“When I grow up, I’m going to have a yard of rocks!”

My siblings frequently remind me of this quote from my childhood. There was nothing I disliked more than mowing the grass and weeding the garden. I wasn’t fond of planting, harvesting or anything else related to gardening either. My father didn’t just have a small garden, he had a truck patch and an orchard. While my childhood friends were riding bikes, swimming or enjoying other summertime activities, my siblings and I were mandated to keep the garden free of weeds, pick potato bugs for the chickens and harvest every fruit and vegetable that could possibly grow in the Northeast United States.

Fast forward a decade….

It didn’t take long for the harsh realization to set in that homegrown food is better than anything sold on the grocery store shelf. It also didn’t take long to realize how expensive food is when it has to be purchased versus picked out of the backyard. In order to pay for that food (and everything else that seemed like a necessity), the logical path was to pursue an expensive college degree and a 60-hour work week times two. Buy a nice house and lots of things to fill it. Purchase at least two cars to get to work. Have a child or two. Limit social engagements to make time for work. Focus on bigger, better, faster, more and whatever is needed to get it……..until a life-changing event changes perspective.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I was working full-time as an engineer in a heavy industrial manufacturing environment. I tried to negotiate working part-time so that I could take her to chemotherapy each Friday. My employer “graciously” gave me the option to take a huge pay cut and work part-time, lose my benefits, but still remain on call on Fridays. I resigned. There was no financial plan with a scenario to accommodate one-third of our household income. There was no entitlement or unemployment compensation to even partially make up the difference. The only option was to reduce expenses—drastically. Some of this was relatively simple. There was no longer a need for child care or second vehicle expenses. With a few calls to utility companies, costly options and packages were cancelled. Anything to reduce interest, including a mortgage refinance, was completed within weeks. When all of the major expenses were slashed, recurring expenses, especially groceries, were up for consideration.

To save money, part of the backyard was converted to a garden, actually an eight-foot by sixteen-foot garden box. It was pretty pathetic, but it was a starting point. It was far more manageable than the huge garden from my childhood, but it also didn’t produce anything of considerable value.

April 25, 2009
The first garden

Fast forward another decade…

With plenty of room to grow, the garden expanded over time and became a valuable resource–for food, for physical and mental health, for community, and so much more. Unlike the days of my childhood, there is no place I’d rather be than at home and in my garden. Room2GrowGarden is a place where the for-profit world and nature collide to promote sustainability, community and wellness. There is always room to grow!

July 16, 2016
The expanded garden