Friday, March 4, 2011

An Evening with Graham Kerr

Graham Kerr, who never does anything in half measures, decided three years ago to replace his lawn with a kitchen garden.  Next to marrying Treena nearly 56 years ago, he says that first garden was the best experience of his entire life.

Last night at the Floyd Norgaard Center in Stanwood Graham Kerr talked to a large crowd about his new book, Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden.  He exuded sheer pleasure as he spoke about his 400 square foot garden, his greenhouse, and the excitement of watching seeds spring to life.

Up until 2008, everything he planted had died from his self-described "lethal thumb."  He relished memories of fresh-from-the-garden vegetables he had eaten around the world, but he had had no success in growing his own produce.  It took a dialog with his church community to give him the courage to take gardening seriously.  And after years of a life of travel and commitments, he finally had the time to dedicate himself to the project.  Now he is involved with a group of gardeners who share seeds and ideas, and who reach into the community with their bounty through the food bank.   "I harvest carrots at noon, eat some and take the rest to the food bank, and by 6:00 they've been eaten by our neighbors!" he said.

Autographing his book
His very first tomato -- his first gardening success -- warm and luscious, was ready to eat.  He topped it off with some fresh basil as he anticipated that first bite, but then thought better of it.  He really should share it. So he put it into a small basked and took it to the lady next door, a woman with whom he had only a waving relationship, and knocked on her door.  Like a proud papa, he offered her the tomato.  She thanked him, but seemed distracted.  When he asked if everything was OK she told him that she had just learned that her mother was dying.  He and Treena set down the tomato basket and comforted the woman.  "I probably wouldn't have known about her mother if it weren't for the tomato," he told the audience.

Growing at the Speed of Life tells the story of his conversion to gardening, the steps he took to get there, the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers he raises, and 100 recipes for preparing them.  If reading the book is half as delightful as hearing him talk about it, I expect we're in for a real treat.  Better yet will be the gardens that are planted, and the delicious, fresh produce families will eat and share with their neighbors.

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