Monday, May 14, 2012

On why sometimes it's easier to be idealistic when you live in the city and shop at Whole Foods

When I lived in the city and shopped at Whole Foods,* is was easy to get that first-world, do-gooder warm and fuzzy feeling inside while doing something truly elitist such as purchasing a $5 grapefruit. Though fully aware that it is a fantasy, it is possible to fool yourself into believing that this grapefruit was lovingly cultivated by someone in another part of the world who makes a living wage through the cooperative, farmer-owned, sustainable grapefruit orchard which their community was able to purchase through micro-credit. Though you KNOW this is likely not the case, you can fool yourself long enough to dash in and out of the store without thinking too much about it. And you can boldly wander around declaring that there ARE moral absolutes such as:
"I believe in the sanctity of all life." OR
"Killing other creatures is categorically wrong."

And all that is well and great while you continue to float in the detached idealism of urban consumers whose only exposure to food production is a semi-annual reading of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. That is until you move to the suburbs and start your own garden and wander outside one morning to find your artichoke plant decimated by snails and your first instinct is to crush them all in their little slimy shells. And the question then becomes, what is a theologically educated suburban farmer to do if the choices are slip into a world of moral relativism or lose the artichoke completely?

Oh, did I mention we started a garden?

We always had a huge garden growing up and my mom is an absolute expert. Ironically (and unfortunately for her), I used to DESPISE any tasks related to gardening.** In fact, in adolescence she and I developed a deal: I would do ANYTHING around the house in exchange for a free pass out of gardening. Hours of dusting was always a good trade in my mind for getting out of even minutes weeding in the yard. (Mom, if you are reading this, I am profoundly sorry and now see the error of my ways. Also, I love you.)

Anyway, I think that six years in the city cured me of my garden aversion. There's just something about the only "land" you own being a 70 square feet of concrete labeled "Space P" that makes you feel a certain sense of solidarity with your ancestors that went west on the Oregon trail to find a place where it was still possible to live off the land.***

For the most part, farming has been a great adventure.**** We have started artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplants, fennel, kale, lettuces, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, scallions, snow peas, spinach,  summer squash, tomatillos, tomatoes, zucchini, and every herb we could think of including sage, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, lavender, chamomile, and , of all things, hyssop, which I have no idea what to do with, but it just seemed so BIBLICAL I had to get it when I saw it at the store.)

But it has meant making those tough moral choices that as a Cantabrigian***** I never had to make such as whether I should kill things immediately upon waking up in the morning. (Psst: Salt works well for snail murder.)

Snow Peas going gangbusters....

Root Veggies: scallions, potatoes, horseradish!

Artichoke=Alive! Take that moral relativism!

The homestead.

It can't all be about productivity, right? Beauty is important too.


*We didn't shop there solely because we were snobby was also the closest store to our home.
** I'm starting to notice a strange pattern where I hate things and then accept them and then they become my favorite. Hmm.....Maybe I should think of all the things I hate now and then pre-emptively just get into them.
***Although not THAT much solidarity. It's not like I really want to live in a wagon or anything and, like, work super hard scratching out a living. Also, did you all play Oregon Trail as a kid? That seems to be the only thing people in the East know about Oregon...that sometimes you lose cattle when they drink poison water. There's a lot more to know, by the way. For instance that Oregon is the only state to have a two-sided state flag and an official state nut: the hazelnut also known as a filbert. Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state and it is illegal to pump one's own gas here.
**** Mom, before you worry that I have changed to much, let me say that the lion's share of the work has been done by Mr. L and that I have mostly enjoyed surveying "our" homestead after getting home from work each day and not getting my hands too dirty, although I did rototill the yard the other day. I like to call this "easing into it".
*****As if living in Cambridge doesn't make you snobbish enough, you also have the option of using the moniker "Cantabrigian" to describe yourself as a resident of Cambridge.

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