Harvesting produce from my tiny backyard garden in the middle of Minneapolis gives me powerful feelings of connection, integrity and joy. I forget myself as I pay attention to my plants —are they growing, blooming, setting fruit? I appraise the situation each time I visit the garden, who is here and how are they doing? I feel connected to whomever shows up, maybe even a volunteer pumpkin vine from last Halloween.
Sharing food with friends
This year, I harvested sour cherries from my little tree and made a few jars of cherry and cardamom jelly. I gave one to my mother who lives in an assisted living facility and likes to have snacks in her apartment. Another I took to breakfast with a couple of friends, and the third is in my freezer. Our raspberry bush has been producing berries for weeks. I’ve frozen many, baked muffins, and eaten them fresh.
I’ve also been gathering cherry tomatoes from my three tomato plants. There are so many that I filled a container and took it over to a neighbor. It turned out that by walking across the street with my extra produce, I was introduced to my neighbor’s girlfriend. Meeting another person in the neighborhood was an unexpected plus from a gesture that grew out of my garden.
Relaxing with nature
I have also picked a few cucumbers. It’s been a hot summer and while tomatoes love it, the cucumbers aren’t so sure. They’ve had an abundance of flowers, but few have set fruit. Perhaps it’s also because there seem to be fewer bees this year—an observation that can only come from time in the garden.
When I talk about my garden, I wonder if it sounds idyllic. The truth is I do not garden like many people do. I don’t spend a lot of time weeding or worrying; I am far from fastidious in my approach to gardening. I prefer a place that is full of nature, whatever that may mean. I like plants falling over each other and don’t mind them winding their way across the yard. I don’t want a garden that is too controlled, too marked by humans. I go to the garden to get a break from the human world.
This spring, I noticed a large rabbit spending time in my backyard. She may have had babies under my raspberry bush; I saw a young rabbit run from there one day. She ate off almost all of my green beans while they were young and tender. She would also show up at night in my front yard under the bird feeder, eating seeds the birds had kicked off during the day. I began to talk to her, whenever I came across her. She sat with her ears up, seemingly listening. The more I talked to her, the less fearful she became. One day she laid down on her side, lounging like one of my house cats, while I was with her in the backyard. Okay, so she ate most of my beans; it’s her world as much as it is mine. I felt I’d made a new friend and that more than paid for her keep.
Every year, so much comes from spending a little time in my backyard. When you garden like I do, it’s not hard or time-consuming—patting a few tomato plants into the dirt, cleaning out a big enough space to toss in a row of seeds, watering a few times a summer when the rains hold off. Besides tomatoes and raspberries, I get conversations with a rabbit, a view into the world of a bumblebee with pollen-packed leg pouches, or a look at the amazing work of art spun by a spider overnight. I find my reverence for the earth, this glorious home God’s given us, grows each year. Reverence, to me, is a powerful thing. I hold what I revere lovingly, want to protect it, and am inspired by it. What I receive, from all that blossoms each year in my own backyard leads me to open my arms wider and wider to the full expression of life.
Ruth Johnston has been gardening in Minneapolis for over a decade. Ruth took the photo as well, and it shows the actual rabbit she describes.