Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.
Here in the Midwest the harvest is in, at long last in my case. I spent
Thanksgiving morning running between the stove and the garden, wanting to cut
the last of the broccoli and chard quick before the thermometer dipped into the
teens. A few squirrels ran up and down the trees near me as I bent over my
plants, and I wondered if they, too, were saying, "Just a little bit more..."
I usually feel some pride in my squirrel-like tendencies. With Minnesota's long
winters, producing a year's worth of food in a six-month growing season feels
like a survival skill. My husband and I like the sense of security we get from
going into the winter with a full larder. But it comes at a cost.
For many weeks now, the question of 'enough' has been swirling around my head
like a fall wind. It trimmed my Thanksgiving menu to just our favorite things.
"We don't need mashed potatoes or rolls; we have enough." And we did. It showed
up again when my dad suggested we pare back our family's Christmas gift
exchange. This too was an easy decision once I asked the question. "Do we need
more stuff? No, we have enough." The place where I'm having real trouble seeing
the line between plenty and excess is the garden.
We grow as much food as we possibly can, and buy more at the farmers market to
preserve for winter. We like the work, mostly, and really appreciate having
such intimacy with our food. But it has gotten to be too much. It feels like
it's all we do. Every year we get ahead of ourselves in the spring and plant
too much. Maybe we're afraid of running out; maybe that fear makes us a little
greedy. Does a family of three really need 40 pepper plants? In any case, we
only have so much time, and until now we have given an inordinate amount of it
to the garden.
Every story of waking up to excess includes a moment of realization in the form
of the credit card bill, the pants that no longer snap, a brush with the law,
or what have you. My moment came in September when I realized that the camping
season had passed and we'd only taken our daughter to the woods for a single
night the whole summer. She loves camping. We all do. But we got there only one
night all summer, because we were so driven to produce more.
Our society has quite a bit to say about 'more' - mostly that there is never
enough, that we should forever do more, be more, and, especially in the holiday
season, buy more. Looking at it that way, saying, "We have enough" about
anything is almost a radical act.
Sometimes, of course, there genuinely is not enough. Every life includes
experiences of scarcity, when there is not enough food or money or friendship
or opportunity. What I am hoping for my family is that we can learn to
recognize the difference between need and greed.
Next summer you'll find us in our downsized garden, some, but also in the
woods; often, I hope. Very likely on Saturdays I'll be at the farmers market,
buying the things we aren't growing ourselves. They always have plenty there.
We'll have enough.
Until next time, take good care and eat well.