August 5, 2016
“I can’t wait to plant [a garden] next year!” were the first words Terri said when I called to check in on this Friday evening. “How is your garden doing?” she asked. We shared our successes and failures. She was quick to say what she would do differently, clearly taking away more than just fresh vegetables from this experience. She said that she wants to learn to preserve what she has so it lasts through the winter months. She lost her cucumbers, broccoli and onions. But is having success with tomatoes, bell peppers, rosemary, parsley, basil, squash, and cantaloupe. “I’m so proud because we’re growing our food, using our food, and being creative with it. And to know my kids are eating something grown without chemicals!”
I had been out of town and Terri and I had been communicating about various crises during July, but not much about the garden. So we finally had a moment to talk and she shared what it was like to take the first bite of a green bean from their garden. “I didn’t even cook it. It tasted so good! And to hear Aydan smack his lips—after eating green beans!” She explained that all of the kids check the garden every day, each one frustrated with the other if they miss the opportunity to pick the vegetables. Terri says that the children recognize that these vegetables taste different from what’s in the store, and she loves that they are learning where their food comes from.
Text from Terri: “Cats are using our garden for a litter box. Don’t ask how I know.”
Text from Terri: “Look!! Our green beans have grown from a seed to a plant!! I’m so happy! Something is still eating the other plants but we have green beans!”
I went to Terri’s house with Katy so she could provide some gardening advice and help her protect it from insects and animals. Terri is full of stories about the garden. She explains that Avery checks on it daily, as does Aydan. Her son wants to sleep outside in order to catch the “critters” who are causing problems. Terri says that she plans to share her vegetables with neighbors, or others who are in need.
Terri texts an update. The garden is growing, but there are “critters” eating her plants.
Rain did not stop Katy from building the raised garden bed. Terri said that she does not spend much time in her backyard because she has many anxieties over what lives back there–mainly snakes. But then she stated, “I’m going to be brave. I’m doing this,” and dug her hands into the bag of soil and filled the pot designated for tomatoes. Katy and Terri planted onions, squash, broccoli, cucumber, cantaloupe, red, yellow and green peppers. Meanwhile, I ran out and bought some green bean seeds, gloves for the kids and Terri, and some gardening tools for the kids to use. The plan was to have Aydan plant the green bean seeds in order to contribute to the gardening effort.
Terri and I talked about ways to make the garden work. We knew that her son needed to be a bigger part of the process. He likes taking care of things. We decided to get all of the children some gardening gloves and tools. Terri was optimistic about our plan and said she was ready to plant when we were.
May 5, 2016
The day that we went over and dropped off the soil, plants, garden frame and pots was exciting for the family. Terri and her three girls Mikayla (14), Hayleigh (13), and Avery (11) helped to haul bags of soil from the car to the backyard. Aydan (9) had a rough day at school, which results in difficult behavior at home. He claimed that he did not want a garden and took the plants and started throwing them around the backyard. Terri’s spirited attitude declined. She was embarrassed, frustrated and defeated. She told us to take our stuff. “I can’t have a garden. It’s just another thing I can have. I don’t know why I thought we could do this. I’m sorry. Take it back.” We left the soil and the garden bed structure, assuring her that we’d be back. We kept the plants to keep them safe.
April 20, 2016
Terri is a mother of 4 who has experienced homelessness and domestic violence, and continues to experience food insecurity on a regular basis. Over time you will learn about the various aspects of Terri’s struggle. But today we’ll look at how she can feed four children and herself healthier food on a limited income.
One afternoon in April Terri and I were on the phone talking about favorite foods and grocery stores. She described her favorite salad (romaine lettuce, olive garden Italian dressing, red grapes, red onions and croutons) that she made for herself months prior, and talked about how she could rarely make it because she doesn’t have the means. The more she talked, confirming the reality of which I was aware (i.e. junk food is cheaper and more accessible) the more I realized that we didn’t need to wait to open the doors of A Place to Stand to create our first organic garden.
I suggested starting a garden to Terri and she was thrilled with the idea. I asked if she thought the kids would participate in the process, and she was sure that they would.
Katy Malesky, Executive Board member and experienced gardener, put us on the right track. Terri provided a list of vegetables and fruit preferences and we went to work.