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16. Paying the Garden Forward

I love working in the garden for a myriad of reasons: caloric, therapeutic, aromatic, ecological, etc. That list of reasons includes what I've come to think of as garden gifts. They're small gifts, like basil plants potted up for mom. Or huge gifts, like two loads of free bricks and soil to start a tomato bed that I received when I moved into this cool duplex in a hip Denver neighborhood. I haven't been a grower of plants all my life; it's a passion I developed in my early twenties. But one thing I've noticed, and subsequently treasured, since joining this community is that these people love to help one another in so many ways. Whether its sharing seeds or sprouting secrets or compost, gardeners appreciate the opportunity to pay it forward.

Pulling out all the beets!

When we moved into this home in October of 2015, the backyard was a towering hot mess of thistle, massive dandelions, and various other weeds and vines. The neighbor sharing the backyard had a small dog who used a tiny dugout in the brush as a restroom about thrice daily, and otherwise the yard was mine to gardenize as I saw fit after clear-cutting the untamed mess. I chose to accept the mission and before long I'd used the generosity of a few craigslist posts, a friendly co-worker, and my girlfriend's all-star gardening mum to build two garden beds. My dad and I built a small shed by the end of the first weekend. I transplanted my blueberry bushes and some foxgloves into new homes in the soil before winter settled in.

A few weeks after we moved to Baker, I was unloading some stuff out of my Jeep when a woman meandered by slowly in her car with the windows down, looking at our house. She waved to get my attention, and asked if I lived at 420. I said no, we have the unit next door; but we share the back yard. She said that she had used to live in our building six or so years ago, and asked if her garden beds were still in use. When I told her I was afraid not, she was clearly dispirited. I tried to make up for it by letting her know that I was doing my best to bring the garden back to life, but it was obviously little consolation. I had totally ruined her day.

One honey bee doing his best to make sure the next tenant gets some blueberries

Nobody likes to see something they work hard on destroyed or neglected; that's a terrible feeling. But I contend that the opposite is also true: I hope that the next gardener takes what I've done here and takes it to the next level. I never harvested but a handful of blueberries from those blasted bushes because of consistent late freezes, but I hope the new tenants take in buckets of them! That thought brings me a special kind of joy. I'm leaving behind boxes and beds of kale and arugula ready to eat the day they move in; everybody likes salad, right?

We're having a party we're calling the Going Away Give-Away in a couple weeks; it's part of an effort to downsize and minimalize as we get ready for this trip to Canada and whatever comes next. But the things I'm most excited about giving to friends and family aren't plastic electronics or old picture frames or small appliances. I look most forward to giving the tomato starts and big pots of strawberry plants that will, with a little guidance and water, produce delicious and nutritious food for the people that care for them, and that I care about. And I really hope it may induce one or two of those people to catch the gardening bug in the same way I have.

new salad soldiers in formation

15. We're Going to Canada

As a kid, cities fascinated and inspired me. I looked at towering skyscrapers and miles-long bridges and pondered the massive architectural potential of our species. I'd think, “If we can build a glass house 75 stories tall, we are truly capable of anything!” And when I would visit my extended family in eastern Nebraska, usually about once a year, I lamented that my grandparents lived in the boonies. The tallest structures around are the grain silos, and they didn't impress me.

At the time that our constitution was being drafted, more than 90% of the labor force was made up of farmers. Calories were our number one priority as a nation; we ate well and the average person had a direct and intimate relationship with the earth. And over the course of a few centuries, through slavery, and then industrial revolution, the number of people cultivating that direct relationship with the soil quickly dwindled. It became easier and easier for more acres to be farmed by a smaller number of people. And today, we're at a point where less than 1% of people feeds the rest of us.

In the two centuries and change that it's taken for this dynamic to shift, our diets have changed. So today's people spend all their time inside, in cities paved in concrete instead of rows of crops, and we eat an astronomical amount of sugar and processed foods. We breathe exhaust and smog instead of fresh air, and all of these shifts are possible, or even likely culprits when we start asking questions like:

  • Why is America so fat?
  • Why did diabetes become a health epidemic in the USA over the last generation?
  • Why are so many of my peers battling depression and drug addiction?

Our garden goals continue to grow...

I believe that humans are happier and healthier when we are living a life that is intimately connected with the natural environment. Though I'm not fat, drug addicted or depressed, I am always trying to get better. And I don't think it's crazy to think there has to be some opportunity in small-scale agriculture, seeing as how 90% of farmers have left the biz in the last couple hundred years.

Our tent will see the stars from so many new places this summer!

I appreciate the “boonies” environment a lot more than I did when I was little. I've become an avid angler, and I've learned to appreciate all the quiet (and occasionally loud) outdoor moments. I love my neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, having been born and raised in the front range of Colorado.

So this summer, my lady and I are heading deep into those hills for some adventures. We'll do some WWOOF volunteering at a couple farms in Canada, and learn as much about farmstands, homesteads, and hepcrete as we possibly can. We'll take the mountain bikes on some trails in Montana and Idaho, and most nights we'll camp dispersed in National Forests along the way. I'll get to see a rainforest for the first time!

All the while, I'll be looking for ways and opportunities to change my lifestyle toward cultivation in a more permanent way. I'll be looking at those “help wanted” flyers on small-town coffee shop pin cushions. I'll have the cameras out the whole time, to share the adventures with loved ones. We hope to learn how we'd fare living out of a camper for some time, so hopefully our farm hosts RV's aren't too kushy!

Follow us on Snapchat (@CanSabbatical) and Instagram (@CameronDTerry, @AdorningTheOrdinary) for images and updates from the road!  

What new fishing holes could the Liberty bring me to this year?

14. This Man's New Best Friend

The solitude of solo camping can be enormously gratifying. It's the ultimate in “making your own schedule” to wake up alone in a tent in the forest. But every now and then, I've had experiences in the wilderness which I know no matter how hard I try, I could never illustrate those moments with words. I see wildlife, water, and weather perform astonishing feats, and that's the sensation that makes me feel the closest to nature.

Chloe and I at Horseshoe Bend

 

All that is really fun and provocative when I'm rolling solo, but lately I have a companion on the trail. She's more than willing to tackle the toughest of foot and/or Jeep-paths with me, and she's great at sharing the workload. She makes a slammin' orange camp muffin, keeps a tidy tent, and helps me wash dishes. And as of late, she's even taken up her own fishing rod (and kindly proceeded to outfish me since that day).

 

I like taking adventures as a team with Chloe because we are enriched by all of those “holy shit!” moments together. We share the amazement found in the dynamic potential of Mother Nature high in the dark night sky or in the middle of a bubbling spring creek. And waking up in the chill above 10,000 ft is always a bit more achievable with another warm body in the tent.

Fun light scribbles like this are much easier with a partner in crime...

 

We live together in a modest duplex in the middle of the city, but we strive to be in the sticks as much as possible, even if for a night. We made this merry little movie together on an overnight trip earlier this summer. I hope our short adventure encourages you to grab somebody you love, or just like, and head for the hills before camping season freezes up!