Sunday, March 6, 2011

Small Farm, Big Garden - Present Past Future

What an interesting day yesterday! In the morning I met at the farm with two monks, Br. James and Br. Bernard, from Holy Cross Monastery. A very pleasant meeting which carried the potential to increase my sense of community by one more organization. I even got invited to lunch. They are hoping to one day expand the gardens at the monastery to include food gardens, but at this point they are happy to help further my project with their support. As we looked out onto the still snow covered garden, the bed frames just barely peeping up from the blanket, I told them of my plans and goals for the space.

The more I say those goals, the more I believe them, but there is that farmer-doubt that is mixed in with the hope. It will be a better year this year, won't it? I've put in the best fence I could, but what if it's not enough? What if I have guessed totally wrong and everyone will want head lettuce and rutabagas, two things I am not growing? What if? I have to shake it off and remain confident, because what else can I do besides try my hardest? Towards the tail end of the conversation, the monks mentioned the learning of humility and I replied that nothing teaches humility better than farming (actually, what I said was nothing teaches humility better than carrying a wheelbarrow full of manure around, but same thing). We plan and we prepare. We take educated guesses and we do market research. We buy soil amendments and organic seeds. But in the end it's not really up to us. And we can't even cheat, because we'll surely get caught by mother nature.

In the afternoon, my husband, Daniel, and I had lunch with his parents and cousin. His mother brought over the wood ashes she had been saving from her stove and we walked back over to the garden to put them on the compost pile. On the way I noticed the neighborhood I live in- some one family houses, some rentals, some for sale, some in good shaped after our harsh winter, some in bad disrepair. An occasional industrial building or retail space. The largest and most confusing five-way intersection I have ever seen. What will this place look like in the summer? In the overcast gloom of what was actually a warm winter afternoon, I imagined a bright green spot where the garden will be, perhaps drawing in visitors like a beacon. I can only hope.

My mother in law also brought mementos and pictures from her parents and even older generations. My husband's family goes back to some of the first English settlers, the Nyes. I am fascinated by this. As a daughter of immigrants that were fleeing their homeland, my ancestry seems to stop at my parents. I don't even know my grandparents' names on my mother's side, let alone eight generations back. In the pictures that Carole brought over, I saw two gardens, her parents' and the parents' of her father. I say "garden", but in truth they were both bigger than my "farm". They were in the back yards of those respective elders and they even brought in a slight income, nineteen bushels of potatoes @ $1.50 a bushel. Their main purpose, of course, was to feed the family throughout the year. Forty jars of canned corn, Ten jars of canned chicken (give me the corn any day). A fresh ripe tomato in late October when the first frost was in mid-September - are you kidding me? While I do not wish to go back to that time period (there was a lot of sickness: measles, polio, and questionable treatments (although we still have that going on today)), I do wish we could bring back that inherent knowledge of food provision and gardening. Daniel learned when to plant peas from his grandfather. I learned to look for seeds being produced on a plant from my mother. Let's keep it up.

Lastly, in Daniel's grandparents records we found they planted a sweet corn variety called Golden Sunshine. Apparently earlier than Golden Bantam, but still keeping that "good old fashioned corn flavor", it was popular in the early 20th century, but fell out of favor along with the other open pollinated corn varieties when the new super sweet hybrids were developed. We found the one seed company that still sells the variety (we hope its the same) and we'll probably plant it on the front yard with our garlic, potatoes, onions and beans. Here's to combining the past present and future into one continuum of time.

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