I’m downright shaken to the core by Wendell Berry’s writing.  When is the last time you read someone who simultaneously made you want to be a better mother and wife, grow a garden, raise some livestock and read more poetry and Homer?  He is a prophet of sorts, providing insightful and critical commentary on our modern way of life and the  sad separation between us and our land, our food and most importantly our families.  We have grown up in an era where we are cut off from so much of our humanity.   We have become  poor caretakers of all entrusted to us and the result is a society that is overfed but undernourished, information rich but wisdom poor, exhaustingly busy but often lonely and unsatisfied.

He offers some complicated analysis on how we got to where we are but his solutions seem to be fairly simple.   Slow down.  Grow some food.  Cook it yourself.   Raise a few animals.   Know what you’re eating.  Be faithful to the land, to your children, to your wife.  Relearn the simple pleasures of life that can’t be bought but must be nurtured.

His writing has been so timely for us too.  We had already committed to raising a few chickens and growing a small kitchen garden.  But the way he writes about it makes it seem so much more meaningful and profound.  He advocates change in the only way it’s possible—-“I bid you to a one-man revolution—The only revolution that is coming.”

So, I thought I’d show you the tiny little spot we carved out for a kitchen/herb/vegetable garden.  We’ll be ready to plant soon so I’ve been doing lots of reading and planning.  It’s about 10×12 feet and right beside our garage. It gets full sun until around 2p and is within our sprinkler system so watering will be easy!

I found some good information on this site, including some help in planning my layout.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress!

   “Sowing” by Wendell Berry

In the stilled place that once was a road going down

from the town to the river, and where the lives of marriages grew

a house, a cistern and barn, flowers, the tilted stone of borders,

and the deed of their lives ran to neglect, and honeysuckle

and then the fire overgrew it all, I walk heavy

with seed, spreading on the cleared hill the beginnings

of green, clover and grass to be pasture.  Between

history’s death upon the place and the trees that would have come

I claim, and act, and am mingled in the fate of the world.

I highly recommend  The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry   and The Way of Ignorance: And Other Essays.

My new blog friend, Marie, has a great blog about all her farming/growing adventures!  And she recently had a chocolate chip cookie taste test that looked so much fun!

Now tell me all about your gardens, I’m dying to know!

Also, check out lifeingracegirls today where Meaghan  is doing the most adorable bow tie tutorial!

42 comments on ““Sowing” {a kitchen garden}”

  1. I have some lettuce coming up right now and my carrot tops are getting bigger. I still have to plant tomatoes and other goodies. We have several raised beds that my husband built for me a few years ago and I truly love this time of year, even if allergies are rampant. If you’re interested, a great gardening book is called Carrots Love Tomatoes. I think I ordered it off of Amazon. It’s great for learning about companion plantings. I can’t wait to see how your garden turns out and soon I hope to have some pics of my garden up.

  2. Oh yes, Wendell Berry moves into places of my mind and heart that I hardly even know about, opens them, and simultaneously moves to action, confirms my thoughts, challenges me to new paths, and affirms my vision. If I pick him up I cannot put him down.
    I am a long time lurker – infrequent commenter – fellow sojourner – mom to six – lover of my beloved – home educator – newly home small scale land redeemer- lover of books – and above all – Christ follower.
    Blessings to you Edie, in this growing season.

    • oh my, I think we were separated at birth Laura! And you so beautifully said exactly how I feel about his writing. Thanks for saying hi. Your comment made my day:)

  3. I’ll be looking for Wendell at the library today – he sounds swoon worthy. We have a container garden on our back deck and it is joy to wake up and see the growth each morning. Miss you!

    xoxo michele

  4. Edie-I have been trying to live a more sustainable life for the last couple of years. I have kept a garden, composted what I could, and tried to be a good steward of this great land God has blessed us with. There is so much more I wish I could do. I can’t wait to look for these books at the library. Thank you once again for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
    I sent out your pillow covers last week. I hope they’ve arrived.

    • i got them ruth!!!!!! they are so fantastic and i can’t wait to start using them. i’m taking them to a friend tomorrow to have the cutest geometric fabric sewn to the backs. i’ll post pics when they’re done! a huge big thank you and hug to go with it. what a precious gift!
      much love,

  5. In my mind, I am awesome enough to grow my own successful garden. But then I wake up and remember the piles of laundry undone and the massive loss of plant life on my porch. A girl can still dream! Someday……
    I really enjoyed the book ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ a few years ago. What I want to be like when I grow up.

      • Love that book Randa! Such an inspiration, and so smart. Edie, I love what you highlighted here from Mr. Berry… that the revolution is in a personal level. That’s what matters, anyway. We individually are the lowest common denominator.

        Best wishes in your garden, I know it will be beautiful and stylish but also joyful and life affirming. And I bet your little ducklings and chicks love it too. Please post pics when you can! (Thank you so much for the mention!!)

  6. We have had gardens intermittently for the past 6 or 7 years. The last one the chickens primarily ate as it was just after I had gone back to work full time & could not get myself together enough to weed & harvest. I’ve vowed to do better this time. I’ve planted tomatoes, red & green peppers, spinach, radishes, beans, peas, summer squash, cucumbers, cilatro, dill & watermelon. Guess what I’m planning on making? Salsa & pickles!!! My canning friend is doing complimentary items so we can can & dry more stuff together. It’s nice to share the work.

    I also read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” last year & re-read this Spring. Her story is so inspirational.

    • i am definitely planting all the stuff i need for salsa, sara! my homemade salsa from last year was soooo good and we just used the last jar this week. and that book is next on my list!
      happy growing:)

  7. I’m reading The Art of the Commonplace now. I’ve only just started, but already I feel a keen need to prioritize, declutter, and grab more tightly the things that matter and shrug off the extra “stuff” that saps my energy. What a great garden space you have! Happy planting 🙂

    • yes, his words have that air of truth that make them hard to ignore. the essay on marriage in that book is profound and unlike anything i’ve ever read.
      enjoy 🙂

  8. Wendell Berry…definitely inspirational. I have been determined to grow something here on our little spot of land. We live in the city, and our 60s era neighborhood is covered with tons of mature pines. Because there are so many, and they are so tall, there is little sun to be had. I tried growing in several spots in our back and side yard with no luck. Last year, I was brave and moved the whole operation to the very front of our yard by the street. If any of our neighbors had bad things to say about it, they didn’t say them to our faces. Things grew much better out there, but we’re still limited in what will grow because of the short hours of sun out there. I tried some lettuce and spinach out there this spring, but things didn’t grow too much. A mesculun mix grew wonderfully in a big container at the end of my house last year, so I’ll probably switch it back out there. The plants I had the most luck with in our front yard were tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and herbs. I love having fresh herbs in the summer, and it never got cold enough here to kill my thyme and oregano from last year, so they are already going strong.

    One of my favorite books is Edible Landscaping by Ros Creasy. I only wish I could incorporate more of her ideas! I also like Square Foot Gardening and The Edible Front Yard.

  9. hey girl! i’ve got my garden in too! wooohoooo! let’s see what this black thumb can do 🙂 i’m growing different things than my bestie and we’re trading with each other. that way we get a variety, but don’t have to have ginormous gardens 🙂 can’t wait to see it all sprouted! feels so earthy and coool huh?

  10. That book sounds amazing by the words you’ve shared. Gardening is great isn’t it?! Nothing better than feeding your family what you’ve grown – fresh from the garden to the table! Oh, I tried your chocolate chip cookie recipe the other day. And they are seriously the best ever! I showed them on my blog because they look like such a bakery! My mom loves them so much that she has one every day that she comes by… And she has put in her request for her own batch of them for Mother’s Day. So thanks for sharing… They’ve been a hit around here! Good luck with the garden… Can’t wait to watch your garden grow! 🙂

  11. Hi Edie,

    I am a fairly new reader. I am a young mom and have been inspired by your homeschooling posts. My baby is just 11 mos., but I am already considering homeschooling.

    I love your emphasis on reading! I just read The Unsettling of America this year and was deeply impacted. I also read Hannah Coulter. His words are like butter for the soul…they sink so deeply. His words have a kindness to them.

    Have you read any Henri Nouwen? I am reading Spiritual Direction right now and it is knocking my socks off. I think you would like him.

  12. We’ve cleared a huge space behind our garage for our garden. My husband is the keeper of this plot of land and he’s been busy planning what to plant. In my gardens I have mint, rosemary, both of which I use frequently. I also have strawberries that my sweet little 4 year old daughter looks after every day and lets me know if the strawberries are red enough to pick off. Thanks for sharing. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  13. Wendell Berry does the same for me! Are you familiar with any of his fiction? Hannah Coulter will move you to tears and make you hug your family a little tighter…. Enjoy that kitchen garden! I have enjoyed browsing you gardening pins.

  14. Edie,
    I love that you love Mr. Berry!! Guess what? I heard him speak this past winter. He very rarely travels these days and speaks, or so he said. It was a personal favor for him to visit Samford University in Birmingham. My husband is very inspired by him and has turned me on to his writing, too. (We moved to a rural area to start an organic farm last year. When I say we moved, I mean my husband begged me to come from Atlanta to rural Alabama, and after 3 years I gave in. 🙂 ) Any way, I am currently reading What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth. And while I do not agree with it whole heartedly, it is very challenging. We just these past couple of months switched to organics, most produce are grown on the farm, along with eggs from our chickens. You will be so thrilled the first time you eat a salad from your garden or scrambled eggs from your chickens. You will not believe how different it tastes and looks…our eggs are very orange, and more often than not two yolks are in one egg. I still spend a hefty amount each week buying organic…everything else. But I figure it’s a very good investment. We are not militant (we did get Sonic slushies this week as a treat and when someone asks us to eat out, we do without complaint), but we have made huge strides in our diet. If you want to be further challenged, a very thought provoking book to read is Wheat Belly. That one has rocked our world. Or for a movie, Food Inc. Yikes!!

  15. We have a small little garden not much bigger then what yours will be. We havn’t planted everything yet, but my Hubby did say the radishes are up. He also picked Rhubarb for me to make a crisp and I have to say it is wonderful and I can’t stop picking at it! I told my hubby I would like to plant just a small amount of potatoes, he thinks its crazy since we get so many from his folks. I told him there is nothing better then saying everything you are eating for dinner came from your own garden so thats why I want to try potatoes this year too, Just one hill… We are in MN so we can’t plant quite so early as you southerners.

  16. I did a wine box garden last year that made it’s way around the world thanks to blogs and Pinterest. Cracks me up because I was a first timer with very little knowledge. I’m one of those who could over research and over think something to death trying to get it perfect the first time, but I decided to just go for it and ended up with some yummy salads! I love the view from your garden!

  17. I love the Spanish proverb: More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.

    And I have found that it is true.

    Gardening is soul satisfying and has so many spiritual equivalencies (sowing, reaping, thinning, fertile soil).

    I’m a bit obsessed with smoothies right now (send help!) and love stepping to the garden to clip some kale and collards for a smoothie breakfast.

    Other great food/garden reads: The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

    What happy, relaxed veggies you will have – look at their view!

  18. Edie – I am so jealous of your garden space! I can’t wait to see everything planted. Seba was going to make a raised bed for some vegetables by our garage, but with all the dock building, house construction, board preparing, trips to IKEA, busy work schedule, etc., etc. it will have to wait until next year:) I did buy lots of metal pots at IKEA for a container herb garden on the deck. See you soon! – Sara

  19. We have a 42×46 Community Garden Plot. Things are so-so this year. We are in desperate need of several truck fulls of horse manure, but will need to wait until fall to get it. We are planning on starting indoor worm composting this summer. That will be alot of fun for our boys! 🙂

    I have not read Wendell Berry, however, based on your wonderful comments I have now put his book on my wishlist. Thank you so much for this post, it is very inspiring!

  20. Beautiful passage, how true to you it is. I’ve got so many bunnies in my backyard, and tight quarters, have not invested in edible garden. One year I heard about a “pizza garden” and grew in a small plot tomatoes, basil, chives…fun idea. I’ve got beautiful allium coming up after planting bulbs in fall, isn’t that some sort of onion, lol, with a great purple ball flower on top. I’m headed to your neck of the woods for Knoxville house hunting Friday/Saturday, can’t wait. Keep the inspiration coming!

  21. Love this post!
    We have square foot garden boxes. My husband read about them and then looked up online how to build them! They are super easy to construct and super easy to maintain. You don’t have to deal with weeds taking over your garden and you can fill those bad boys with some super rich soil-compost, etc.
    We currently have four boxes. We have had these for about 3 yrs now. This year, we have one box of tomato plants, one box of cucumbers, and two boxes of various greens (kale, romaine lettuce and red leaf cabbage).
    We have already reaped benefits from the romaine and kale and all I have done is give them some water. 🙂
    That is my kind of gardening!
    We do plan on getting a very large planter or barrel and filling it with soil and growing carrots. I think my four little ones will have a blast picking and eating them. 🙂

  22. The quote above comes from Frost. Was Wendell quoting him and where in his books? I tried to google it .

    In later years, Frost, who once wrote:

    I bid you to a one-man revolution.–

  23. I do so love Wendell Berry. My absolute favorite of his is a short story called “Fidelity”, which is contained in a collection of the same name. It’s helpful if you’ve read one of the other Port William books (“Hannah Coulter”, “Nathan Coulter”, “Jayber Crow”, etc.), but not necessary. Everything about the story is just….transcendent. Please read it.

  24. Edie! My husband is a great lover of Wendell Berry and introduced him to me. I, too, LOVE the man. I urge you to check out his novels too. I’m totally hooked on the fictional community of which he writes. So real- lovely, sad, triumphant, tragic. And I’m going to give a garden a shot this year too! My sister recommended the book “Lasagna gardening”- it’s a super crazy simple system of naturally preparing your soil for growing good stuff – Wendell would love it! ;-). Best to you!

  25. Hi Edie! I love gardening. I have always gardened on the side of my house; each year I plant cherry tomatoes. Last year I had thee most incredible purple tomatoes… black cherry tomatoes. They were stunning. You can see the photos here: http://raisingpeanut.blogspot.com/2011/08/life-is-good.html

    Trust me, all organic is the way to go, that way you can grab a tomato when passing by as a little sweet treat! Another tip…. I like smaller tomatoes. If you want your regular size tomatoes to not grow all huge and bulging, plant them closer together. They share nutrients and don’t grow so obese.

    I also read that lavender and tomatoes love to be together. Some times I add a little lavender plant between the tomatos. I’m not sure if it works, but I’ve had a successful harvest each year.

    Oh, one more thing… I always plant at least one cherry tomato plant in addition to full size tomatoes. They ripen quicker and every day beginning in JUNE I have tomatoes to eat! YUM!

    (I love tomatoes, can you tell?)


  26. I will definetly have to get his writings…I have been living this concept for most of my married life…instead of trying to change the world, I chose to live that change. I really slowed down after my fourth child was born. We have been gardening for 25 yrs in tiny plots, our first being in small planter boxes that my hubby built on our apartment balcony. I have raised my almost grown kids in a simple, slow paced, natural, organic homegrown, homemade, green, community, giving lifestyle. We just harvested carrots that were planted by seed in winter. We have onions to harvest too. I have planted our usual tomatoes(lots of tomatoes), green beans, snow peas, peppers, zuchini, crook necked squash, and lots of herbs. Our newest addition is four tomato plants that my husband got from a friend who brought the seedlings back from Italy! Your urban garden is beautiful and you are going to enjoy it so much! Maybe next year you will build a small plot for strawberries. We have grown strawberries and they are better than any I have ever tasted. But we need to find a place to re-plant them and haven’t yet. They take up a lot of room and time and effort but are worth it. Thank you for all the inspiration and your heart. ox

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *