MICHIGAN, North Dakota — Deb Moen’s life revolves around the growing season, both in the gardens that beautify her yards and provide food for her family, and in the fields of the family farm.
Moen has gardened since she was a child and farmed for about two-thirds of her life. She began farming at age 21 with her husband, Jeff, when the couple married in July 1990. That August, he taught her to drive a grain truck during harvest.
“I always say, ‘Be careful what you learn because that becomes your job,’” Moen said, with a laugh.
Thirty-one years after the harvest in which Moen learned how to drive a truck with a stick shift, the farm jobs she’s mastered and performed have grown to span the entire farming season; applying anhydrous ammonia in the spring, operating spraying equipment in the summer and running the combine in the fall.
The Moens don’t hire employees on their farm about 15 miles north and east of Michigan because there’s not enough work to employ someone year-round and part-time workers are difficult to find.
“This is our life. We go from planting, to spraying, to harvest,” she said. The couple works well as a team, each of them doing their part to make their business successful.
For example, “When my husband is spraying in the summer, I haul water and chemicals,” she said. “He does all of the machinery fixing. The yard is my thing, all of the mowing and trimming.”
In between raising, tending to and harvesting the spring wheat, canola, edible beans and soybeans acres on the couple’s farm, Moen is in the farmyard, working in her vegetable and flower gardens.
Her vegetable garden, which includes potatoes, onions and cabbage sustains the family with fresh produce in the summer and canned produce in the fall. Jars of beans, beets, tomatoes and other canned goods fill her pantry shelves.
Moen preserves “just about everything you can,” she said. “We’re 15 miles from a grocery store, so, for me, it’s easier to have food in our pantry.”
Meanwhile, Moen likes making from-scratch meals with home-grown vegetables and fruits, she said. Moen also freezes meals so she and her husband will have food on hand that she can pop into the oven during planting and harvest season when she doesn’t have time to cook.
“I freeze lasagna, soups, chili, hotdish, things like that,” she said.
Besides the vegetable garden, Moen tends to flower gardens that decorate the farmyard with color. The size and number of gardens has grown over the years, as Moen has added perennial plants, put in paved walkways and a gazebo.
“That’s my get-away in the summer, my gardens,” Moen said. “That’s my stress release; digging in the dirt, being able to start something from seed and being able to share it with people.”
Besides hosting tours of her gardens, Moen manages a Facebook page called: ''GROW TOGETHER" where gardeners can share information about their hobby. The page is private, but Moen will give access to people who request it, and she has about a thousand followers.
For Moen, the pleasure she derives from landscaping isn't so much about about sitting in the mist of her gardens and admiring the finished flower beds, as it is travelling the road that leads to them.
“Working in the garden is a way to peacefully unwind and connect with Mother Nature and all of God's glory," Moen said. "Every season is different. It’s like farming. It's a challenge," she said.
Meanwhile, if something in the garden fails to thrive, like in farming, all is not lost.
"We can always say 'There’s next year,'” Moen said.