Monday, January 25, 2010

The Insatiable Idea of Spring, or Spring, Here we Come!

The central question I want to ask is: Why is the idea of Spring so powerful?

It’s been above 50 degrees almost everyday for the past two weeks. My winter thoughts have gone from seed catalogs and garden layouts to greenhouses and planting dates. In January these thoughts would normally be ridiculous and/or impossible if were not for the past two weeks (global warming?...just kidding). However, the thoughts would normally be entering my head sometime in February, which is still ridiculous. I assume the thought of Spring at such a ridiculous time has something to do with power of the idea of Spring.

When thinking of this power of Spring it is easy to jump to Sunday-school-esc answers. “Spring is about birth”, for example. Of course, new birth is a core concept to Spring. I don’t want to negate the importance of connecting birth and spring. The idea certainly goes deep. Spring coalesces with the re-birth of Jesus. This, of course, after the time of Lent.

And Lent, of course, is the period at the end of February and all of March, and is a time of fasting, or giving-up. Typically, something like chocolate for folks today. But, this timing in February and March is actually an interesting one when practically considering the availability of food in subsistence agriculture.

To share something personal right now, I have no food. It has been a few weeks since I ate anything I grew myself--without the supper market I would have starved to death by now. Even if I had planned for this winter by canning, storing, or preserving food I had grow, by now I would start to see a dent in the stock and I’d be getting a little worried. Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about her year eating only what she grew says the real problem with subsistence production is not the winter, as most suspect, but is actually early spring. By early spring most food that had been put up in summer and fall is almost gone, and things are only just beginning to be planted outside--which means it’s going to be another two months before any harvest. Enter Lent; the time of fasting. Lent becomes obviously practical within a subsistence agriculture framework, like the one that existed up till the industrial revolution, and one someone like Jesus and the folks of the early church would have been very familiar with.

Interestingly, as we have become more and more disconnected from food and food production, Lent is now touted as a time to do something you normally don’t--not to fast, or give-up in other words. We have turned the season of fasting into a season that one could potential consume more of something. Work out more, or eat more healthy fruits and vegetables, for example. Lenten promises have sort of become like new year’s resolutions. In becoming disconnected from food and food production we have also become disconnected from the very religious traditions we cling to as part of our identities.

I want to go deeper, or peel back a few layers to this story. In trying to go a little deeper with the concept of Spring I came to the word potential. I need not explain the idea of potential within the resurrection of Christ celebrated in Spring.

So, potential in what? And for what? Honestly, I am not sure exactly. For me, it’s one of those tip of the tongue, can’t quite put my finger on it, can only know it when I see it kind of things. (potentially a metaphor for my personal identity?)

But, to speak simply, in Spring I see the potential of a beautiful crop. I see a lush garden bursting with fruit and leaf and wildlife. I see dinner--kale pizza is almost here! I see people and groups moving throughout the garden, admiring some particular plant, picking a leaf or tomato to eat. This foresight ultimately sees the potential of a healthy soil, healthy bodies, and the commitment to tend a garden.

I should also not forget the importance remembering has in this idea of potential; a healthy mind if you will. For the potential is there in those beds for us gardeners to correct last years mistakes, if we remember them. The cruelty of gardening is that gardeners only get one chance each year to do their job right, and if it goes wrong we have to wait till the following Spring to try again. Spring becomes the time act on our promises to the garden: I’ve promised to take better care of the basil this year, for example.

For what? This is where I am not so sure. The general optimism for the future maybe? Though, I just gone explaining the reflectiveness Spring entices. For something to happen? Like some spiritual awaking in myself? To find a true identity? Or the process of getting to know folks in the neighborhood via the garden? Something really shallow and selfish like job security? I am not sure what for. Maybe there isn’t much there to begin with.

Either way, today, marks the official beginning of my season. I planted collard greens, kale, leeks and onions in the greenhouse. Tomorrow is mustard greens, and more collard greens. I used a mixture of one part garden compost that I made, one part potting mix, and one part sand for the leeks. Then mad soil blocks with potting mix for everything else. These starts will all be transplanted in the garden in a about 6 to 8 weeks and will be harvested sometime in the middle of May. Then they will be dinner.

[I’ll also mention that there is a swimming pool at the farm. Just sayin’, that’s a pretty insatiable idea of Spring right now too!]

-justin, garden manager


Kirsten said...

YES to spring!

Ryan Fasani said...

don't ever mention kale pizza to me again in the middle of winter...patience