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In the last week we started our annual vegetable garden.

The first year we tried a garden we were in a rental house. The yard was nothing to speak of and the soil was not that great. We had a tiny area to the side of our screened-in porch to work with. We had to dig out piles of bricks that were buried in the ground in order to have a place we could work with for planting. In the midst of a long, hot day of digging our neighbor had even come over to poke fun at our attempt at a vegetable garden. It was obvious we had no idea what we were doing.

The garden was not much to speak of. The cucumbers came out looking alien. The tomatoes were quickly devoured by the bunny rabbits that frequented our yard. The spinach was wilted the minute it sprouted. Other than the few tomatoes we were able to claim for a batch of tomato sauce, it wasn’t a fruitful garden.

The next year we bought our current house. We had higher hopes. Brandon and our friend Jay dug out a plot of land. They used scrap wood to build a raised border. They fenced it in with plastic netting to keep the dogs out. We planted tomatoes, zucchini and herbs. The tomatoes were fruitful but the garden was still something we didn’t completely understand. We were learning slowly.

The next year we went to prepare the bed and dug our hands into a rich, dark soil. Brandon added manure and we planted tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, carrots, spinach, lettuce, herbs and radishes. We had a bountiful harvest even in a really hot, dry summer. Sure, we had an aphid infestation at the end of the growing season and the dogs found their way into the garden bed several times. But, we plugged away.

This year the garden has taken on a whole different meaning. We are scaling back and prioritizing what vegetables we can really use and freeze. We are adding a grow bag of sweet potatoes into the mix. We are using a taller fence to keep the dogs out. We are still going all organic and letting nature run its course. There will be bugs and there will be really, really hot and dry days this summer. Some of the vegetables will prosper and some will come out only adequate. And we will learn some more.

This garden has become a labor of love. It’s a place we connect and share. It’s something we’ve committed ourselves to since we got married. We’ve come a long way from those crooked cucumbers that tasted like battery acid. We’ve learned quite a bit about our individual strengths. Brandon takes joy and pride in the building, the digging and the planting. I take pride in the weeding, the harvesting and the research.

Our garden has been a place for us to share. And this season I’ll be pulling weeds with a very pregnant belly and we’ll be preparing and learning for a completely new adventure. The love and excitement I have for this place we share will only grow.

Next year our boy will be running his hands through our dark, rich soil. He’ll get to experience the satisfaction of pulling a tomato right off of the vine. Our boy will taste food grown from his own backyard and I will have the biggest, cheesiest grin.