This guest post is from one of my favorite bloggers, Jess of www.openlybalanced.com.
Following the reading list of an aspiring conscious eater, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle not too long ago. As I neared the end of the book, a sense of quiet desperation overtook me. “How can I do this?” I thought. I finished the book in early January, and was grateful that Kingsolver understood. If it’s winter where you are, she assured this discouraged reader, you can’t really do anything right now. Plan for the next year, for the next winter. “This year,” I thought.
I followed Sustainable Eats with fascination as Annette progressed through the Dark Days, amazed by a level of knowledge and understanding so far beyond my own. A fundamental knowingness, both about the food she was preparing and, even more baffling to me, her family’s needs. I watched as she turned her carefully planned and balanced stores into a creative variety of nourishing meals. And she did it with kids.
Everyone started their seeds. I tried to begin planning my garden, but pushed it aside. I procrastinated, hemmed and hawed, made excuses.
Then winter ended. Spring is coming. Let’s face it… is here. The farmers market is open again. And a few days ago, my lovely neighbor gave me some seed potatoes ready to plant. I asked him how many potatoes would likely come from this little group of seedlings. I was so distracted by the fact that his answer came in lbs that I don’t even remember the number. How many lbs of potatoes do I eat in a year, I asked myself? The fact is, I have no idea… about anything at all.
Garden Planning When You Know Nothing
The beginning of my garden and food planning this year has been an exercise in learning how little I know. And not about gardening – I knew I was clueless about that – but about my own needs and desires. The fact that I do not know how many potatoes I eat in a year means I have no way of knowing how many I should plant now. In fact, after I went through my list of “things I want to eat,” the only thing I felt sure of is my need for a near-endless supply of cilantro and basil. You can’t plan a garden around that.
I’ve realized that I lack a certain type of understanding that must have been common not too long ago. In a time before supermarkets. A time before instant convenience. A time when we had to be both inherently knowledgeable and deeply creative and flexible.
Trying to operate this way is an affront to my Type-A-ness. I hate that I don’t have the knowledge or understanding to plan this with any measure of competence. And it kind of bugs me that even if I did, gardening is not always something that lends itself to careful planning. (Take, for example, my neighbor’s winter garden that was wiped out early by an unexpected hard freeze. That’s a whole different kind of heartbreaking.)
You Have To Start Somewhere
Enter my new strategy, the strategy of the year for everything in my life: winging it.
I am going to plant some stuff that I would want to eat. I’m going to try to find a compromise between how I want gardening to work and how all my sources say it actually does work. I am going to take to heart the idea that rules are more like guidelines anyways, even though I have no idea if that applies in this situation. (Thermodynamics = not a field in which this applies.)
I am then going to take copious notes, mostly because I am a researcher and a note taker, but also because maybe it will help next year. And I am going to join a CSA, so that if and when my garden becomes something I do not understand, I still have local, sustainable food to eat.
And that, my friends, is the plan. And if it goes as well as my “winging it” garlic from last fall, I think I might be in pretty good shape.