Gardener Story: Rachel Butler

“Hello fellow BIU gardeners! My husband, daughter, and I relocated to East Tennessee in 2019 from New York state. Last summer, we spent our days in the sun in our rental. We had the urge to grow our own foods and to become as self-sufficient as possible being that we were in a state of the unknown. However, we were unable to plant in the ground since this was a temporary home. This did not stop the Butlers from diy-ing above ground gardens and purchasing berry bushes with the hopes of planting roots by next fall. We grew some tomatoes in the pallets I plucked from the side of the road, some peppers, strawberries, herbs, and a few carrots. I am pleased to say that we harvested enough to feel pretty good about ourselves. Even though we did pretty well, we planned on joining Build It Up as soon as we bought our home to learn as much as possible.


Fall came and our dreams came true. We purchased our home with a little over ½ an acre in Erwin! Now we have our chickens, a garden, and a little one on the way. I’d like to say that I did all or a good amount of the work in the garden so far, but that would be a lie. My husband has taken the lead and I have been cheering him on from the coop next to our garden with chickens sitting on my lap and pecking at my dress while feeling the effects of the first trimester. I swear this was not planned! I did not expect to be the one on the sidelines for the beginning of our garden journey. At least I’m growing something too, right? 


The day we started prepping the garden to plant the seedlings, I pulled out the grass and the onions that grew back under our tarp and it felt wonderful. Our German shepherd stayed by my side enjoying the breeze and sunshine while the chickens clucked and waited intently for the juicy earthworms this mother hen would bring to them. After some time in the sun, Ryan realized that we may have waited too long after it was tilled to do the next step because it was back breaking to do those rows! So, my husband improvised and did his best to make lemonade out of lemons. We’re not sure how good it looks or how well it will perform over time, but we are VERY aware that this is a trial and error process. I am so proud and appreciative of him and his hard work.


Even though this season looks a little different than last year when we all had to stay home, we still have the drive to be self-sufficient and purposeful with our garden. This year we’re planting all of our favorite herbs, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, and more. Ryan put our berry bushes in the ground; blueberry and goji berry.  He also planted giant sunflower seeds on each corner, in hopes they will prevent the birds from visiting the fruits of HIS labor.


This year is a very exciting time for us, hitting a lot of firsts. I cannot express how excited I am to be in this club with all of you. No matter how tough things may get in the world, it’s good to know that we’re among the believers of tomorrow.” 

More images from Cymry’s garden!