In the depths of winter, when the snow is still piled high on the ground, I close my eyes and dream of my garden. I see a riot of colors and plants peeking through the window frames that form my fence, as if they are eager to see what is going on in the street. I pluck a small ripe cherry from a bush and pop it into my mouth. It is an explosion of sour and sweet that makes my mouth pucker and salivate and ask for more.
I walk up a few stone steps, and turn to look at the sterile yard across the street. The owner is mowing his yard too short, sweating profusely, and yelling at his lawnmower. I cross under the pergola and through the gate, pausing for a moment to smell the intoxicating perfume of sweet cicely and grab a cucumber from above to munch on. I close the gate behind me, thankful to be in my oasis. This is my happy place.
I can see my door and the herb garden just outside of it, welcoming last-minute culinary inspirations. But I head instead along a path, deeper into my garden. I am hungry but there is plenty to snack on… big red gooseberries, fresh sugar-snap peas, and cherry tomatoes. I pull a bright orange carrot out of the ground and rub off the dirt. It is crisp and sweet.
The path into the garden draws me in with its beautiful colors and smells. It is full of life with bees and butterflies buzzing everywhere, birds singing in the trees, and my fat cat creeping along. Flowers intermingle with vegetables and herbs. They grow half-wild under the fruit trees, inviting pollinators while providing beauty, food, and tea.
I notice a weed or two and pull them out as I go by, handing them to the chickens. They are super excited and greet me with happy clucks. They are busily scratching the pile of leaves, straw, weeds and kitchen scraps we throw to them daily, turning it into rich compost. I watch them for a while and think about how efficient they are at digging. I may try using them to turn the compost pile.
Everywhere I look I see food and flowers and medicine. The cabbages are big and round, the beans growing in front of the greenhouse are off the hook. I eat a borage flower that tastes like cucumber. I check my hardy kiwi for fruit.
Suddenly, I have to go inside and get some bowls to start harvesting this wonderful abundance. I make a plan for what I will cook for dinner and what I will preserve on the way. A huge veggie stir-fry sounds delicious and while it’s cooking I can freeze some broccoli and jar some green beans to ferment.
I come out of my daydream and return to my cozy chair beside the fire. I had several great ideas while I was enjoying my garden. I can’t wait to write them down on this year’s garden plan! When the snow is melted and the ground is thawed, I will know exactly what to do to create my dreamy garden!
Saskia Esslinger is passionate about food gardens and helps people start their own garden education business at teachgardening.com.