It is not every day you meet an incredible woman and mother with a family garden that feeds her family of six as well as some friends. That day I met Katie. Katie and I were connected through a mutual friend, who said Katie would be perfect to interview for my blog. When I arrived at Katie’s house, it was a classic, unassuming home with tan bricks and a large rose garden that wrapped around her walkway. Although I had never met Katie, she warmly welcomed me into her home and showed me around her amazing garden.
When we stepped outside, Katie called out to her many chickens like the pied piper. The flock of fourteen hens rushed over to greet us and to eat the mealworms that Katie dished out. The hens ranged from black to tan with brown and red colors in between. I personally am very fond of backyard chickens; I find them to be resourceful, vivacious, and joyful. Katie’s flock was happy and fun to watch.
After admiring the hens, Katie and I roamed about and continued to chat about the various section of her yard. It included two hen houses, an orchard, a vegetable garden, a beehive, a section of raspberry bushes, and massive grape vines along the fence. Katie has been perfecting her gardening skills for the past fourteen years, which began after she was married. She was inspired to garden because she did not like imported produce. “Produce is so much better from your own garden,” she exclaimed. “You know what is in it.” Katie also strongly believes in being prepared because, “You may never know when a crisis may happen, and you cannot learn to grow overnight. You learn by doing it.” Katie spoke humbly, but was proud in being self-sufficient by living off the land.
After our grand tour, Katie and I sat down in her lovely kitchen. It was open, with natural wood furnishings that were built by her husband, the carpenter. Our conversation was enlightening and inspirational as we talked family and farming. Before becoming a mother and avid gardener, Katie was trained as a nurse. Her nursing skills often come in handy with her four children, but it is also surprisingly helpful when diagnosing diseases in plants. Today, Katie has a family of six with two boys and two girls ranging from 9 to 16 years old. She has made her garden a teaching ground for her children. Each child is required to work in the yard for one hour a day, except Sundays. The kids can choose their project for the day, and it can include transplanting, weeding, harvesting, or jarring. To her credit, her children know a lot about gardening. Through their daily chores, her children experience their food from seed to dinner, and they have worked to make it happen. To keep things interesting in the garden, Katie challenges the family to grow something new every year.
Katie’s mantra regarding gardening is that it does not have to be expensive. She advises connecting with your neighbors to share from existing plants or to split packages of seeds, and to shop KSL classifieds (kls.com) for old jars. Katie shares her garden with her family, friends, and neighbors. Last year she had 88 quarts of grape juice, and she also made jam for Christmas presents. By canning and jarring all their produce, they are able to eat from their garden all year around. Overall, Katie’s garden saves her family money. Katie does not shop at grocery stores often. She only goes to the store around two to four times a month to mainly load up on milk. She, after all, has a growing teenage son who can drink almost a gallon a day. It is remarkable that one can live off the land and not depend on the grocery store for every item. It is thought provoking to consider living off the last, particularly, when I examine my own habits of relying on the store for most things.
When talking to Katie, an enthusiastic gardener, it was important to ask her for advice. Katie’s favorite tips for gardening are to attack the weeds early, to thin your fruit for sweeter and bigger yields, and to get your garden ready early with good soil. Katie’s favorite things to grow are raspberries because they produce all season long, they are best for ice cream and jam, and they can be free if you get “starts” from your neighbors. She also recommended taking Master Gardener classes offered at USU under the extension services. The program teaches people horticulture skills as well as community building.
Meeting Katie was a great experience. Even from my short time with her, I could tell she was an amazing mother, a hard worker, and a generous person. I was a bit jealous of her garden, but it inspired me to learn more and to challenge myself to grow something new. This year I picked growing a pumpkin. Just like Katie, I want my garden to be a teaching ground.