The other day, I wrote about how surprisingly not-frugal gardening is. I see it all over the place – if you grow your own vegetables, you can cut your grocery bill! And it’s kind of true but kind of not and at least for me, I’m lucky to break even each year.
But there’s another aspect to gardening that makes it somewhat incompatible with the idea of financial independence, at least FI the way I see it: the independence.
Having a garden is like having a pet. It needs constant care, and if you don’t provide it with structure it becomes an unruly, disobedient monster.
I weed the garden just a bit every day. It’s a part of my schedule, built in to the time that I take the nutjob puppy out for her afternoon “sprint circles around the house and occasionally run off to the neighbor’s house and get yelled at” regimen. I like weeding, it’s almost like meditation.
Last year, we took a trip to Europe for three weeks. It was the height of FI-ness. Here we are, gallivanting around the world, free tickets to Europe, we are free free free from the shackles of life.
Except we came back and the weeds were, I’m not kidding, up to my waist. I have no idea how it got so bad so quickly. It took hours and hours to get it back to just manageable. It did not feel like meditation, it felt like working on the chain gang.
And it’s not just the weeds. If you’re successful at your gardening, during harvest season, you can’t take a day off. The blueberries just keep coming. And if you don’t get them, the birds will, and there goes all your profit, and also there is blue bird crap all over your car.
I love gardening. I show pictures of my garden to people the same way new parents show pictures of their bouncing baby boy, and I almost called the police yesterday when Amelia plucked a spinach plant out of the ground while ostensibly helping me with the weeding. (“Hello, 911? I have an emergency.”). My favorite part of the day is watching the new growth, seeing the food appear out of nothing. And my kids get to pick food directly from the plant and pop it into their mouths, which is like the only way I can actually get them to eat anything not filled with nougat.
Even though I hear people talking about how they’re going to garden to cut costs and move toward FI, for me, gardening sets me up for neither financial rewards nor independence. Instead, it gives me happiness, calm, peace, and blueberries. Worth it.