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« A Dress of Leaves | Main | How we became Christmas Tree Farmers »

Neglectful Gardening

There is a picture on the refrigerator in our kitchen that has been there for several years now. In the frame our daughter is just a baby and I am holding her in one arm and hoisting a friend’s baby in the other. My arms are ridiculously full and the expression is what I make out to be a sort of hilarious terror.

I clearly recall when the picture was taken—we were joking about how wild it would be to juggle not one, but two small children… my face clearly illustrating the evident disbelief. Every time I encounter this image it amuses me, though now for different reasons. It feels great to look back at what seemed impossible and know that it is indeed possible, good to glance at uncertainty and know that you have had the courage to press on and try things that might have made you fearful. Seems to me we are often stronger than we believe.

Much like the organic evolution of parenting, in the midst of babies and busy careers tackling farming happened a bit more haphazardly than may have been envisioned or ideal. A more methodical approach surely would have been employed if the synergy of new farm life had happened at a slightly different time, but it didn’t. The orderly Virgo in me may have mapped out color coded crop rotation charts after devouring literature, but the road simply curved. My time in master gardener class was cut short. Baby number two arrived. Days moved on. The weeds sometimes grow unchecked and starts we may have lovingly seeded in the greenhouse in early spring occasionally shoot up, kiss the sky and bolt. I jokingly call it ‘neglectful gardening’ with a taste of bittersweet. As we have continued to do what we are able each day a big part of the life lesson from farming has being about letting go.

Two years ago there was an incredible patch of garden onions that grew unruly and unkempt until the stalks had set flowers and our crop had sprouted beautiful circular blooms. I was both upset that I had let this go to flower and enchanted by the unexpected beauty. The bees and other pollinators were also drawn to these bright, white orbs and serenaded them with a soft buzzing sound during all of the hours of sunlight. Eventually, I made oversized bouquets with these spicy blooms, which heralded many compliments. In a raised bed, in the back of the garden, just a few days ago I stumbled upon a new crop of these blooms. I had to smile at myself. I harvested some  delcious onions this year and also grew some flowers. The bees apparently blissful in their pollinating softened my gut response. They seemed to be enjoying these plants and I felt glad to indulge them, awed by Mother Nature’s comprehensive grandness.  

I used to think there was a way that I could do it all-- manage the farm, soar high in my career, be a good and attentive mother, life partner, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, and do it all in stride. And while I know I can do any number of things beautifully if I set heart and intention and while I can actually quite skillfully conduct a small orchestra of productive activity I also have learned that help will be needed and that things will get lost along the way. Most importantly I am continually learning that this is okay. Time has humbled some of my ambitions, like the wear of seasons weathering wood. It is a fine tuning of intent as nothing is lost, rather that which remains is the most beautiful and integral.

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