someone asked me the other day when was the last time i'd lived somewhere where i could actually plant a garden, and i realized i haven't had a real yard since i lived at home with my mom. the planter box that the peeping tom lay in to look at my neighbor and i in denver notwithstanding. that's been, oh, 18 years? and really, even when i lived at home and saw my mom spending a good amount of her free time digging in the dirt, i had, it might be fair to say, less than zero interest in getting on that party train. but as i've gotten older, i've found myself wanting more and more to get my hands dirty & to have a chance to grow our own vegetables. so when we moved into our first! real! house! last summer and started thinking about changing the backyard (y'know, because HUGE rose bushes, pea gravel, and broken glass isn't the most kid-friendly landscape aesthetic), building a raised-bed planter for an organic veggie garden was at the top of my list.
i went vegetarian when i was almost 19. it started more as an experiment, to see what it would feel like, to see how long i could last, to see what it was all about. i'd just started college at uc irvine and had met some new friends who were vegetarian, and hey! why not? meat, shmeat! isn't that kinda what college is all about? trying on all kinds of stuff for size? little did i know, i would last a good 12 years. i actually was an, oh how do you say it, ovo-lacto pescarian? i still ate dairy, eggs, and fish most of the time. at one point, after reading "diet for a new america" in 1996 i tried to go vegan, but i gave that up after about two weeks. no cheese? i mean, a girl's got her limits, right?
around 2004, though, i began to notice how lethargic i felt, all the time. i'd come home from work and just want to pass out on the couch. and my fingernails were thin and peeling. and i started to dream about eating chicken. some people dream about javier bardem, mark ruffalo, and a vat of crisco; i dream about poultry. after my second chicken-eating dream, though, i began to entertain the possibility of gradually introducing meat back into my diet, and when i mentioned it to j, he just about did a backflip, which sealed the deal. j comes from a line of hunters; one of his 4'11" nana's favorite stories is about bagging a buck and gutting it all by herself, on the spot, shortly after giving birth to her third child. j had sorta stopped eating meat when we began living together, simply because i didn't buy or cook it, but he'd treat himself to a burger whenever he was able. so off to trader joes we went, picking out the most hormone-free, free-range little chicken breasts we could find. he made us kabobs, they tasted GREAT, my tummy didn't revolt, and that was about that. until around 3am that night, though - i remember waking up and actually sitting up in bed, feeling like i could RUN A MARATHON. i had so much energy, my body was buzzing! it was nuts. meat! so glad we kissed and made up.
all of that being said, after we had f and she started eating actual food, i began to think a lot about our diet again, and have been frequenting the farmer's markets, buying organic produce and hormone-free dairy, and just trying to eat more consciously in general. just this week we decided to try to work in at least two vegetarian meals a week, because it felt like we had swung way back over on the meat pendulum, a little too far. sidenote: "meat pendulum"! it screams "death metal band name," doesn't it? anyhow. j built us our raised bed, and my beautiful pals jessie, stacy, nate, & jason gave me a book about organic vegetable gardening, and, well? in the past two months, we've gone from this:
we've harvested two fresno peppers so far, and j made some great salsa with them. f has been loving it too. she helps us water, collects critters that all these goodies are attracting, and picks the onion greens so that i can snack on them. i love knowing that she's going to grow up with the experience of growing fruit and veggies (thank you, barbara kingsolver and your excellent book "animal, vegetable, miracle" for added inspiration). now if we can just get our zucchini plant to produce a couple before winter, i'll be thrilled. but even just knowing that sweet little baby eggplant is out there, did you see that one? dude! we grew that! in our GARDEN! well that, right now, is enough to make my heart skip a teeny little baby-eggplants-r-us beat.