One of the things which really struck me during my visit with Kiko Teed last week was how much she likes to be outdoors. She told me she needs to feel the outside air on her face each and every day, no matter how hot or cold it is that day.
In the summer, she will roam her gardens and pull out weeds without even thinking about it. To her, the gardens and chickens and being outside is a lifestyle. Or, perhaps, second nature.
It was really great visiting her as my first stop for Operation Kitchen Garden. I saw in her characteristics that I imagine will be common threads – to one degree or another – among my other victims….er, subjects … in this exploration I am doing.
There is a self-sustaining attitude, or theme, that is present in Kiko’s life.
I initially met her about three or four years ago when I was writing for the local newspaper and doing stories on issues like getting better food into the schools and recyclable plates for children’s parties at school. She went above and beyond trying to make a difference for her kids and the other children.
To her, it was not about filling time or fitting in. It was just who she is. Someone who cares about the planet – because she has always lived connected to her environment.
During my visit, we mused about this past – brutal – winter. And how we were both out there shoveling snow and prowling about as much as we could. She was even up on her roof getting rid of the massive amounts of snow.
I could totally relate to her feeling of accomplishment and remember how it made me feel like a pioneer woman when I used the pool skimmer to move snow off the mansard part of my roof.
But now it is summer and Kiko’s outside space is even more of a fun zone…
I loved how much there is to do in Kiko’s yard. She has a trampoline, tree house, two gardens, blueberry bushes frame the sides of the path leading to her front door, there’s a chicken coop, three dogs, and a fire pit (I now need to have one of those).
The other thing which got a visceral response from me at her house was the way that Kiko reminded me that food is not just a commodity. It is not just something we exchange money for and it is a way to nurture.
One of the best parts of growing food is giving it away. I know this will sound corny, but that’s kind of like love. Don’t they say that love isn’t love until you give it away.
Nothing is more nurturing than good, healthy food. It can build bonds. Eating together is a deeply-engrained part of our society. A way to be sure to connect with one another.
Kiko growing the food her family likes most. But, then, maybe some of her food-growing neighbors and friends like to grow other food. She will swap with them. And that is a really nice way to interact with the people around you.
It brings the world together in your own backyard.
Keep going for some more photos I took and quotes and inspiration from Kiko and daughter, Caroline, 9….
“Gardening *is* hard work but I think it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do, on a primal level. … It’s a lifestyle thing. If you’re not passionate about it I don’t think it’s going to last very long.” ~ Kiko
Kiko spent a lot of time planning her garden. She watches the area where she wants to plant to see where exactly gets the most sun.
Kiko grew up with a vegetable garden, but also with chickens, “so feeding them every day in winter is just something I do.”
Her family has fresh eggs all-year-long!
Here is Kiko showing my blog readers what the staples she used look like…
The puzzle includes string beans, snow peas, tomatoes, asparagus, squash, blueberries, raspberries, wineberries, strawberries, herbs and lettuce – and she was growing the lettuce last season until late in the year.
“We were eating lettuce until mid-December,” she remembers.
Kiko covered her lettuce with a dome and the crop required very little else to remain hearty in the cold.
“If you stuck your hand inside the little tent you could feel the heat the plants were generating.”
It also contained moisture so there was very little watering necessary.
Following in her mom’s footsteps is daughter, Caroline. She is out there picking raspberries twice a day.
“Once I had a whole shirtful of raspberries,” reports Caroline.
The hardest part, she says, is keeping away the Japanese beetles, dogs and chickens.
But, there are many advantages of growing your own food, according to the young gardener.
“You don’t have to go to the store and waste money to buy food. All I have to do is go outside and get food.”
And, there’s more…
“Another good reason [to have a garden] is you can just invite your friends over to pick food to take home with them.”
And on that note, I will leave you with some more images of the food Kiko and her family are growing….
Caroline and twin brother, Carson, with their raspberry plants ….