IMG_0584_2Grew up in the Garden State and never gardened, but I married a Georgia man, blending several families and haven’t had clean fingernails since. That was 1978. This year our blended family gardening differs. Permaculture appeared.

We thought teaching six children to raise fruits and vegetables in a garden 50 x 50 feet maintained discipline, and provided food. We composted the easy way, digging a hole to bury that day’s discards.

Our family beagle approved, and dug morsels of interest, so the nutrients didn’t all reach the beans and squash. Horrors the dog-owning children and grandchildren say of our technique today.

Our next two generations garden, but my-oh-my are their techniques different.

Permaculture enters my garden

Tripp was four when I entered the scene, firstborn of my new husband’s firstborn and he called me “that girl” for the first year. Grandmother Christine came later.

Today he seems to consider me a willing apprentice, caught between the classic family gardening style of my husband’s north Georgia grandparents and the permaculture of a new generation.

Permanent agriculture and permanent culture morphed as a new word by the advocates of this restore-the-earth farming.

Tripp and his wife Jessica moved from Spokane, Washington to my town, Tifton, Georgia, to give it a whirl. Rural homesteading they say they’re doing.

The New York Times two days before Tripp’s 38th birthday gave permaculture prominence in a feature article.

Me the same day? I picked tomatoes with their three-year-old daughter Ella who has always called me Grandmother.

I used to devise ways for our little children to think picking up pinecones was fun; volumes of them fall from tall trees in South Georgia. That generation we tossed them on a pile that became a bonfire.

No longer. Thanks to permaculture, this blended family now chips.

Noisy machine with a hopper and a long arm into which we toss what we used to burn. Little kids hate the noise and miss the fire, but permaculturists mulch everything with everything so now we spread it around. Together.

IMG_0573_2I’m still looking for ways to convince this generation of three-year-olds, and a nine and 12 year old too, that work is fun, and saves cash for travel.

Andrew, 31, is my second-born son, youngest in a blended-family sibling group of six, all adults now.

His is an urban garden: beans, tomatoes and squash in East Atlanta Village. We had him haul hoses and sprinklers in his childhood gardening.

Today, he directs gray water from his city house into the raised veggie beds. Lush in a dry Georgia summer. Less waste in the city, smaller water bill in the family.

IMG_0581_2What will be his three-year-old daughter Mattie Jewell’s watering chore in the family tradition? And what will she be teaching Grandmother?

Tripp Tibbetts (right) prepares logs for home-based shitake mushroom growing during the Folk Life Festival of the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village in Tifton.

Jessica Tibbetts (left) demonstrates soap-making 1890s style, and prefers a wood-burning stove to electric. Follow her homesteading insight at
Blended family patriarch G. W. Tibbetts wove grapevine baskets before permaculture arrived in his garden. Granddaughter Julie holds G.W.’s great-grandson Oliver while her children Emily and Will stand on great-grandfather’s other side.