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A Lesson from my Garden

Author: The Redneck Pagan
Posted: September 30th. 2012
Times Viewed: 1,741

This year I have a much deeper respect for my ancestors! For quite a while now, I have been dying to have a garden. When we lived in the city, a garden was limited to the little stretch of dirt directly in front of the house with the front porch cutting it in half. I tried to talk my landlord into letting us take a small patch of the backyard and create a raised garden bed. He refused and so I had to be creative. I tried my hand at container gardening, with mixed results. Sometimes container gardening can be a bit more fussy than open-air gardening. You don't have insects churning the soil for you. You have to give it lots of water and ensure it gets plant food, etc. Some plants I had grew fairly well, but others just did not have enough container space available to be successful.

When we were ready to move, we stumbled upon the home we have now and the first thing my husband told me was the size of the garden. He had already seen many features of the house and really wanted to convince me to come and look at the property. He knew the word ‘garden’ would catch my interest. I have to confess the sight of the 30x30 garden plot and two mature apple trees sold me! We moved in February and so I still had to wait for ‘gardening season’!

Week after week, I watched the weather forecast, waiting with baited breath for spring to arrive. I remember one day we had a terrific snowstorm in March. All around me people were grumbling about having to shovel their walks, drive in the wretched conditions and brave the cold. I could not stop grumbling about how long it was taking for my garden to thaw out! Weekly, I cruised by the hardware store and picked up packages of seeds.

Slowly our Canadian winter melted into spring! With the snow gone, we could see that it had been a few years since somebody had tended the garden. It was overrun with weeds and I had to hack a bunch of dead weed stalks in order just to see the dirt. We did not have a tiller so we attacked the soil with shovels and a weed weasel. The sun was already gathering its force and was making it warm enough that I was uncomfortably sticky, and that was only 15 minutes into it! My husband was a trooper and was turning the soil at the back of the garden where things were packed in rather tight. After an hour of slugging away at it, as we took a rest break in the shade, a neighbour came by and offered us the use of a tiller.

Our neighbour and my husband then took the tiller and, after another half an hour, they were able to get the garden tilled. We were all exhausted and filthy. I only smoothed over the soil on the top and called it a night. We barbecued and I sorted my seeds. The next week, we had rain non-stop. I was sick for the next week and then had more rain. By the time I was able to get to plant, I was well behind the rest of the province. Not wanting to waste time, I planted all my seeds in one day. Take my advice... don’t do that! My back was killing me for days!

After the planting comes the tending. What a tedious task that is! Pulling weeds, watching the weather for appropriate rain levels, keeping harmful insects away, more weeding, watching the weather again, and weeding again! I also had to make sure that I wasn’t pulling out the new shoots of my plants. I put some mesh fencing up to help the beans grow upwards and will have to put more up for the peas soon. I am in the garden several times a week working away at it as time and weather allows.

The work has been far more than I can even begin to adequately express in words. Sometimes when I come in after pulling weeds, my hands are raw (mainly because I don’t wear gloves as much as I should) . My back aches and I some days feel a touch of sunstroke after a while in the sun. Or I am soaking wet from fighting our hose to get the garden watered in a heat wave. My arms are often tense and sore after dragging a hoe through all the weeds and around the plants. And the harvesting has been no picnic either… bending and stooping… checking the plants for readiness… All this work and pain for a hobby? However, I do enjoy eating the fresh food and sharing it with my family and friends.

So how does this make me ‘appreciate my ancestors’, you may ask? Well, I was picking some raspberries and munching on them and I dropped one. I was a little bummed out because it looked rather juicy and delicious but figured "Ah well, that's what a supermarket is for". My own ignorance and arrogance came back and kicked me square in the assets! Duh! I was holding a gift from the very land that holds my home, that has nourished the seeds that I had placed into the ground and kept the trees I was planning on making apple pies with growing strong. This land embraced me as I sat upon it to watch the sunsets and had offered healthy nourishment.

This brief flash of ignorance and arrogance made me realise just how disconnected that I had become from the land. Me, a pagan, a follower of an Earth Religion, who considers the earth to be divine… who follows the seasons and makes a point of learning about the plants in my area… who watches the migrations of birds and the way a tree shifts in the seasons… who tries to meditate and get in touch with the earth! It seems almost ludicrous, but it is true… and very embarrassing. It made me think.

I thought about all the produce in a supermarket and of how many times I let something rot in the fridge because I didn't want to bother cooking. I thought of the person who took the time to watch the weather and plant his seeds with care. The time and work he put into keeping the earth healthy, the plants healthy and strong. And then all the work he put into gathering the ripe vegetables and fruits and getting them ready to be packaged and sent to market.

I then thought about the beef I had cooked the night before. Cows surround me; we live smack dab in the middle of cow country! I can count at least three herds during the 20-minute drive to town. But for the first time I really thought about it. In the early spring, early February for that matter, ranchers are out in their fields, calving in the cold night, ensuring that the cows deliver their calves well, keeping the coyotes away from the herds and taking care of the new calves. After that, they stay up with the sick ones to see if they can recover and call the Vet to keep the herd safe from disease. They are there with the calves from birth until they send them to market.

Countless hours, money and hard backbreaking work is done by farmers to ensure that there is always produce and meat in our supermarkets. Although I do not live near the sea, I have seen some television programs about living on fishing boats… the dangers and work that goes into the catching and preparing of the food that grace my plate. Even with my 30x30 garden plot, I could not feed my husband and I for a full year off just the food I will grow.

My ancestors lived in Ireland; they were farmers and ranchers. They worked day and night to feed their clans, to ensure that they were healthy and had enough left over to barter for household goods they could not produce. Later in the years, they moved to the cities and opened shops. But for centuries, millenniums even, they were farmers. They had no supermarkets, no refrigeration. They had to rely on the earth every second of the day to keep themselves alive. The toils and tasks that are my hobby were once the difference between life and death.

Yours Humbly

The Readneck Pagan





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