The Mint Gardener, an Urban Dream 2


You might know her as @themintgardener on Instagram, she might be your friend or even your neighbor. Or maybe you’ve never met her before. Trust me, you’re in for a treat. After reading Sarah’s post, you’re going to want to be her new best friend. This Mama is beautiful inside and out. What a joy it is to have her on NW Healthy Mama today! Please grab your coffee and slow down for a moment. Breath in deep, exhale and rest for a moment as you enjoy Sarah’s story. – Angela

My husband is the Garden-Keeper. I am beginning to understand how blessed I am that he loves to pull weeds. He is the dirt-shifter, chicken coop painter, pest-detector, composter and seedling handler. Because he works all day in the city, gardening at home is his way to find rest. Our garden has become a rest for all of us, in our own different ways. And it has become a meeting place for us as a family, where we all come together with a shared passion for fresh air and green, growing things.  

 When we found this house a few years ago, we didn’t anticipate the bounty of blessings that the garden would give our family. How could we foresee the riches a garden would provide in every season? How does one truly understand the richness of a blessing until you live in it, work through the rough patches, and then sit in the shade of experience, and rest? We knew we wanted to grow food and flowers. We knew it would be nice to have a yard for the babes to run through. But there have been so many more unexpected delights from our own little garden oasis.  

 As soon as the grass begins to grow and is no longer frozen with morning frost, my husband is outside digging up old crab grass and clipping back wintering bushes. He sorts seeds, pulls weeds, and begins the starter plants from carefully collected seed packets. We keep the sprouting seeds and their delicate new leaves inside, in the warmth. The east facing windows in our kitchen have the longest sunshine hours for new plants, so he rotates the trays of the seeds, giving them the best of that early morning light. At the beginning of every year, he has to search a bit for garden duties and is antsy for the days to be longer, and the garden to expand his task list. But the garden always comes through for him; she awakens slowly and then explodes in verdant bloom, often giving him more tasks than the day is long. I know this never-ending to-do list can feel overwhelming for the aspiring gardener, but it’s this quality that I have actually come to love so much about any green space, no matter what the size. I like that you can do a little here and there, but there is always more. You can always dig deeper – into weeding, composting (making ‘Black Gold’ as my husband likes to say), seed starters…there is so much to be explored and learned. Or, you can just sit back a bit, watch and enjoy. If your garden is a little overgrown, who cares? In a way, it’s more magical when it’s wild. The bees hum their enjoyment in the helter-skelter design, and always come back for more. You discover new things – blessings in disguise. We never would have known that dandelion greens add a light zesty flavor to spring salads if we had pulled all the weeds.  

The outdoors was my happy place growing up. Even now, walking past the summer woods, the smell of damp undergrowth and dark dirt draws me in. I breathe deeply outside. I remember those long sunny days, laid out flat on my belly, spying on the neighboring ‘boys fort.’ As soon as they left their lair, the supplies in their woodpile was fair game. Looking back, I’m sure they knew the girls across the meadow were scavenging from their stash, but they were nice big boys. Being the gangly girl bunch we were, we couldn’t carry much anyways. We built makeshift homes in those woods, laid out the foundations of castles, swept our imaginary hearths, and stewed many berry-leaf brews.

We lived with carefree abandon, always running to the woods. We only went inside when we needed a quick snack, or had to sit down through dinner, which always felt like eternity. And then we chased and dreamed and giggled until the streetlights came on. The smell when I pull warm green weeds from the earth in my garden still gives me those breaths and memories of freedom. I savor those moments, close my eyes and can still hear the chorus of frogs calling to one another at dusk, and the tick-tick-tick-tick psssssshhhhhhhhh of the neighbor’s automatic sprinklers; both signals to us as kids that the kick-the-can game was over, and it was time for the day to go to bed. And now, as a grown up, we live in the City, where green spaces are fewer and farther in between. But we are fortunate to have a large green space to call our own.

Our yard was a blank slate when we moved in, but little by little, plant after vine after garden bed, our green space has taken on a jungle presence of its own. To the adult eye, it’s a growing garden. But to my little one, it’s a place of imagination, like the woods of my childhood. I went to the back porch yesterday to call her in for lunch, and I couldn’t spot her in her normal hangout, squatting behind the raspberry bushes, munching on berries. She wasn’t stacking birch logs near her Fairy Tree either. I called her again, and she came crawling out from behind the grape vines that line our potting shed. These grape vines are gnarled stumps throughout the winter, but when spring awakens them in early March, they burst into green leaves and curlicues. They have climbed and stretched to over six feet high this year, and they are thick with life and the promise of bounty.

My daughter showed me the magic grape glen she found as she burrowed and wiggled her little four-year-old self into the cool, cramped cave of vines. She stacked towers of rock treasures, one of top of the other, and was making a little home in her new world. Because of our garden, we have learned about the wild spirit inside this little one.  She has watched us dig, plant, weed, harvest, till and grow since before she could crawl. She has watched us pick mint leaves, rub them between our fingers and then inhale deeply. As soon as she could walk, she would follow my husband down the rows of kale, broccoli and red cabbage plants. She would see him pluck an outer leaf of the plant, smell, touch and taste it. And now she does it herself, walking the rows, tasting the crop.

 

 

We call her our Little Bunny; when she wants to try a plant, she simply bends down and takes a bite of the leaf. In our first year, the fall harvest of squash varietals became her babies. She would pick one in particular, dress, bathe, and yes – sleep with it in her crib every night. We would try and sneak it away into our produce bin in the kitchen, but she always knew and would pull that same crook-necked zucchini out, completely indignant that we would actually think of eating her baby squash. Every plant harvest is the same; she picks one of every type of squash, and we don’t even try to eat those special ones anymore. Our friends and family love the pictures and stories of her Plant Babies, and I’m sure they will be told and repeated to her, for her whole life. Our garden has created memories and given so much joy, to us and everyone it encounters.  

 And for me, the garden is a renewable source of inspiration. It refreshes me when the walls of the house or the busy of the city gets to be too confining. Sitting outside, soaking in the sunshine and listening to the bees hum, watching my daughter collect fallen flower petals and my little baby reach, reach, reach for any plant she can almost touch – this is my recharge. I breathe that dark earth in deeply, and I feel like I’ve just inhaled my week’s worth of vitamins. The shape of the olive tree leaves, the vibrant color of a budding lily, the beautiful mess of the sage and lavender branches running wild with one another; all of these images weave themselves into my mind and come out of my paintbrush during naptime; when the babies sleep, I can paint. Because of the garden, I am always refreshed and inspired.  

We are constantly in awe of the bounty we have been given in growing things. The cyclical process of planting a seed in nutrient rich earth, watering and tending it as the small shoot reaches to the sunshine, protecting it from the elements and pests, watching it grow into something mature that we then get to eat and with it, enrich our bodies.

The leafy greens, the vitamins and minerals – the things our body needs to thrive, are right there in the garden. And the waiting and watching, planting and tilling and tending that builds the anticipation – they feel like such healthy practices for our mind.  And then finally, the sweet taste of eating your very own food grown from the earth and rain and sun. It is a satisfying, intentional process.

We feel very blessed to have our green space, where each one of us finds rest and creates new memories. And when the day is done, and we come inside, I feel like combing leaves and clumps of dirt out of my daughters’ hair at bath time is the mark of a day well spent. And sometimes when ware having so much fun, we stay out a little longer, and skip bath time; going to bed with dirt in between your toes, well, I think that’s ok sometimes. It feels like adventure, and I think that feels good. 

Sarah Simon - Bio Photo - BlacknWhite

Sarah is a Wife and Mama, Christ-follower and the Artist / Illustrator behind @TheMintGardener on Instagram and Etsy. When she’s not hugging her babies or teaching watercolor classes, she’s seeking out quiet moments for sketching, making small bouquets of flowers and herbs from her garden, (trying to) jog or reading anything she can get her hands on. She and her husband love to explore new places, and enjoy anything friend, food and eating related. Sarah calls the Pacific Northwest home, and yes, she does enjoy the gloomy gray days a bit more than the hot, sunny ones.  

Be sure to check out: TheMintGardener on Etsy  // Watercolor Classes

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About Angela Strand

Angela is a wife, mama to three little ones and a lifelong Washington State resident. Besides facilitating the NW Healthy Mama website, she loves being involved in her kids’ school, hiking with her girlfriends, growing all the things, writing, reading and taking photos.


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