One of the many things gardening has taught me is patience. Planting seeds, watching them sprout, transplanting them to the garden, waiting for the plants to produce their bounty – it all takes time. The harvest can’t be rushed no matter how badly I want to taste that first ripe tomato!
We live in an instant gratification, I want it now society that has forgotten that the best in life often comes by waiting patiently.
The fast food movement is a good example of this. Now I’m not talking about McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Sonic. I’m talking about the movement that brought fruits and vegetables into our grocery stores in the the dead of winter, shipped from thousands of miles away, just to satisfy our need to have the best of summer even when there’s snow on the ground. The problem is, most of what gets sold as “fresh” has been in transit for days and is way past its prime by the time it gets on the grocery store shelves. Many things have to be picked green in order to survive the trip. Did you know that a whole new variety of tomato has been developed just for grocery stores? It stays green for months and only turns red when it’s gassed. That’s why so many of those grocery store tomatoes are hard as gourds. They only look ripe. They’re really green tomatoes gassed to look red.
From the phone calls we get at The Garden Market, I can tell that there are folks out there who have forgotten that fresh, off-the-farm vegetables have a season. Watermelons, peppers, tomatoes – well, you get the idea – don’t grow in SE Oklahoma in the winter. And plants can’t be put in the ground until the weather is right. If you plant tomatoes, green beans, squash, melons and cucumbers before the last frost, the plants will die. If you plant eggplant and peppers before the ground warms up and the weather gets hot, they won’t produce. Sometimes even seasoned gardeners get in a hurry, lured by those early warm spring days into thinking that the danger of frost is past. Then along comes that late frost that catches them and they have to start over. I have to admit, though, it is hard to resist the tomato plants sold early at big box stores and local feed stores!
There is a “new” movement that seems to be catching hold as people become more concerned about their health and about what’s really in their food. It’s called the “Slow Food Movement” – except it really isn’t new. It’s a return to buying what’s grown locally when it’s in season. It’s a return to waiting patiently for that first fully ripe tomato that drips juice and seeds off your chin as you bite into it fresh from the garden. It’s the crisp snap of green beans just picked off the vine. It’s visiting your local farmer and seeing where and how the food is raised. It’s knowing that what you’re eating has been raised with love and care – and knowing that chemical fertilizers and herbicides haven’t touched the soil or the plants or the produce that’s offered for sale.
I am encouraged by the garden that has been planted at the White House. I’m encouraged that children have been invited to help plant, tend and harvest the garden and that they will get to prepare what they’ve grown. What wonderful life lessons they will learn while digging in the dirt along side the First Lady, the President, their children and the White House chefs. While they’re digging in the dirt they will be getting fresh air and exercise, not watching TV or playing video games. And hopefully along the way, they’ll learn to wait patiently for the good things in life as they watch that first tomato turn red on the vine.
We are adding a community garden to our place this year. Anyone who wants a plot of land to plant a garden is welcome. Most of the plots available will be approximately 5′ x 20′ – enough space to plant vegetables to feed a family of 4 for a season. The plots will be rough tilled and staked off. Plot users will be responsible for preparing the soil, planting, maintaining and cleaning up the plot at the end of the season. There is no charge for using the space, but donations to cover the cost of water would be appreciated. Please contact us through our website for more information. Organizational meetings are being held February 6 and 9.
Those who believe pigs don’t have feelings have never met Velma.
One hot Friday afternoon in late summer, Velma began to show all the signs that it was time for her babies to be born. She removed all the grass Phil had put in the stall for her and began pulling weeds to make her nest. She was very neat about it. She’d pull the weed with her snout, shake of the dirt and slowly waddle into the barn to carefully arrange her birthing bed. This went on all day and was still going on at 10 pm when Phil checked on her before bed.
The next morning Phil couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in the stall and the tomatoes he’d left for her hadn’t been touched. Harley, our Lab, kept looking out into the north pasture by the barn, so Phil went in search of Velma. He found her – and nine squirming, nursing babies – tucked into a hollow she’d made in the weeds. We’re not sure why she decided to have them outside. Maybe she got tired, maybe the barn was too hot, maybe the urge to deliver caught her out there.
Later that afternoon, storm clouds began to brew on the horizon. Phil and I decided we’d better get Velma and her babies into the barn before the bottom dropped out of the sky. When we went into the pasture, Phil found that she had moved her babies to a spot a little higher on the hill. Then we discovered why. She’d had 12 babies, but 3 had either been born dead or died shortly after birth. This is not unusual in pigs, especially with large litters.
By now the lightening was getting close, so Phil began gathering up the living babies and putting them in a bucket. Velma was very patient and before long he had all but one in the bucket. Off to the barn he went with Velma trotting along behind. I thought I’d be helpful and gather up the last baby. Big mistake! Baby squealed, mom reacted, and before I knew what happened Velma was headed straight at me, letting me know that she was very angry. I put the baby down just as she rammed me in the gut. She didn’t hurt me – she could have – but I took it as a warning and moved away.
As the storm built and got closer, we tried everything to get Velma into the barn. I picked up one of the babies, thinking that when it squealed, she’d head for the barn. Instead, she’d go to the place where she’d had them. Phil got the lone baby into the bucket and safely into the barn, but Velma insisted on going back to the birthing area.
Thinking maybe she didn’t want to leave the dead babies, Phil got a hoe and began covering them up. Velma helped with her bulldozer snout. When they were covered, her tail and her head drooped and she turned her face into the weeds. We realized then that she thought all her babies were dead.
Phil got the feed bucket and slowly got Velma to follow it toward the barn. When they were just a little ways off, one of the babies squealed. Phil said that if a pig can dance, Velma did! Her tail curled up, her eyes lit up and she and 9 cute little babies had a glorious reunion!
And then the rains came.