Ask people why they choose to live in the north and chances are—if it isn’t work related—they will tell you they enjoy experiencing all four seasons.
I have said the same thing myself.
However, after almost half a century of living and loving life in the north, I realize we rarely get four seasons.
Usually we only get two; summer and winter.
Hence the local expressions “spring came on a Tuesday this year” or “I heard we had a real nice spring but I was out of town that day and missed it.”
One day we’re staring out the window at a late April blizzard thinking we must be a special kind of stupid to be living in a place like this and the next we’re mowing the lawn.
In the fall it’s the same thing.
One day the leaves are green, the next they’re lemon and the day after that a wild wind sends them all flying and in a blink of an eye we wake up to barren trees and a foot of snow. But let’s not think about that.
Last week the garden was still covered in snow and this week I am planting my peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, kale and lettuce.
I am feeling a bit wound up. You see, I have cut my garden in half…sort of.
A few years back we doubled my top garden.
It’s handier to the house, more sheltered and the higher elevation means it usually comes through the first fall frost unscathed; the same frost that wipes out the lower garden.
However, the lower garden has 15 years worth of compost tilled into it. It’s hard to let it go.
The smartest garden advice I ever read recommended taking how much garden you think you can look after and cutting that amount by half.
Turns out I was smart enough to recognize good advice, but not smart enough to take it.
When faced with moving the garden up top and letting the old one go, I got greedy.
I just couldn’t do it.
More is better, right?
So I decided I would plant it all. If I had too much I could just give more away.
Turns out sometimes more is just more.
More work, more weeding, more watering but frustratingly enough, less harvest.
How could that be?
I had drawn my garden plans without thought to exactly how I would balance work and weeding.
Come summer I flew about seeding, transplanting, dividing, weeding, watering and harvesting but I could never quite keep up.
When the carrots needed to be thinned the tomatoes were crying for water. When the peas needed to be picked the quack grass was taking over the asparagus bed.
When the raspberries needed pruning the spinach was bolting.
And then there was work, deadlines, dishes, laundry and all the other details that make up a person’s life.
I got a tad cranky.
And then last year in that tiny sliver of time between summer and winter I had an “aha” moment.
I was harvesting beets and realizing because I hadn’t thinned them when I should have I was only getting one bed’s worth from three.
In other words, had I looked after one bed properly I wouldn’t have needed the other two; ditto for the carrots. What was even more enlightening was I still had enough.
I couldn’t fit any more beets or carrots in our fridge, freezer or pickle jars even if I had them. I had wasted time, water and seeds.
This year I am condensing my efforts into the upper garden and letting the lower garden go fallow.
I am convinced tending a small garden well will yield just as big—if not bigger—harvests as I would get from tending a huge garden haphazardly.
I have always believed that joy, happiness and abundance come from simplifying our lives.
But old habits die hard. In the same way an alcoholic believes quitting drinking will make his life better, it’s still hard to quit.
I’ve had to watch myself like a hawk. I can hardly believe I made it through the winter without going on any seed binges.
During spring (or Tuesday as it were) I feared I would make a break for town, fill a cart with seed potatoes and go careening towards the checkout.
Thank goodness spring is over and summer is here.
Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com