December 29, 2019
With the holiday season almost behind us, we look to the new year to reach new goals or finally accomplish what we had planned to do in 2019. Ironically, we set these goals without any knowledge of the twists and turns that we will encounter through the next twelve months. It makes one wonder what we’re missing in the present when we focus our thoughts on an illusory future.
However, we are creatures that have a need to plan and set goals. Much can be learned from the simple act of gardening. You tentatively plan ahead, but learn to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes. Early one year is late in another. There may be drought this coming spring, endless rains or just the perfect weather. Gardening is an exercise that involves planning, sensitivity to environmental changes, and above all, adaptability. Gardeners also best resign themselves to poor harvests from some fruits or vegetables and accept any crop success with gratitude. Anyone working close to the earth knows that nature will throw many curves. The most successful gardeners expect and may even enjoy the challenges as they present themselves.
Farming for a living is more serious and farmers are often characterized as constant complainers. This is mostly due to the stress farmers endure having to find ways to pay the bills. That’s not so easy if you don’t enjoy a regular pay cheque where you know exactly how much money is coming in and can budget accordingly. Many farmers depend on a single source of revenue generated by grains, fruits or vegetables they plant in hopes of being able to harvest a quality crop and obtain fair prices for it. So, when they plan for the upcoming growing season, they must do it with some trepidation. Hats off to those who are willing to invest many thousands of dollars putting in a crop that brings no returns until it’s time to take it off the field. And farmers go into this investment with no idea whether conditions will be ideal at harvest. What comes to mind are stories of a storm that flattens wheat fields ready to harvest or a severe frost that destroys acres of potatoes that couldn’t be dug up in time. To a great extent, farming is an act of faith.
The constant unease that comes with carrying farm debt is something I remember a lot from my childhood. We all knew that our contribution on the family farm was important to its success. My mother would often talk about the “wolves at the door” and endured many sleepless nights. She would pay creditors whatever she could muster up from the sale of goods produced on the farm to keep the “wolves” at bay.
It was this stress that strongly encouraged me to pursue a career that offered a more reliable source of income and leave my passion for agriculture to the later years in my life when I could farm without debt. It’s a comfortable place to be as the farm just needs to pay for itself. I have the freedom to push the envelope, learn by trial and error, throw caution to the wind, do as much or as little as I feel I’m capable of doing or willing to do. As I have the luxury of taking my time, avoiding stress, and enjoying my ventures in the garden, it is my way to stay active and connected with the earth.
Like every avid gardener, I look forward to working in the soil. Unless we create microclimates to extend the growing season, we generally have no more than six months to seed, plant, and harvest. Once we’re in a deep freeze with snow and ice covering our gardens, we have already had our break and are eager to come out of hibernation to start gardening all over again. So, it’s not surprising that gardeners start planning for spring planting at the height of winter.
Here, on the farm, I will look at our inventory of native plants and put in orders to restock for spring. Then, bring out all the seed collected or left over from the past season, take inventory and go through catalogues to make a list of seeds I hope to start early and/or put into the garden in four to five months.
Getting the seed does not necessarily mean conditions will be good for seeding come spring. Last year, I ordered seeds which never went into the ground as the land was waterlogged until June. But it’s all good. Perhaps they’ll go in this coming April and we’ll have parsnips, garden peas, and root parsley available in 2020. Time will tell.
As for the urge to set some personal goals for 2020, it may be best for us to relax and:
· be grateful for the people with whom we share our life’s journey.
· use our ability, knowledge and experience to change what can be changed for the benefit of all and gracefully accept what can’t be changed.
· keep in mind that we have unlimited potential if we look beyond our physical limitations.
· be open to learning and then when problems arise, allow solutions to reveal themselves.
· stay flexible and willing to adapt to whatever situation arises while focusing on the big picture.
· fully experience the present moment with openness and know it is here that the future will ultimately reveal itself.
· see beyond the form we inhabit and the forms around us and be aware of what connects us and that, in this capacity, whatever we do has a ripple effect across the universe.
Perhaps the best resolution is to master the art of simply being.