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Our Little Bit of Heaven on Earth

Harvest bounty
Early harvest featuring Swiss chard, eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, yellow squash, cucumbers, zucchini

Being avid gardeners, Satya and I searched far and wide for a perfect property when we moved from southwest Florida to western North Carolina. One of the most important criteria was that it be flat land to allow for the planting of trees for an orchard, vegetable and flower gardens and have abundant water. Also, we sought our home and property to be our offering of love, and selfless service (seva) to the Divine Mother who is Bhu Devi - Mother Nature. So, we consider our gardens the Divine Mother Herself manifest.

We have chosen to live in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is less humid, and a bit cooler than the eastern part of the state; blessed with plenty of rainfall, hot summers, and somewhat milder winters than more northern states of North America - and certainly less hot and humid than the tropical part of Florida that we had recently moved from. It is also less densely populated than the rest of the state and quite rural, another bonus for doing our sadhana and that of being in a more natural and nature-filled environment.

We wake daily to the sounds of many birds chirping their sweet songs before sunrise, due to the vast variety of songbirds resident here. With that in mind, we have planted gardens that support birds, bees and butterfly with many flowering throughout the season to provide nectar, fragrance and later seeds to sustain wildlife optimally.

We built a large 6 foot high fenced area for our vegetable garden to discourage the deer, bunnies, groundhogs, etc. This will not keep the raccoons and opossum out, however. We know that they will arrive as soon as our corn is perfectly ripe, as well as other fruit on the trees, which are not protected in any way.

Rows of yellow, white, and red onions
Rows of yellow, white, and red onions

Organic Gardening is the Only Way of Life

Our entire orchard and other gardens are organic. There is simply no other way to garden, and we have never gardened any other way.

Organic Composting and Mulching

We are blessed to have a local source nearby where we purchase compost and hardwood mulch, which we use abundantly to help feed our garden and flower beds. We use this compost when building our beds, planting our seeds, plants, bushes, vines and trees. The compost and mulch helps suppress weeds, keep plants cooler and reduce water use and frequency. We add mulch throughout the season, weeding as required and add additional compost to plantings when they seem to need a boost to their growing.

Due to the constant care, the plants seem healthy and robust. Many plants were started from organic seeds, bulbs, or very small seedlings bought on-line. They may seem small to start, but this allowed us to get a lot more variety and a greater selection than what our local nurseries would have had available. We also bought from local nurseries too, when we found things that we liked that were available.

Nature’s Abundance Manifesting in Our Garden

During the summer we had corn, beets, green beans, heirloom snap beans, scarlet runner beans, broad beans, bush beans, pole beans, rainbow Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, heirloom winter squash, acorn squash, green and red cabbage, okra, sunflowers; green, purple and red peppers; red, yellow and white onions, radishes, Japanese and pickling cucumbers, Armenian white cucumbers, and yams, all growing in the garden.

We also have the following herbs: lavender, rosemary, several types of mint, thyme, two types of basil, plus Tulsi Basil (Holy Basil), and parsley growing as well. We started our garden quite late due to building the fence prior to preparing the ground, building the beds and planting. Considering this - we have been blessed to have so much success in such a short time!

"WC Fields" tomato
"WC Fields" tomato

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Preserving Our Harvest

I often felt like a squirrel when we were faced with so much abundance; how to preserve all of this goodness from the earth by pickling, canning, freezing and dehydrating what we had grown. Part of the fun is researching new recipes and ways to keep some of the goodness for after the harvest without degrading the quality of the produce too much and having something put up for the future.

We pickled our cucumbers for eating throughout the rest of the winter, and froze some of our zucchini and yellow squash, and both green and wax beans. We have been sharing a lot of our surplus veggies with our neighbors who are enjoying the bounty of our labor and garden.

We are very Blessed to have a property that yields so generously, the energy to work it, the joy and Grace to be willing to do so; and of course, we are so grateful to Mother Nature who supports us so wholeheartedly.

Gratitude is the Best Attitude

We are also so grateful for our neighbor’s bees who work tirelessly to pollinate all of our fruits, vegetables and flowers, making our property more in tune with Mother Nature/Bhu Devi. We are so grateful to our Beloved Amma who has made it possible for us to have such an amazing property to call “home”. It is a dream a long-time in the making. It is the literal fusion of sadhana, and seva - worship of Devi internally and externally.

Pranams to Mother Earth for bearing us our entire lifetime… In Her Loving Service on this beautiful Land,

Satyavrtan and Raja Sri Rutenbeck - North Carolina

PS, Gardening Factoid:

Q. Do you know how many visits it takes pollinators to pollinate a single cucumber flower to produce even one cucumber?

A. It takes between 8-12 visits from bees to pollinate a single cucumber flower to produce one cucumber! We humbly bow down to those magnificent, beneficent, selfless workers, the honey bees!
To paraphrase Amma,

"We are so indebted to them...and without them, we would certainly starve."

Read about the Water Bucket Challenge in the Q4 2021 newsletter >>

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