It was late spring of last year that a conversation with my father on organic foods turned into a summer project. “You want organic vegetables? Grow your own,” he said. What a novel idea! Why haven’t I thought of that before? I never considered myself to be a farmer, although when I was a child I used to help him with our vegetable garden. I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing and never thought it would be a useful skill.
“You can have the space in the backyard, but you’re on your own. I’m not taking care of it for you.” Always known as one to start things and leave them unfinished for a while, I knew what he was getting at. The whole experience was new to me and I had no idea what I was doing. In typical Paul Galloro fashion I just started digging and figured it out as I went along. It’s interesting to me how my gardening became my meditation and revealed to me so many lessons for life.
What I learned from being a farmer for a summer:
Plan ahead! Figure out what you want to grow, how much space it needs, how many you can fit in your patch of earth, and if needed, put your sticks in the ground while the plants are small, otherwise you have a tangled mess to clean up once they start to grow. We need to create space in our lives in order to do this planning work, otherwise we become reactive to life (rather than responsive) and this causes all types of stress.
Space is important for growth. When I was planting everything, I spaced it out based on how big they were at the time and what looked visually appealing. As time went on, there wasn’t enough space for everything to grow and flourish. My tomatoes grew over my peppers, stunting my peppers growth. My peas and cucumbers grew into a tangled web of vines making it hard to tend to them as they grew. This was analogous to my own journey – I began to create space in my life in order for me to grow and prosper in my truth.
My family will always have my back! When I help them, they help me. My father needed me to do something for him one weekend that he was unable to do (but it needed to get done) – the weekend I planned to set up sticks for my viney plants. While I was gone, he took time to set up the sticks for me, making my job easier when I got home. Another time while I was away for a week long work trip, my sister and mother watered my plants and tied elastics around my lettuce so they wouldn’t open up and get exposed to the sun. This helped me understand how my abilities could help my family, and vice versa. No matter how different we think and act, we can still help one another.
Dads will always do things for their sons at a young age that sons just won’t understand … until later. When I was a kid, my father used to force me to help him in the garden. We watered, trimmed, turned soil for hours each night. When it was my turn to grow a garden (something I never thought I’d do), I remembered all the things he taught me. Thanks Dad!
If you’re looking for advice, look within. I had many people offer suggestions for my garden. I discovered advice that was offered from someone who never say my garden didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. The advice I received from the ones who spent time with my garden had some benefit. When I sat with my garden and listened to the ideas that popped into my head about how to care for my garden, my garden flourished. I’ve seen this happen in my life as well – when we’re guided by our own intuition, amazing things happen.
People notice the difference. I loved sharing my vegetables with my family. When I ran out of lettuce, I was forced to buy some from the grocery store until my next batch had grown. They could taste the difference in the quality of the lettuce. I know it had everything to do with the love I put into my garden. People can taste love. They can also sense when you’re intentions are firmly rooted in love.
Be mindful of the seeds you plant – they sometimes come back, even if you forget about them. Late in the summer, I planted lettuce leaves that never grew. At the end of the season, all the little cherry tomatoes that didn’t make it were composted in the soil. This year I didn’t set up my garden because I was away for most of the summer. When I came home I noticed little lettuce had grown and tomato plants were starting to bloom. Some people don’t believe me when I tell them this, but it’s true. Without any attention or care to my vegetable patch, my family was able to enjoy lettuce and later in the summer, we had cherry tomatoes for our salads. And I didn’t do a single thing. The seeds we plant in life (our thoughts) will grow. And once we plant something, we can always pull it out and start again if it’s not what we wanted in the first place …
A simple conversation turned summer project became an analogy of what I had lived in the 33 years of my life leading up to that moment. I was just looking to fill my belly with delicious foods but I ended up nourishing my soul with experience of a different kind. It’s interesting what we discover when we find the parallels between nature and our lives.