Harvesting Wonders

Elizabeth Thompson

Elizabeth Thompson › Elizabeth Thompson is a writer and photographer. She lives in Alaska with her husband and their ...

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“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.”
– Leo F. Buscaglia

Four years ago a fence went up around a long-vacant lot on a corner across the street from the hospital. Petersburg, Alaska, pop. 3000 is the lone community on Mitkoff Island and when something changes this small town can buzz with rumors. I heard it was going to be a health food store. I heard it was going to be a private garden. I heard it was going to be a cooperative garden. Then the rumors quieted and I forgot about what may or may not be going on behind that fence… Until the one day I drove past and noticed a hand-painted sign: “The Garden” was selling its harvests on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10-2. How intriguing.

I couldn’t wait to check it out. On a sunny day last summer I finally made it to The Garden. Entering through the cedar gate I heard the sound of a fountain and smelled a heady mix of tomatoes, herbs, flowers, evaporating water, and earth. While down south this is nothing unusual, here in the temperate rain forest of Southeast Alaska gardening is particularly challenging and usually done on a very small scale just for personal use. Here in Petersburg, this was a treat. This was super cool.

I have tried to garden in this wet land and… It. Is. Hard. We have an average annual precipitation of 110” and the average summer day’s high temperature is 60Ëš. There is little dirt here. Instead we have muskeg – permanently waterlogged, acidic, relatively infertile, boggy muck. So, to enter this thriving garden sent me into a state of something a lot like awe.

I filled my basket with fresh basil, bok choi, fragrant tomatoes, snap peas, zucchinis, and a bag of mixed greens with edible flowers. Then I found the little cottage where they sell fresh organic eggs and bulk goods including gluten free oats, raw cashews and almond flour – things never before available in our small, remote town. And then I got inspiration!

When I met the awesome gardener I was thrilled to find out that Tonna is not just selling locally grown produce, she is on a mission to inspire others to grow their own food and is more than happy to share her knowledge. She gave me a tour of her achievement and answered all my questions. At the end of my visit I asked her what the essence of each season was for her. She said:

Spring: Excitement
Summer: Growing vigorously
Fall: Harvesting wonders
Winter: Planning and dreaming

As we head into winter I hope you all have wonderful plans and rich dreams for your garden.

What are your gardening dreams?

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Thompson