Sunday, May 30, 2010

Living large

Like many Americans, I have spent much of my life being larger than is considered to be healthy, and thus searching for a way that works to take (and keep!) off a few pounds. Exercise, of course is part of any successful effort. But "the gym" and other forms of working out for working out's sake are just not for me -- it bores me out of my mind, and doing such things in groups (they call that classes, I guess), which works for so many, is also not for me. So, my search for a good exercise life has always been a search for exercise I can get as part of transporting my body, etc., from place to place, or some other kid of activity that's main purpose is not the exercise itself. So, bicycle commuting, cargo biking (eg, grocery shopping by bike), walking to work, volunteering to help a friend move some boxes, hiking in a pretty place -- those have been the ways I've sought exercise.

The last few weeks, now that we've moved into a small house with a little bit of a backyard, I've been able to reconnect with another by-the-way means of getting exercise -- gardening. Now, gardening doesn't have to involve much sweat, but I double-dug the two plots to the right with a fairly small shovel, and that was a lot of work! Of course, the exercise benefit is hardly an ongoing thing, but I'm really hoping (especially, if we avoid a reoccurred of the late blight fungus that meant we only got a small -- but yummy! -- yield from the tomatoes we planted in containers last year on our small porch in our small apartment) for another benefit: lots of healthful eating in the summer. Lots and lots of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers especially -- that's what I hope for. That would be really living large!

I am grateful to be able to have a chance to grow things, again. Years of living in apartments in in cities have meant I went quite a few years without a place to grow anything. The main benefit of gardening, of course, isn't really either the exercise or the produce. It's what it can do for your soul. The feel of God's earth in your hands. The joy of watching something grow. This year, we even grew most of our tomato plants from seed ourselves -- some of them seeds we saved ourselves from the Mr. Stripey tomatoes we enjoyed so much last year. (That's some of the seedlings, below, sitting on top of our compost bin).


One way of trying to stem off the effects of another possible blight is just to plant a lot of tomatoes of different varieties (last year the blight didn't kill off our plants, but just reduced their yield -- we lost a lot of tomatoes to disgusting looking fungus on them!). Today, I went even farther than before in my search for tomato variety. I had heard about planting tomatoes upside down before, but it was only after reading this recent New York Times article that I started to think seriously about trying it. I followed the instructions on this web page for making upside down planters out of five-gallon paint buckets (about $4 each with the lids at Home Depot). That's me to the left carrying the new containers to their temporary homes -- they live upside-up for about a week to build a root system. Once that's done, we'll flip them over and hang them from somewhere sunny

(You can find more pics of how I handled this task here.)

One thing that made me especially excited about today's plantings is that we found some Purple Cherokee's at the local farmer's market (from this vendor). We had bought one from the same folks last year and really enjoyed the few of its fruits that were not taken by the blight, but we hadn't been able to find any until now -- the first day of the year the farmer's market was open!

We also found some horseradish plants at the farmer's market, which we had been having trouble finding. It's late in the season for planting horseradish, but I'm still hoping to have some of my own homegrown "bitter herbs" at my next seder!

It was a fun day of planting!

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