Today I will dig the remaining row of last seasons potato crop and prepare the ground for other vegetables. Two weeks ago I planted this years crop in new ground . I used certified seed potatoes and did a careful job of it. These homely vegetables that are so taken for granted are a mainstay of our winter diet. The generally mild winters allow us to keep them from freezing in the ground by spreading fall leaves on the surface. It is a patch dedicated to potatoes alone that is the size of most suburban lawns. Then there are other big beds for strawberries, beans, peas, beets and so on. There is a greenhouse for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Higher up the terraced slope grow raspberries, espaliered fruit trees, kiwis and grapes. Surrounding all are rock gardens, flower beds and lawns, because beauty is an essential crop as well.
All this keeps us busy through the summer; growing, weeding and finally, harvesting. We eat what we grow with only occasional visits to the produce section of the supermarket throughout the year. We have n`t just recently discovered this as a new age idea of eating organic food or helping the planet ( though both are worthy goals), my family always had vegetable gardens and our grandparents mostly lived on farms. We would n`t have to go back through more than three or four thousand years to find our more remote ancestors hunting and gathering, living off the land and experimenting with improving wild grains and replanting the immature edible roots they found to grow to full size before harvesting. From such small beginnings we have progressed to modern industrial human societies that rely on networks of trade and finance to supply the necessities of life.
We grow, and then preserve like mad through the summer and into the Fall. About the time I am bringing up the winters firewood we will be proudly and thankfully surveying the long shelves of preserves and a freezer filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables. When the boxes of apples and squash are emptied by mid winter we will nibble on dried apples and other fruit. All this is not to tell you how virtuous we are but to show how normal this is for us and was for all our ancestors back into history.
All this is not work, like going to the office or factory every week day for life is work. This is growth from which the most basic blessings flow. The skill-set to do this lies just beneath the surface in all of us. Mostly, we have come to believe that growing things is second class dirty work suitable for second class people. The way of life to which many in the world aspire has risen like foam to the top in our industrial societies. We have education, wealth, lots of toys and ownership of the earth`s resources. We are also very vulnerable if the systems we trust with our lives should falter.
Just remember that glass of cold beer with the lovely head of foam on top. How pretty, how fragile, how easily blown away.