Agricultural Alchemy

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“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” Wendell Berry

When we bought our current home, my husband decided that he wanted to have an expansive garden. I'll admit he surprised me. For much of our marriage, he has recounted stories of working on his parent’s pick-your-own berry farm in Maryland. It was hard, hard work, and not something most adolescents would choose to do, either then or now. It hadn’t occurred to me that at this stage, he would embrace the labor for which he once had an aversion.

Now that we are three years in, I wonder what we would do without this garden. It's become a part of the family.

Some of our recent meals have included:

  • Colorful, crisp salads made with just-picked mesclun, butter lettuce, and kale.
  • Collard greens with freshly pulled radishes, slow-cooked with bacon.
  • Fresh strawberries off the vine with shortcake or made into jam.
  • Deliciously baked broccoli and colorful cauliflower, including purple cauliflower. I’ve seen this occasionally in markets but presumed it came from a greenhouse where farmers spend their time dying vegetables in exotic colors. Not really.

Truthfully, I haven't thought much about the production of cauliflower, whether purple, orange, or the typical white. I’m new to this business of growing my food, and I find it very gratifying!

We also have peonies, hydrangeas, bearded irises, blue indigo, and lots of and lots of roses. Visit my Instagram to see the many pictures that I like to take of the flowers around my home. I even picked a few and put them in a mason jar on my daughter's nightstand.

When I started writing my upcoming book, I created a Pinterest board with things that are growing. For many months the working title of the book was How We Grow. I can't get enough of things (and people) that are growing, and I'm not the only one! Gardening is one of the five most popular hobbies in the United States. Whether it be lettuce, collard greens, strawberries, roses, or even people, witnessing the process of growth is something to behold.

In a monetized economy, there is often a disconnect between our labor and the finished product. We may never even see it. In fact, our labor may have nothing to do with producing something tangible. Our compensation is financial—and is certainly nice to get—but it too can seem a little removed from the work we’ve done.

This is not true when cultivating a garden. You plant a seed, carefully tend to it, and almost always, there are fruits–for YOUR labor. Gardening may not be essential to our survival. But food is a necessity. When we grow our own, we have the satisfaction of seeing the entire cycle of a basic need being met, with the bonus that it is beautiful to look at, touch, smell, and taste.

Farm to table–I thought it was about using ‘fresh' ingredients. Fresh does taste better. But when you grow things yourself, with a little help from the sunshine, water, fertile soil, it's agricultural alchemy. Growth is work, not magic, but on a June day in Virginia, in the garden, it feels like spells are being cast.

This week, our podcast guest is Justin Osofsky, COO of Instagram, who works his own kind of magic. When people work for him, they grow. Maybe he's the sunshine, maybe the water. I'll let you decide. He’s an essential resource for sure!

My best,

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