AWAI Writing Challenge Winning Entry:
My Favorite Summer Pastime … That's Easy
Gardening is my favorite summer pastime. I long for my summer garden all winter long. I pore over seed catalogs and dream of the scent of herbs and tomatoes riding on the heat waves of summer.
I know there are millions of people who feel the same way. And although I do some amount of gardening all year round, it's summer when everything speeds up and intensifies. And the summer bounty of flowers, fruits and vegetables is astounding.
The miracle of a seed unfolding into a plant never fails to hold me spellbound. And I derive tremendous satisfaction from being able to grow my own food. Of course you can get terrific produce from farmers markets, but there is nothing more local than a tomato from your own plants.
Even more rewarding is sharing my love of gardening with other people. Lots of folks enjoy their hobbies in the company of those with similar interests. But gardeners have a deeper bond to their hobby than most, almost spiritual, since they are dealing with miracles on a daily basis. And that sense of joy and wonder is very contagious among gardeners.
But even better than hanging out with fellow plant enthusiasts is teaching people to grow some of their own food, especially folks for whom access to healthy, affordable food is sometimes a challenge.
My town has a program that partners garden mentors with low income folks who have expressed interest in growing some of their own food, but who don't know how, or don't have access to the tools they need. Many of the people have never grown anything before and many of them are intimidated or unsure that they will be able to succeed.
Being able to produce some of their own food delivers nourishment for the soul as well as the stomach. The confidence they gain at producing even the smallest harvest is particularly heartwarming. They stand taller in their children's eyes too. And they feel like they have more control over their lives and their diets, and the diets of their kids.
And yes, gardening inspires my writing. Time spent in the garden can be contemplative even when it is hard labor. I spend many hours gardening and writing in my head. Or letting my thoughts meander until I arrive at a solution to a problem or and angle for an assignment.
Gardening also inspires me to write about my experiences in the botanical world. Backyard Farm is my gardening blog where I document my adventures, misadventures, and obsessions.
Last year it was all about a pepper called Rocoto. I read about this exotic plant in Sunset magazine and embarked on a quest to add it to my garden. The pepper captured my interest because it claimed to be cold tolerant, and since I garden in the Pacific Northwest I thought it might fare better than other varieties.
The more blank stares I got in response to my inquiries the more determined I became to find this elusive pepper. I finally did locate seeds for the red variety, and plant starts for the yellow version called Manzano. While the plants didn't survive our winter freezes, they did last much longer than the other peppers, and were so prolific that I still have dried peppers from last years harvest. The plant was a beauty too, with a profusion of purple flowers preceding the peppers.
And this year, who knows what the most fascinating plant in the garden will be. Already I can tell that one of my apple trees and a hardy kiwi will bear fruit for the first time. So I will be monitoring them closely.
So yeah, gardening would have to be my favorite summer pastime, in fact one of my favorite activities any time of year. It's a great way for mere mortals to participate in miracles.
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