Matfield Green - Our first years

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Long Haul

A couple of years ago Bill and I watched a few episodes of a reality show on PBS called "Pioneers", or something along that line. The idea was three families got outfitted as pioneers in the 1880s and sent out to survive on the Canadian prairie. This show was better than most since it was not overtly competitive (though people being people there was immediate and intense, if subtle, rivalary among the families). In the episode I remember most they were breaking the soil to plant potatoes and other crops. It was brutal work - no Jess Dean and his tractor in the 19th century. The ground was sodden and the potatoes spoiled. It was one big giant struggle.

This week as I struggled in our garden I flashed back on that episode. My soil is thick clay, almost impenetrable in places. But I have the neighbor with the tractor-tiller, and the nice warm house with flush toilets, hot water, and propane stove to help keep my spirits up as I worry about whether peas, carrots, chard and the rest will be able to survive and grow in such inhospitable condtions.

But mostly, it occurs to me, I have the long view. Those poor families stuck out on the Canadian plains were not going to be around in five years to see all of their hard work pay off. They were not going to be able to see this year's refuse turned into next year's rich compost and the fertile soil of two years hence. We are in this for the long haul and in that there is lots of hope. Because even if my carrots and parsnips are inedible this year, they will have done their part, each root vegetable boring a hole in the sticky ground, losening things up a little, preparing the way for a more successful crop in years to come.

Another thought about the long haul: working beside my husband in the garden, as he digs a hole 6 inches deep with his spade and I place a tender strawberry plant in the hole and cover it with soil, feels like soddering a bond between us. It feels like recommitting to forever through the soil and the spade and the delicate green leaves of each strawberry plant.


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