"Live at home"

"Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable."  - George Washington Carver

During the night I dreamed about our vegetable garden.  That's probably because last night I was poring over our garden plans and reading up about each item in this book:

--which is a great resource and one I go back to, again and again.  I've added a few more things to our list: nasturtiums (did you know that the entire plant- flower and all- is edible?)  And they're pretty.  (those leaves!  and the colors!  love them.)

{photo from here}
I'm also considering garlic (is it too late to plant this?  Anyone know?  It's still relatively cold here.) and tomatillos.  (Apparently they're fairly prolific and grow well in cooler climates.)

I'm making note of what I hope to preserve this year, too.

For the freezer:
I'm hoping to make strawberry jam, strawberry-rhubarb jam, raspberry jam and blackberry jam.  Possibly blueberry jam, too.  I'm not a big fan but I'm sure some of the kids will eat it.  (I'm trying to remember how many batches of jam I made last year but I forget.  Somewhere around 10 batches, I think.  And we just pulled our last jar from the freezer.)  And applesauce.  I will likely can some applesauce, too.  We're planting sugar pumpkins for the purpose of making and freezing some pumpkin puree.

To can:
We always can beans- and we never can enough.  So we're planting both pole and bush beans this year in hopes for a large crop.  We also want to can dilly beans this year, too.  I want to can salsa- it's been a few years and I'd love to do it again.  And dill pickles


One of the biographies Mark read aloud this year was George Washington Carver.  Carver (1864-1943) was a brilliant scientist who defied people's expectations of him- because he was a black man.  He had been born into slavery and was not allowed to attend public school but he yearned for an education and had an insatiable appetite for learning.  Even as a young boy, his neighbors called him the Plant Doctor.  He knew plants.  Every morning by 4:00, he went for a walk in nature and to spend time with his Creator, and he studied whatever he saw.  He dug up plants and studied them and wondered at their purposes. He studied the soil.  If he came upon someone working at a skill that he was unfamiliar with, he asked if he could learn.  In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to come to the Tuskagee Institute and head up the Agricultural Department.  (By this time Carver had collected several thousands of specimens and understood soils, grafting, and cross-breeding.) 

Carver was devoted to his agricultural students, but he had great compassion for the poor black cotton farmers in the area.  He saw the miserable conditions in which these farmers lived- in broken-down shacks, with no nearby trees or flowers or anything planted nearby- other than cotton- and he wanted to reach out to them and help.  Their whole life was cotton, and yet he soil was poor.  Carver knew how to bring health back to the soil.  He came up with the idea to create an Agricultural Experiment Station at Tuskagee, in order to show the farmers what could be done on the worn-out soil.  He came up with ways to treat the soil that would be available to the farmers, he printed bulletins and recipes.  Then he realized that the farmers weren't going to be reading the materials, so he started a Farmer's Institute, where he invited the farmers and their wives to come- once a month- and SEE what they could do.  He told them in simple language how they could work their land more effectively. 

He happened upon an old black farmer one day- Henry Baker- and was invited in for a meal.   They ate a typical meal: side meat, corn bread and molasses.  Carver noted that there were no vegetables or proteins.  They ate the fat of the pork instead of real meat.  There were no eggs.  He began sharing with them how they could 'live at home'; that the growing season in the south was long, and they could plant a garden and have fresh vegetables, year round.  He offered to bring them some seeds.  He told them they could raise peaches and pears and cherries and persimmons, berry bushes and walnuts and pecans.  He told them to get some chickens.  He told them he'd bring them a coop himself and teach them what to do.  As he was leaving, Henry Baker said, "I want to thank you, Professor, for your kindness.  I is just one farmer, and you done took all that time telling me how I should live.  But Professor, I got neighbors that's worse off than I is.  I owns my land.  They just rents it.  If you tell me when you're going to bring them seeds and that chicken coop, I'll get my neighbors here.  And you can tell them all about how it ain't good for the land to grow just one thing all the time- and about 'live at home'."  Carver promised to come the following Saturday, and told Henry to invite the farmers' wives, too. 

Carver spent all that week cooking and showed up that Saturday with a big wooden box full of jams, eggs, cured meat, vegetables, and packets of seeds.  Twenty farmers and their wives were crammed into Henry Baker's cabin and they listened to Carver tell them about the land.  They sampled all he'd brought for them.  He showed them how to raise hens and told them about curing meat.  He taught them how to make things.  "'Live at home'", Carver told them, "Don't buy everything you need at the plantation owner's store.  Grow your own food.  A garden is the best doctor there is."  Then he gave each man some garden seeds and some flower seeds. 

There's much more to his life story, but we were inspired by his vision to 'live at home'.  On our little city lot there's only so much we can do, but we can use the land God has given us, and be good stewards of it.

After reading that biography, Mark and I encouraged each of our (older) kids to choose just one crop (from our yard and garden) this year to oversee: to read up about it, to study it, to plant it, tend it, weed and harvest it.  I told them that I would then buy from them what I would normally purchase from the store.  So as I plan for our garden this spring, they are busy plotting and planning, too.  Isaac intends to take over the cucumbers, and to plant dill and make dill pickles- and sell them to me.  Ella is researching carrots.  Isaias is still contemplating what he'll take on. 

We'll see how our little project turns out.  :)


  1. Brilliant: buying your children's crops. Some days I feel like the best motivators for my children are cash and "free computer time." I get my best cleaning out of them when they are "earning" Angry Birds time.
    I love this idea. Let us know how it works out! (And thanks for the bio of GWC.)

  2. The Bellingham food bank does a program like George Washington Carver for low to medium income families, they give you seeds, starts, a garden mentor, and will even build you a raised bed. They also have classes for the gardeners to attend. This is my second year in the program and I have learned so much and I am so so grateful for it. (I got a little misty reading this post because I am so grateful to the program so I had to share) Only thing I didn't learn was how to can and freeze items (and preserve meat) but you tube and the library go a long way.

    1. Ramona-
      That's really neat! I had no idea they did anything like that. What a gift!
      We should plan to do some canning and freezing together, Ramona!-- since you live so close!

  3. Oh to have been that little farmhouse with Henry Baker and his neighbors! Thanks for sharing this, Stacy! I love reading about your garden. We planted a meager one this year but we'll be leaving it behind for the new owners of our home when we move at the end of the month. I'm so happy to leave this little gift behind but a little bummed that we may not have one of our own this year.

  4. Oh to have been that little farmhouse with Henry Baker and his neighbors! Thanks for sharing this, Stacy! I love reading about your garden. We planted a meager one this year but we'll be leaving it behind for the new owners of our home when we move at the end of the month. I'm so happy to leave this little gift behind but a little bummed that we may not have one of our own this year.


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