It's A Miracle!

Monday, October 19, 2009
When I was a teenager, my mother had a tiny book of gardening quotes floating around the house. It must have been a stocking stuffer sort of Christmas gift; it was the kind of book you pick up alongside the register at a gift shop. I don’t remember much of the book’s contents, which wavered on the edge of inspirational clap-trap, but one of the quotes has always stuck with me: If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.

All the gardens of the summer have been turned in for the winter and now the ground is covered with golden carpet of fallen aspen leaves that will fertilize next year’s garden. The most I’ve done in a garden in a long time was to plant a few tulip bulbs in the garden at Andy’s mother’s cabin a few weeks. That hardly counts and we’ll see if anyone remembers where the red tulips came from when they bloom next spring!

We don’t have room, or really, the time, for a garden. For now, I have to content myself with some houseplants (a spider plant, a Christmas cactus, and a philodendron) all of which are doing admirably in the dingy Shack. I dream of a vegetable patch and more than anything I want another night flower garden – consisting only of flower varieties that open their blooms or become fragrant in the evening – like I had one year as a middle-schooler. Like or not, Andy and I are stuck being hunter/gatherers, although that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the fruits of the forest and other people’s agriculture.

Really, we’ve done quite well for ourselves this year. It’s not unheard of to have grouse noodle soup, complete with onions and carrots from my parents’ garden, along with a batch of wild blueberry muffins for dinner. Last night, when he made kraut and sausages, Andy used a jar of homemade sauerkraut I’d made in September using a huge head of cabbage from my dad’s boss’s garden. Wild blueberries and raspberries fill the door of the freezer and alongside the other jar of homemade sauerkraut are jars of blueberry and raspberry jam. For the last month, Andy’s been scouting deer trails and making promises about venison. All of September saw my mother gifting us with more homegrown tomatoes and zucchinis than we knew what to do with. Last Saturday, I made a pie using apples from a coworker’s father’s tree.

A garden would certainly increase our ability to eat locally, and though I long for one, I don’t think we’re doing too shabby as it. There truly is something in the nature of gardening and subsisting off of the land that is inherently joyful. It greatly increases the sense of self-sufficiency and a deeper consciousness of what you’re putting in your mouth. When I make blueberry muffins in February, I’ll have memories of picking the berries in an August downpour. When I pull a couple grouse breasts out of the freezer, I don’t just have memories of grouse hunting; I also have memories of nearly having a run in with Papa Moose while grouse hunting. As the title of Barbara Kingsolver’s nonfiction account of locavore eating, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle implies, the acting of eating locally actively involves you in the miracle being. And that’s no small miracle to be involved with.

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