All work = delicious play

deb0609_farmdeb0609_4874There is a reason the word eat is in sweat.

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?”

deb0609_toms“This” meaning working a full-time job and trying to get an organic farm up and running in the evenings and on weekends.

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.”

deb0609_shovelWhen the pea pods just keep coming, I think, “You dream of this in January when you order pounds of Sugar Ann Snap Peas. Suck it up.”

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.

deb0609_garlicAnd 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.

deb0609_platesThis is not a five-star restaurant. It’s better, so much better. Words can’t describe.

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.

deb0609_kittenSo as we dine with dirt in every pore from a hard day’s work, the smile returns.

Why do we do this? Because we love it.

7 Responsesto “All work = delicious play”

  1. Cherie says:

    What a beautiful piece! Lovely really. It is worth it…there’s nothing like growing your own- the quality of food, the solid connection. Its indescribable. I truly feel that if everyone experienced the magic of it, if only just once, the world would be a very different place.


  2. risa b says:

    >Because we love it.

    And you, or someone you love, will be glad you loved it.

  3. Very, very nice work.

  4. Melanie says:

    Lovely piece, thanks. Now, about the purslane…. I wish you were local to me I’d take it ALL off your hands. I search for this every week at my farmers markets to no avail.  Plant based Omega 3 is a selling point for you once you get your farm harvest out to market.  Cheers! Melanie

  5. Liz says:

    You bet we do!!! The satisfaction and sense of achievement are bar none.The blood,sweat and tears are good for you,think of your healthy cholestrol levels, your pores,the exercise you’re getting in the fresh air and the healthy real food.Very best of luck and find a market for that purslane, turn it into an advantage and an asset.Everything has a reverse just a matter of finding it.

  6. Marija says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

    …and keep up the good work :)

  7. risa b says:

    Also about the purslane … almost everything can be turned to account if you find the angle. Part of our place has, for whatever reason, given itself over to plantains — what they used to call “soldier weed” — lots of medicinal uses. So we dry some every year; a tincture for wounds and sores.  Along the creek there’s a vicious patch of Japanese knotweed which will never go away. We had wanted to plant bamboo for our garden supports, but the knotweed stems are adequate, and the leaves make good compost … and so on. A friend was fighting burdock, then discovered the market for burdock — and now his farm is in the black.