When my marriage ended, my Immediate Goals suddenly became very basic and specific. I didn’t want my children to be homeless. I didn’t want the three of us to be hungry. I didn’t want us to freeze to death when winter came. And if at all possible I didn’t want Luke and Elizabeth to suffer the emotional devastation that I went through as a child when my own parents divorced.
The homeless issue settled itself: Steve’s parents welcomed him back into their home with open arms, he was happy to move back in with them, and they all wanted Luke and Elizabeth to remain close by. So the kids and I have stayed here in the only home they remember, and for the most part that’s worked out fine for everyone.
I spent last summer and fall collecting firewood the way a squirrel hoards nuts, and barring any unexpected natural disasters it looks like I can safely check “Do Not Freeze To Death” off of this year’s list of goals.
Emotionally, the kids have actually thrived far better under the new arrangement than they did during the marriage. Luke is practically a new person, open and confident and affectionate and so much happier than the wary, slightly neurotic child he was only a year ago. Elizabeth…well…honestly, who knows WHAT goes on in Elizabeth’s head? But she seems to be comfortable with the new status quo. And she has requested that I not remarry, because things are so nice just the way they are. Yeah, I’ll, um, take that under advisement.
That just left the food issue. And it was kind of a global issue at the time of our separation, with worldwide food shortages and scarcity riots hitting the news and some grocery stores beginning to ration rice, and food prices in general soaring to new heights. What I really wanted was to reduce or eliminate my dependence on others for our daily meals, as much as possible.
I already had a great garden, but when Steve lived here most of our food came from the store. After he left I began to experiment with different kinds of meals, things I could prepare from whatever was growing on hand, and our grocery bills dropped dramatically. Last summer we ate like kings just on produce from the garden and orchard and the homegrown beef in the freezer, and nobody missed the old menu.
But I still felt dependent — on the seed companies. What if some year I couldn’t buy seeds for whatever reason? Or what if something happened and I wasn’t able to do the big spring planting job? What would we eat then? I started looking into edible perennials: plants that, once established, will live for years or decades and produce bigger crops every year. And I discovered that there are TONS of perennial options that I never even knew existed! Seriously, I could almost do away with the annual crops completely, if I weren’t so fond of tomatoes and bell peppers and those troublesome watermelons.
The subject of food gardening seems even more relevant now, with the economy tanking the way it is. A lot of folks are talking about putting in victory gardens, even if they’ve never grown anything before.
So I’m going to start a new series here about perennial food plants and edible landscaping. Not everyone has the space to set aside a big garden plot, but almost anyone can incorporate edibles into their yard in creative and attractive ways, and reap the benefits in health, food quality and financial savings.