My whole life, there has always been a garden. There was always something growing out back that contributed to dinner, or lunch, or breakfast. When we would visit my aunt and uncles house, their massively overgrown organic garden was the staple of most dinners. We’d haul in overflowing baskets of collards or peppers or tomatoes or beets still speckled with dirt for dinner, or throw some broccoli and chard in with our eggs in the morning. During the summer, it was an absolute staple of abundance. And in the fall and winter, it lifted my spirits knowing that the cold, bitter gray still had some life to give. It was a priceless lesson in moving with the seasons, and what always kept my inner spark of magic alive for nature.
Having the luxury of space, woods and garden abundance my whole life is likely what instilled a fear and loathing of living in cities as an adult. Even in college (in the beautiful blue ridge mountains of Blacksburg) I would spend my summers as an organic gardener at an off-the-grid summer camp, living out of my tent for 3 months at a time. Eating carrots fresh out of the ground and munching on cherry tomatoes in the hot afternoons and teaching kids how to grow food is my total idea of daily bliss. When I moved to Baltimore for graduate school, I had a pitifully small “backyard” which was about the size of a driveway and planted a garden there anyways. After a few struggling weeks of desperately trying to get anything at all to grow, what did sprout out of the ground was immediately eaten by the rats. And that was my total idea of daily hell.
So, here I am living in Richmond VA pretty darn close to down town, but lucky enough to have a large, sunny backyard which we’ve made the perfect median between a city house and an off-the-grid oasis. My partner and I both have undergraduate degrees in Horticulture and Landscape Design, so it would be pretty embarrassing if we couldn’t turn a city backyard into a living, breathing tribute to seasonal nutritional abundance. And so we did.
Our garden is our therapy. It’s our time and space to connect with the earth, munch on home-grown colorful candies and bring the outside in for dinner. It’s our time to keep the soil under our fingernails all year, and our eager collector for the compost that’s always pouring out of the kitchen. It’s our little safe haven for the rabbits (which, yeah, I really don’t mind) and our best abolisher for any stressful day. It’s my constant inspiration to do the work I do as a nutritionist, and keep it simple, sustainable and nutritive. As we near late summer now, it’s the garden’s last hoorah, and we’ll soon clear the way for fall veggies. The seasons go by so fast, but the garden is our tribute to slow living.
Photography by the dearest and loveliest, Renee Byrd