 different types of plants for our final design. Our design greatly expanded my father’s original garden and would require some other major additions as well, including a large fence to keep the deer out.
With a plan in hand we waited. In the early spring we tried sprouting indoors all the seeds that needed a head start. And we failed. Our first round of seed sprouts didn’t make it due to lack of heat and light. With our first failure out of the way I bought some grow lights and other gear needed to make sure it didn’t happen again. The second round was off and running, but we were already behind on our plan.
Besides sprouting seeds we had to prep our soil. We put up a huge fence and used a tractor to till up the soil. We also added 6-tons of horse manure and lime to the soil to add nutrients. The soil looked good. The fence looked good. The seedlings were looking good. And we were back on track with our plan.
We planted in early May. It was a bit of a late start due in part to the weather. June was decent and July was extremely hot, humid, and wet. During July almost all the plants took off growing faster than I ever knew was possible. I felt like a master gardener on my first try.
Our crop wasn’t perfect though. The onions and peppers didn’t do very well. I think this was because it was too wet and too hot early on. We had some critters get in and do some solid damage — wood chucks, squirrels, and a family of raccoons. We managed to trap the critters and even figured out a trick to keep them out of the garden by placing a small radio in a bucket. Keeping the radio tuned to a talk station sounds like people constantly working or a kind of verbal scare crow. An old indian trick I assume.
I spent many hours weeding, watering, and watching my crops grow. It really was a wonderful experience.
We had a huge amount of produce and it was equally fun to learn new ways to cook the various plants we grew. It was also a fun way to spend time with my dad and step mom and I think they were just as impressed with our final results as I was.
Beyond that the process of learning, planning, starting, and growing a garden for the first time satisfied my fundamental need to reconnect to the natural world.
Looking back on my year and thinking about the time I spent in the garden I can honestly say it has to some degree changed me — and for the better. Through the process of proactively participating in the lifecycle of food I feel as though I have realigned my own life’s rhythms into a more healthy cycle as well.
Growing a garden for the first time was such an important experience for me that it literally changed the direction of my life in more than one way. So much so, that I will save the rest of this greater story for future posts.
In the meantime here are some photos from my first garden. Or my successful attempt to reconnect with nature in 2011:
The garden in June.
The garden just starting to really take off in July.
Fresh lettuce. Even better than I expected.
White Zucchini — grew like a weed!
My Dad’s favorite peas.
Beets — which I learned to love.
Little peppers trying to make it through the heat wave.
Chives have flowers – who knew?
Lady was always by my side making sure I was doing everything right. She managed to snag a few veggie treats during the season too.