Friday, July 10, 2009

Nature and Cycles

There is so much to be said about living with the seasons and adhering to a cycle that is natural. For me that has meant trying to eat with the seasons; and I’ve expanded on that notion being a full-time gardener. But, by diving a little deeper—reading, talking—the idea has come to mean living, or at the very least being aware of, a natural cycle (I’d love for it to make sense to wake with the sun and go to bed with it, or get into planting by the moons cycle).

(To be less ambiguous, think the middle-school lessons of the food-chain: the plant “eats” the sun, the bug eats the plant, the bigger bug eats that bug, etc, etc. And think of simply of the seasons)

Like many other lessons in the garden, this is something I’ve really only read about. But today, the lesson was actualized in two ways. One experience is witnessing the most amazing language nature speaks, and the other merely coincidently planned for the very same day.

So here’s how it went down:

The compost system has been revamped in the past three weeks. A revitalization project, Good Food for Good People, has been gleaning from the Nashville Farmer’s Market and then, one day a week dropping off the edible produce upstairs to the food bank and the non-edible produce “down stairs” in the garden to be composted. This translates to a huge increase in the nitrogen side of the compost equation. Which, then translates to: (and I hope I can say this—I don’t think too many Nashville government officials are reading this blog) the compost stinks. Thus, for the past three weeks a number of rats have been scurrying behind my compost bins. My response to this has been, “Well, at least it’s keeping them outside and not inside.”

Then today happened. I arrived early in the morning just before 7 a.m. for yoga. I pulled to the side of the garden, which is unusual, to park in the churches parking lot. I got out of my car and was walking to open the gate. As I was walking, paying attention to the three trash cans I have placed outside the fence for compost drop offs, a huge hawk, perched just above those cans on the fence, got spooked by my approach and flew to the dumpster, which sits right in the middle of my compost system. This bird was looking for those rats, and it was on a mission. In under three minutes it swooped down and struck a rat, a big one. It then proceeded to fly away to a nearby roof, still in view, to have its prize.

I watched as I was holding a Spanish black-radish I received from the “sisters garden” of David and Kristy’s community that had gone to seed, which I intended to harvest.

Seed saving is, of course, part of another natural cycle—the cycle of seed, sprout, growth, death, decay, and then repeat. To save seed I have intervened in this cycle between the growth and death part. For, naturally, at the end of a plants growth cycle it dumps its energy into propagating itself—seeds.

Ideally, you’d want to intervene right before the seed is about to drop. This stage should be noticeable because the plant will be relatively dry, and the seedpods should feel like delicate paper. (You may even notice some seedpods have already dropped their seeds.)

In addition to harvesting these radish seeds, today I collected some of the arugula plants that were about to drop their seeds. I’ll let these dry a little longer—about a week or two—and the harvest the seeds. Then after collecting the seed I’ll toss the plant in the compost pile to complete the “decay” part.

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