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Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

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Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  middlemamma on 4/5/2011, 11:28 pm

WARNING: If you are a long term member a lot of this info here may be repeat info. Apologies in advance. Embarassed

WARNING: This is going to be a short story not a post. Get a drink, get a snack, and get comfortable. Shocked

I have seen a lot of conversation lately on the forum about what it costs monetarily to start a Square Foot Garden. Mel’s Mix can be an expensive component and there has been much talk about that aspect.

I wanted to address what my Square Foot Garden has paid me back, and why I don’t care what I have to do to have it, and why it is so much more to me than growing food in some dirt.

This story is one where you should take what you can and throw the rest in the trash can on the way out of the post. My story won’t be everyone’s story…and to some it might mean something and to others it may be sentimental gobeldeegook in the wrong place.

Whichever side of the fence you fall on I will not be offended in any way.

There are a lot of reasons people want to garden. I never had a good reason. I just wanted to. I had a vision in my head of this woman that resembled me slightly, big huge floppy straw hat, dirty overalls, garden trowel in hand, flowers blooming all around spending time with my kids in the Idaho sticks. A city girls movie style daydream about living in the country.

I had never grown so much as a bean sprout from seed. I didn’t know the first thing about anything gardening. My husband and I along with our two kids had just pulled up 13+ years of roots and moved from Prescott AZ to Post Falls Idaho leaving behind every person in the world that we knew and beginning all over. This included my son’s father, my ex husband. Briefly, I will just say he was a great father and a good friend. We were 19 when we let his parents talk us into getting married and we were 24 when it ended in a friendly divorce. We stayed close friends and worked very hard to parent Caleb together. When I wanted to move he was gracious, he said he knew I had been unhappy in Arizona a long time and for me to go, we would work it out.

June 2nd 2009, we landed in Idaho. Hoping for a better, richer, fuller life, we unpacked a 26 foot Penske truck and surrounded by more green grass, green trees and cattle than I had ever seen in my life I just wanted to grow something! It was June 2009 and with the 1300 mile move, new jobs and new schools I just decided the Spring 2010 would have to be good enough. I put a couple pepper plants and cherry tomato plants on the porch and accepted that as good enough for now.

Our first winter here was a mild one, lot’s of rain and not so much snow. The kids stomped around in snow boots starting in October. By February they were convinced I had lied about it snowing here just to get them to move!

One day in December I was in Lowe’s or Home Depot, I can’t remember which, and I found this book called ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING. I picked it up and read a few paragraphs, flipped a few pages, put it back. Then I picked up a few more books, thumbed through them. But something kept pulling me back to this ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING book. I think it was the $17.95 price tag that had me hesitating, but in the end I threw it in the cart and half heartedly thought I would read it and see what developed. Who knows…I might get something out of it.

I went home and a few nights later I picked it up and started to read the first few pages. A few hours later I was done with it! I was just riveted by how much sense it made. I said to my husband…hey honey…this is what I wanna do for a garden this spring. I explained the basic idea of the book…told him he would have to build me some boxes and I would mix this stuff called Mel’s Mix for the soil. I sold hard the fact he wouldn’t have to till or help me pull weeds. Since he is happy to build anything with wood he was on board. He said when the tax return came in spring he would help me do it. I think he half figured this city girl wife of his would never follow through with this whole playing in the dirt thing.

We never talked about the garden again after that. The end of January came and my husband was laid off of his construction job. We hunkered down figuring he would be out of work a bit with it being winter here, and we planned to wait out the storm.

March 14th, 2010 I woke up into a nightmare that to date still has not ended. Caleb's father, was killed in a car accident that morning. My friend, the person I had shared Caleb with always was gone and I had to look my sweet little boy in the face and tell him his daddy was gone. It was the single hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life is hold that child while he rocked with sobs of grief. Knowing there was nothing within my power to help him. As a mother you kiss boo boos, you band aid and love pain away. And there was no kiss for this owie, there was no elmo band aid to mend it and make the tears stop falling.

Over the next weeks I broke. I can’t explain it any better than that. I was doing my best for Caleb, but the ramifications of this event were huge. It wasn’t just that I had to help Caleb through this…it wasn’t that I only had to deal with our grief. It was just simply a life changing event. The eyes I saw through were different. Driving to the grocery store was scary. What if something happened to me? What would happen to Caleb, Joe isn’t his dad…they would take him away from his sister and send him to blood relatives. We needed a Will, we needed a lot of ducks in a row before something else really bad happened. I felt panicked about everything, I couldn’t breathe.

Every night tucking Caleb in bed was a mountain to climb. The nights were the hardest for him because since he was old enough to talk he called and talked to his dad on the phone as part of the tucking in ritual. His tears flowed freely and we would talk and mine would do the same. We cried together night after night until our eyes had no more tears to cry and he would fall asleep in exhaustion.

It was straining our family because Caleb and I had this burden than no one else in the family shared fully in, my daughter an husband could only sit by watching us fall apart and not knowing what they could do for us.

As a couple of months went by life was just unraveling…dealing with the death was one thing, but my ex’s parents were demanding money from the auto settlement and threatening that if I didn’t sign the papers they wanted me to that they would try and take Caleb from me, the insurance companies were relentless, the driver of the car, another good friend was facing manslaughter charges, the attorneys were killing me slowly, I had to deal with mountains of legal proceedings to be named my own child’s guardian because when you are divorced from someone and they die you don’t automatically become that, even if you have had physical custody the child’s whole life. In our divorce decree it said that we would work out visitation between ourselves. And we did. My ex and I NEVER fought over Caleb or money…never spent another second in court after the judge pronounced us divorced. We made a pact to remain friends and be the best we could be for Caleb apart, and we did. Caleb never saw us have an argument because we didn’t. We just focused on Caleb and what was best for him and we did that, no matter what that meant to us or our lives because it wasn’t Caleb’s fault we divorced. But none of that mattered anymore…Caleb’s life of peace and working things out were over because his grandparents were not going to allow that to happen. They wanted the money that was going to be Caleb’s. They were hurting Caleb in things they did and said and I was trying to help him grieve while I grieved and dealt with all of the legal nightmare that was piling up daily.

Like I said, I broke. Inside something snapped. I was going through the motions. I was being the mamma bear I needed to be. I was functioning. I was making meals, cleaning house, going to work, meeting with attorneys, holding my son, filling out papers…whatever I needed to do, but it
was like I was dead inside. Who I am as a person was being consumed by this mess in my life that I had no control over.

There were times I would sit on the edge of my bed after the alarm would go off in the morning and I would think to myself…what if I wasn’t here? What if I picked up the Sig and just ended this? Of course I would then feel very guilty for thinking such things…it was a vicious cycle. Gettting up from the edge of the bed those mornings was like a I weighed 500 pounds….I could barely do it.

Joe was desperate. He knew I needed something…but he didn’t know what or how to help me. It was coming up on May fast. Our taxes had come and he just started moving me. He literally dragged me through the motions. He dragged me to Lowes, Home Depot. He stayed on me. When we finished one step in the book he would get it out and hand me the book and say, “What do we do next. It went like this for a few weeks. He took me outside and I was like a zombie,
but I raked the grass and weeds up while he tilled and I held the fabric ends while he laid the weed fabric.

Once the boxes were in place and we had spread bark mulch between the boxes…he set me in the middle of a circle of compost, vermiculite and peat moss. I was the center of a wheel and all these ingredients were my spokes. I told him I had to mix it equal parts, that’s what the book said. He asked me how I wanted to do it…never having done anything like this in my life I shrugged and I handed him a gallon milk jug and I said just cut this into a scoop for me and I will use this. So he cut it for me. I had no freaking clue how much dirt I was getting ready to mix up with a freaking gallon milk jug!

Joe went and bought me a spinning composter and before we used it for compost he suggested I use it to mix the Mel’s Mix. I shook my head, okay. I was pretty quiet in those weeks. A girl of few words, where once there was a woman who always had something to say. I was so withdrawn from everyone but Caleb…I didn’t even realize I wasn’t talking.

And it began there…a miracle. A healing I can only describe as lifesaving. I sat amongst my wheel of Mel’s Mix ingredients, gallon scoop in hand and I began. I scooped a scoop of each of my 5 ingredients and then 5 scoops of vermiculite and 5 scoops of peat. Joe would walk me out to the mixing area and set me down, tell me to yell if I needed anything and he would go to his shop. He offered several times other ways for me to mix this stuff besides the milk jug full and I just couldn’t hear him. His words were not penetrating through.

Night after night for a week or so I sat in the middle of my wheel hypnotized. I would fill the composter scoop by scoop and then spin it around and around and then shovel it out of there and into a wheel barrow. I would walk the barrow over to the box and dump it in. I had four 4X4 boxes to fill, 8 potato barrels, four 1X1’s and I was on auto pilot.

The days were getting longer, I would go out after dinner and mix until it was after dark and I just couldn’t see anymore. Often the confused birds would still be chirping after the sun set…The mix was soft and felt good in my hands. The earth smelled good and I breathed it in, as I did life was in me again. As I mixed my soul was being healed. Each night a transformation was happening….and I was mixing soil for my plants to grow in I was growing inside again. My soul was righting itself again inside me. The late summer night breeze would keep me cool as I worked…blowing in my hair and breathing life into my mind, lifting a thick fog from my brain that I hadn’t even known was there, blowing a haze out from in front of my eyes that I hadn’t seen. There were nights I felt like I was in slow motion…I would find I was just staring at a half mixed box. I would startle and begin again. Scoop by scoop I began to be me again. Shovel by shovel I began to awaken.

When all my boxes were filled I began to plant. With every seed that emerged from the soil another part of me was fed again. As the life in my garden began to emerge from the soil the person I used to be began to emerge from inside me. My courage and determination to help my family and my son grew back from a place it had been hacked away. I spent hours just sitting beside my boxes…feeding my soul and healing my mind. I came home from work hugged and kissed everyone one and then would go straight to my garden to see what had happened while I
was sleeping the night before and at work that day. My sunflowers brought smiles to my lips that had been gone for so long.

As the summer went on and the fruit began to ripen on the vines our life began to ripen again as a family. We still were going through this tremendous struggle, trying to help Caleb cope with his loss, fighting in court over our son, fighting attorneys and the stigma of being the ex-wife, but there was some invisible fortress surrounding my garden. When I walked through the archway and passed some zero barrier I could not see but could feel in my heart, the struggles melted away and I was a child again, innocent and open-minded, untouched by the wounds and scars of life. A new sprout made me hop with joy, a new blossom brought that light of wonder to my face again. I could see Joe’s eyes twinkle again while he watched me enjoy something, relish something again.

Being childlike didn’t stop there. Everything about me seemed new again. I made mistakes in my garden like every newbie does but I could laugh about them. I was laughing again! I walked through the garden picking fruits and it was as if I tasted everything for the first time again. Every cherry tomato that burst in my mouth was like a gift of life altering serum. Every bean I picked and munched was like an elixir that could move mountains. Every strawberry and pepper, every onion and potato was food for the soul that I had never consumed before.

My garden saved my life. Joe with the help of a book I happened to pick up in Lowes one cold night in December directed me to build a sanctuary outside my back door that healed me. I will never live without a garden in my life again. The whole world can be falling apart and as soon as I cross that imaginary threshold into my peace and solace it melts away, the world becomes
still and I can think again. I can cherish the things the spinning globe made me forget…my health, my children and husband for the wonderful treasure that they are, food for the nourishment to mind, body and soul that it is. My garden embodies something I have never captured anywhere else. I need it like I need air.

To me my garden is where I right myself with God and the universe…where I feel closer to my maker (if you believe we have one) than I have ever felt in any church I have ever attended in all my years.

Not everyone feels as connected to their garden as I do….but maybe knowing my story will help you to see that your garden has so much more potential than to just grow you some veggies, feed you some meals, save you some money. Maybe it doesn’t have this ability for everyone…but if it does for anyone reading this I hope you find it.

This spring we are doubling my garden and adding a memorial of flowers with a bench for Caleb to be able to go and be with his father and still be close to me for support while I am working in the garden.

I can’t put a price tag on my garden because it is worth more to me than all the gold one could have. I know what a person and their soul can find in a garden. I know what miracles can happen in there.

Last edited by middlemamma on 5/16/2011, 1:18 pm; edited 3 times in total


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  myhouseofBOYS on 4/5/2011, 11:49 pm

That is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journey thus far.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/5/2011, 11:57 pm

In order....
Sad Sad :?: :idea: :!: bounce bounce cheers Sad cheers

Awarded: Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven Like a Star @ heaven

And, one of these to grow on....

Last edited by BackyardBirdGardner on 4/5/2011, 11:58 pm; edited 1 time in total


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  jazzymaddy on 4/5/2011, 11:58 pm

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

I am one who does believe in a very loving "Master Designer", and that nature is one of His gifts to us. We can allow ourselves to find Him there if we look. He allows us in different ways to aid Him in the creation process, and in doing so, we can learn about Him, and become more like Him. What a blessing you received.

(Just my thoughts. If that kind of thing is out of place here, please let me know. I do not wish to offend - just voice my own thoughts.)

Take care,


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  dizzygardener on 4/6/2011, 12:30 am

Wow. You just don't know how much of that I can relate to. Thanks for being willing to share it.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  boffer on 4/6/2011, 2:20 am

I've heard most of the story before, but it was still a 2 tissue read!


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  Bec on 4/6/2011, 8:39 am

I have heard part of the story but not the details. That is quite a story - which I know is not done yet. You have come through a nightmare for sure! BTW, have you ever thought of doing some writing? You're an excellent writer!

Your story gives me encouragement. I've been having a great deal of stress in my life for about the past 6 months with no end in sight. That stress might be the cause of physical problems that I'm now being treated for. With everything going on I didn't know how I was going to find the time to garden this year, and frankly I am going to do it but haven't been enthused about it. After reading your story I think that may be just exactly what I DO need to do. Thank you for sharing your story and for the encouragement. And may God continue to bring healing to you and your son.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/6/2011, 10:43 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I belive that many of us get healing from time spent in our gardens.

I wondered if you have ever read Ree Drummand's (aka Pioneer Woman) blog, she too was a city girl, but married a cowboy and moved to the country.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  Healing Garden on 4/6/2011, 11:00 am

Middlemamma: Thank you for sharing your experience. I also came to SFG to heal. Your story is powerful and I hope you use it as the first post in your new blog. Recovery from loss is priceless. I'm glad you and Caleb are on the road to moving through the grief.

Healing Garden

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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  selenamorning on 4/6/2011, 1:22 pm

thank you for sharing. I am so glad you are coming out of the darkness and enjoying the light of the new days ahead. My heart aches for you and your little one. I am glad you are feeling better and alive again.



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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  staf74 on 4/6/2011, 1:58 pm

@boffer wrote: but it was still a 2 tissue read!

I take it you are referring to two BOXES of tissues.....cuz that's bout where I was at.

Thank you so much for sharing. Inspirational stuff !!!

Some say the dollar is close to being rendered useless anyway, so spend 'em while you can Wink Better to have a way-kewl SFG than a bunch of worthless paper !!!


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  junequilt on 4/6/2011, 4:52 pm

Wow, middlemama. SUCH a story. I've always enjoyed your posts, but this was incredible. It gives me hope for my best friend -- a breast cancer survivor -- who has been having a difficult time dealing with the changes disease has brought into her life. She is starting seeds for this year's garden and I pray the gardening experience will be as therapeutic for her as it was for you. Thanks.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  Ha-v-v on 4/6/2011, 5:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this as I wipe the tears from my eyes (snots from my nose). Im so glad you are here with us to share and encourage. It was a needed story for me.



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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  acara on 4/6/2011, 7:48 pm

Not that I don't like yr gardening ..... but why the heck don't you write books or make movies.

That story never gets old Very Happy


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  Dunkinjean on 4/6/2011, 10:18 pm

There are many ways to heal from the loss of someone dear to you.
We all find our way back home - sometimes home is where the healing begins.

When I lost my parents and siblings in the past, I found by planting flowers at the cemetary was my way of coping and healing.

As with your garden it is for you. I have found my garden is now my healing stone.

Healing has no time constraints. It just happens.



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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  Odd Duck on 4/7/2011, 5:40 pm

You have such an inspiring story and such a way with words. I've heard most of it before and it still brings me to tears. Partly because I identify so much. My mother was a huge part of my life and I went numb for several years when I lost her. I didn't even realize how numb I was until I took up gardening again. SFG'ing, of course, although I did it old school since I didn't even know he had a new book. Gardening has brought me back closer to my old self than I have been in over a decade.

You inspire me to keep on keepin' on, even when I'm feeling down, feeling sorry for myself for the things in my life that aren't perfect, but in reality, those things are really so unimportant. For everyone out there, hug and kiss your loved ones, TELL THEM that you love them, make room for quality time in your life with the people you love. Don't get so wrapped up in your job or in the day to day garbage that interferes with what's really important. It's so cliche, but take the time to smell the flowers. I say take the time to smell the earth, get your hands in the soil, play with the worms, watch the bees work, whatever it takes to reconnect to Mother Nature (or whatever God you choose to worship).

Thank you, Jennie for reminding me yet again, what's really important to me. You are a pearl, a precious soul that is brave enough to reach out to others and share your pain in order to share your healing. Your healing has helped with mine. Now I need to go wash my face. Very Happy It's all good!

Odd Duck

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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  kygardener on 4/9/2011, 2:02 pm


Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us of what is really important.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  buttaflie143 on 4/9/2011, 4:42 pm

You touched me....


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  shannon1 on 4/16/2011, 4:56 am

Your story was so touching and well written. I feel much the same way, as you can tell from my sig. Living alone and working nights I often feel seprate, not lonely just apart You and this forum have helped me to reconnect with people.
I also understand why people have to consider the cost of SFG and everything else for that matter. The rewards are so well worth it. There is a great program in Gainsville called gift a garden that sets up raised vegie beds for low income families. That is such a good idea, it fills the needs of folks with more than just food as you say. Can you pitcher what good it does for the minds of all the people involved givers and recevers? I just love Mel and all the people here so much.

one big hug to all of you.


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Re: Why I don't care what my Square Foot Garden cost me in dollars...

Post  GlassHen on 4/16/2011, 9:28 am

You are a beautiful writer. Thanks for sharing your story.


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