Eating Home

Eating Home

May Orchard Afternoon--Apple Blossoms
May Orchard Afternoon–Apple Blossoms

Consuming food from the soil you inhabit is deeply fulfilling on a physical, and metaphysical level. As a kid, I’d dig my toes and fingers deep into black, rich garden soil my father cultivated and enriched for over a decade. When we were little, a trail of carrot tops, snap-pea strings, and cucumber stems peppered the ground behind my sister and me most of July and August. We ate a lot of dirt, soil enriching our blood streams—our home space becoming part of us.

I’ve attempted to grow a garden in all the various homes I’ve inhabited since leaving my parents’ fifteen years ago. I constructed raised bed, stone, and dirt-rowed gardens, by hand, in my home with my ex-husband.  I attempted to cultivate a green space centered in a parking-lot stone planter at the abandoned hotel, where I and four roommates rented the former owner’s Austrian-inspired, moldy-damp, stucco house.  Suburban-fearless deer consumed even the tomatoes, and torrential rains took most of the rest. The pre-fab modular I lived in next, with my boyfriend at the time, was only a seven month temporary abode, leaving just enough interval for herb-pots on the porch. However, I found morels in the yard when I mowed the lawn. My next home was a canvas well tent, with a garden right outside the tent-flap. It boasted mostly volunteer arugula, but I coaxed a few peas and cucumbers from the worn-out soil.

My current cultivating energy on yard and land surrounding my cabin exists as planters, pots, and under-construction-raised-beds. The gardens I build are supplemented by vestige-harvests: perennials tended by this land’s long-gone occupiers.  These mysterious gardeners fascinate me. I’m intrigued by their stories—the mythologies of those others who consumed bits of this land on the foods they cultivated here. They sustained their lives on this harsh, rugged, breathtaking chunk of Upper Michigan. We’re connected, generation by generation, through the dirt and soil we consume.

Garden Beginnings
Garden Beginnings

Every radish, under-sized tomato, and fresh herb I plant, harvest, prepare, and eat sustains me in a way other foods don’t. Even those bought from the local co-op labeled “organic” don’t contain the same profound, fulfilled sensation eating produce from my home-space bestows.

For my time here, I’m a steward of this land—a synergetic caretaking.

I wander through my orchard in afternoon’s golden light. Hard green apple nodules, hidden amongst lush-thick grass blades unbalance my feet. I reach to snip chive and oregano sprigs from heirloom greenery planted decades before I was born. To do so, I kneel. Stones, glacial refuse, push against sensitive knee skin. Sharp, green-peppery-oregano-aroma wafts on a rare southern wind. The breeze bobs pink rosebud heads, another botanical legacy planted and nurtured years before my birth.

Home-ground Herbs
Home-ground Herbs

Oregano and chives, along with parsley, basil, and dill I planted in a raised-brick bed outside the front door will become part of dinner tonight. I’ll chop them on a wooden cutting board, sharp and soft herbal essences melding beneath steel-edged knife.

Flavors, aromas, sustenance—innate in each bite.

I stand in the apple orchard, feet solid on the ground. Layers that make up me—skin, flesh, blood, bone, juxtaposed against stratums of earth sustaining me. All this, standing in place.

Eating from your home-space is true sustainability. I am the caretaker of this 40 acre property: soil, plants, and final product. Each part of the process maintains and nourishes me. Wrenched muscles; glowing sunburn; joyful satisfaction; itchy, bleeding bug bites; tranquil moments; dirty nails and skin; weather anxiety; proud presentation to visitors; slivers, cuts, bruises, bumps, aches, —all find their way into flavor. It’s a taste-song as old as human cultivation—a flavor deep within us.

A full cycle.

Tomato's in sunshine--home-garden.
Tomato’s in sunshine–home-garden.

 

Author: Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills is a freelance writer/writing consultant/English Professor/Creative nonfiction writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula living on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

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