Month: March 2015

Patience my…


I put the hops in this last weekend. We also planted six berry bushes, some asparagus and threw in some lettuce and Arugula for good measure. It feels good to get in the dirt again. I can almost smell the pungent, green buds and the rich red and purple clumps of berries. The asparagus is a different story: it takes years, not months. I threw the dill out in the herb bed and watered the turnips. The seedlings are coming up…all in due time.

If you begin to grow your own food you soon find that doing so is an exercise in patience. While patience is not necessarily a virtue, it is a necessity. This is true with many things and in many situations. Patience is not easy. Everyday I wake up and check the plants, opening the hot house according to the weather (this morning at 6am before work). Coming home, I expect change, but often there is none.

Patience, I am told, becomes a habit with practice. I’ve not found this to be true. Patience, I feel, is often a detriment to good ideas, holding back intuitive blasts of genius. Patience is often accepted as reasonable when it is often cowardly. It is reasonable to wait, when what we mean is that we cannot make a move towards what we know is the right thing. These kinds of decisions and challenges are part of life, but with gardening patience is neither good nor bad, detrimental or progressive, it simply is.

I’ll wait to plant the rest of the garden: the beans, the squash, the onions and leek, the beets, and the tomatoes plus a few other nicknacks.   I will wait, but I won’t be happy about it. I’ll wait to work the soil some (I’m going “till-less” this year), and set the irrigation system up, but the waiting will be long and arduous. Patience is that long journey that we sometimes take, telling ourselves that it is the trip that matters while knowing all the time that it is the destination that really matters.

Every Spring


Every spring I put small seeds into small containers filled with dirt. Every spring some of those small seeds “miraculously” sprout into small plants; all reaching for something bigger. This year I am trying an array of plants; some of which are new, and some of which I have been saving from previous plants in previous years. It is this saving of seeds that is truly the cornerstone of growing food.

The Dester tomato seeds from one of last year’s tomatoes were the first to sprout, is the biggest and all of the six seeds from the fruit has now come up, and continues to grow at a truly admirable rate. The newest of the seeds seem shy, poking their small leaves from the soil slowly. The garden awaits and the seeds are willing.

I have started all the seeds in my hothouse. This year I built some homemade warming tables from a few pallets I got from a local hardware store. Covered in black plastic and sat on buckets, the heater placed under the tables provides the needed heat and the green netting draped over the large glass covers provides the needed cool. A balance, which is in the end: life itself.

I water from the fifty-gallon drum that I collect water in. The water is green, dirty and filled with time and patience. It is nature and somehow I must believe that there is balance in the liquid muck. The system has worked so far; the microcosm of life beginning and I look in upon it on a daily basis thinking that I am in control, but realizing that I am only a caretaker.

This year holds surprises that I have yet to discover. A new irrigation system to put in and try; additional beds and paths, new plants mean new beginnings and failures that mean new endings. There is a cycle here that is reminder of the greater cyclical nature that we are all a part of. To lose perspective of this is to lose track of the truth.

I am not the first to say this, but gardening is truth. I am not the first to realize this, but we do not control nor do we own; we are custodians and we loan a bit of time to find out what we can do and what we cannot do. This knowledge comes one plant at a time; one day a year when we notice the slightest bulge in the soil and begin making our plans.

Dirt Seed Water Time Warmth


These are things of life. These are the beginnings that we all speak about. They are as simple and as complex as we make them. They do not rely upon our desires and plans. They do not bend to our wishes.


In my world the dirt is mixed from my own soil and compost with peat added.


The seed is the phoenix that rises from the ashes of last year’s garden.


The water is nutrient rich from sitting over time in the warmth and cold of the barrels that I have set up around the place.


Time is marked with the remembrance of keeping the little pots wet everyday; to remember that in my homemade hot house there is the potential for life.


Warmth is the sun and the glass, and the homemade grow tables that sit under them.

I forgot one necessary component, a component that is often forgotten: that of hope. Everyday I check on the little pots even though I know that the little seeds have not gotten a chance to do anything. Everyday I open the large, heavy doors, covered with a thin, green screen to protect the potential life from the sun and the heat hoping to discover the smallest sign of life. I water, and check the water, and check the heat. I continue to hope.

And one day, I tell myself: one day, I will eat again.

The Patient Gardener

snow garden

Gardeners tend to regard snow with disdain. The coldness keeps us from going out and feeling the dirt between our fingers. The snow blankets all of our past work and the plants are leafless and lifeless. At least that’s what it looks like. However, there’s a dry spot in my garden out back where I will plant hops this coming spring and I found myself shoveling wheelbarrows of snow onto the spot to bring the soil to life. It is arid during the season and I have always had problems getting things to grow there.

At the end of the day, gardeners are in the business of building up soil and while I was trudging around in my garden the other day in 8” of snow, shoveling the stuff onto my “dry spot”, I was reminded that nothing in nature is without ground; both figuratively and literally. The snow acts as insulation against the raw windy cold. Snow melts slowly into the ground breaking up clods and working manure into the soil. Snow provides moisture over time and gives the soil time to recover from the gardener’s incessant need to interfere with what nature does best.

This last point is the cornerstone of a subject that I have become more and more interested in: permaculture. It seems to go against the concept of gardening itself: just leave it alone. I have found that it helps to remember that we are not really managers as much as stewards. That answering the question “How?” does not answer the question “Why?” As a gardener, I want to produce food and resources for food. I want hops not because hops are somehow inherently good, but because I love beer and want to make beer that tastes good. Hops makes beer taste good!

However, permaculture does not dismiss our utilitarian desires. Rather, it reminds us that our utilitarian desires need to be limited by the resources that we actually have and the resources that we actually have can be more than enough…as long as we don’t get greedy. It takes patience not to be greedy.

Snow forces us to be permaculturists rather than gardeners in the true sense of the word: work intentionally and don’t do too much and don’t take too much. It’s funny that we have to be taught these things as they seem to be self-evident. Maybe the lesson to be learned is: gardening is easy if you have patience, but being patient makes gardening difficult. I, for one, find that to be true anyway.