Archives For community

The Garden

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 23, 2014 — 5 Comments

For months, I’ve been consumed with my latest project:

My fabulous front yard garden.

I’ve researched, I’ve measured, I’ve sketched and planned. I’ve shoveled dirt, I’ve carried rocks, I’ve moved buckets and buckets of soil. I’ve planted, I’ve watered, I’ve problem solved, I’ve watched food grow, I’ve eaten produce from my front yard.

With my trusty helpers, including the 2 year old, we have made my dream a reality and I have to admit I am super proud – giddy even. If you follow my blog, you may remember my post from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was first inspired to plant the garden. Well, I’m happy to say I DID IT. I did it!!! And if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been barraged with garden doodles.

In planting, I tried to be responsible – environmentally, economically and practically. After a persistent search, I found an amazing deal on recycled fire bricks ($25 a ton!) to edge my garden. I ordered a huge dump truck load of soil at the best price. I compost and I now own a $40 rain barrel. I ordered non GMO seeds ($.99 sample packs!) from and they grew. I shop at my local Homewood Garden Shop and have healthy blueberry bushes and lovely plants.

I worked my butt off building and planting this garden.

Beginning at the end of August, in the Alabama heat, I made it happen with my ever-present garden buddy. My kids, especially my son, now understand exactly where food comes from and how to grow it and care for it. My son waters it, pulls grass out of it, harvests the radishes, and takes a walk through it every time I open the door.

My garden is planted to grow community.

I didn’t know how that would work, but the first day I was out there I had real conversations with a dozen people, neighbors and passers-by. I share food with my neighbors and have met all sorts of new people. My kids tell anyone who asks about the plants growing, and I find that food is an easy thing to discuss, a common denominator.

My favorite story happened a few weeks ago. As we walked home from school, I began talking to an older lady about rosemary, as our kids were smelling it by someone’s mailbox. I just made a quick comment, not aiming at anything, not trying too hard. A few words later, we were talking about my garden. She was interested and missed her garden, as she said, “in my country, we have sun everyday and I grow many plants.” As we parted ways, I told her to stop by anytime and see the garden and take some herbs.

A week later, she stopped me at the corner with her two grandsons and asked if they could walk down to see the garden. On our short stroll, I find out they are from Haiti, and that her entire family was there during the earthquake except for her. She had arrived in the US four days before the quake for a wedding, and was plagued with anxiety over the separation at such a time. I now know her name, I know a portion of her amazing story, and the kids all ran together along the stepping stones of my garden.

Growing something, overcoming obstacles (like cats, cabbage worms, flooding rains, aphids…), being faithfully attentive and persistent…you learn things from gardening. About life, about children, about the world. I feel at peace and connected to nature when I’m checking the leaves and hearing the spray of water hitting the thick pile of green collards. It is a small miracle to see a snow pea sprout and grow out of the dirt, mere days after planting. There are more benefits to this garden than I can name.

My Garden Doodles thus far:



Long ago, in some fuzzy conversation from my past, there was a discussion about different types of people: followers, leaders and not-followers. For years, this trio of types has lingered in my mind and caused many a joke, as I can be a pretty ridiculous “not-follower.” This can be translated into my stubbornness against those newfangled contraptions or those audacious new pants…you get the idea. Can we say “hello Granny”?

Suffice it to say, I pushed against the world of tweets. It took me years to get on Facebook, a long time to buy a pair of capris back in high school, and a good while to jump onto the Harry Potter train. But I’m no stick in the mud…I just hold out long enough to be a “not follower,” aka cool and awesome. Nowadays I’m all over Facebook, I own all Harry Potter books and movies, and I flip up my jeans in the summer. And I’ve finally stepped into Twitter.

twitter snapAt first, I was nervous. I had 8 followers…why tweet? If you tweet to no one, does it make a sound? With baby steps, I began tweeting and following, and hey! I was followed back! Then suggestions began so courteously showing up in my inbox, helping me connect to more artists around the world. It was a big day to be retweeted by someone I didn’t know, and an event to reach 100 followers. In a few weeks of tweeting, I’m up to 139 followers and climbing.

I’m starting to get the hang of it, and I’ve made some novice observations:

Twitter truly is about community. It’s awesome to so easily connect with artists in France, the UK and Ontario; to connect with Sennelier and Ampersand; to tweet and be tweeted. I like to think I’m able to share my art and images of my American South. Pretty cool.

I also realize the “tweeters” I like best are the ones who seem like real people. With them, it’s not always business, not repeated tweets over and over, and by their 140 character, hash-tagged tweets, you get a sense of a personality. It makes their little photo seem like a human instead of a stock photo.

I also find I click on tweets with easy to see images, nothing I have to work too hard to view. I click on blog posts very relative to my interests. And I like to read the funnies!

So tweet with me and see what you find!