7.14.2011

Goodbye, Garden

We are experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. It's official.

I've stopped watering anything except for the small flat of strawberries, which gets one gallon each day. The tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, okra, cantaloupe, beans, leeks, peppers - they were just hanging on in the heat, working too hard to stay alive to produce any fruit. Even the soaker hose did nothing for them. I let them go.

It's strange that our fallow season is the summer, when other places on our side of the equator are busy with full harvests, canning and freezing in full swing. In august I'll start the seeds for the fall garden, then set them out in mid-september and pray the young plants hold on through the remaining heat until the first cool relief arrives near the end of the month.

I've only been gardening for a few years. I'm a newbie. I know so little, and the Austin climate is unpredictable and frequently harsh. One memorable garden was innundated in June with too much rain and never recovered. I have fantasies of someday raising chickens and goats, and hunting for deer. I miss living off the land, even though I never have. It feels like coming home to get back into relationship with the earth and the animals I share it with.

I'm fortunate to have a few mature pecan trees on my land, and my neighbor has a couple of fig trees that, in less drought-stricken times, kindly drop a bounty of fruit on my side of the fence. Is it possible to be a homesteader in modern times? Can I learn to knit without gaping holes and get used to the crispy feel of laundry hand-washed and dried on the line? And how can I rationalize the time taken to live simply when I have a hard-won legal career that now pays a handsome hourly rate? It's difficult and sometimes just funny, walking between both worlds simultaneously, and they both provide needed and important sustenance.

I was reading a friend's blog describing her family's ongoing adventures in learning the difference between "want" and "need". They have taken the journey to heart, giving away their belongings and setting out on the open road, currently farming and homesteading in Kit Carson National Forest in New Mexico. Part of me feels like I have to make a radical change like that to be able to live my values. Then part of me says that wherever I go, I take me with me, and I might as well learn to live my values where I am.

Drought does this, leads one to ponder what's important as everything around you turns brown, struggles, succumbs. It is a time to go without. A time to remember to be grateful for what we have. A time to surrender.

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