“The appropriate measure of farming then is the world’s health and our health, and this is inescapably one measure.The use of nature as measure proposes an atonement between ourselves and our world, between economy and ecology, between the domestic and the wild. Or it proposes a conscious and careful recognition of the interdependence between ourselves and nature that in fact has always existed and, if we are to live, must always exist.” Wendell Berry
By the time the rain and snow stopped last June, we were in a mad scramble to get the farm and office moved up the hill. We’d just finished logging here; we took out over forty trees–mostly sick black oak trees–and had accepted the fact that although we had what would some day look like a farm, we weren’t likely to have any sort of vegetable garden this year. I had not grown any starts, and it was already mid-June.
But one day about a week later, after I’d already let go of growing food for the summer, we decided we had the time and money to put in a small garden. I had a 48 hour window to do it, and while neighbors and friends helped with the tilling, I rushed to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply to get whatever starts and seeds they had. I ended up with nine kinds of tomatoes, several kinds of peppers and four kinds of beans–three bush and one pole. Two kinds of eggplant, tomatillos, four kinds of basil, two kinds of chard, spinach, radishes, carrots, dino kale, two kinds of lettuce, three kinds of strawberries, sage, dill, Italian parsley, oregano, marjoram, sunflowers, cosmos, coreopsis, zinnias and morning glories. I’d saved most of the flower seeds from the old farm, but everything else came off the shelf, and I had to take what I could I get. It was a dizzying, joyful flurry of activity for me, and soon my ad hoc garden became my oasis and spiritual glen. The garden is even watered with solar power, which (I imagine) it seems to appreciate.
I did a shamefully bad job of keeping track of what my son Levi and I planted, but I’ve kept a few things straight. We eat out of the garden every day, and, less importantly, study what plants are thriving, what plants there might be a market for, and what we might grow commercially once we’re ready. (I did sell some basil to the two markets nearest me, and that made me giddy with excitement. I’m already looking forward to filing my sales tax return and claiming the $15 for my red rubin and Thai.) We talk every day about our plans for future gardens, about the things we didn’t get to plant this year, like potatoes, garlic and onions. As Wendell Berry says in that same essay I quoted above, “Nature as Measure”: the farmer must enter and sustain a conversation with the land. In July, the land told us where it wanted our perennial garden, and we look forward to building it next summer, transplanting the many herbs and flowers, and designing a solar-powered fountain to encourage the hummingbirds, butterflies, and honey bees. These visions are the stuff of dreams, not only fun but helpful in sustaining us. Our ad hoc garden is a perfect reminder that life seldom goes according to the blue prints our left brains whip up; the farmer survives and flourishes when she can practice fluidity, can live each day with persistence and flexibility, and can enjoy and learn from the ongoing conversation.
Here are some captures of–who would have thought?–my favorite garden ever.