That’s it, it’s here, it’s all over and done. And how am I feeling about it all? I can’t even tell you. It’s been unbelievably beautiful all day; sunny, warm, a soft breeze every so often, and a robins egg blue sky that kept away the clouds all day. I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect day to farm, which made it even harder to accept that I wouldn’t have to after today. Walking up to the sheep shed to put away the tools we had used today, I said to Ann, “You know, I almost wish it was raining right now.”
“Are you crazy? Why!” she replied, looking at me as if I had gone insane.
“Because,” I said, looking at the ground, “then it wouldn’t be so hard to leave.”
It was sappy and cliché, I know, but true nonetheless. I couldn’t help but wish for worse weather simply so that I might have a stronger desire to leave the ESL garden. With sunny skies and leisurely landscaping, it made working simple, enjoyable and untaxing, unlike many days I have spent here the past few weeks. I know I shouldn’t be complaining, but at the same time I guess I’m not really…simply wishing it would be easier to part from this place. Instead, as I declined a ride in Ann’s truck because I wanted to enjoy one final bike ride back to the house, my chest felt a pang of emptiness, or loss, or…something as I pedaled away.
Well now, this is starting to sound plain depressing, isn’t it? Which is a shame, because even though it was difficult to depart, today was definitely one of the best experiences I’d had yet on the farm. With Ann and Carrie’s help, I learned that when a tomato plant starts growing two stalks off of the same vine, it’s best to snip off the upper limb so that the plant can use more of its energy to grow the actual fruit. So that’s what we started off with.
Then we weeded out the raised beds—but only a bit!—before heading up to the upper plots of garlic and mixed veggies. Here’s where things really got good.
The great thing about living in the sustainability house while I’ve been working out here, is that we get to cook with the fresh veggies harvested from the farm out front: salad greens, potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, and most recently…garlic scapes! Until this past week, I had never even heard of the things and when they showed up on the bottom shelf of our fridge on Tuesday I laughed at their curly stalks. But I’m not laughing anymore…I’m just looooooving them. Sautéed, grilled, baked—you name it, they’re great! So when we got to start harvesting those off of the million trillion garlic plants we have at the ESL today, I was beyond excited. It’s not even that I get to eat these ones (they’re to be donated to Campus Kitchens) but simply the idea that I’ve been growing and caring for one of my newest favorite foods for the past few weeks…without even knowing.
On top of garlic scapes, Ann and I harvested some of the lettuce in the next bed over along with some of the leaves off of the tops of smaller and weaker beets to make room for the more successful ones. Sometimes throughout my past few weeks here I’ve wondered just how worth it all this manual labor was. Last year, the potatoes we harvested in class just went to rotting on the table inside the ESL house…did my baby veggies have the same fate? If so, I often found myself struggling to maintain the stamina to put in so much effort to keep things alive. But it’s times like this, when I finally get to see my work turning into something useful, getting harvested, and eventually being used to feed and fuel the families in this community that make it impossible to regret any of the difficult days I’ve had here.
I knew all along that I wouldn’t be the one to harvest most of my crops—that would be Ann’s job as the summer wore on and things really started to bloom—but there were often times that I wanted to be paid in crops, rather than the checks sitting in my savings account. Money is great, but I’ve come to learn that it really isn’t fully satisfying. It’s immediate, short-lived gratification that provides stability, but what truly makes me happy—what makes every day more than just stable—is the satisfaction you get when you see what you’re capable of producing as a person. Whether that be an artist’s painting, a student’s 3.75 GPA, or a lovely lunch made with fresh lettuce from your own garden…these are the things that will give you more than money ever can.
Because even though it’s nice to be able to get a medium iced coffee black with one pump of caramel from a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through on your way home from work, when there’s nothing left for your straw to sip, then what? Money buys us temporary joys that leave us wanting more as soon as they’re over. And yes, of course I understand that we need to be able to provide for ourselves and our families and money is our means to doing so; paying the bills for water, heat, and electricity, etc. will never be accomplished by handing our government fresh herbs from the garden (though it should), but that’s not what I’m trying to get across.
What I mean to say is that there’s more joy in the simplicity of a salad than in the decked-out decadence of an iced beverage bought through a window without ever having to step outside of my car. It’s nice to treat ourselves with these extremities every so often, but that’s what they should remain: treats and extremities, never expectancies or necessities.
We don’t need all of that shit. So next time you’re thinking about pressing “purchase” next to that new shirt on your computer screen that you absolutely haaaave to have…stop. Stand up. Walk outside, close your eyes, breathe, then open them and see everything good you have in your life already. I promise you, there is more there than you think. Far too often we forget the pleasures already existing in our lives as the media bombards us with ‘semi-annual sales’ and the ‘must-have essentials for summer’. But remember the meaning of essential, and realize there’s nothing more that you need. Be happy with what you have. Be happy with what you’ve been blessed with, with what you’ve managed to create on your own, with everything that surrounds you.
Just be happy.