Coming off of a weekend of non-stop planting, weeding, irrigating, harvesting, and storing, I finally reached one of those exhausting peaks where I asked myself, "Why do I do this?"
And then I looked up at my equally sweaty and exasperated husband and voiced what his eyes questioned back, "Why do we do this?"
I am often quick to placate my self-questioning. When my back is stridently sore from bending over 100-foot-long rows, I think, "Farmworkers in Florida do this for 10 to 12 hours a day. Bend in solidarity with your brothers and sisters."
Then when the mighty pugilist purslane decides to nominate itself again as my arch nemesis, I have thoughts of burning the field. Yes, you can defeat purslane by eating it, as the Ethicurean's Jennifer recomends sagely — this "weed" is reported to have more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. And I haven't paid a cent in seed so I should harvest and enjoy this ubiquitous crop. But I can't. My taste buds refuse to appreciate this creeping, suffocating weed. Or maybe I haven't been able to forgive it for choking out my edamame, fennel, or other seeds in the past that fought and failed against its unforgiving taproot.
But it's not fair to put the blame on purslane. It's just the nature of small-scale agriculture and being a beginning grower. We make mistakes. We get tired. We get frustrated, really frustrated. We question our systems.
And then, we get lucky, or just do everything good enough that the crop flourishes. We harvest at the peak flavor and nutritional value, and get the goods to the mouths that water at the thought of a fresh succulent Aunt Ruby German Green tomato.
Those mouths include my own — you know, the complaining one. I taste the stir fry of ingredients that were living in the soil just moments before: carrots, onions, garlic, chard, snow peas, and our own pork (once named Petunia). Then dessert: foraged wild raspberries we picked and preserved that day.
I know this food, real food, was nurtured. No pesticides or chemicals applied here. The seeds are organic; the soil replenished last year with a cover crop. The fruits were harvested with care and stored to save the full value of the food. The distance traveled from field to fork is about as far as I can throw an heirloom tomato.
Why do we do this? Because we love it.