A record of the blossoming of my passion for urban gardening

I just found this short piece that I wrote this on July 9, 2008, when Stacie and I were living in a rented Bay View flat. Our landlady had very kindly offered to till the minuscule strip of grass running from the house toward the back alley. That, in conjunction with the Village Roots Garden, launched my continuing adventures in urban gardening.

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I’ve got a wonderful new passion in my life. It’s helped put food on the table and brought me a satisfaction that exceeds virtually any that I’ve known before. The best part is not just that it will continue to reward me, and those around me for some time to come, but that anyone can have it.

This wellspring of satisfaction and joy is a two feet wide, ten feet long, and sits in my backyard. What is it? A pet? A car? What exactly is it?

It’s a garden. A long, narrow, bountiful garden.

While it’s “my” garden, I’ve had a lot of help from several people, including my family, my neighbors, and most certainly, Mother Nature.

But what I really like about the garden is that what’s coming out of it is enhancing the lives of virtually everyone around me. It’s especially benefitted the people who helped me with it, either directly or indirectly.

I made the first harvest from it on July 3. From that harvest came a huge basket of Romaine and red leaf lettuce, each leaf bearing a rich flavor, color, texture, and firmness unlike that of any lettuce that you could buy in a supermarket.

Next in the harvest were a handful of bright red radishes. My young daughter got a thrill from planting the radish seeds, and she was overjoyed to find some radishes were ready for plucking from the earth. Naturally, being a five-year-old, she won’t eat them. But she certainly planted them!

This was food that had grown right in my backyard in Milwaukee. More importantly, it came from our little garden in our little backyard. What’s even more remarkable is that two months ago, the garden didn’t exist. In fact, our little backyard is not even “our” backyard — my wife and I currently rent a lower flat in Bay View. But when our landlady offered to till a little strip of grass and turn it into a garden plot, we leaped at the idea. She followed through, and with a few bags of soil from our neighbors and a bag of “Milwaukee Black Gold” worm castings (read: worm poop) from Growing Power, we were soon in business planning, and planting our first home garden.

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Of course, the adventures have continued since then. The building of the Bay View Hide House Community Garden has been the greatest achievement so far. And we’re starting to talk about building a similar community garden in Cudahy. Stay tuned for more on that, and please write if you’re interested in joining that project. Thanks!

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.