Dear Farm Journal,
Learning from a crop is somewhat like learning from a relationship. Everything is new and exciting in the beginning when you see the first sprout or spot the first fruit.You fight off the weeds, lend trellising support, and hope the sun will shine, the rain will fall, and the soil will nourish. You savor the first bite of the first harvest, reveling in the experience. If all goes well, beauty graces your garden and bounty blesses your house. The relationship has peaked. As daylight fades from daytime and cooler temperatures arrive, the spark fades to a tenuous ember. One day you look at the tomatillo, and it doesn’t look back at you the same, and you know…it’s over. Sure you will try to hang in there and make things work, get a few more harvests in, but the cycle is inevitable (cue breakup music). Depending on weather you suffer or surmount the season, you ask yourself questions in the end; “What could I do better next time around?”, “Where did things go wrong?”, “What was I thinking?”. Perhaps it’s just the standard, “It’s not me, it’s you” (maybe vice versa) or “We gave it a good run”. Some specific lessons I learned from the tomatillo crop I broke up with today are; space matters and bees swarm. Rufus and I have a bad habit of forgoing the spacing suggestions in the seed catalogs and tend to want to cram in as many plants as possible. This is called smothering, folks. Plants need their space, just like people. Don’t do it. Secondly, once those tomatillos start to burst open and their sweet juices are in the air for everyone to smell, they attract bees, swarms of bees. Just like in a relationship, when fruit ripens and sweetens, you will always have those who come in to feed. You can ward them off, accept the sting, or just try to ignore them, but make no mistake, they contrive to make a claim and are pissed about your presence. I hope that Rufus and I can be perennial partners, coming back season after season for more; the asparagus, the rhubarb, the hazelnut. So there you go, a few of the many lessons I have learned from plants and people. We aren’t all that different.