Gardens in our front yard {Growing communities and food together}

Last summer a good friend asked if I would be interested in sharing our journey as to why we decided to build a garden in our front yard.  After the initial hesitation of wondering if all her readers would consider me a quack, I replied with a yes.

As we (ever so late in the season) continue to pour over seed catalogs, make plans, sketches, dreams of what our garden journey may look like in the coming year I found myself revisiting my guest post with Christine.

I needed a prompt to remember.  I needed my memory jogged and linked once again not only to the greens and reds of a thriving bed of fresh fuel but to what our initial hopes and reasons were behind building a garden in the front yard in the first place.

As this season of bright colors, leaves, fruits and trees progress, I invite you to join us as we journey together this year in the adventures of our front yard garden (as well as our backyard too!).

We welcome your words, support, wisdom and celebration with us as we seed, plant and pour ourselves into the struggles and celebrations involved in loving and nurturing the worm-rich soil, as well as letting go and allowing the God of nourishment Herself to manifest hopeful interactions and relationships through this adventure.

As we look back to remember I thought I would take a moment to catch you up to speed on the hows and whys, ins and outs of our garden walk with that first front yard garden post with Christine from Into The Mud.

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July 2012

As she half waddled/half ran the 20 feet from our two garden beds in the front yard to our front door I encouraged our 22 mo. old daughter to share with her Papa what she had in her hands, or more-less what she “had” in her hands as I watched deep green basil & spinach leaves of various sizes spill from her palms, leaving a trail to follow on the brown prickly dry grass.

“Little Tomato, can you share with Papa what you have in your hands?” I encouraged.

“Food Papa. Food from garden.”

“What kind of food Little Tomato?” I prompted.

“Good food. Good food from garden.” she replied with traces of basil leaves still lingering between the cracks of her baby teeth.

If our garden runs dry, leaves turn brown & roots find themselves dug up from curious moles or, as we experienced a few weeks back, seedlings displaced by fat toads desperate for a cool dig to rest in, the knowledge that Little Tomato believes that “good food” comes from the garden gives me enough nourishment to carry me through the harvest.

I have other hopes though.

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In the early months of winter Jake & I received a generous cash gift. Still to the day we’re not sure why we were gifted with such kindness but we were and for that we are endlessly grateful. The thoughts occurred to us: “should we give it back? What do we with it? We can’t accept this. We have to accept it.” In the end though, we knew we needed to accept it and in doing so, use it for the good of God’s Kingdom.

And so the dreaming began.

I am a dreamer. A moderate-practical dreamer. Is there such a thing?

What to do with this gift though?

Since partnering up and choosing one another Jake & I have always struggled how to best love God & love others without settling, without accumulating, without spending.

Keep in mind, we have settled. We bought our first home on a quarter-acre of land this past year and within 21 months birthed into this world two little clever girls. Although not the intention, we ended up moving closer to our parents and in our garage right now sit two bicycles, two cars, one bicycle trailer, one stroller, way too many toys (thank you Grandmas and Grandpas), a few dumpster garden tool finds and a corner dedicated to all things Jake that I choose not to touch.

But what to do with this gift though that speaks into the Kingdom without purchasing & filling the garage up more. How could we use this gift to share with our community that although we have two cars, we too are still very broken people. How could we use this gift to speak to the children littering our sidewalk that although we have toys to play with, we are still desperately lonely at times. How could we use this gift to speak to the world that although we have two kids and a pretty-sweet retractable clothes-line to dry our cloth diapers on, we often find ourselves busily occupying time in order to cover-up the fact that as newbies to the area we lack intimate conversation outside our home and are beginning to wonder how messed up we truly are.

And then God spoke.
God actually spoke to both of us.

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I hustled my way up our steep set of stairs in the middle of the night and, 7 months pregnant at the time, rolled into bed and nudged Jake into a semi-awake state to share this dream, this vision, only to realize that in the morning he would remember nothing – he’s a hard deep sleeper. I apologized for waking him and scratched his back as he fell fast asleep.

I was awake though. I was dreaming. Beautiful practical dreams.

I was dreaming of a place where all are welcome. I was dreaming of a table where the men & women attending the AA meetings down the road could sit & eat. I was dreaming of a place where hands meet soil, neighbors meet conversation, kids meet taste and where healing can begin.

The next morning I began to share this gifted dream with Jake as he began to attach needed addendum, match my thoughts, add glitter to my hopes and hands to the work before us.

Two months later the work began. It started with the work of building two 6×6 raised garden beds in our front yard, three feet back from where the sidewalk ends, where children race to open sprinklers, families walk to their neighbors home and men & women alike make their way from the bus stop to meetings at the opposite end of the road.

Cedar beds were built, compost embedded soil delivered, seeds ordered & planted, seedlings transplanted & hopes flourished.

Little did we know.

Little did we know that within months children would be picking sugar snap peas from the vines and asking all sorts of questions such as, “what is a brussel sprout and how do flowers become tomatoes?” Men & women on their way to & from AA meetings share their opinions of how the garden looks and confusion over the idea that they could eat the flowers being grown & that, in time, there would be plenty of food for them to pick & eat, pilfer & cook. Neighbors say our gardens remind of Victory Gardens of a past era and wonder what our neighborhood could do & look like if we all planted gardens in our front yards. Many also wonder why we have an on-going pile of accumulated cow & rabbit poo beside our driveway.

Many of these questions can be answered simply – brussel sprouts are green balls of deliciousness; flowers become tomatoes by making sugar from the sun; edible flowers – try them & plant some. Why would we give away our gardens gift of produce? Because there is always enough. Why do we have a pile of poo next to our driveway? I wonder that many times myself.

But it’s the question of why did we decided to plant our garden in the front yard as opposed to behind our home in semi-privacy that really draws people to wonder. Why wouldn’t we plant our garden in a place where people wouldn’t be prone to snatch handfuls of parsley and I wouldn’t have to worry if the kids were picking green tomatoes, thinking they’re ripe (this was a real dream I had the other night) or the neighbors cat wouldn’t be digging into my chamomile roots.

The truth is, I’m hesitant to share the real reason why we chose this location for our garden because it may make us appear weak, lonely desperate and/or foolish. But the truth is, all these reasons are why we did choose to place the garden in the front yard. We were lonely for community, desperate for conversation, weak to a desire to welcome strangers into our home; foolish to believe that we were not meant to live in backyard isolation but that our lives were intended to be transparent, tangible, shared.

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We were lonely and we believed that if we opened up our lives, our garden, our food & family to the Kingdom of God in this vulnerable & messy way we may just find healing in the process. We could only hope & trust that others felt this way to and together, like the land we’re beginning to heal, we too may begin the process of healing ourselves, our bodies, our broken spirits, our lives of isolation, our industrialized belief system of stone-like independence. We were lonely and were looking for healing with others who are just as broken.

It’s mid-growing season, late June in West Michigan and our front garden beds are, if I say so myself, extraordinary. I went a wee bit overboard and am now watching heirloom tomatoes crowd out the peppers. Our nasturtium & borage are spilling into the oregano, thyme & brussel sprouts, gourds & squash are literally taking over… well, everything.

Grover & Darius are amazed though at the growth and are looking forward to taking home some tomatoes on their way home from meetings come late July. David tasted sugar snap peas for the first time and Nicole, who lives next door willingly took half of our radish loot and yesterday came over to snatch some parsley for her dinner. We have met Trina & Dave, Daryl & Kelly, Bill & Diane along with many other families, individuals, couples & children who are simply passing by when we’re outside and can’t help but ask questions, comment and in those conversations we are beginning to heal. We are beginning to know others stories. We are beginning to feel a little less lonely.
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Our home? We have welcomed a few into our home or on the front stoop for drinks and children pepper our backyard on a regular basis (although I think this has more to do with Little Tomato, her baby sister & our rabbit Olivia than it has to do with beets). Our home is becoming a place where are all are welcome, where food is made, conversations happen and where hope may just be growing roots beside the carrots & parsnips, penetrating deeper into the Kingdom of all things which are pure & good, especially the basil & spinach.

Join us in building communities and food together through a front yard garden, will you?  

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7 thoughts on “Gardens in our front yard {Growing communities and food together}

  1. A garden is an amazing way to bridge to lonliness. What a wonderful idea. I know that Kelly and Daryl are both wonderful people to have living next door, I am so glad you got to meet them. (I am thier sister in law and think the world of them) Your garden looks beautiful, great post.

    • I too think the world of them and couldn’t be more thrilled to have been planted next to them. Such a joy to have all four as part of our everyday. Lovely to hear from you!

  2. Love this post! Last year around this time we also decided to plant a front yard garden for many of the same reasons you shared here. Your words remind me of the beauty of a garden and the importance of intention. We saw an amazing transformation in our interactions with our neighbors, and like you, soon had a band of kiddos on our doorstep almost daily asking for more chores to do in the garden. Here is my post on our front yard garden below- http://nienaberhood.tumblr.com/post/25691105958/planted

    • Did I ever tell you how much I loved seeing your front yard garden? Can’t wait to see what this next season holds for your family!

  3. Pingback: Garden Plan 2013 {Where Dreams Dig Dirt} | Suburban Compost

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