Monday, December 2, 2013

Gifts from the earth

It's the third week of November and I'm kneeling in the garden, wind biting my exposed skin, cold and wet seeping through my green coveralls. I want nothing to do with this frost-bitten piece of earth. I want to be back inside, on the couch, in front of the fire, carrying on with day three of my spectacular pity party. I'm talking epic: drinking pots of tea (wishing it was something stronger), staring at the wall, out the window, at the ceiling, for hours, wondering how the hell did I get here -- on this couch, on this farm, in this life.

But instead, I'm outside digging for potatoes. I'm angry at the weather for its betrayal, the spuds for not digging themselves (read: not having anyone to dig them with), me for not doing this sooner. Another job I didn't get to this season.

I push myself to stand, shove the spade into the earth and take chunks out of the first clump of potatoes. Dammit. I can't even dig potatoes right. I drop back to my knees, fumble around behind me for the hand trowel, sit back on my heels and take a deep breath. Fucking relax and just dig. Not everything has to be a battle.

And so I begin, scraping away at the top layers of soil with the trowel, tentatively at first, until I unearth the tops of the spuds. Then gently, now using my fingers, I dig around the edges until I can scoop each one by hand. It's a good crop this year -- plentiful, creamy-skinned, blemish free, spared from blight or the ravenous potato beetles. And delicious. (I know this from having grabbled* a few for Thanksgiving.) Potatoes that taste of the sweet earth.

I've grown a small crop of potatoes for the past few years and harvest still leaves me a bit wonderstruck. Like a kid again. Earlier in the season you dig a trench, layer in compost, plant cured chunks of potato with at least one eye each, and then hill the plants with soil or mulch as they grow. For each chunk planted, several potatoes grow, the number dependent on moisture, soil nutrients and temperature. Perhaps love. One becomes many. Nature replicated.

As I work I relax into the task, like walking meditation, but digging. I think less of the couch and more about where I am. In my garden, on my farm, surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods, a place I dreamed about for years. The biting wind and my cold and cramped knees become less nuisance, and more a reminder that I'm alive. Here. Right now. In a life I chose. Yes, this moment is a choice. And the next moment, and the next. I can moan about the cold and the work and being alone, or celebrate this place and the food I've grown. Will continue to grow, for I'm already thinking about next season. 

I feel the darkness lessen its grip. Gifts from the earth. Real buried treasure.

* Grabble: v. to rob potatoes here and there from the edges of the hills.


Mama Pea said...

Su-PERB-ly written post!

Good thing you can still dig in your garden. Ours is frozen hard!

P.S. Don't share any of those wondrous taters with you-know-who. You can send a nice, big baked one with each of the kids when they go to his place, but that's all. (Oh, Mama Pea, that was baaaad. And totally uncalled for. But I'm not gonna delete it.)

Anonymous said...

Those look so good to this city dweller. I never met a potato I didn't like. Yum.

Karen said...

You know you could have called me to come and help!

Tim said...

Monstanto has a new variety of potatoes that DO dig themselves. Why not buy-in and buy-them?

Kidding, kidding.

Wonderful post. I can picture you digging, frustrated, then focused, calm and satisfied at a job well done. You've painted that picture and I can see it.

You are a remarkable writer!

David said...

Fiona, the first year will be the toughest. There will be a lot of first time by yourself every things. Some times it just requires a good cry to get through them but you will make it through this dark time in life. I can truthfully say after 12 years down the road from the loss of my wife, that it has become the best season of my life. It will be that for you too. Time really does have a way of healing the emotional hurt. Your emotions will run a little raw at times and the simplest of tasks will cause huge frustration. That's just how it is in the beginning with such a negative life change. My thoughts and prayers are directed to you and your kids.

Try to have the best day that you can.

farmgirlwanabe said...


Yours was one of the first blogs I ever read - and it more than inspired me - it thrilled me to know there was someone out there that loved the farm life and the simplicity as much as I do. I still carry the moniker 'farmgirlwanabe' because I, unlike you, have not had the guts to go out and do it, I keep dreaming of it day after day.

I have been remiss in not following your blog as much these past 6-7 months - I suffered a freak injury and got impaled in my right palm that required 1 1/2 hour of surgery - typing and mouse manuevering was difficult (I am right handed) so I went back to reading old fashioned books - with physio I am almost back to normal and can now type.

I feel for you because of the trials life has thrown your way. I just wanted to let you know that you are an awesome writer and I so thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs. When you write I can almost smell let alone see in my mind what you are describing (when you refer to the farm side of things).

Please know that there are those out here that are totally rooting and cheering for you.

I myself am now 51 and struggle with the thought of will I ever have what I truly want. But I also know from personal experience that if you keep your dream alive it will happen one day. Don't give up on your farm dream or your writing dream.

Take care

Farmgirlwanabe said...

Thank you. You folks rock my world. Truly.

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