My father is a retired Civil Servant and my mother, a housewife. Now, that meant when Daddy was in active service, we moved around the country every 4 years. Aside from a stint in Germany (more of that later in other posts), we moved through different parts of Ghana; the North, to the East and finally went South. I guess we didn’t go East because of the trip to Germany. But that’s just my belief.
Because of this, I have seen quite a bit of the country and have a lot of nostalgia whenever I go a-visiting any of my old locales. I sometimes believe I can hear the voices of my friends laughing and shouting in the streets, as we ran or walked to and from each other’s homes. We were always welcome wherever we went and owned the streets (as a matter of speaking).
It is these jaunts cross-country, that gave me the deep love of the land. I have seen the savannah, the rainforest, the ocean front, the lagoon sides.
Everywhere we went, daddy will make sure he got a parcel of land either near the home or in a village not far from it. He would then plant all manner of food staples to augment the household income. But even at a young age, I knew he wasn’t doing that because we needed the money, but because he loved farming. and since it reduced our expenditure, that was a hobby he gladly indulged in with all his heart.
My sister and I learnt to plant corn, apply fertiliser, harvest the corn, watch the weather and (oh my hands!!) shell the corn from the cobs, store them into bags with the requisite pest deterrents and lug these sacks in and out of the storeroom when necessary. It was hard manual work, but we never complained. We competed among ourselves to see who could find more innovative ways to shell the corn faster and more efficiently.
Then, we would also plant cassava (tapioca plant). I would cut the sticks into the required lengths, plant them in appropriate spacing and watch them grow. We learnt to know when the cassava was ready for harvesting and would harvest them, wash them and peel them.
My mother made sure that the two of us learnt how to grate the peeled cassava, squeeze the starch out of them, make garri and “tapioca” grits. We did everything ourselves. My Dad would do the fieldwork with us and Ma would do the processing. Again, with us. I learnt it all.
We raised goats, chickens and ducks. But I was still considered a softie when I went to school and in the neighbourhood. I just couldn’t figure that one!
Ma is in the habit of planting anything that grow. From flowers, to different grass types, to fruits and vegetables. At a point we even had a groundnut (peanut) patch and soybeans on what others would use for a lawn.
We didn’t only plant along with her, we would water and maintain the garden and the plants and after harvesting, we would learn how to process the fruits and vegetables into healthy, awesome delights.
Finally, both parents loved medicinal plants. Don’t get me wrong, we would be forced to go to the hospital when ill, but invariably, Ma would look out for herbal or natural remedies and we would avidly learn the benefits and risks of each plant and/or any combination thereof.
What did I hate? Killing and prepping goats and chickens. Don’t get me started on those. 🙁 . But a boy had to do what a boy had to do.
Anyway, these childhood activities made sure we never had a dull moment when we were on holidays or off from school and instilled in us both, a deep love for the land, which we have carried on into our adulthood.
So, last year, after my epiphany, I started a backyard vegetable garden.
We started enjoying the benefits right away:
The quality time spent with my daughters
The physical activity (a.k.a.: “oh my waist!”)
Watching plants grow
The mistakes (inevitable)
The failures (also inevitable)
The fruits of our labor:
All these came from our backyard garden (of course, with the exception of the salt…I will tell you more about that awesome product later).
In the words of my initially sceptical teenager daughter,
“this tastes nicer and are firmer than what we always buy from the market!!”
(wide-eyed, she became an immediate convert. 🙂 . She was now always going to the garden to pluck ripe vegetables to cook with or make into a refreshing salad. What more could I ask for?)
Now, I ran out of steam and also decided to give the soil some time to improve (was that a lame excuse for laziness? You tell me).
It is time to restart the process. In subsequent posts, I will detail my progress and post pictures as well, as we grow.
You will see how we determine what to use for making beds, why the choice, the different types of vegetable bed gardens you can make, where we get our seeds from, how we handle (or don’t handle) pests, etc. It will be fascinating, I promise you this.
Why backyard gardening?
In the immortal words of Ron Finley, America’s guerrilla gardener:
“Growing you own food, is like printing your own money“.
1. The exercise and spending time in the garden is definitely good for your overall well-being. Good health = good wealth.
Less hospital bills = cash in your pocket
2. The produce you harvest, is invariably much cheaper than buying from the supermarket. So, for eery tomato, pepper, onion, garden egg, etc that you go and harvest, the less you have to buy for your monthly grocery quota. Once again,
less money spent in the market = more cash in your pocket.
3. If you do it well enough, you should have extra produce you can sell to your friends, family or neighbours (or you can give it away – priceless!). That also translates into cash in your pocket
= more cash in your pocket
Invariably, you will be seeing more money than you are used to, at the end of the month. So it makes perfect sense to start your own backyard garden.
Also, and here is the kicker, you will be eating fresh produce that YOU KNOW, do not contain chemicals or have been bathed in vehicle exhaust fumes.
I will be open to discussions and suggestions as I chronicle our activities and “print our own money“.
Feel free to send me your progress as well, and I will put them up here if you permit me.
Let’s start printing!
Side Note: We have been inundated with questions on where we buy our coconut oil from.
For those in Ghana, we buy from a family-owned business. We have seen their production process and are quite happy with the products they sell. Indeed, that’s the only oil we use for cooking at home, now.
Well packaged and labeled, it is easy for me to recommend “N⊃mi” (pronounced “normi”) Natural Coconut Oil.
It has no water, low scent and is clear in colour. Coming from the Volta region of Ghana, it is produced by a group of sisters, who select the copra and process and extract the oil themselves.
Packed in 5 litre gallons for now, they have been so kind as to give us a discount for all Friends of FarmerJohn (join our mailing list to qualify for this).
In Ghana, if you buy from us, you get it at a low price of GHS60 instead of their market price of GHS70 (As at time of tis publication). A savings of more than 10%. (Note, delivery charges MAY apply though).
For those of you outside Ghana, I have seen a great collection of organic natural coconut oils, here (please click on the link and spoil yourself for choice. And yes, I do earn a small commission on what you buy, but that will not affect the price you pay. Scout’s Honour!).
So, join our mailing list today and start benefiting immediately! No spamming and the posts aside from such offers, will be quite few.
Again, if you are outside Ghana (the USA, etc), click here on this link for nearby choices of organic, natural coconut oil.