When I was writing Prairie Grown, I asked Melissa and Hanna, my brothers’ girlfriends [at the time — Hanna is now my sister- in- law, and Melissa will be as of September!), about some of their favorite memories from spending time at Hillside Prairie Gardens. We weren’t able to include their stories in the book, but they had some beautiful things to say that are worthy of sharing here, and reading again and again.
The summer of 2013 that I spent farming with my fiance Alexander, Steve and Mary Kay was the first time in my entire life that I ate only the food that grew behind the house. The ingredients for every meal were picked just before we ate. It was incredible; we would work all morning, pick lunch, make lunch, then relax, just to repeat it all again for dinner after working all afternoon. I was only in South Dakota for a short time that summer, but I have such wonderful memories of dinners on the porch, harvesting as a group for the market, running the market, picking suckers off tomatoes, weeding kale and herding the chickens back into the coop. I’m so grateful to Steve and Mary Kay for letting us have that summer, it was an awesome transition for us to have before moving into the next phase of life.
And from Hanna:
During my time living and working at the farm with Jacob in 2011, I participated in the lives of plants from beginning to end – from seed to harvest to sale, and everything in between – transplanting, weeding, thinning, composting, managing pests and weather phenomena, worrying…. But the lessons extended far beyond organic vegetable production. I caught a glimpse of a perfect food system, one that aims not to outwit nature, but rather to be in complete harmony with it; I came to know what a healthy local food economy looks and feels like – and especially what it tastes like: I partook of arm roasts, tenderloins, and all manner of gourmet cuts grass-grown by our friend and cattle farmer, Cliff, one of the most soft-spoken, insightful folks you’ll ever meet; I rendered lard from heritage pork fat raised on nearby pastures and used it for fruit pies and tarts I then sold at the farmer’s market; for breakfast each morning, I had a fried egg laid by own chickens – ones I had raised up from baby chicks – with a slice of toast from a loaf obtained in weekly trade, like clockwork.
Powered almost exclusively on fresh vegetables, my body had never known such strength; all those raw nutrients entering the bloodstream generated a surge of energy, a resilience in the face of the intense, manual labor required of it. Nature has a way of taking care of itself. I, too, wish to live this way as much as possible; living not just off the land, but along with it, in touch with it; at once giver and receiver.
Do you have a favorite memory or story from your time at Hillside Prairie Gardens? Or perhaps from another farm or garden close to your heart? If so, please share in the comments!