It was earlier this spring when I realized that eating all the vegetables that my extended family and I enjoy (or needs to be exposed to) was getting far more expensive than I was accustomed to. Terrible winter weather in Florida and Mexico and outrageous transportation costs from the west coast were all supporting an increase in cost.
I found myself doing what I implore others not to do: complaining! What would I tell someone that was griping about produce prices like I was? The answer was obvious. Do something about it.
The solution seemed clear. If I can’t purchase what I want, well, I’ll need to produce it. I’ve always had a garden, but more to watch things grow and occasionally grab some fresh veggies and herbs for the dinner table than to actually sustain my family. So, after evaluating my small backyard, which increasingly had become more and more shaded by the neighbor’s and abutting school’s property-line trees, I realized my hopes of growing enough produce was going to be difficult under these conditions.
Again, no need for complaining. For my plan to work, I’d need to change the conditions, without, of course, chopping a neighborhood of trees down.
Fast forward three months: I had a long weekend and two vacation days and during that time put together a 10X 20 foot greenhouse with hoop heights of almost nine feet. Using up old windows in the basement, any excess lumber laying around, and a clever hoop bending device, my garden solution went up very inexpensively and is built to last several harsh winters.
My dream of extending my growing season has been fulfilled! My small gardens are now taking hold and are comprised of potatoes, herbs, and beans. I have a new area beside the hoop house that will serve as my root vegetable garden and the new space inside has plenty of room for various varieties of vegetables, and should be able to keep producing right through the late fall.
The looks on my girlfriend’s young daughters’ faces as they brought our house-started plants into the greenhouse for transplanting were priceless! When life gives you shade, grow vegetables! What a wonderful life lesson they had learned.
Yes, we can eat well. Nothing can stop us. It was hard, though, to let them know that we could not grow chocolate…yet.
Thomas Sheehan is an Executive Chef for Eurest and Manager of the Hannaford Cafe. Tommy graduated from University of New Hampshire and got his culinary training from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He has held executive chef positions throughout New England since 1986. Before coming to the Hannaford Cafe he was the corporate chef at LL Bean, and St Joseph’s College. When he’s not in the kitchen, Tommy can be found hunting, fishing, or rooting for the Boston Red Sox.