One Northside family is taking advantage of the pandemic to return to the simple life. Northeast Jackson resident Emily McClain and her family are looking at it as though they have been given a great gift: the gift of time.
And with this gift, the family built a garden in their backyard.
“This is something we have wanted to do for a long time,” Emily said. “I grew up with a garden, with my grandparents and parents.”
Emily, who serves as director of marketing and branding at Jackson Prep and her husband, Guy, a professor of accounting at Millsaps College, have three children: Meredith, 14; Hutch,13; and Kathleen-Bess, 11.
“With the ages that our children are, we are typically so busy with baseball season and finishing school out this time of year,” Emily said. “Typically, the spring is really busy for us, so that dream just never came to fruition.”
However, she said the quarantine has given them time.
“That allowed us to think through what we wanted to do,” she said. Her brother, Todd Johnson, is a landscaper, so he helped them bring the dream to life. With Johnson’s help, they were able to design and build the garden they’ve always wanted.
After they hauled in all of the dirt, the family sat down and began thinking of what they wanted to eat.
“We started out thinking we only wanted a six-by-six garden plot,” she said.
However, as they started talking it out, they realized more space would be necessary to accomplish what they had in mind.
“We may never be the family that builds a hospital in Africa or have a hospital wing named after us, and while those are admirable and beautiful things, what we can do is share tomatoes with someone or take flowers to someone’s porch,” she said.
So, with that in mind, they planted a vegetable section and a cut flower section.
“The way that we looked at it was that we would build it to share and that would be part of our ministry as a family,” Emily said.
They have enjoyed watching the fruits of their labor take shape.
“The coolest part has been planting seeds for zinnias. We would go out every day to see if anything had changed,” she said. “Then, literally, overnight all of a sudden there were little green sprouts coming out of the ground. It’s really exciting watching things grow.”
So far, they have planted four blueberry bushes, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, zucchini and small watermelons.
They also planted some evergreen plants as well, including rosemary, parsley, bay leaves and other things that will be “green” year-round.
“The coolest thing is that this really wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been given the gift of time and help,” Emily said. “It’s been a big learning experience as well, and I’m glad my children are into it. We have a lot of watering, growing and harvesting to do before it is all said and done. I think it gave us all a project to be excited about.”
Each person has a job they contribute to the upkeep of the garden, including gathering and watering.
Emily said Guy has taken time to learn to compost. So, they have added a space in their garden for composting, which will be used for next year’s garden.
While they’ve invested time and effort into this year’s crop, Emily said they will continue to dream big for next year. She intends to keep the tradition going, even when things go back to “normal.”