It was a sunny April evening when six of us gathered in the kitchen of an apartment near downtown Middlebury.
We came to eat and drink, to plot and scheme, and to launch an ambitious project: a backyard garden.
Not so ambitious, you say? Well, consider the inputs. We’re a group with little collective gardening experience between us, limited funds, and six jobs that subtract time and energy from the equation. It’s a bit daunting.
What we do have is eating experience, a little piece of land to use, Googling skills (for gardening advice, of course) and some serious evening-and-weekend elbow grease. And of course, the desire to make our own food.
Technically, it’s already spring here, but here we’re deep in the midst of what locals call mud season.
As nothing has yet gone into, or come up from, the still-hard ground, the potluck offerings that evening were store-bought. Still, they were quite satisfying: a beet and apple salad with cheddar cheese, parsley and hazelnuts (it was a recipe from GQ, though none of us would have guessed it), and there was a flour-dusted whole-wheat calzone with mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and there was brown rice and black beans with sweet potatoes, kale and chipotle. And chocolate mint cookies to top it all off.
Afterward, the discussion turned to dirt, seeds, raised beds, rototilling. To what plants we would raise, and who would do the research. To the moment a few months from now when, if all went well, our potluck would feature homegrown vegetables. Tomatoes! Basil! Chives! Sugar snap peas! Swiss chard! Parsnips! Pumpkins! Squash! Fennel! Broccoli! Eggplant! Mint!
That moment, still far off, was coming closer and closer.
But first, we had to do our vegetable homework, build raised beds, and buy topsoil (you can throw a pot with the clay in the soil here, but you won’t get much edible vegetation out of it). So, armed with our assignments, a Google Group for communication, and the dream of a backyard garden, we set off home to prepare.