The woodlands of Kentucky are green, green, green. Early summer is upon us in our peaceful hermitage residence. The gardens we started putting in as soon as the snows had passed are coming to fruition. They too are green, green, green. We eat fresh food, a blessing the earth provides if given a good change, and we eat it without the involvement of chemicals or heavily science-forced forms of life. Every day is a new day, nature-welcomed.
Blackberries already bend their canes, though the season is far yet from their ripening. We are preparing to make cherry jelly and preserves from fresh-picked, chemical-free fruit. The promise of clean-grown peaches and quince awaits, with apples for the late season. We've located a persimmon tree with uncommonly large fruit, and when the summer is gone, we'll be visiting there...with luck, before the opossums find the frost-kissed goodies.
Work is where you find it. If you can't make cash, make food.
Cabbage: sauerkraut. Broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onions: mixed pickle. Beets: fresh leaves for salad and sweet-pickled treats. Sweet potatoes and 'Irish' potatoes: winter filler. Pimiento peppers: salads, stored in brine. Green beans: canned in jars, very valuable winter fare. Corn: canned, frozen, dried and ground into meal. Bell peppers: pickled, frozen, served stuffed with rice and other vegetables and topped with cheese? Onions: fresh and green, pickled, stored with potatoes for winter use. Spaghetti squash: keeps well all winter in a cool dim place for baking. Sugar snap peas: salads, cooked whole with potatoes and cornbread? Herbs! Sage. Rosemary. Mints. Kitchen flavorings of all kinds: include cilantro, from which the seeds are coriander. Basil. Jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers.
We do not labor over food production, but work within its needs and abilities. Wide-row gardening does not require rototilling, constant disturbance of the earth, nor a great deal of water. Hoe work, chopping out the rows? It doesn't happen; there is no need. Given a chance, the plants themselves will do most of the work.
Weeds? A weed is a plant you don't know the use of ... yet. Weeds proliferate at the edges of our garden, but the bug populations do not: the insects who invade gardens prefer a wide selection of their native plants, which are not available in 'traditional', high-labor gardening. Given feast or famine, a bug will eat a plant it doesn't care for normally, just as a truly hungry child will. We do not use noxious chemicals to aid our work, but let the plants themselves have a chance through more natural means.
Consider companion planting: many plants benefit one another. Certain combinations can be wonderfully cooperative, or dismally dissatisfied to the 'Green People' (plants). Aphids on your roses? Plant some chives in a pot and set it near the roses. Chives repel aphids!
A man by the name of Fukuoka came up with some very efficient and creative methods as well. Natural farming! Do-Nothing Farming! But real and a serious way to combat hunger.
Gardening-By-The-Square-Foot falls right into place alongside these methods.
I refuse to fear Nature, for she is me. Together, we breathe the same air, drink the same waters, set our feet to the same earth, and stumble over the same hardships and stones along the way.
Living with green things, gardening, is not a mathematical undertaking. It is a Zen kind of Way, a method or philosophy of growth and well-being carried into the needs of the future. Gardening IS.
In this little piece of the world, life is precious. Pain is a blessing, for it tells you something is wrong. It can be endured but not ignored. Nor should it permit life to be perceived as any less precious.
It is well known, across many faiths, that for every thing, there is a reason and a season for its being. For every ill, there is some form of peace to be found. Every wildflower, every living thing, is holy in its own being. For the serpent of the dim places, the gnawing of their prey, rodents, for the bugs, the arachnids who can and do poison either through some gift of evolution on their own or by chance. Every thing. Every part of the whole need not be a thing of beauty to every other part. It need only be.
We, poor stumbling learners, must find our own Way.
I pray for wildflowers to grow. I walk slowly in the gift of summer rain, and touch the earth with seeds whenever possible, looking for a way to make the world a little better. I am an imperfect vessel seeking any glimpse of the perfection of the whole.
Grow. Love the rain. Be. Life IS.