food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Commiseration Station

It’s been a rough year.

Talking to home gardeners and farmers alike, I’ve said and heard this phrase a lot this year. A warm and early burst of Spring came to the Pacific Northwest in February, and, with visions of beautiful tomatoes already in our heads, we rushed out and put seeds in dirt, in pots, in trays.

And then the rain and clouds came.

And with them slugs, blight and stagnancy.

It’s discouraging – super discouraging – to see your cabbage plants start to look like Swiss cheese and your tomatoes barely growing. Even though we planted lettuce seeds in February, we didn’t have a salad until June. And last weekend’s garlic harvest revealed that the crop is covered in a fungus, Garlic Rust. Still edible (and delicious), but we can’t save our own seed for next year.

So there you have it.

And it’s happening to everybody. I’m putting this out there because 1) I’ll admit it: Misery loves company; there’s a certain calm and validation to be found in realizing you’re not alone in your struggles 2) The learning curve is absurdly steep, and this season has been an incredible lesson during which 3) I’ve been able to rely on the veggies we’ve grown and those from the amazing farmers in our area And 4) Between 1, 2 and 3 we’ve got a great opportunity to bitch about what’s going on in our gardens and our fields – then learn about it, recognizing each other as resources (and support systems) – and keep trying.

So feel free to use this as continued motivation or even an open forum. Like I said, misery loves company, and I’d love to hear what’s totally failing in your garden. So long as you garnish it with some successes. Because they’re there, and I’m finding they often outnumber the failures in reality if not in brainspace.

Here’s my good news:

The sun and heat have made an appearance now, however unconvincing. And things are beginning to grow – we’ve already had sugar snap peas and kale, potatoes and onions, beets and cauliflower, strawberries and raspberries too. And now slowly, the Summer veggies. Beans and zucchinis are starting to show their faces, preparing to offer their usual midsummer glut. And our (2nd annual) garlic harvest was a beautiful get-together, with great new friends and delicious food and drink.

This afternoon I’m going to begin sowing seeds and planting starts for our Fall garden. Hard to believe it’s already time to look towards what we’ll be wanting to eat in October, but it is. In go the broccolis and cauliflowers, the kales and turnips, hopefully some fall sugar snap peas.

It’s looking less and less like we’ll be able to rely on what happens in a “typical year” to plan our gardens and our farms, as flukes and irregularities become the norm. (my as yet non-existent farm has long been called Se La Vis Farm) Continued failures might be the only real guarantee. And still, there isn’t anything I’d rather be doing. Because working with food and the earth in this way is, to me, such a rich and connective act.

And I just know that next year’s tomatoes are going to be incredible.

love and learning curves,

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