Demeter is Sneaky

This is not the first year I’ve worked with Demeter – as many of you remember, I worked with her about six years ago for the first time. Back then, I protested that I was not a gardener. I had tried, failed, and wasn’t going back there. Demeter is sneaky, though, and we created a food garden last year. This year, we expanded it.

Adventures in Gardening – Before Demeter

Part of the garden we built last year, with this year's plants

When we first moved into this house, about 16 years ago, a huge part of the back yard was overgrown with blackberry. I wanted to start a garden, but it took me most of the spring to clear the 1300 square feet of blackberry, most of which was taller than me! By the time I had cut and burned it all – by hand! – I was exhausted. No garden that year.

A year or so later, when my sister in law came to visit, we rented a rototiller and created a garden area in the space I had cleared. She did all the tilling. I planted some seeds, and bought some starter veggies. We didn’t get much, though I really enjoyed the peas!

The next year, I started working full time. Between work, my spiritual circle, and parenting, I didn’t have time for gardening. Heck, I could barely keep house plants alive. Come to think of it, I don’t think I even had any house plants at that time…

Demeter’s Message

The first time I worked with Demeter, I was given a bag of wheat berries that had been grown by previous priestesses. My first thought was, yeah, right. I don’t have time, or the space, to plant and tend wheat.

Instead, I focused on Demeter’s other lessons of grief, identity, and relationships. I learned a lot in that year, while studiously avoiding anything related to gardening. Other than the importance of bees.

A couple of years later, the vessel of Demeter started telling us of the importance of growing our own food. She went on a tour across the US telling everyone that they needed to take control of their food supply, and grow and eat healthy, nutritious, and organic food.

I wanted nothing to do with it. I am not a gardener. That is not my skill, or area of interest. My concession was to purchase more locally grown vegetables. We even bought into a local organic consumer supported agriculture project, which gave us fresh, organic vegetables weekly throughout the summer and fall.

Demeter is Sneaky

When I went to the Parliament of World Religions, I heard a common message from Indigenous and religious leaders throughout the world. We are facing a climate crisis. Many suggestions were put forward to help, and one of them was to grow our own food.

That summer, my eldest son and I made a (poorly designed) planter box out of some scrap shipping crates. It was a small start, but at least it was a start. It also failed miserably when the supports gave out. We got a few tomatoes from the deck planters, and a really hearty Brussels sprout plant, but that was it.

When the pandemic hit, we had more time. We built a bigger structure, with raised beds. I invested in really good soil, a mixture with fish compost in it. Fish compost is amazing! We started some seeds ourselves, and bought starter plants for what we didn’t have, or what didn’t survive the transfer.

Group Effort

Three sisters beds, each with peas, beans, and squash, with wheat for Demeter in the center bed

I don’t feel like I can take much of the credit. Last year, my eldest did a lot of the initial work, as well as purchasing most of the supplies. I bought the soil, and I really credit that as the reason we got such a good harvest.

This year, we have a new member of the household. (I have a daughter!) She has done so much work this year – turning the soil in last year’s beds, planting and nurturing seedlings, watering and weeding, and planning what should go where. She’s the Kore to my Demeter.

We added separate potato barrels and three new beds for the three sisters – corn, beans, and squash. And in the very front of one of the new beds, I planted a small patch of wheat. I used the wheat berries that have been handed down through the Temple of Demeter. Perhaps the tradition that I broke years ago will be restored.

Have I become a gardener? Sort of? I talk to and water the plants, and enjoy seeing their growth. There are still a lot of other priorities that take my time and attention. I’m a reluctant gardener, who secretly takes joy in seeing the plants grow healthy and strong.

Demeter is so sneaky!