Moving from lucrative, stable careers in Toronto to the family farm in New Jersey was an act of faith. In other words, it was a stupid thing to do. It was also a stupid thing not to do, which makes it very hard to tell what is stupid. The act of faith was faith in ourselves, faith in our friends, family, community and faith in the genius of stupidity, or God, the Tao, Allah, Brahma, or the Spirit. Faith is just that, believing so much in something unknowable that you are able to take decisive action with limited knowledge.
For me, one of the most daunting unknowns was how to grow vegetables. I have great faith that vegetables do grow. I believe that they are the best available food for humans to eat. I also believe that the best vegetables to eat are the ones grown close to where we live, that aren’t treated with poisons, and which grow in harmony, rather than in conflict with nature. With all that faith and lots of dirt, and many, many kind and loving people to help, I had faith that I could learn how vegetables grow.
Unfortunately, I have much more interest in faith, peace, community, God, Tao, the Spirit, love and harmony, than I have in dirt, nitrogen, pH, crop rotation, irrigation, pest control, and hard labor that make vegetables grow, but I like driving a tractor. Fortunately, that is enough.
We have spent the past winter learning how to keep warm in an old house, built by my great, great, great, great grandparents (with lots of help) in 1886, when people kept warm by wearing long woolen underwear all season long. We had a cold winter in New Jersey this year. Compared to Toronto, we had a lovely, mild winter, with a lot of snow. Compared to my idea of what a lovely mild winter would be, it was darn cold and not terribly inviting for outdoor labor.
The more time that passed and the less that got done, the more stupid this act of faith appeared. However, we continued to acclimate to the new environment. As winter wore on and spring approached, the daunting task of growing vegetables grew closer. I ordered seeds. I ordered plants. I prepared for a small, learning, garden project. I planned to keep the project to a scope that I could accomplish by myself. That’s why it appeared so daunting.
On the first day of Spring I found myself in the swamp, clearing away the beaver dams, when I received a call from an old, dear, childhood friend, who was interested in helping me create a long-term, sustainable stewardship plan for the land. These are crazytimes when we can receive phone calls in a swamp.
On the secondday of Spring, my new, dear, neighbor friend, invited me into the greenhouse to plant seeds for the spring. He knows a lot about how vegetables grow. He knows about dirt, nitrogen, pH, crop rotation, irrigation, pest control and hard labor. Suddenly, my lack of knowledge was gone. The daunting task of growing vegetables became a shared adventure. That day, we planted seeds for tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, basil, kale, broccoli, eggplant, cilantro, and swiss chard. The next day we built green houses for those seeds. Now, those seeds are sprouting. One of the green houses blew down in Tuesday’s 35 knot winds. One stayed standing.
It is said that when you are ready for a teacher, one will appear. Since taking this leap of faith, I have encountered about 10,000 teachers. Together, I am sure that we can grow vegetables. I also have faith that these vegetables, grown in a spirit of community, cooperation, peace, love, harmony, and with the help of the Spirit, God, Allah, Brahma, the Tao, the Unknown, hard work,friends and neighbors, will sustain us. Yum, yum. Amen.