Why garden, preserve and stash it away...

... that's a question that I get asked time and time again. Why do I spend long hours planting seeds, weeding, tending, picking bugs and in the hottest part of the summer standing in front of the hot stove making preserves, stashing away dried and canned veggies. Why do I keep my freezer full to the brim when it's so much easier to walk to the store and just pick up anything you want at any given time? And my answer is simple - you won't understand unless you've been hungry. And I don't mean "I feel like noshing on something so maybe I'll have a snack" hungry. I mean hungry as in no food today or yesterday. As in your stomach is churning in pain hungry. I used to run another blog for few years and shut it down after a while because I conquered one of my mental demons - fear of debt. Debt that I inherited and was never my own, but in the end it was all paid off. One of the entries of the blog referred to my past so I'll copy it here to make it easier for you to understand:
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I wish I could say that I don't know what it is to be poor and hungry but unfortunately I do. I grew up that way. At least we were that way when I was a young child and I remember it very vividly and so does my sister. My mother was sole provider for us and while she tried her best it was almost impossible to have a "good" life. She got paid $60 avans (pre-payment) in first half of the month and $120 (actual remaining salary) at the end of the month. That's considering that she was 5th ranking electrical engineer and was the top of her field at the time and very few men and women could get to that rank. She used to fix electronic machines on the factory and was very much valued. But her salary was just not enough to pay for basics no matter how she tried. Usually every couple of days before she would get paid she'd run out of money. I remember coming home one day and looking in to the fridge for food - there was nothing there. Not just not something I wanted but completely empty. Later that evening mom brought an onion and one head of cabbage and she made stewed cabbage - something I really hated and wouldn't have eaten normally. I waited out until the following day when I was so hungry that even stewed cabbage smelled pretty good, and when mom walked in on me sitting alone in the kitchen and eating it I told her that "hunger will make you eat anything". She remembered those words for the rest of her life and so will I. I remember being awake at night from hunger and having my sister share her portion of a bread so I could go to sleep. I could go on with such examples but it would probably bore everyone else so I'll stop.
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This is why I garden. This is why my pantry is overflowing and why I have at least 6 month of food stored - so I can be prepared. I grew up with one too many "hungry" moments, some due to the political environment and some due to nature like severe floods or droughts that would prevent us from harvesting enough for the rest of the year. So I garden. And I forage in the forest. And I stash flour, salt, sugar, rice and pasta. It's been a long time since we moved to the states - will be 20 yrs in December. But in my head I'm still hungry. That's why the moment anyone comes into my house I will ask "do you want something to eat and drink" - because in my head everyone is hungry. Always. But my garden is also a way of relaxation for me and a way to turn off my mind and focus on positive - all those gorgeous greens and ripe fruit and veggies that I get to pick and hold in my hands.  I don't want to eat them necessarily. I just want to have them in the house. At all times. And to share with anyone else.

12 comments:

  1. That is one powerful testimonial, Jenny! Where did you live before coming to the States?

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    1. Marcia - I grew up in a small town in western part of the Ukraine, previously known as Soviet States.

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  2. What a heart wrenching story. Maybe it would be a good thing if we all went hungry for a while. I'm sure it would give us a greater appreciation for what we have, and greater empathy for those who are not so fortunate.

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    1. Granny - this is not meant to be heart wrentching. it's a simle explanation to understand why I have compulsion to plant every square inch and why i always think I could do better and grow more. But as you said it really would help if people in US had greater appreciation of what they have because it's heart wrenching to see mounds of produce tossed into ladfills every day when so many around the world go hungry.

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    2. I've known you for several years. Im so glad you are here in the states and i got to know you and your story. Im proud of you!

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  3. A sad story but I see that your family did manage to survive and now your garden inspires many.

    Your harvests are lovely and I am very jealous of that beautiful gate your husband made!

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    1. Mary - I hope my gardening inspires others to grow something of their own so they're less dependent on government and more aware of what it means to grow something from scratch. My mom used to say that you can take potatoe and eat it, or you can cut it into several parts with 1 eye each, plant it and have several plants that will produce enough potatoes to feed you for a month. I hope others will choose to feed themselves for a month.

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  4. I had a fairly similar childhood. :) I would watch cooking shows on PBS and then go to the kitchen to make something. Well, there would be nothing. Perhaps white bread and seasoning salt. If lucky a few packets of arby's sauce. :/ If I had realized then that vegetarianism was so much cheaper, I would have gone veg many years earlier just to eat. (These days I am fed well enough and enjoy vegetarian foods on their own merits)

    I can understand well enough your take on basic security.

    - cloud

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    1. I'm glad you're able to understand where I'm coming from and why I try to grow as much as possible to squeeze out of my small garden. While we're comfortable now and have dual income in my head I will always be insecure about food supply. I've always loved gardening and there is just nothing like picking perfectly ripe tomato or another veggie and eating it fresh. But knowing that I have that extra for later also puts my mind at ease.

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  5. That was a very sad and touching story. Thanks for sharing, where did you live before you came to the United States?

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    1. I grew up in a small town in western part of the Ukraine, previously known as USSR

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