Sara Masarik has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years mostly through the agency of the Facebook book club she and friends started, Potato Peel Pie Society, and especially its offshoot, Symposium At Parnassus which is for book-loving homeschool mamas like me.
You may know Sara already from her interview on the Homeschool Snapshots podcast. Sara’s interests go beyond books and reading, though.
In fact, she and her husband are foodies who take it to the next level by growing a good deal of their own food. I asked Sara if she would tell us about it.
I’m so happy to introduce you to Sara Masarik today.
Sara please tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, your homeschool, and the ages of your children.
I am married to a Catholic high school administrator, and I homeschool our three children (10, 8, and 6) in a relaxed classical way that is heavily influenced by living books.
We are Roman Catholic and consider our home a domestic monastery dedicated to the raising up of saints. Very much always a work in progress, we are a family who is seeking to know, love, and serve the Lord.
What is your hobby?
How long have you been doing your hobby?
How did you get started or interested in gardening? How would someone else get started?
When I married my husband, I knew nothing about gardening. My husband, however, came from a family of gardeners.
At the time we were renting and had very little extra money, so we had to start very small. We loved (and continue to love) to cook and so we started with a few herbs that we knew that we would cook with.
We got a few inexpensive pots and some herb plants and grew them on our patio. In the next two years, I would find that I was happiest when playing in the dirt.
When my oldest was born, I read Why French Women Don’t Get Fat while nursing and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of cooking very well on a small scale.
It gave me an appreciation for cooking seasonally and using fresh ingredients that I could grow myself, buy at the farmer’s market, or buy at the grocer when the produce was at peak flavor.
Next I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it beautifully blurred the lines between farmer and family who tries to grow as much of their food as possible. Those two books caused a paradigm shift in our thinking and put us on the path of urban farming.
We are not technically urban farmers because we do not have any animals. But, we are passionate about growing as much of our food as possible (while remaining in balance with all of our other commitments) and most of our backyard is dedicated to food production. It is our dream to buy a homestead/hobby farm next year.
For someone starting out, I think that it is pretty simple: figure out what you love to eat. Find out if any of that grows well in your climate.
Start small, probably with 2-3 herbs and a couple of veggies. We have found that when we grow things we love to eat (garlic, peppers, brussel sprouts, asparagus, tomatoes, leeks, peas…) we are much better caretakers of it.
As much as we like eggplant, we don’t love it and taking care of it becomes a chore. The things that we love to cook with nearly always thrive in our yard.
What kind of equipment or resources are needed to do it? Are there books or instructional guides that you’ve personally found helpful?
Gardening resources abound! Most gardening books were only helpful to me for a short season. Beyond Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I would recommend reading as many local gardening books as you can get from the library and getting some fresh food based cookbooks that will inspire you to really use the food you are growing.
Knowing what you are doing with your food makes it so much more motivating to work to understand what you are growing.
Where can we learn more about it?
In Wisconsin, we have a lot of gardening classes at our public libraries, at the UW-Extension offices, and sometimes at garden stores. I would also encourage you to visit your farmer’s market.
Find some farmers you like and talk to them. They love talking about their process, their successes, and their failures. Farmers are life long learners and some of my most favorite people to talk to.
I can’t tell you how many times farmers have asked me why I want so much of (fill in the blank). When I explain what I am doing with it, they are intrigued and want to learn more. They are always learning and they are always happy to teach.
How do you make time to participate?
It is core family value for us. It is just something that we prioritize. I wish that I had a magic answer but I don’t. The garden will demand attention and it repays generously.
Where can others find you online?
I think Sara’s story is inspiring in many ways. First, she started small with something she knew she’d use. Second, she gained personal, philosophical understanding which led to a desire to grow her time – and space – investment. Third, I love that she knows her limits even now and they only grow the things they love and will use.
These are ideas that can be appropriated to any hobby – 1) don’t buy all the things, start small, 2) study and research and get to know people, and 3) know your limits.
Thanks, Sara, for sharing your experience with us!