So, out to the potato patch I go - fortunately I remember where I planted them because anybody else probably could not find them. I move the weeds aside and there is the row; ground raised up from hilling them back in June. But the plant itself is barely visible. Now, the only thing left of the visible plant is a very small, brown, shriveled up stalk that had once been a vigorous, John Deere green, stem and leaves. I put the points of the potato fork about 8 inches away from where the old stem goes into the ground and step on the fork. (This is the part about digging potatoes that I do like). What will I find? Big ones, small ones, a rotten one, nice oval ones? There is only a half row to dig because I dug the other half of the row earlier in the summer (those were a red variety that are better when dug early). So today I only get about 1/3 of a crate. Probably enough that we won't buy potatoes for about 2 months. One thing I learned this year - it pays to hill them. Other years I took the lazy way and didn't hill them up. Hilling accomplishes two things. It covers the new growing potato with ground (if not covered and exposed to the sun it turns green and hardens) and it provides nice loose soil so the new potato can grow easier and bigger. Counting what I harvested previously we got about 2/3rds of a crate.
1. When I participate in things agrarian (growing food, raising animals) I feel like I am (at least to some degree) following the agrarian mandate that God instituted with Adam in Genesis 2 where he told Adam to "tend and keep" the garden that He had made for he and Eve. When God wanted something hugely challenging yet rewarding and fulfilling for mankind to do he said, "here, take good care of this beautiful world that I have created for you". And I find those three elements of challenge, reward and fulfillment in abundance here at Lil Bitty Farm all the time.
2. Even though it is hard work I find enjoyment in preparing the ground, spreading manure, sowing seeds, (weeding not so much), harvesting, caring for animals, collecting the daily allotment of eggs, and seeing chickens and pork that I have raised myself go in the freezer to sustain my family for the months ahead. (Maybe this is where most people can't relate - I would venture to guess that most people can not find a connection between hard work and enjoyment. The dominate industrial culture teaches us to work hard only because we have to, only for significant financial reward, not because we find enjoyment or fulfillment in the work itself. So hard work with little monetary benefit is not very appealing in this day and age.)
3. I am strange enough to believe that there is coming a day (perhaps I will see it, perhaps I won't; but my guess is that surely my children and especially my grandchildren will) when those who have no inkling about raising their own food will be in a very tough position. Sound preposterous? It wasn't so preposterous a mere 80 years ago during the Great Depression. It wasn't so preposterous in Europe a mere 90 years ago when paper money lost all its value and the wealthy (in paper money terms) were literally scrounging for food to stay alive. Those who think it could not happen here (again) remind me of the proverbial ostrich with his head in the sand. So a part of what I am doing here at Lil Bitty Farm is for those who will come after me. Trying to pass on in some small way what little I know about how to live and take care of yourself and your family without being dependent on Walmart and/or the government.
4. And last but not least I find that agrarian endeavors draw my heart toward My Heavenly Father, the One who made it all for me to enjoy and for His glory. Agrarian endeavors teach me that I am more dependent on Him than I tend to think I am. Even after 20 some years of it I haven't even come close to having it all figured out. And even the parts of it that I think I do have figured out are dependent on His gracious hand of sending just the right amount of rain, sunshine, proper temperatures, no hail, keeping the bugs and deer at bay etc. etc. I tend to think that this is (at least partly) the reason why God created an agrarian society at the dawn of civilization and not an industrial one. An agrarian culture as a whole is much more aware of its need for the gracious hand of God in everyday life than an industrial culture is.
So, was the less than a full crate of potatoes worth the effort? Dollar wise? - no. Agrarianwise? A resounding YES ! ! Why? Because thats just how we roll here at Lil Bitty ! ! Like Marla says, "thats just how we do" ! !
For those who are not from the east coast and may not have heard - the Atlantic City, NJ casino industry is crumbling before our very eyes. Just in the last few weeks or months about 4 or 5 of the major casinos in Atlantic City have shut their doors. (Disclaimer: Please do not misconstrue anything I say in the following paragraph as a slam against any individual who frequents or works for the casino industry. My beef is not with any individuals and their personal choices, my beef is with our society and culture in general that encourages "get rich quick" schemes in the name of helping the elderly).
This was one of the lead stories on the news this morning. They named the casinos that recently went out of business and said they "were falling like dominos" here on the boardwalk in historic Atlantic City. So, what is the connection between casinos and an agrarian blog? Well, not to much, except that I found it very sad that these folks will now be out of a job with slim hopes of getting a new one. The reporter seemed to find comfort in the fact that at least the local business community was going to sponsor a "career day" of sorts to try and help them find a new job or at least help them enroll for "unemployment benefits". While I'm not finding fault with either of these things I began to think, "I wonder if it would ever occur to anyone in the gov/business community to ever encourage anyone to begin gardening as a way of being more self-sufficient and therefore less dependent on the government? I suspect this is highly unlikely because either they (the gov/business community) are incapable of seeing this or because they (the gov/business community) don't mind if they (the unemployed) are dependent on the government. I began to wonder, "why not encourage these unemployed people to have agrarian enterprises on very small (anywhere from 1/4 to 5) acreages. These are termed "micro-farms".
But wait, doesn't everybody know that you can't make any money unless you do it big? Doesn't everybody know that you can't make money on small plots of ground these days? Well, everybody in the gov/agribusiness community knows that, but fortunately they are not "everybody".
All this to say, why aren't we talking about this kind of agriculture in the US? Why aren't we encouraging the un and underemployed to get into this kind of agrarian enterprise? Why isn't the government offering incentives and/or tax breaks to the unemployed to begin micro-farming enterprises? (Oh yeah, I forgot, tax breaks and incentives are mostly for the huge corporations that take their businesses overseas.) Doesn't it make you wonder, who doesn't want this kind of agriculture to be known? Who is benefitting from the "get big or get out" philosophy? Why do we keep trumpeting the same old "you need more land, more chemicals, more pieces of expensive equipment, more technology, more this, more that...why do we keep trumpeting the same old same old when that system is imploding in on itself just like the casinos in Atlantic City?
Agrarian blessings to you my friends,