For the beauty of the earth
As many people who, like us, grew up in suburban and urban areas eating canned vegetables, have since learned, growing and eating one's own food is one of the great pleasures in life. As a child I would literally try to sneak the disgusting canned beets and peas that my mother put on my plate under the table and into my pocket to flush down the toilet, where this "food" bleached of all nutrition belonged! Later, as a graduate student in New York City, I was much inspired by the narrative of Helen and Scott Nearing who reclaimed worn-out farmland in Vermont and pioneered the new ecologically responsible homestead lifestyle. As a result, when my mother and father retired on an old farm in upstate New York, I partnered with them on a garden. Its produce was a revelation to me. Since 2002, I have hauled tons of composted horse manure from a nearby stable to amend the soil on my property. I also deposited wood ash on the garden site from our annual winter heating (burning wood is carbon neutral, in that it only releases carbon that is stored in growing trees, and our stewarded forest immediately captures this carbon). Together with minerals from the chicken droppings and the compost, these supply all the fertilizer the garden needs. Another trick I learned from the Nearings was intensive planting and heavy mulching, since I very much dislike pulling weeds. The mulch, which can be compost or grass clippings, suffocates the weeds and preserves soil moisture.
We have learned through the years that every yearly growing season has different results due to variables like weather, rainfall, insects and pests, etc. Some years some vegetables love to grow and other years they don't. We've learned to practice non-chemical pest control, chiefly through the use of complementary planting and garden fabric, which keeps the bugs off the brassicas, eggplants, and summer squash. We've also learned just to plant extra -- the tax you pay to wildlife in exchange for chemical-free produce. I smile all winter long with my morning glass of sunshine: no, not orange juice from Florida, but tomato juice from my garden.