Bountiful Harvest: First Year on the Farm

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames
November 1997

Our first season on the farm is nearly complete; we've harvested the vegetables, mulched the strawberries and garlic, and have made good progress towards removing now wilted stems and remnants of the plants that provided us with our great harvest. Now, before seed catalogs begin arriving, seems the proper time to reflect on the season. Our basement is full of canned goods: tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, carrots, beans, beets, corn, plums, and green salsa. Strawberry, blueberry, plum and raspberry jam are all put up.  Our freezer is full of lamb. My summer hat seems to be permanently put up and away along with shorts and T-shirts. Its been a good year, for the first time I had lettuce fresh from the garden, green and crisp for more than two full months. We had tremendous plums from what looked to us to be a near dead tree, perhaps it is a last wonderful gasp for that tree. We planned and planted for the future, five new apple trees, two cherry trees and a backbreaking (for Mark) wind-break of evergreens. At the time our progress seemed so slow, but taking the time to look back, we did do a lot.

We bought the farm to nurture ourselves and our family, to give to it of our selves, physically, spiritually. It strikes me as ironic that I can and do call the land my own (or the mortgage company's) when what I really want is for the land to call me its own. I want to belong, I want to feel the timelessness of the soil in my soul, the sunshine in my gut. I want to watch the storms approach with calm, mindful anticipation. I want to hear the prairie wind in my ears and feel its freedom in my spirit.  I want to belong.  This is the heart I suppose of the seventh principle, Respect for the interdependent web of all e xistence of which we are a part.  I find detachment from this web to be painful, I'm constantly trying to find my place in that web.

We're finally meeting our neighbors, the 11 year-old boy from down the road came to sell us magazines as a fundraiser for school. As I was filling out the form he suggested with much authority to me that we did not need such a large garden. He implied that because we had not come from here that we had somehow made a big mistake putting in such a large garden. I now have some inkling as to the opinions of our neighbors, his parents. We've not met face to face. Another neighbor has also suggested that our garden was too big for the four of us. "What do you need all that for?" was his remark. I feel detachment from the interconnected web of my neighbors!

 In searching for my place I find myself questioning the stewardship mindset that we have used to replace the manifest destiny mindset that my ancestors used to rationalize their use of the land and the need to 'conquer' it. It's so easy for me to judge their actions from my perspective in history, I'm sure my children's children will find plenty to fault me with 50 years from now. I don't feel like a steward, someone who manages another's affairs.  It puts far too much false importance on me. I don't dictate to fungi and soil invertebrates to make good soil. I can't instruct to soil bacteria to make nitrogen available to plants that make my food.  I can only put the ingredients together in hopes that this will happen.  Those organisms have their own self-interest in mind as do I. I don't do this for their preservation I do it for mine. And yet I want to belong, I want to have as much to do with it as the bee who pollinates my strawberries, the beetle that carries away the dung left by another animal. We are all here to feed and be fed. I'd rather envision my role as one of partner. If I act as a small partner to the soil, the sun, the rain and the living things that I share the little piece of earth with, than perhaps I will at least fleetingly feel the connectedness to this web. I shall be granted my bountiful harvest.