A recent entry in one of my favorite blogs stated this: “having a garden really makes you appreciate farmers’ markets.” Well, ain’t that the truth?! I’d take it a step further and say, “…especially when you live in the Pacific NW.” Here, oh yes, where the muted skies create the perfect backdrop for colors as saturated as colors get, and a bounty unyielding. I see those carts piled high with carrots and cherries and deep blackberries and I want to literally crawl inside each one and take a produce bath.
Each morning when we wake up, we race over to the window for the best view of our cherry tree. And each day, those cherries blush a slightly brighter shade of reddish pink and seem to teeter ever closer to the edge of their branches, and each day I think, it’s coming soon: the great cherry rain. I think about that chapter in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where Barbara Kingsolver describes the dramatics of owning a mature cherry tree — that basically harvest happens in one day. It’s as though the heart of the tree says, “ready? set? go!” and a great downpour of cherries so plentiful and buoyant falls all around you like a fit of summer rain. My sense is, if you step away from your window on the wrong day (or even during the wrong hours) you might miss it entirely.
Being totally new at this, as you might imagine, I’m both excited and nervous. I smile in anticipation of standing there, open-armed, receiving sweet fruit as it falls from the skies. I don’t want to miss it and I don’t want to donate all of the cherries to the birds. I’d like to try my hand at cherry preserves or give latticing another go. I’m not sure how to prepare — how much help will I need? How many buckets? Will I be able to get them all picked up in time?
All of this wondering and waiting, plus the work of a few small raised beds filled with vegetables and I’m right there with Alicia – there is a fair amount of work in keeping a vegetable garden; it does make one bow even further down to those humble experts at the Saturday market. I see the weeds make small piles of themselves as I make my way daily around my 6 small patches of cauliflower and my two pepper plants, and the mini-blueberry bushes in the corner of my yard that are starting to show signs of life. A lot of love is going into cultivating each berry and leaf of each head of lettuce — and I am delighted to do it, truly — I really do like the process. I’m also mindful of those farmers — those organic farmers — who have thousands of these crops. Those farmers who will pick up each and every cherry from dozens and dozens of trees — scrambling to beat the birds to it; who will, with their hands, keep the weeds from 1000s of heads of lettuce and dig up hundreds and hundreds of carrots — to pile, haul, crate, cart, and eventually sell them to me at what seems like pennies when I consider the effort involved. The sweat and sore backs, the consciousness and timing, and mostly the love — that’s what gets me, when I think about it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
I see my little rows of beets there, behaving as they should be, and I see the radish tops starting to look like themselves, and I know this patch of earth I’ve cultivated – as much as I love it — will still only feed us a small portion of what we need. We’ll rely on those farmers — their planning and commitment and toil — much more than we’ll rely on ourselves, at least this year — as that’s what we’ve made space for. And I feel so grateful to know the work of it a little better, and so awed at the bigness of how much we are cared for by others.