Rain, Rain, Come Our Way

Yesterday our work day was kept cool by some dark rain clouds in the distance and a few sprinklings here and there. The day ended a little early when the skies opened up, but we did have enough time to collect a bountiful harvest. Grace and I have been waiting for the fava beans to dry out a bit before collecting them from their stalks, and we plucked the plump pods at last.

Our herb plots have been thriving and our lavender bush in particular is absolutely swarming with bumble bees. The purple, black, and yellow color scheme is beautiful.

We had two determined MVP volunteers who made it out to the garden despite the ominous skies. Our long term project right now is to weed the grass from all the walkways. While Grace and I have been on top of the beds, keeping them relatively weed-free, the pathways have a nice green carpet in some spots that could use a weed wacker. Without that handy tool we’ve resorted to hand pulling and spade use, which is more time consuming but also more thorough and not as noisy, allowing for some great conversation between the garden workers.

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Grace lended me her copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I’ve already found some parallels right off the bat with Wendell Berry’s Unsettling of America, the book I read previously. The beginning of Kingsolver’s novel documents her family’s move to a farm in Virginia’s southern Appalachia from the drought-ridden city of Tucson. Kingsolver discusses the absence of a real food culture in the dried Arizona town because any and all produce is trucked in to the city in refrigerated boxes from elsewhere. The hot, Southwestern state isn’t conducive to agriculture except for the orange trees and alfalfa that are artificially made successful via complex irrigation systems. Kingsolver is drawn to the farm life by a desire to become reconnected to food.

Early on in the book she shares a story of two different experiences with young women that she encounters during her trek across country. In Tucson, she encounters a gas station attendant who complains about potential rain because she wants to spend her day off the next morning washing her car. In Virginia, she is served by a waitress at a diner who looks hopefully at some gathering rain clouds and wishes out loud that it rains long enough to soak the crops but not long enough to wash them out. Kingsolver reflects on these experiences and concludes that having basic agricultural sense is key to understanding what makes land healthy and key to fostering behaviors that lend itself to ecological sustainability. The Tucson attendant only experiences food at the grocery store and therefore doesn’t grasp the connection between weather events and crop health, while the diner waitress lives on a farm where her father’s livelihood depends on frequent rainstorms. Who is more likely to care? Like Wendell says, it’s important that we break down the walls between where we live and where we work — it’s crucial that we understand the character of the work that literally feeds our living.

-Elise

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