In “The $64 Tomato; How One Man Nearly Lost HIs Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crises in the Quest for the Perfect Garden” we find the madness of a society that has lost its roots. The author, William Alexander, documents his bumbling high cost attempt to grow his own food. In order to produce a tomato that cost $64 to grow, he pays almost ten-thousand dollars for garden design and construction. For this much money, he could have constructed a bad to the bone hoophouse for propagation. Instead, he pours money into aesthetics, installing sod pathways between the rows. He says he spent $100 on gardening books, but he must not have red them.
A great tomato comes from hard work. The miracle of life takes care of the rest. We can imagine gently sewing seed that we saved last year, from a tomato we served for dinner. The seeds are coaxed from their earth in a greenhouse. They sit on a heat mat when it’s cold. They are transplanted into soil warmed by a cloche: clear plastic and reemay (they will always live more comfortably under their soft white blanket). Every few weeks, we can feed them with the hair and dust we sweep off the floor (it has the good stuff they need–micronutrients). Now: we can eat a free tomato.
The final few days of spring are here, almost time for winter. I heard a quotation recently, about a garden representing hope and investment in the future. Also: there is no time to look back in a garden–it’s simply pointless . . . .
The now in my garden: rows of fencing, improvised, Rube Goldberg-esque, to protect the beans, mint, tomatoes and strawberries from the chickens. Small cups of beer to trap slugs are diluted with rainwater. The weather keeps shifting from sun to rain, and back . . . .
Our heirlooms remind us of a time before convenience, before computers, before we counted hours with clocks. Life was visceral connection, immersion, survival. A breath of air was always fresh. This was when we worked together . . . .
Now that the sun’s back in the sky, everyone’s awake, reluctantly beginning their mornings. The night creatures have bedded down for the day, hiding until it’s dark. The grocer is driving to work, to sell produce he has only known in the store. The farmers are shuffle-hoeing, or else driving tractors outfitted with GPS, milking, feeding, sewing, transplanting, harvesting, processing, planning how to make sun, dirt and rain into food.
We are all in this together, bound by gravity and circumstance to a uncertain social and planetary destiny. Often it feels like we are thrashing about aimlessly when, in reality, we are learning to grow and thrive amidst life’s challenges and changes. Together, our strength is multiplied, and we succeed in pushing our way up through the soil to reach the sunlight, greeting a new day.
World: let’s watch “Queen of the Sun”, the best movie about bees. It focuses on biodynamic beekeepers, so the eccentricities of the people that the film portrays are unparalleled. These beekeepers could accurately be described as mystics, gurus, or prophets. Maybe if we adopt some of their philosophies, we wouldn’t be in such a mess. ”Queen of the Sun” offers us a glimpse down the path of thoughtful, eccentric apiary management–which appears to be a potential antidote to our modern practices and failed traditions. We can do better . . .
Oh . . . Yes . . . The SUN . . . It finally feels like we’re starting to dry off. Sweet glory; we’re drinking sunlight. Now shade is good again. Now the plants will grow and the early morning birds will sing. And now rain will be a welcome respite.
Sometimes there is so much rain that it’s like being crushed by a wave. And held down. Until we almost can’t . . . Breathe, again; the SUN. A deeper breath. Again. Here’s another wave–quickly. Another one: take a deep breath. And, ready:
Boom. It’s like a prolonged slap, over and over again. It’s like life’s washing machine, stuck on high. It’s like life’s most essential element, falling from the sky . . . And all we have to do is stick out our cups.
Around here, everybody’s cup is running over. We have so much water, that our rivers rule the patterns of our lives. We have so much rain, that summer is what we think of, mostly, when we think good thoughts about our home. Around here, you need a good rain jacket. It’s an important part of our collective sense of fashion . . .
We don’t melt. If we go out in the rain now, then it will be easy for us when it gets sunny again. We can finally explore all the places that we’ve wanted to go. We’ll take a ride on the train. We’ll go to the mysterious secret crack in the earth. We’ll go to the furthest corner of the state, and shoot the rapids.
And our family will leave this place better than we found it.
Some places are so flat people ski down garbage covered with grass. Sometimes we throw away things that are valuable. Sometimes we appreciate what we have; but often, we appreciate being reminded.
A stone’s throw from the garbage covered ski hill is a broad cultivated plain where farmers till the soil. Perhaps it’s a paradox, this precarious balance . . . Will it all last forever?
“You know, your Granddad asked me a very interesting question. He asked ‘What do you think God’s favorite color is?’”
I thought about it, and replied, “Blue.”
“That’s a very good answer . . . The sky is blue, the ocean is blue. But he had a different answer: green.”
I thought about it; my favorite color is green, too. It is so easy on our eyes that artists traditionally gazed at something green during breaks, to rest their eyes, to prevent eyestrain. It is the primary color of life.
Let’s keep the green patches that we have left. Let’s venerate the last few sacred wild spaces. Let’s leave the empty lots and forests, overrunning with green. So that we still have somewhere to soothe our eyes. So we can live.
Let’s no longer keep bees in boxes shaped like filing cabinets. They deserve temples with colors and curved lines, and an eye for detail. Let them live inside works of art that we design to the best of our abilities, so that everybody knows how much we care. Let them live inside beauty, so that we can better remember who and what they really are.
This will be our first step on the new path. Dancing, walking, respecting–we will learn and master the new art of global revitalization. This will be our first step away from the rigid patterns of mechanistic hegemony, towards freeform existential fulfillment.
Here comes a walker, down the rough road towards the farm stand. A smile and a nod serve as a greeting, until one of them voices the requisite “howdy!” . . . ”Mornin’!” is the standard reply. These are not awkward things to say, around here.
Weather and farming are safe to talk about. Politics and religion are not. We may have different opinions, but we agree that we are here together, working, living. Kindness opens most doors, around here . . .
The Lonely Farmer’s stand is at the side of a long dirt road, and it disappears into a cloud of dust behind our SUV. We are on our way to the biggest store in the county, where they have the cheapest food in the world. He is still at his stand, wondering where everybody went . . .
Side by side, there’s no comparison. They can’t have his food in there, competing, and showing off how good it is. They just can’t have it. So he stands by the side of the road (with) holding some of the best produce in the county.