Wednesday, May 7, 2014


It was thirty six degrees and raining when I came downstairs this morning. I yearn to be out in the garden, digging and planting. And instead, I am faced with another day of research and knitting. Winter activities. And although they are necessary, and help me move forward, I still want what I want. Surrendering your ego to the necessities of reality is so very hard, sometimes. But there is no better teacher than Mother Nature on that one. The irony is that by the time September comes, I will be yearning for the quiet of my needles and a roaring fire just as fiercely. So here I am, practicing patience.

Spring progresses, no matter how I feel about the weather. The ducks and geese have been out grazing every day for weeks, now. They are still molting, but it looks to be coming to an end soon. It took forever this year. I actually broke down and fed them a bunch of split peas and ground beef, which seems to have sped up the process a bit. It was a rough winter, so I’m sure that they just needed a little extra fat and protein. They are certainly enjoying the rain, playing like a bunch of little kids in the puddles, and running up and down the garden nipping each other in the bum, before wheeling around and running the other way, for all the world like they are playing tag.

The yard is greening slowly in patches, and the trees are budding. So are my blackberry canes, which is causing me to rub my hands together in anticipatory glee. You would think I would be too excited to be frustrated, wouldn’t you? I think most of my frustration so far is still about my herb garden. I’m having a much harder time with it than I thought I would. We always see ourselves as such rational creatures, when it is often quite far from the truth. My emotional dilemma is added to by the fact that I recently found a local farm who is giving away composted cow manure just to get it off the farm. AND he delivers. Oh, yeah, this is totally my glee face. So now the cost of the herb garden is considerably less, as I only have to come up with the money for the fencing. As much as I love the idea that I may be able to do this after all, I really do hate it when things are up in the air. I prefer to have things nice and settled, plans in place. My father says, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” and it has certainly proven so over the years. However, they are nice to have, and I don’t function well without them. There we go with the surrendering thing again.

At the very least, this wealth of compost (it really is the deal of the century) will allow me to double the size of the vegetable garden this year after all, which is excellent news. As always, it seems like my needs are being met much better than I could have planned. Can’t afford top soil this year? No problem, here’s someone who is giving away a better product, and as much of it as you can take.

This planning thing may be overrated after all. I mean, just coming out here was a huge leap of faith for us. We knew nobody, and even though we may have been armed slightly better than the average city dweller for this kind of life, we knew (and really continue to know) almost nothing about doing this. Still, leap we did. I do tend to do that, you know.

But really, I think that may be what this is about for us. We bumble and flounder through concepts and research invented and conducted by intellectual giants. Every week that goes by finds me looking at the world completely differently than I did before. When I moved here, I knew it was impossible to meet all of our nutritional needs on 6 acres. Then after a while, I knew that it wasn’t possible without clear cutting it. Now, I know that I can, with very little cutting at all. Imagine what I will know next year, or in a decade.

There is just so much to know, and even more to do. But today’s lesson, it would seem, is about surrender. So many of them are. The vastness of what I cannot fix or control is almost unimaginable, sometimes, that I wonder why we even try. Maybe we shouldn’t.

It seems to me that we have been trying to turn the whole world into one great big mechanical machine for the last hundred and fifty years or so. We try so hard to make cogs and wheels out of things that are simply too complex for us to understand, let alone regulate. Really, right from God to ecology. It’s like somehow we keep expecting the world to come down to simple equations, and simple concepts, but it really doesn’t. Physics tells us that the world is always falling apart, that things are always breaking down into more and more simple things. Entropy, right? And while that is true, it doesn’t account for so much that happens along the way. So much of nature is like a bicycle ride. It is tiny little adjustments, all the time, because it is constantly falling down, until the next adjustment is made, then it is falling down again, but differently, over and over. But what you see from the outside is a smooth ride. Riding a bicycle takes trillions of calculations per second, and once mastered, looks effortless. For an ecosystem to run in balance, an incalculable number of things need to go right. Maybe is it a bit egotistical to think that we can keep the world running in balance while doing away with the vast majority of those things. No matter how effortless nature makes it look, it really isn’t.

If living out here, raising a small number of animals and growing a few vegetables has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that I cannot, and should never try to control the weather.  Even if I made the conditions perfect for one crop, others would fail, and what is ideal for tomatoes would make very sick ducks indeed. Nature provides a beautiful balance, however, as long as I am able to take advantage of it. The key, I think, is planting as many things as possible, in small amounts. I have found that when one crop fails, it produces a bumper harvest of another. Every year, every product of my farm is produced in different amounts, but the overall production remains generally similar. The more different things I plant, the more redundant my system of food production.

It is such a simple thing to understand, but the trouble is that it requires surrender to make it work. It requires that we humans understand that scarcity and abundance are two sides of the same coin. It requires that we eat what is available, and not lament for what is not. Most of all, what it requires is farmers and small homesteaders, not big machines. So maybe the answer to the agricultural crisis is not better fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, bigger machines, better pesticides, and more money. Maybe it is as simple as more diverse edibles, more farmers, less money… and more surrender.

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