The sun dipped behind a large cloud, washing the historic White House in soft ambient light. A storm was brewing in the west, coming in from Shenandoah County and the clouds were turning the color of dark slate over Massanutten Mountain. A low rumble of thunder threatened rain. Or perhaps this storm would stay in the clouds as did the one last month when no rain actually fell but the “heat lightning” danced behind the towering columns of pillowy clouds.
Growing the garden this summer has been an enormous pleasure. Working in the cool evening air, coaxing the plants along, enjoying the peace and quiet of the farm.
Gardening is satisfying on many levels: the wonder of putting a tiny, hard, brown seed in the soil and three months later putting the result of rain and sunshine on a dinner plate; being outside and engaging in a hobby that connects one’s soul with nature; the health and safety of knowing exactly where your food came from and the way it was grown; carrying on a family or cultural tradition; improved taste; and, perhaps most important to many, saving money.
According to the national gardening Association, about 37% of all U.S. households grow some of their own food. They go on to say that there are few other outdoor activities where virtually every demographic group is so well represented, no matter their age, education, income, marital status, household size, gender or regional location.
The soil in the Shenandoah Valley is one of the main reasons why the area was known as the breadbasket of the Confederacy during the Civil War and supports our agricultural heritage today. Indeed, the soil at the White House Farm couldn’t be better. The garden is located on the first land terrace created by the erosion and movement of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River which, through many years of flooding, have deposited deep, rich alluvial deposits.
Suddenly, the wind kicked up, rustling the corn stalks in the adjacent field and the first raindrops fell. A small toad hopped across the path between two of the beds and took refuge under the large leaves of a squash plant. Garden work was done for the day but the rains guaranteed additional garden abundance.
** Page County producers are being featured on September 10 at an event entitled “A Vegetable Production, Marketing and Water Quality Meeting”, sponsored by Virginia cooperative Extension. Click here for more information.