Sunday, June 25, 2006

First Harvest

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Or so the saying goes. The same is quite true in my homesteads garden, as well. We had a fairly productive weekend this go around where the yard and garden are concerned. I finally took one of my plastic barrels and made a rotating compost bin, (similar to this one). It still needs a few parts and some tweaking, but it will do till I get the handful of parts it needs to be complete. Sometimes you go with what you have and make it better as you go along.

I harvested all of my French Radishes, pulled a bunch of weeds, harvested all of the Spinach (it's soaking in the sink right now), weeded some more, planted some okra, planted some more pickling cucumbers, picked Black Currants, sprayed and tended my tomatoes and peas, did some more weeding, checked my gooseberries and red currants and discovered that I had not been as vigilant as I should have been. It seems some politicians invaders had decided to go to town on my grapes. So, as any vigilant person would be wont to do under similar circumstances, I got out the Sevin and sprayed down the grapes. I also did the apple and peach trees, as well as my Rose of Sharon, purple leaf plum hedges and a few other plants. Take that vermin!

I always enjoy tending to the gardening. It's a process that allows me to think about things and how they relate to everything else. The Harvesting of the Spinach was a good time today. My oldest decided to help me, (OK, so 15 minutes and 6 plants isn't really helpful, but it's the attempt that counts where a six year old is concerned) and we went at it with a will, pulling plants and picking leaves. Stalks and unacceptable detritus went in one bucket (and then into the composter) and edible leaves went in another. One thing to remember when harvesting, (and something I try to teach the kiddo's) is to make sure you get the weeds, too. It saves time and helps keep the vermin at bay. Now the bed lays empty, a few stray leaves here and there, victims of the harvest who will nourish the soil on the next go around. The weeds and unusable parts now reside within the new compost barrel, slowly giving up their bodies to nourish a future generation.

The smell wafting from the sun heated barrel is reassuring, natural and reminiscent of visits to family farms as a child. It's comforting to know that nothing will go to waste in my garden. By maintaining a vigilant mind and attitude I can keep it under control and productive. A single season will provide us with many crops and there's always room to try something new. I'm already thinking ahead to the next few plantings, the next harvest, fall crops and even next year and all the time I have to watch out for all the things that are trying stop me. Vermin, weeds, weather, disease, animals and even bad seeds all require me to be on my guard.

Maybe everyone should keep a garden, as almost everyone other than denizens of the inner city used to, (and even some of them tended rooftop, back lot and window gardens). Gardens, like children are a responsibility and need tending if they are to produce a good result. Countries are the same. Somewhere along the line, people stopped being vigilant and the American garden became overrun with weeds, slugs and other vermin. Too many things served and still serve to distract us from our necessary vigilance. We, like the Romans and so many others who have come before us have succumbed to our own bread and circuses mentality and scorned our duty to our children, families and future. Gardens must be tended, plowed under or remade in a new and more functional form. There are no other options. And vigilance must be maintained.

I am often reminded of Thomas Jefferson's insistence that he was a first and foremost a farmer, a tiller of the soil and a gardener. I look at the result of the seeds Mr. Jefferson sowed and wonder what he would think of America's garden and those who now tend it.

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it's liberty and interests by the most lasting bands." (Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, B.8.426)

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