Summer Work

So if you’ve followed this blog since its inception, a scant seven months ago, then you know my husband and I had been planning to move on or about Solstice.  Well, we are finally in!  Not quite settled, but the ratio of cardboard boxes to visible floor is definitely heading in the right direction.

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Far more importantly, though, I started the garden this spring at the new house.  Fortunately, the new house is just a mile and a half from the old house, so it wasn’t too hard to maintain during the ten weeks between first seeds and the actual move date.  And because this year has been so much better, weather-wise, than last year, I’ve been able to delight in the outdoor work and reap some delicious rewards for it.

Perhaps my favorite crop this year is the wheat. Red, hard, winter.  I’ve never had enough space to grow things like wheat before, but I’ve wanted to be part of a grow-out for a while, so this move was the perfect opportunity.  And it’s beautiful!

Although the wheat still has a ways to go before it becomes the base of bread, a lot of the veggies are harvestable right now, including (at last!) the peas. And we have a ton.  Last January, I ordered golden pea pods and two kinds of shelling peas.  Okay, so I ordered a third kind — a sweet heirloom called Tom Thumb that you grow in pots indoors — but it turns out that cats like those pea shoots, and so we won’t be having any this year. Perhaps in some psychic anticipation of my Tom Thumb debacle-to-come, one of the seed companies kindly sent me several experimental seed varieties, including one of peas.  Naturally, I couldn’t resist planting an experimental mystery.  “Experimental pea 712″ has turned out to be the most tendril-dense variety I’ve ever grown.  Maybe that I’ve ever seen.  And the other varieties did well this year, too, so for the next few weeks, we’ll be devising sundry ways to sneak peas into every meal.

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DSC_0050-e1279397583459-200x300What I’m really struck by today, though, is that much of the work I’ll need to do this week is hot & steamy, not because of the mid-summer mugginess, but rather because it is getting food ready for winter.  Peas may be the platonic ideal of a summer food, but since we have so many and since they are a delight in winter, I’ll be spending some time in the next week steaming and blanching them.   Just as I perused catalogs last January, and dreamt of summer, this week I’ll blanch the peas, so that come winter, we’ll be able to eat them and taste summer.  This time-shifting regarding summer and winter reminds me of a line from T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, in which one of the many narrator’s describes being out of synch with her environment — “I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter” (l. 18).

But here’s the thing:  I definitely don’t feel out of synch.  To the contrary, I’m beginning to think that in order to be rooted in this place, tied to the life of the plants that surround us, I need to shift in time just as often as I need to resist the impulse to do so.  I remember learning that one hemisphere of the brain is responsible for enabling you to dwell in the moment, the other to anticipate and to recall.  For a while, I had assumed that being really grounded, being truly in time, meant strictly being in the moment, and that maybe my meditating task was to let an entire hemisphere grow quiet.  Now, though, I am thinking that the peas are telling me something quite different:  that the oscillation between being in the moment and being sensible of the work that needs to be done for another moment is not simply a regrettable by-product of our culture’s pesky commitment to post-industrial capitalism.  Rather, it’s basic — a holdover of our shift to agrarianism, and likely more basic than that — a nascent capacity in our forebears that was reinforced every time someone didn’t have to struggle to secure a good dinner.