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Summer of Garden Exercise, Fall Harvest

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We planted a vegetable garden this Spring in my mother's field. Hard exercise changed a rocky ruined area into beautiful food. It's getting cold now. Readers asked how the garden turned out. Here are stories:

We are harvesting. By afternoon it is dark with a large orange moon overhead lightning our work. The hard work keeps us warm.

When we first cleared the area, we filled the wheelbarrow with concrete slabs, pried and dug from the patch. Paul bent to grasp the wooden handles. When he rose lifting the handles, the barrow was so heavy that both handles snapped, scattering everything. Paul is strong.

We sawed and attached new handles. Much good squatting, bending, rising, lifting, and reloading. Paul bent well (upper body fairly upright, knees bent over heels). At almost seven feet tall, he needed to bend low. When he rose, the wheelbarrow handles were so high in the air, the front of the barrow tipped forward so far that contents spilled everywhere.

Hoeing a field, breaking concrete, digging stumps and rocks, bending and reaching, lifting right, hauling bales of compost, and all the rest that gardening can involve, is more exercise than you can get in a gym. It combines hard natural movement using much of the body at once to give muscular and cardiovascular exercise. To pull weeds, you squat well, both heels down, loosen roots with a digging stick, grasp weeds at the roots, rise pulling slowly. Over and over. Rise and bend. Garden prayer.

We were amused that more grew outside than inside the garden. Outside, tall weedy grasses grew everywhere. Inside, small seedlings grew into low herbs and vegetables. Deer and other animals didn't eat our garden. We had built a 6-foot fence around it, but deer can easily jump that height, and small burrowing groundhogs and rabbits can wiggle through or under. What we had done is leave them a bushy meadow near the garden area, with plenty of food and hiding places. They didn't need to bother the garden. The municipality cited my mother for a violation of some kind for not mowing her "lawn." Sorry Mom! We paid it for her.

Large slabs of concrete lay buried, inches below the surface of much of the area we wanted to plant. We needed to break and remove them. I managed to lift Paul's huge sledgehammer, swinging it with both hands over my head. It came down on the slab and bounced. I tried a wider stronger swing. It was heavier to swing than it looked. It bounced off the concrete each time. I handed it to Paul. He swung it quickly with one arm, splintering the slab. We dug the dozens of new football-sized pieces and made a rock border for the flowers nearby.

We gardened without pesticides or chemicals. We hauled hundreds of pounds of compost that the municipality gives away free at the recycling centers. Thank you recycling center for all the good exercise, compost, and manure. Plants grew healthy and didn't need chemicals to fight insects. They could fight them from their own internal health - people can do the same much of the time from simple good health practices. Plants manufacture their own anti-inflammatories against disease. That is part of why eating vegetables and fruit is good for your own health against inflammation.

The work it took to eak out a few plates of vegetables for each meal reminded us of subsistence farmers - how worrisome it is to have to rely on what you can scratch out of your own soil. If we had to last the winter on what we grew, it would be a long thin winter. Much of the world does not sit around indulgently with fast food in the refrigerator. Many do not have refrigerators. Before spending money on junk food, then complaining you are too heavy, think. Save the money. Improve your health. Refraining from eating does not make anyone fat.

The tomatoes grew tall and long. They grew so much that we could not find the strawberries.

We are saving the seeds from the sweetest cantaloupe, the largest cabbages, and the most wonderful purple peppers and white eggplants for next year.

The wonderful Thai bamboo hoes we brought back with us have shrunk in our colder dryer climate, loosening the heavy metal shovel-heads so they tilt sideways with each overhead swing. We have been fixing them, then going back to hoeing. The ground will soon freeze. Hoeing is more upper back strengthening and work than anything in a gym, even more than all the pushups and handstands that I love. Bend knees, upper back upright, breathe in, swing up, breathe out, swing down. Over and over.

Saturday night was Halloween. The World Series was playing. Paul didn't want to disappoint me by not going out to see the fun going on for Halloween in the city, and would never have said anything. I put on a costume and sat with him to watch the game. It was a great evening. The next day I put on a scarecrow costume and we worked in the garden.

We were just two city kids, who grew up in urban slums. I didn't know about gardening, but we read, worked, learned from mistakes, and sweated under the hot sun and the cold evening air.



How It Started:
Want Weightlifting? Plant A Food Garden


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photos © copyright by Paul
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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