Monday, August 8, 2011

Appreciating our harvests

Gardening is an art form and like each different form of art, individuals appreciate gardening in different ways and at different levels. I grew up with my parents having a garden, its part of my parent’s home in the summer. When we grew older and my parents were gone for vacation over the summer, they’d leave instructions to stop by and harvest XYZ and take home what we picked. When I bought my first home, I grew a small garden in the backyard, just enough to have some fresh produce throughout the growing season.

When I moved onto the farm, the garden grew substantially – and oddly keeps growing every year – first out of the idea that as people who wanted a more sustainable lifestyle, this is what we needed to do.  We added chickens because we had a vision of what we wanted for our little farm. The farmer kept calling it a hobby farm and I kept thinking that for a hobby farm, it seemed like an awful lot of work at times. Over the years, we’ve added turkeys, sheep, and beef cattle. Some years we have ducks and geese. We’ve raised rabbits – all of whom were given away as pets because I could imagine eating them – and goats, a horse and a mule. We’ve started an orchard and began keeping bees. Through all of this, our vision has stayed the same, to raise fresh, natural fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. We wanted to lessen our carbon footprint by eating local and using less fossil fuels and creating less waste. Our vision has also expanded to include making a profit with our meat and honey and sometimes field crops.
But it is hard work, physically, mentally, and emotionally. You work long and hard for a goal and sometimes it can be crushing to walk out into the barn in the morning and find the calf or lamb you’ve been bottlefeeding and nurturing for weeks has died over night. You spend hours and hours AND HOURS tilling, planting, weeding, and watering your garden to have it destroyed by bugs, rain (or lack of), wind, or animals or to have very little grown.

There are years where your garden or farm is blessed with what it is producing. You work harder at harvesting, freezing, canning, pickling, etc. You wonder if it’s really worth all the hard work sometimes. You think to yourself, I can buy it on sale pretty cheap. Life continues to happen even during the busiest parts of harvesting no matter how hard you want it to just stop until you get caught up.
But this is when I really start to connect with what I’m doing because these tasks force me to slow down and they give me time to be within myself to think and process my thoughts. We have truly been blessed this year. This is our best year ever and we are truly thankful for our harvest. But also come with that the long days of extra work – picking and processing. The making of pickles and relish, the snapping and canning or freezing of green beans, the shredding of zucchini, and pick, shelling, and freezing of peas, etc.

Yesterday I sat in between rows of green beans and picked the basketful you see in the picture. It was quiet and peaceful and I thought about the smells surrounding me, the feel of the dirt, the joy that each plant was bringing me. I thought about fresh green beans for dinner and then again those beans being used over the long, cold winter months. The sun shine, the animals in the pasture, the chickens clucking about, and my kids running in and out of the garden as they ran to the barn to joyfully show daddy each new thing they found to pick in the garden. Tomatoes are beginning to ripen and each tomato they picked, they take off running to the barn to show daddy.
Yesterday was my AHA! moment where I felt all of my convictions come together – leading a natural lifestyle, leading a frugal lifestyle, being stewards to the earth, and being able to feed my family nutritionally as well as emotionally.

I always thought that because I was raised with a garden, the joy of the work involved would come naturally. For some, it might. For me, it’s been building. Each year I grow to enjoy the work a little more. This year I relish the time I can spend in the garden. I’m sure over the years, this will grow and lessen. Life will continue to happen and as the kids become older and are involved in more activities, some years the garden may take a backseat. There will be years where it does not produce as well and I struggle to appreciate what it does give us. There will be years where the heat or rain keeps me from enjoying my time the garden.
But I hope to always remember to take a lesson from my children and find joy in each little treasure the harvest gives us.



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