If you’re a gardener, this time of year is one of hope and belief in miracles. A few weeks ago I ordered my year’s supply of heirloom seeds and I’ve been waiting patiently to offer them to the soil in our back yard. On Sunday I finally had my chance to do that. As I was preparing the ground for this year’s crop, I spotted several bursts of red peeking through the mass of green runners in our overgrown strawberry bed. Believe it or not, there were a couple dozen strawberries ready to eat. I don’t ever remember picking strawberries in October, but then again, I’ve come to expect the unexpected from our garden.
One lesson I learned this summer is that as long as we give the garden at least some attention, it will provide us with food and flowers year round. Certainly winter and spring are the most prolific seasons, but even the last days of September gave us rosemary, onions, basil, chard, and volunteer bok choy and arugula. The strawberries were, admittedly, a surprise and added a sweet flavor to my planting day.
Four days after the seeds were committed to the soil, tiny red and yellow beet sprouts are already curling their way up toward the sun. The row of spicy mixed greens has dozens of sprouts. And protected under the wax paper cones in place to keep birds from snatching up the seeds, sunflower sprouts also reach toward the light. I feel really hopeful about the garden this year and somehow even the birds are allowing the rows of newly planted seeds to grow. It may be too early to know exactly what the birds will do, but I’m hoping they’ve figured out that if they allow our plants to grow, there will be plenty of seeds for them.
This morning as I inspected the rows for new sprouts, I felt happy in a simple and peaceful way. Within that happiness was intense gratitude for my connection to the earth through our garden. As Wendell Berry once wrote in The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” It is my intention to help children understand about this great connector of life. May they taste the sweetness of October strawberries as they too reach for the sun.