Normally, on Saturday morning, I am at the downtown farmers market. Today I switched things up a bit and attended an organic gardening workshop taught by two market vendors, Jeff and Peggy Campbell, at their farm. To be standing on the ground where the food I put on my table comes from... immeasurably meaningful.
While the sunlight filtered through the fresh spring growth on the trees, Jeff began by explaining that we need to grow soil because the soil is going to grow the plants. To grow soil means to enrich it by natural means like adding compost and planting cover crops to supply nitrogen. He suggested a simple cover crop of black eyed peas to precede the planting of squash. I will share a detailed explanation of this process in a post later this spring. The goal is to create a fertile soil so that fertilizer (even organic ones) won't be necessary and to create an environment in which plants are less likely to become stressed, since that is when pest infestations generally become a problem. When necessary, Jeff uses a fish emulsion fertilizer and two nonchemical insectcide/fungicides, although he was quick to point out that a gardener's first line of defense is to hand pick pests off plants. To build fertile soil, composting is an important element. This is the composting unit from Home Depot that the Campbells use.
The drawer on the bottom, that is assessible from all four sides, is where the usable composted material is. To speed the decomposing, Jeff uses a large landscsaping shears to snip the dried brown leaves and green plants into small pieces. The time it takes is minimal, but it reaps huge dividends. As plants are ready to be harvested and sold at the farmers market, there are also pots with seedlings at varying stages of development. For additional information about the Campbells' small-scale farming venture, click here to read an informative newspaper article that includes a wonderful video depicting their day to day activities.
Peggy used an analogy to explain how our life is like a puzzle. We pick up a puzzle piece and sometimes we set it down again without doing anything with it. At other times, we choose a puzzle piece and find where it fits. Over time, the puzzle begins to take shape until it is complete. I am beginning to see my puzzle coming together. I am solidifying who I am... where my interests lie, what is important for me to glean from life, how I choose to spend my time. One thing I do know. I must learn. This Mahatma Gandhi quote is especially meaningful to me. "Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow." So, I learn. This morning, it was about organic gardening.