Thoughts

With all the social media surrounding the election, transgender bathrooms, deaths and so much more it has me thinking about my own beliefs. This really has nothing to do with gardening but so much to do with what is infecting my mind while I garden. Before social media became a part of my daily life my thoughts were mostly about what was directly affecting me on a daily basis. Now it seems that I spend my days in a state of agitation over things that really don’t change my life.  Whether you agree with me or not is up to you, but here are a few of my opinions and thoughts from the garden in the past weeks.

As far as the election is concerned. I don’t have anyone that I’d like to see win, other than my dad, Tim Helbling,  as mayor of Mandan : ). I will vote because it’s my right and duty as a citizen but I’m beginning to think that my individual vote doesn’t hold any power. This is a sad thought and probably the reason that so many people do not exercise their right. The mockery that is politics today makes me sad. Seeing the decline of decorum on all sides is a major blow to the United States as a whole.

I had a long talk with my onion sets about transgender bathrooms. Transgendered people have been using the restrooms that they identify with since the beginning and not many people realize it. The problem comes with making a law. I’m against it as a mother for the fact that I don’t want to have this talk with my children and I do fear for the safety of my daughter. My fear stems more from young straight males than it does from someone who identifies as transgender. It’s not even so much the fear of sexual predators, although that fear is there, it’s more the young and often times stupid normal male population. Do you remember high school? I do and most of what I remember of males in my class is that they could be perverts.  So maybe with bathrooms the risks are more imagined than real but does that make the feelings they invoke any less valid. Now lets take a look at dressing rooms and locker rooms. I have a very strong opinion here. Take a look at the movies Porkies and Police Academy. Both of these movies show a group of heterosexual males that take great enjoyment in female locker rooms. I will admit that this is what I assume the male mind thinks of when they think of a female locker room. Now lets give the fox a key to the henhouse. Another issue that I have with this is that most of the people who are pushing on social media to get rid of genetically modified food have no problem with genetically modified people.

As far as death and social media are concerned, I wonder if those that post about deaths in order to make a statement realize that when something is made into a competition on social media it starts to detract from the statement. It also diminishes the life of the person that died. The same thing goes with all the hoax diseases. Every time I come across a fear mongering post about a horrible disease that is really a piece of baloney over a kids face, I chuckle. Then I gasp in horror at all the people who fall for it. Next comes the anger. These posts are taking away from the very real diseases that are out there.

My lettuce seed got to hear about my daughters need for a social media presence. I refuse to let her have one. At this point I plan to hold onto this until she moves out of the house. This is very unrealistic and I’ll have to reevaluate it soon but for the time being I’m standing firm. Most adults don’t realize the impact of what they post, like, share, tweet. How is a teenager supposed to know the difference between something that is humorous and something that could harm their future. Kids have strong and swiftly changing emotions that they have little control over. What they are feeling one minute will be completely different in the next. Social media is instantaneous and that can be devastating. Another reason is that being a teenager is hard enough without feeling left out or teased just because a post is misinterpreted. I’d like to give her a little more time to develop a sense of self and some self control before setting her free on social media. She’ll have to be satisfied with Pinterest for now.

My last major thought was on entitlement. This I shared with my unplanted seeds as I sorted them and tried to find them a place. It’s really hard to turn down something that seems to be free. But as we take that supposedly free item or service, what are we really giving up? These things cost us more than we realize because we are blinded by the ideas handed to us. Everything has a price. Every law takes away a previous freedom. Going back to moral law instead of written legislation would be ideal but for the most part morals have been lost. Working for something that is being handed out may appear to be a dumb idea but what are you losing by taking the hand out. Work ethic, perseverance, pride, sense of worth, accountability, ingenuity these things are going the way of the dinosaur. Are you thinking of the other side? Someone has to pay for these things or not receive pay in order for you to have them free. If you do a job for $100 should you be able to keep that money? If you work harder or use more thought and make $1,000,000 should that money not be yours to do as you please? Why should one persons dollar be more theirs than the next persons?

So by now you are probably really glad that you’re not a plant in my garden. Most days my thoughts are not very heavy and the most my plants hear is about the weather and how much I hate weeds. Others, they get an earful. Thankfully my rows are long and there are lots of plants to share my thoughts with. I tend to believe it is not up to me to judge people no matter how our thoughts differ, and that because of my belief in God judgement will come to all of us by His hand when He sees fit. On the other hand as a human being I have opinions and thoughts on just about everything. Now that I’ve put this in writing I realize that I have way to much time to think and probably need to start reading good books instead of so many social media posts. Bookstore anyone?

 

Thoughts

The Drive

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Everyone and everything is getting on my nerves. The house, kids, and husband are demanding all my time and energy. My skin is crawling with irritation, my shoulders tense. I quickly throw together a cooler of sandwiches and water bottles and head out the door. Calling over my shoulder, “I’ll be back when it gets dark!” I climb into my car, the interior hot from sitting in the sun, adding to my irritation. Backing out the driveway I roll down my window and head towards the garden.

I pass the neighbors houses and the cars of people heading home from work. My brain running through a list of chores, appointments, bills, and groceries. I pass the bridge and start to think about my family. How annoyed I am by the kids and the constant calls for “Mom!” How much my husband has been working and avoiding helping around the house. There always seems to be so much to do and so little time to do it.

Heading out on the highway I can feel my shoulders loosen up. I lean back and listen to the hum of the engine. As the houses fade so does much of my irritation. Looking out at the green fields blowing in the breeze, the cows lazily munching, I think how lucky I am that my kids like me enough to want my attention. I’m able to appreciate my husbands ability to provide for us. The warm air coming in the window blows the frustration away from me and I find myself almost missing my kids arguing in the back seat.

I turn off the highway and won’t pass another car until my return trip. Lists, housework, and bills all become more manageable with the gravel now crunching under my tires. The dry dusty smell is welcome and so is the layer that starts to cover my dash, some weird calming blanket of dust.

Turning down the long farm road, that is little more than two tire tracks on the prairie, I become at ease. There is a striped gopher crossing the road in front of me and I slow down and take in the sights. Hills dipping and rising against a blue sky. Cow trails cutting through the long pale prairie grass heading towards the dam. Bugs buzzing and grouse getting up as my car rolls by. No matter what I get done today, or don’t get done, this drive has accomplished something that nothing else can. It has put perspective back into my life.

 

The Drive

Worries

With the first few seeds in the ground I’ve been compiling a mental list of worries. They’ve begun to take up enough room that I’m going to give them a written space to occupy, in the hope that I can forget where I’ve put them. Here goes!

Weather

  • Will it stay warm enough for the seeds planted to germinate?
  • Will we get enough moisture, but not too much? I don’t want the garden to wash out or the seeds to rot before they are established.
  • Hopefully it doesn’t get to warm to fast and burn off any seedlings planted.
  • Wind.
  • Hail.
  • Early Frost.
  • If we do get enough moisture, will we get a break long enough to finish planting?
  • Sunburn, freckles, skin cancer

Animals/Bugs

  • Will the calves eat my peas again this year?
  • How much damage will our resident mole do?
  • Will I notice the spiders? I know they are there but would like them to stay hidden.
  • So far we haven’t been affected by harmful bugs but…….
  • Will there be enough bees?
  • Will I get stung?
  • Maybe a fluffle of rabbits will join our mole.
  • Rabid coyote attack.
  • Snakes? I might forget the difference between good and bad, panic, pass out and be swallowed whole.
  • Will my husband get garden loving goats again?

Personal

  • Breaking a bone would be devastating. I’m trying to plan this activity for winter.
  • Oversleeping on a market day.
  • Forgetting to buy coffee or cola, resulting in above.
  • Developing severe plant allergies.
  • Planting to much to take care of.
  • Not planting enough.
  • Forgetting to use the restroom before going to farmers market.
  • Forgetting my produce scale.
  • Forgetting my phone.
  • Forgetting my boots and having muddy sneakers.
  • Dementia
  • Family or friend injury, illness, or death

Worries I don’t have

  • Telemarketers – lack of cell service is a great thing sometimes
  • Finding manual laborers – I don’t believe in child labor laws
  • Good soil – an abundance of manure can be a good thing
  • Loneliness – My family/friends are the best. My husband is helpful and supportive. I couldn’t ask for better kids. I have an amazing extended family and friends who are great for support, advice, and a cold beer or hot coffee when necessary.

Unfortunately each of these worries have crossed my mind. But while my list of worries is longer, the positives in my life outweigh them by a ton. Even when these worries become reality I have no doubt that with faith, family, and hard work things will turn out how they are meant to be. Not that that stops the worrying.

 

Worries

Tilling

 

Last years dry plants crack and snap as I walk through the garden. The air is cool and a breeze blows the soft black dirt with each step. In every row I visualize what was and what will be planted. As I place a wooden steak and a few rocks in a bin I hear my dad driving down the road. His truck pulling the tractor is a welcome sight. The tough sod that will be the new garden needs to be broken up and his large tiller is better equipped for the job.

Engaging the PTO and dropping the tiller into the soft soil of last years garden he quickly turns the earth from bleached dried stubble to rich dark brown. This year as I walk alongside the tractor there are very few rocks to pull out. I watch as the tines turn the moist soil, thinking of all the organisms that make up this amazing life giving substance. A gust of wind comes up and I now get to experience this wonder with all of my senses, including taste. I’m quick to spit it out. While manure, decayed plant matter, and bugs are essential to plant growth I try not to make them a direct part of my diet.

On to the new garden plot. The dried grass here is thick and the tiller strains to chop it into the ground below. Seeing the rich earth makes me smile. By the end of summer the sod will have broken down, further enriching the soil.

With both the gardens freshly tilled I itch to start planting. Each plot of earth a blank canvas, my mind the artist contracted to create a masterpiece. The reality of the design may be closer to a stick figure but each individual element will be a perfect creation from god despite my involvement.

For now the soil will be left to sit and soak up this weeks predicted moisture. Ready now for the seeds that will soon be planted.

 

Thanks dad for your help!

Tilling

From the Fence

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Stretched tight along varied poles, some old and wooden, some new and steel. Barbed intertwined wires gleaming, rising and falling with the land. Short dried grasses below covering the faintest hint of green. Cool crisp breeze flowing through only slightly warmed by the sun. Clear blue sky above with a few wisps of white adding to its perfection. A bird, chirping happily, from its wire perch.

Hot sun shining off of the barbs points, bleaching the wooden posts to gray, slowly dulling the steel posts paint. The bellowing cattle move in testing the boundaries. Push, shove, scratch, looking for weakness and escape. Wires strain against staples and clips. Poles sway imperceptibly, each test loosening them from the earth they were pounded into. Lush green grass almost hiding the bottom wire. Strong winds hit and heavy rains fall, further weakening defenses. Days stretch out like the wires, long and intertwined.

Nights are turning cooler, the suns power weakening. The few strands of long grass left are now dried and brown, like the new rust on the wires. Gates are opened for the last time allowing fat, content cattle to move on. Their hooves crunching the parched grasses and billows of dust rising with each step. All that’s left to do is mark the boundary.

Cold sharp wind, hard biting snow whistle around and through. Ground holding fast to poles and at the same time pushing them out with each freeze and thaw. Barren white ground and gray sky all there is to see.

As the suns rays melt the snow and warm the earth, wires sag and posts lean. Wires are stretched and cut and tied off. Clips and staples are added to secure the wire. Old rotten posts snapped off and replaced, others tamped further into the ground. Each passing year the fence slowly changes. Metal rusts, wood rots and is continually replaced with new. The cycle consistent as the seasons.

 

From the Fence

Winter

Winter is a time of renewal for a garden. It provides needed rest and restoration for the garden and the gardener. While the gardens plants die off or go dormant the gardener takes a breath and collects their thoughts. Organic matter and snow collect to enhance the gardens soil during the down time. The gardener gathers notes from the past and new knowledge for the future.

As my garden sits quite I’m able to reflect on my past accomplishments. Looking back I see how far I’ve come from the small patch in the yard to the acres that will be planted this year. I also see the numerous mistakes. Turnips are not commonly consumed in North Dakota so don’t grow 300 of them. Zucchini plants still take up the same amount of space as last year even though I’d hoped they had shrunk. If I don’t mark where I put things it’s a surprise when they come up.

The garden is collecting needed moisture and nourishment right now. As this is taking place I’m mentally preparing for the coming year. Seed catalogs are gone through, figures calculated, notes compiled. My wish-list is long enough to fill more gardens than I have so some compromises will need to be reached. CSA comments are helping to both narrow down and broaden what will be ordered. Some of the suggested plants I’ve never grown before, so research is being done to ensure the best growing environment and care for these plants.

Preparing to expand the garden I’m also expanding myself. Slowly learning to put myself out there and show with confidence that I can accomplish the task at hand. Digesting as much information as possible to ensure not only abundant produce but also the continued health of the land.

I’m thankful for this time that allows for so much silent, unseen work to take place. Not much physical labor is done right now and there is no visible signs of life in the garden, but the proof of what is happening now will be evident in the coming months. Barring any weather or nature related disasters a bountiful crop and more knowledgeable gardener will appear at the market this year, active and very much alive after a regenerative winter.

Winter

Contrast

I hiked up the hill to my favorite spot, overlooking the yard and neighboring fields. The large rock is warm even though it’s February. The pounding of hooves from my daughters horse, my sons laughter, and my husbands saw and music float up from the yard. Looking around I see rolling hills, brown fields, the old farm house slowly decaying, an endless sky. It’s the perfect place to sit and think, daydream.

Had we been in town I’d be on the computer, doing housework, or reading a book. The kids would be engaged with some electronic gadget. My husband at work or watching a movie. At the farm we spend time outside no matter the weather.

Sitting on the rock, the bare garden below transforms, colored with flowers from the growing plants. The empty panel running down the center of the garden in now filled with vines from cucumbers and snap peas. Empty cages sitting along the fence are now standing in a row supporting bushy tomato plants. I can see the rows of fern-like carrots and broad leaves of beet tops. Looking further east, beyond the yard, the empty hay fence becomes a budding orchard. The small trees planted among the rows of potatoes and corn. Raspberry plants and grape vines lining the back fence. In the coming years there will be apples, pears, crabapples, and plums. Further still, this time to the west, the dry grass blurs and changes. I can barely make out a patch of dark green among the purple sea of alfalfa. This dark spot is a tangle of vines belonging to pumpkins, gourds, melons and squash.

I blink and am again surrounded by brown in varying shades, the breeze slowly cooling as the sun sets. My daydream reminds me that winter’s slumber does not last forever and our environment is constantly changing to meet our dreams.

Awaking the next day, the sight from our cabin window is quite different. A light blanket of snow covers yesterdays muddy ground. Cold wind beats against the walls and the sky is gray. Chores will be done in layers of clothing and gloves. When yesterday all that was needed was a sweatshirt. The vision of green a bit harder to conjure.

Driving home is a slow change from dirt path to pavement. Large fenced pasture and open fields to rows of houses and fenced yards. From nature and freedom to civilization and dreams of freedom.

Contrast

Expanding

The first year that I asked for a bigger garden, in my head I had planned another 20′ x 20′ plot of ground to grow a few more things for my family. My husband had other ideas. He figured that if he was going to take the time to break the ground he might as well make it worth the effort. That is how I got my first acre garden.

Now most people, myself included, cannot visualize an acre. Picture the average lot in town, house included. Multiply by three. That is just shy of an acre. When I first looked at what my husband had done I wanted to cry. There was no way that I could plant even a fraction of what he dug up, let alone weed, water, and pick it all. But it was there and I was determined to use it. So off to the store we went to look at seeds and plants.

At this point I had planted very few things; tomatoes, beans, carrots, a few cucumbers. I now had a chance to plant anything and everything that our limited growing season can produce. I picked out squash, pumpkins, cabbage, alien looking things called kohlrabi, corn, melons, summer squash, onions. The list goes on and on. It took days to get it all in the ground. Then I waited. And waited. Shoot, now I forgot what I planted and where I planted it. Oops! That first year was a year of surprises. I’d walk through the garden and find something that I had forgotten about and some things that I didn’t even remember  planting at all. Did I mention that I wasn’t used to planting a large garden? Do you know how many butternut squash you get from 15 plants? The average person would probably realize that it’s more than one family can go through. Not me. I’m a little dense sometimes. I now had an abundance of produce. So much that I couldn’t even pawn it all off on extended family and friends. What would I do with it all next year? Most people would downsize the garden. Not us. Which leads us to the farmers market.

Sitting in the first meeting I was nervous. Did I have enough to be a market producer? Would I fit in with the other vendors? Would my crop grow this year? I quickly relaxed after meeting the other vendors. Hearing how they had grown over the years and how some had just stayed small. It was a variety of people old, young, middle aged, from town, farmers, and a few that didn’t garden at all but just sold crafts. The first year of market was a time of learning. What people want and how much, costs and table arrangement. How to fit in 40 hours at a normal job and then another 40 hours for my garden and market. It was exhausting but rewarding.

The following year started out the same. Then my husband  and I decided that it was time to quit the stable 40 hours with benefits job and go full time into the unpredictable world dictated by weather, bugs, and market fluctuations. I was able to do more home preserving, weed a bit more, and spend a little more time with my kids. It was the balance of work and home that I had been missing the past year. Now my children can come with me wherever I go. This is not always seen as a plus by them but we’ll save that for another day. I was also introduced that year to some people who did a CSA. It sounded like a good fit for me so here I am.

This year we will break another acre of ground and try some no till methods on another 1/4 acre.  Brining my garden to 2 1/4 acres. I look back and am amazed at how far I’ve come. I look forward and get a little anxious about how far I still have to go.

Expanding