Water. Seed. Nutrients. Time. Attention.
The ingredients for a successful growing season are simple and thankfully easy enough to come by. It’s simple math, working backwards from a desired end result, such as providing food for 150 CSA members or 10 restaurant accounts. It would be a beautiful site to map out and graph in color-coded bars the many crops desired on any given date. The long bars of different hues for brussel sprouts, onions and winter squash, shorter striped bars for arugula, spinach and mustard greens.
It is no exact science, but easy enough to approximate. Results are variable depending on the availability of any of the ingredients and presence of outside factors that may hinder production: rats eating squash seed, flea beetles nibbling mustard family greens, rains flooding the onions. Any crop could fail or flourish. It’s well understood. The best we can go is pay as much attention as we can and take good care. Fruits and vegetables want to grow. It’s their path, we could say, but they’re not always successful.
We accept this as a fact, and when the spinach is taken over with downy mildew we have kale in our omelet instead. My musing tonight is this. Why are we so much less tolerant with the metaphorical seeds we plant in our daily lives? True that we accept disappointments and missteps with a lick of salt and nip of tequila, but not at nearly at the same rate we authorize to their crop-yielding counterparts.
In a tray of 78 seeded blocks, it’s not uncommon that 20 of them never germinate. The 58 remaining may encounter drought, insect damage, destructive pathogens or a woodchuck on a binge. Maybe at the end of the season, half of them have produced the yield hoped for when seed first met soil.
It seems that allow far less leeway for structures we hope will grow in our lives. Those crops we like best, of course, many will plant season after season. Our dream job, our perfect mate, our hearth. The smaller crops, as we watch the small yellow sign by the counter at the wine store get further and further from our year of birth, we begin to let be hybridized and eventually let run out. The trip to Italy, the thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, the book of poetry, the west-facing kitchen.
It’s easy to be persuaded to mono-crop. It promises to be more lucrative with less work. I never understood what we used to call selling out when I was a teenager. I don’t know how to explain the difference between what I thought it was then, and what it seems to be now. It’s simple, and not breaking news. It’s losing hope.
It’s not the grand loss of hope that fueled a presidential campaign four years ago. It’s the small one that seeps in through the small rips in your raincoat, so that you hardly even notice until you are soaked through. And suddenly we no longer know how to get out of the rain, and think our only option is to wait for the sun to come out.
Robert Frost once wrote, “I kept farm, so to speak, for nearly ten years, but less as a farmer than as a fugitive from the world that seemed to “disallow” me.”
We can all run away to the fields. Back to the woods. Or wait here for the sun to come out. But. We can also do this. Keep planting seeds. Because we know what will happen if we don’t. And we deserve to find out what happens when we do.