Lazy Sustainable Farmer
I’ve got it bad for farming. It’s a serious pastoral crush. “Simple” things like Goats. Chickens*. Canning jars. Tinctures. Porch swings. Vegetable gardens. I’m also a realist and past forays into horticulture have taught me that gardening (farming!) is also very hard work. When I admire a lovely bundle of green onions at the farmers market I have deep and abiding respect for the farmer that grew them. Visions of tangled up garden hoses, failed seedlings and hungry deer noshing on new growth come to mind. Great farmers are true honey badgers: fearless, tireless and persistent.
I’ve been feeling that I need to subvert my weird dream of farming– because the truth is I’ve got more than enough to do to keep up with the needs of my 4 kids (age 9-17) and my other true life’s work. I can’t even keep the counter clear in the kitchen..become a sustainable farmer??? Hells bells! The weeding around my beloved peonies and other perennials is already long overdue. Sustainable farming seemed a somewhat dangerous pipe dream until one day a few weeks ago.
It started with our lawn.
This summer, my teen children had been wailing on me for allowing our yard to become “the worst” in the neighborhood. Most of our surrounding neighbors use pesticides and fertilizers and (consequently) have golf course like lawns. Our expanse of green, plastered in sunny yellow dandelions and (now) shimmering puffballs blossoms packed with seeds, does not exactly fit in. We’d stopped using chemicals a few years ago when it had stopped feeling good. Mark and I both wanted to live more harmoniously with the earth. It’s hard being unpopular with our adolescents but somebody’s got to do it. “Dandelions are not the enemy”, I reasoned.
At one time, I believed that they were kind of magic. At age seven as we drove through our new city of Duluth, Minnesota, leaving Florida behind, I asked my parents to stop the car. I flung open the car door and ran straight into the center of a huge field of dandelions. I was in heaven! What were these gorgeous yellow flowers that grew in such great abundance- I wondered. What a magical place this place would be to live in! Dandelions almost felt like an auspicious sign that things were going to be good. Later, as an adult, I learned that dandelions were something most people didn’t really want around. They were to be avoided. Weeded out. Eliminated if possible.
At all costs.
While staring out at the ocean of dandelions in our current yard recently, my husband Mark came in from the backyard with a handful of something green. I inquired what it was. Dandelions. He had picked a few leaves to add to his salad. Whoa! “Are they good?”, I asked (I am all about things tasting good)? “They’re great”, he said. I nibbled a bit- hmm these were not too dissimilar to my favorite green- rocket- or arugula- a slightly peppery and mildly bitter green that I adore.
Could this be?
Later, I hit the very same lawn, so unpopular with our teens, and harvested enough to make a small platter of them (along with fresh sliced tomatoes, drizzled olive oils and sea salt). It took a few minutes. It was rather yummy. The next day, while out hiking, I started noticing all the broad, tender leaves of dandelion that were everywhere. I started looking at them as food– not just another beautiful plant. So I harvested a few more leaves- working like I’d seen a groundhog work a few weeks ago – plucking a few leaves from each plant and leaving the rest intact. I politely asked for permission (I’ve found dandelions do have a voice and can and will respond- try it out!). Meandering and harvesting. When I got home I made my first batch of dandelion pesto (adding walnuts, sea salt, olive oil and a handful of basil). It was delicious. It was soooooo easy. The next thing I wan’t to try is sauteing the flowers- I’ve heard they taste like mushrooms?
I suddenly realized that, overnight, I had become a sustainable farmer with absolutely no effort on my part.
It just took me a while to realize that dandelions were going to be one of my crops.
It got me to thinking….when you have a dream…sometimes just shifting your perspective- you begin to realize that the dream is already trying to get to you:
Or as Rumi says, What you seek is seeing you….
If you can stay curious and open…a flash of insight might come….or your husband might walk in with handfuls of dandelion greens (a clue!) and that could change everything.
Your dream could manifest in a very lazy way.
With no effort on your part.
What strange longings are you having? How are is this dream (possibly?) already trying to find you?
Do you want to become a lazy sustainable farmer too? If your yard is already organic then head out into the lawn and begin your harvest! If not- you can always go organic next year. For this season- go visit that strange neighbor on the corner whose yard looks like a crazed, wild meadow overtook it and ask if you can pick a few leaves for your dinner:).
With love and pachyderms, Sarah
*I finally gave into my chicken jones (which mysteriously appeared several years ago and I chronicled in Born to Freak) and I promise to write more about the deliciousness of raising hens in future.