By Anna McAvoy-Emrick
The other day, despite (or because of?) the snow on the ground outside and the teen-degree temperatures, my dad and I sowed onion seeds to begin our 2019 shared garden. This is one of the reasons that moving back to my hometown a couple years ago has felt really special for me. Even though my husband and I have an apartment without available ground space for a garden, because we live near my parents and sister, we have opportunities to grow our own food and enough to share with those less fortunate — and to make that a family activity.
Last summer, my husband and I plus my parents spent many hours planting, transplanting, weeding, and harvesting our vegetable crops. Oftentimes, the work was followed by a dinner or campfire together. My favorite times, though, were when my dad and I were alone in the garden. Each with our own tasks, sometimes right next to each other and other times farther apart, we would usually start talking about his mom's gardens and methods. I think when we were first using biodynamic practices last year, he commented on the planting calendar being similar to what my grandma planted by. She died when I was young, so I had barely even known that she was a gardener. Over the months, and now into this year, I'm learning more about my family history because of a garden and the way biodynamics suggests we grow food and nurture soil. She used to plant onion seeds in late January to give them enough time to grow, and this year we got closer to that timing.
The same night as our seed sowing, my sister came over for a respite from her young kids, and we naturally started commiserating on the length and heaviness of this winter. So, we pulled out our seed catalogs and planning charts, and with that we began dreaming of colors and warmth and workable soil. Our imaginations came alive with our ideas around just how many plants we could fit into our gardens, what types, and the methods for growing the optimal balance of things. She's growing flowers this year, while I still focus on vegetables. We'll share our harvests with one another, and I'm sure we'll share more about our methods and knowledge.
Perhaps my grandma once sat with her friend, or in a sunny spot in the house, and planned her garden during the cold winter months. Perhaps she even used something similar to the biodynamic planting calendar. I'm sure I'll learn more of her practices in the coming year as my family grows and shares together in our gardens.
Anna McAvoy-Emrick holds Finance and Operations roles with the Biodynamic Association. She lives in Holt, Michigan.