Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
After a quiet night and deep sleep, I woke to snow on the corners of the Silo’s northern windows. Stomping out a path as I completed my morning chores, the thrill of early season snowflakes complemented the otherwise simple tasks at hand. Looking ahead to the days’ work, the to-do list was considerably altered thanks to the blanket of fresh snow. Dirt was suddenly inaccessible.
Except in one place: D Acres’ upper hoop house.
I’d been saving the weeding and mulching of these beds for just such an occasion. The plastic covering proffered dry, unfrozen soil, and housed plenty of weeds to pull. I loaded a collection of garden tools into the lightest wheelbarrow we have and began the uphill slog. The snow was heavy. Wet. Dense. I pulled the wheelbarrow behind me, sweating as I crested the hill to the upper fields.
Using my foot as a shovel, I freed the door and slithered inside. While it was certainly a grey day under the falling snowflakes, the interior of the hoop house was thoroughly immersed in shadow. The early snow must have slid from the plastic during the night, piling up along the building’s sides while the more recent snow continued to accumulate on the plastic covering. The faint suggestion of sunlight in the morning sky did little to penetrate the hoop house’s interior.
Furthermore, the once jungle-like verdure had been replaced with the skeletons of eggplants and tomato vines. A few clover flowers and a handful of late-season greens were the only vibrancy amongst beds of dead annuals and dying weeds. Still, it was dry and unfrozen. Garden fork in hand, I set about the task.
Which entailed a variety of jobs. First, tomato and eggplant plants — belonging to the nightshade family — were pulled from the ground, bundled up and carried to a pit in the woods. Nightshades are toxic in quantity, thus we avoid feeding them to the animals. These plants are also prone to harboring diseases. Fear of the consequences keeps us from adding the foliage to compost piles. If the compost failed to reach adequately high temperatures, we could be facing a problematic situation.
Once the foliage was disposed, the stakes and twine supporting the tomatoes was removed from the beds, and the task of weeding began.
In my mind, though, this was simply the backdrop, the setting of the stage for the real work to come. What happens next year? And the year after that? And on and on. It is a process that demands imagination for the future and creativity in the pursuit of abundance. The duty at hand is to design for the coming seasons, to plan for improved soil health, and to fill the hoop house once again with color, flavor, diversity, and fertility. With acuity and diligence, each season will be more productive and vigorous than it has been prior.
Thus today’s weeding is the foundation for plans that will be concocted during the depths of winter. And winter’s designs will lead to many meals to come.