On failures, part two


I should clarify what I meant in my last post about failures. It’s a failure of expectations.

Here is an example. Today was one of those nice cool fall days, perfect for garden work. I had a long task list but encountered too many obstacles to complete even half the list. For one, the wheelbarrow’s wheel was underinflated, a fact I noted but did not stop to do anything about until, when it was fully loaded with dirt, I turned it hard and the tire completely deflated. Ahem. (This is one of those tube-less tires: the only way to refill it is to take it to a mechanic.) Considering I had lots to do with that wheelbarrow, I was rather peeved. Off came the wheel, and off it went with the husband to get reinflated.

So I undertook a bit of chopping therapy, dispatching old broccoli plants into tiny pieces for the compost. It helped me get back on track. And, if you breathe correctly, chopping with a machete is something you can do for a long time…or, well, at least I can. WHACK!

Here’s the thing about crop failure. I *understand* crop failure. But crop failure, as a black and white concept, is fairly rare in a vegetable garden as varied as mine is. In other words, yes, I can and do expect reduced yield, but seldom is something completely written off. I did find a sweet potato or two today. Not the buckets I had expected, but really, it can’t be a complete failure if I found a meal.

I have set out to produce everything we eat, year-round. This doesn’t mean I have fields of wheat or corn, oats and rice in the back forty. What I do have is a full freezer, sagging shelves of canned goods and a somewhat wimpy cold cellar of stuff that I can grow. I have fallen short in the onions department, and it was a crummy year for the cole crops. Certainly, we will not starve; we could probably live on potato/leek soup all winter (with no exaggeration, such is my love of spuds and leeks). The winter garden is mainly greens: someone once said that at $5 a box of organic greens, my cold frame will pay for itself in a season, and…well, let’s just say it will take two seasons.

For me, it is a moral imperative, this growing of stuff on our land. I have the land, I have the knowledge, I have the will. That I harvested only one broccoli romanesco means that that one plant was like Thanksgiving turkey: so celebrated was it, so lovingly prepared, so savored. (My two remaining Brussels sprout plants will actually BE Thanksgiving fare.) I am ever grateful I have the opportunity and the health to go out and bust up the sod, to coax stuff into being for our plates. I am sad when things don’t grow well, that the critters or the weather lays waste to something. But I truly believe that this little thing I can do, using just my own sweat, is greatly helping the health of those I love…and the reduction of CO2 that growing things here instead of getting them from California helps this planet, and all of you, that I love, too.

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2 responses to “On failures, part two

  1. Very well said.

  2. I know what you mean about so-called failures. I want to be successful in everything I grow, but I know the reality is that I may have to get help.

    I’ve been archiving my blog to my harddrive, and just came across a post from 7/05 that made me realize that, for me, failure in the garden is just one more way for me to support the local farmers. I don’t tend to buy a whole lot of veggies at market, but when something doesn’t do well, it gives me the chance to put some money in the pocket of folks who really deserve it.

    So many great posts, El. You’re on a roll!!

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