The way Faith Manning Enuol tells it, she went to work one afternoon, and when she returned, the garden she was building with her husband Rich Enuol tripled in size.
In actuality, Rich spent the day foraging for materials, finding everything they needed — including the nails — in the woods behind their Easthampton home.
Newly married, Faith, 27, comes from Connecticut, while Rich, 31, is a political refugee from south of Vietnam. Their love grew quickly — they were married within six months of meeting — and so has their garden.
“It was extra impressive to me to come back at the end of a work day and from nothing — no wood, no nails — there were beds popping out of the ground like daisies,” Faith says.
Faith says it was important when they were looking for apartments to rent that they could build a beautiful garden they could work on together. Gardening is something they both grew up doing — but in different ways. Her Connecticut family had a traditional backyard garden, while Rich’s hunter-gatherer upbringing in the jungles of Vietnam kept him busy outside, too.
Behind the apartment on East Street and adjacent to a wooded area, six beds containing vegetables and flowers poke out of a nicely manicured lawn. Their walls are rustic, made of planks of wood, sticks, logs and even old tires. The couple didn’t buy anything outside of the dirt and seeds for the plants.
Making something using only what’s around is how Rich was raised. Rich, who has lived in the United States as a refugee for 15 years, was born in the central highland south of Vietnam. He grew up as a hunter/gatherer and in the jungle.
“Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know what a toilet looked like,” he says.
He lived in a Cambodian refugee camp for two years with his sisters before they managed to get placed around the U.S. Rich lived in Washington State for a short time. When he graduated high school, he went to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
Within moments of knowing each other — they met through a friend — Faith and Rich developed a relationship. Within six months, they were married. The ceremony took place April 12 in Boone.
“We went on this two-week trip to Mexico together and we came back and said ‘Let’s move in together,’” Faith says.
Building the garden is part of the couple’s desire to “manifest beautiful things.” And Faith jokes that with Rich constantly bringing plants into their home, he is bringing the jungle to him.
“I love plants; I love vegetables,” he says, adding that he prefers produce markets to candy stores. “Plants are life for me.”
“Our house becomes a mini jungle,” she says. “If anyone ever offers us a plant, even if we have no room, he takes it. The way he cares for the plants is very sweet. He has a relationship with them, the ones out here and the ones in the house.”
To begin their found object garden, the Enuols started at the River Valley Co-op, where they picked up some used palates to break down and build the walls of the garden beds.
“We loaded them into my tiny Scion,” Faith says.
The next morning, they woke up and got to work, first rolling over stump logs from across their yard, and then moving on to find other materials.
That got them so far, but when they ran out of planks, Rich scoured the woods. Nearby he found an abandoned, broken down shed and proceeded to pull off boards and nails.
“I didn’t know what I’d find. I was just looking for things,” he says.
The one expense the couple was unable to avoid was for dirt — about $85 worth.
“It was an impressive amount to spend on dirt,” Faith says. They also spent a few bucks on seeds. In the long run, the couple hopes to grow some of the indigenous vegetables from Vietnam from Rich’s culture, including a bottle gourd.
Faith was amazed to see Rich’s resourcefulness and ingenuity.
“The way he works there is no stopping and thinking to hem and haw,” she says. “For me there would be a lot of thinking and planning and doubt involved. He is steady working on it, in an organic and adaptable way.”
“When I look at something, I see potential,” Rich says. “I see something can come out of that. It is how I grew up. My grandmother taught me how to be resourceful.”
For Faith, it is a different process than she’s used to. She starts out on a project with a result in mind rather than having the process lead to the result, she says.
“It’s been really awesome,” Rich says. “Since the day we met, every day has been amazing, and I just didn’t expect that. I was ready to give up on love.”
Both Faith and Rich love gardening, being outside and working with the elements.
“Just being outside is healthy for the mind and spirit,” Faith says. “The activity itself is good, but then you also get the vegetables.”
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.