Lessons from the Land

Posted by: Duane Hiatt in Commentaries Add comments

“No vegetables taste as good as the ones you grow yourself.” So my friend Wayne Steimle told me. Since he was a millionaire in the days when a million would buy you something, I assumed he wasn’t gardening to trim a few bucks off the weekly grocery bill. The early morning hours he spent in his gardens he called his golf game. While the country club set he could have belonged to was out stroking the greens, he was in his backyard growing his greens.

I have found that working in the garden has taken strokes off my golf game. In fact I have gotten my strokes down to zero. I have played golf twice in my life with a thirty year interval. Even with all that practice I haven’t improved much.

Our gardens are carved out of a couple of acres of hillside goat pasture behind our house. We also have a barn, a chicken brooder house, a Quonset shaped solar heated “hoop house” made of arched plastic pipes covered with clear plastic in which we can plant vegetables earlier and harvest them later than outdoors. We are building another similar structure to winter our chicken flocks. In the summer they bunk in portable coops in our pasture out in the country. They share the grass with the grazing beef cattle, and pay their rent with eggs and by spreading the cow pies around fertilizing the field as they scratch for fly larvae and other delicacies.

Also in this little five acre farmette we have raised bed vegetable gardens and a small “fruit cocktail” orchard. We fertilize with organic products and don’t use herbicides or pesticides. That makes life interesting trying to keep up with the weeds and wee beasties, but we think it is worth the extra effort. The operations keep Sharon, me, and several of our children and some their children “off the street and out of trouble” as my mother used to say.

Working the land together brings good bonding experiences for our family. It also provides fertile soil for contemplative thoughts and deep observations such as:

PROFOUND PRONOUNCEMNTS FROM THE BUSINESS END OF A HOE HANDLE:

Forget about overpopulation of the earth, global warming, and looming asteroids on a crash course to earth. The real question is, how long will it be until Morning Glory covers the entire earth’s surface and makes plans for a moon landing?

Open letter to the people who, speaking for the seeds in the packet write, “This vegetable prefers rich loamy soil and a sunny location.”

Dear Mr. /Ms. seed packager. Please tell this plant that we would all prefer to live in rich loamy soil with plenty of sunshine. But this is pioneer country out here sweetheart. The early settlers hacked through the hard pan, grubbed out the sagebrush, and then scraped an existence out of a wilderness. So stick your preferring little roots into that alkali and rocks and suck up enough nourishment to make a crop on. Otherwise you’re sharing the rich loamy soil of the compost pit.

“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matthew 7:16) No. Nor, I would add pumpkins from squash even though the seeds look identical. The children were very disappointed as they carved their long faced jack o’ lanterns that fall.

QUESTIONS CONCOCTED WHILE HANGING BETWEEN LIMB AND LADDER:

Why is the choicest fruit always just out of reach of your arm and ladder?

If you risk closing your career in this second estate to pick a gorgeous out- of-reach apple why does it shrink and lose so much of its charm on the way to the bucket?

Why is the bird peck and/or worm hole always on the side you can’t see until you risk your life to pick it?

An apple a day may keep the doctor away. But wouldn’t throwing a rock at him accomplish the same thing and cheaper.

If a watermelon instead of an apple had fallen on Isaac Newton’s head, would he have discovered chaos theory instead of gravity?

And finally, to paraphrase the old farmer saying, “If I had Wayne Steimle’s million dollars what would I do with it?” Probably farm until it was all gone.

“No vegetables taste as good as the ones you grow yourself.” So my friend Wayne Steimle told me. Since he was a millionaire in the days when a million would buy you something, I assumed he wasn’t gardening to trim a few bucks off the weekly grocery bill. The early morning hours he spent in his gardens he called his golf game. While the country club set he could have belonged to was out stroking the greens, he was in his backyard growing his greens.

I have found that working in the garden has taken strokes off my golf game. In fact I have gotten my strokes down to zero. I have played golf twice in my life with a thirty year interval. Even with all that practice I haven’t improved much.

Our gardens are carved out of a couple of acres of hillside goat pasture behind our house. We also have a barn, a chicken brooder house, a Quonset shaped solar heated “hoop house” made of arched plastic pipes covered with clear plastic in which we can plant vegetables earlier and harvest them later than outdoors. We are building another similar structure to winter our chicken flocks. In the summer they bunk in portable coops in our pasture out in the country. They share the grass with the grazing beef cattle, and pay their rent with eggs and by spreading the cow pies around fertilizing the field as they scratch for fly larvae and other delicacies.

Also in this little five acre farmette we have raised bed vegetable gardens and a small “fruit cocktail” orchard. We fertilize with organic products and don’t use herbicides or pesticides. That makes life interesting trying to keep up with the weeds and wee beasties, but we think it is worth the extra effort. The operations keep Sharon, me, and several of our children and some their children “off the street and out of trouble” as my mother used to say.

Working the land together brings good bonding experiences for our family. It also provides fertile soil for contemplative thoughts and deep observations such as:

PROFOUND PRONOUNCEMNTS FROM THE BUSINESS END OF A HOE HANDLE:

Forget about overpopulation of the earth, global warming, and looming asteroids on a crash course to earth. The real question is, how long will it be until Morning Glory covers the entire earth’s surface and makes plans for a moon landing?

Open letter to the people who, speaking for the seeds in the packet write, “This vegetable prefers rich loamy soil and a sunny location.”

Dear Mr. /Ms. seed packager. Please tell this plant that we would all prefer to live in rich loamy soil with plenty of sunshine. But this is pioneer country out here sweetheart. The early settlers hacked through the hard pan, grubbed out the sagebrush, and then scraped an existence out of a wilderness. So stick your preferring little roots into that alkali and rocks and suck up enough nourishment to make a crop on. Otherwise you’re sharing the rich loamy soil of the compost pit.

“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matthew 7:16) No. Nor, I would add pumpkins from squash even though the seeds look identical. The children were very disappointed as they carved their long faced jack o’ lanterns that fall.

QUESTIONS CONCOCTED WHILE HANGING BETWEEN LIMB AND LADDER:

Why is the choicest fruit always just out of reach of your arm and ladder?

If you risk closing your career in this second estate to pick a gorgeous out- of-reach apple why does it shrink and lose so much of its charm on the way to the bucket?

Why is the bird peck and/or worm hole always on the side you can’t see until you risk your life to pick it?

An apple a day may keep the doctor away. But wouldn’t throwing a rock at him accomplish the same thing and cheaper.

If a watermelon instead of an apple had fallen on Isaac Newton’s head, would he have discovered chaos theory instead of gravity?

And finally, to paraphrase the old farmer saying, “If I had Wayne Steimle’s million dollars what would I do with it?” Probably farm until it was all gone.

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