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  • Nancy Redfeather

Gardening For Life….what we love about Gardening

Your garden, no matter how large or small is your refuge and sanctuary.

It could be a place to relax, to exercise, to bask in the sun, grow some of your own food for the table, read your favorite book, admire the beauty, or simply be in Nature and recharge! Spending time in the natural world is more important than ever to help us relax and reduce the stresses in our daily lives. Studies show that after immersion in nature for even a short time, creative problem solving rises...if, of course, you are not answering to the call of your smartphone.

Everyone has different reasons for gardening. In Hawaiʻi it seems pretty clear (at least in my community!) that if you want to eat organic locally grown fruits and vegetables that you can afford you need to grow as much as you can. Eating food “close to the source” has always been one of the best ways to improve health outcomes, and if that includes growing some of your own, then that also recharges your physical body, and sense of well-being. As the cost of food continues to rise, and availability lessens, growing some of your own and sharing or trading with friends is more important than ever and has always been the “local way” of doing things here in Hawai’i. Here is what one of our seed customers said when asked why they love to garden:

“I love to garden because it is peaceful. It’s my alone time with nature. I spent 34 years in the military and nothing is more tranquil for me than gardening. Growing my own food and knowing where it came from is comforting as well. I just adore it, no matter how much ‘work’ I have to do.”

Judy Silva – Hawai’i Island

Thinking back to 1973, I didn’t feel well, and I was young! I decided it could be what I was eating - and also not getting enough exercise, so I decided I should do something about it.

My plan was to rototill up the grass in my small backyard and plant rows of vegetables. I had no idea what I was doing, but I read a few good garden books and paid attention, and over time, my enthusiasm and knowledge was ignited and blossomed for both gardening and good food.

I learned to cook from the garden and stopped going to the gym. I found that by using tools correctly and reaching, bending, and carrying awkward heavy buckets in the right way, I was exercising all the muscles in my body.

When I came to Hawai’i in 1978, I continued building gardens, but it wasn’t as easy as it had been in Southern California. I discovered that I needed to improve the quality of the soil by adding humus, and so I started building compost piles. 43 years later, I’m still making compost piles and recycling kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and building soil humus that gives the plants in my garden a wide variety of nutrients to select from as they grow. Here is a cool fact: the word “humus” meaning earth or soil, is also the root word of humility, and to inhume is to be buried in the soil…. Interesting, eh?

In 1994, I took another step and started growing and saving some of my own seed. I became immersed in the full cycle of the life of my crops - a cycle that all our ancestors knew and practiced. As you already know, over 90% of the seed varieties our ancestors used in their gardens are no longer available and for a variety of reasons. But besides that very real and practical reason for saving seeds, it has been an amazing adventure to watch how plants can improve their ability to resist pests and disease, and consistently produce beautiful produce by “acclimatizing” even one variety to your place over time.

Another aspect of the Sanctuary is creating those small and interesting spaces in your backyard, garden (or even small side yard) and how it can call to you and draw you out and into nature. Some shade, either with a tree, umbrella, or a bit of privacy, a small flower display, a group of pots planted with flowers and herbs, a privacy screen with a flowing vine woven in, a path that winds to a special place to sit, a small table and chairs, etc. You get the picture.

All these aspects of gardening (and more!) is why so many people want gardening to be part of the curriculum for all the children in Hawaiʻi. We know children learn by doing “ma ka hana ka ‘ike” and the garden is the perfect outdoor classroom to connect with the natural world and learn about the food system, climate change, and caring for the ‘aina and oneself, while connecting all this with the curriculum of the “inside” classroom. Let’s see if we can help make this happen for all of Hawaii’s keiki!

Pharaoh Thutmose (d. 1492 BCE) had his garden painted into the top of his tomb, along with a list of all the trees that grew there including 170 date palms, five figs, and two moringa. What would your garden painting look like?

Lastly, Amy Hutson from Kapaʻa, Kauai shared her list of why she loves to garden and perhaps her reasons are yours also! Mahalo Amy!

- to watch and be in awe of plant life that unfolds each day

- to see the diversity of creations from the combination of sun, carbon dioxide, water, nutrients and a seed.

- to grow what I eat

- to share what I grow

- to learn

- to feel some peace

- to talk to the plants and the birds and the toads and the snails and the bugs

- to care for something

- to feed my chickens

- to contribute to beauty

- to celebrate colors

- to find and feel deep gratitude for life

- to feel quiet and be quiet

Whatever your reasons are, most likely they come from many different, diverse directions. Hawaii’s Home Gardeners are an amazing group of people that care about the ‘aina, their community, their health, and the future of Hawai’i. Mahalo for sharing your thoughts with all of us! Until next time – a hui ho!


Nancy Redfeather

Joni Mitchell: Woodstock (Back to the Garden) first recording in her studio 1970…just after she wrote it…..”I wrote a little song for my friends to sing….and myself to sing”

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