Last summer was a horrible summer for growing ones own food. We had pouring rains for weeks just when the seedlings were taking root in the ground, flooding most, then we had dry weather which finished off the majority of the rest.
I don’t rely too much on watering my gardens because I was taught that plants fend for themselves very well. If we water frequently plants will have short roots and need to rely on being watered. Missing a few days can kill a plant with short roots. I didn’t worry too much when our dry weather started because watering isn’t a practice I ever got into. But when the corn started to dry up I got concerned.
Having lived surrounded by farms for the last 30 years I had never seen any one water corn. It just grew. Why was my corn shriveling up after getting off to such a good start. I had ears forming, they should have been fine.
It was only after it was too late that I realized the constant heavy rains early in the season had prevented my plants from growing deep roots to survive on when the rains stopped.
Being my first summer here things got off to a slow start any way. My garden beds weren’t ready when they should have been so there were seeds that never made it into the ground, which is a good thing because I still have those reducing the amount of seeds I’ll need to purchase this year. But I’m already paying for the lack of preparation and bad weather.
My freezer is almost empty and it’s only February. I’ve had to get creative in stretching what I had but now I must supplement with store-bought produce to see me through until the gardens are producing and providing my meals.
When I received my order of seeds last year my daughter-in-law couldn’t believe how many seeds I had bought the total cost me $60. To many this may seem like an awful lot to spend on seeds yet that amount of money isn’t to me. I also save seeds from one year to the next which reduces the outlay each year considerably. I can see a year when $15, or less, will be all I need to spend.
When the garden beds are full I’ll have enough food to put up to see me through the rest of the year with a bit of supplementing at the bulk food store for legumes and a variety of nuts. In a typical year $50 in bulk foods is all I need to supplement the garden.
There will be another two years before my fruit trees are mature so in that time I’ll need to add fruits to my shopping list. I’ve set aside $200 to spend this summer at the farmer’s market on fruits.
Last summer I invested $80 in fruit trees. I planted two apple trees (they need to be cross pollinated hence two trees), a peach tree, an apricot tree and an almond tree. But compare an initial investment of $80, a one time cost, to $200 each year if I hadn’t planted the trees. When people tell me growing ones own food is expensive I think of my fruit trees and how they will pay for themselves in just the first year they are productive.
My total expenses for the next year will be roughly $300, cost of fruit, bulk foods, and seeds, to round out the ones I have saved, will see me through 12 months of groceries. This breaks down to $25 per month for a year’s groceries.
Compare that with the $150 the average person spent at the grocery store. In this poll some say they spend as much as $300 per week. Now that’s probably for a family, where I only have guests to feed a few times a week. A mere 8% of people reported spending $50 per week. Using $50 per week that would still add up to $2,600 per year versus my $300.
This winter I am stuck having to find foods at the grocery store. I feel the cold and sterile environment each time I enter the store. Fluorescent lighting, no windows except a couple at the front of the building, narrow aisles that make maneuvering difficult if two people try to pass each other with carts. Forget needing to ask for help the store has so few employees you need to either go back to the front of the store to ask a cashier or hope to see another customer who might have the answer. I can’t wait to escape.
And the cost, I’m spending approximately $100 per month on groceries! Yes, that’s lower than the national average but it still irks me to see what poor planning has resulted in.
But it isn’t just about the cost of having to buy all my food that bothers me.
I grew up in a small city so grocery stores were where we bought most of our food. In the summer months we had a small garden with red raspberries, several varieties of tomatoes, and rhubarb being the star attractions. We would drive to the outskirts of town to visit family farms with produce stands and pick fresh fruits and vegetables. Oh, how I enjoyed the taste of those fresh fruits and vegetables.
It wasn’t until I began to seriously garden a few years ago and decided to purchase what I couldn’t grow from the farmers’ market that I began to question how I had shopped for so many years in a store and not noticed the wrongness of it.
When you are in a grocery store you are a solitary person, as if you were in your own world. The people you pass are strangers you rarely speak a word to, if at all. The food is bagged, shrink wrapped or processed and in colorful boxes and cans. Even the recirculated air smells wrong. Being in a grocery store is so far removed from the natural world our senses are overwhelmed with the noise, colors and artificial lighting.
Whereas shopping a farmers’ market, you are outdoors in the fresh air. You feel the wind. You attempt to plan your shopping for when the rain has stopped or before it begins. Other shoppers talk to you and you get to ask the vendors how the food was grown or raised.
There is a connection you have to your food and those who grew it. You know, for instance, that next week your favorite vendor would be bringing his melons which weren’t quite ripe to bring this week. You plan your meals around what is available and not by what was for sale in the advert.
I wonder if we introduced more people to the pleasures of picking sun-kissed produce from a garden and allowed them to spend time enjoying the fresh air by setting out benches if they too would learn to feel the wrongness of shopping at a grocery store.
Could we make a grocery store be the stop of last resort only by introducing others to the alternative?