Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fear is a Learned Behaviour and other Lessons From Earth

It is Spring at the farm.

This is my second Spring of 2010. The first was in California, where rain stops falling in March or April and the sky is clear almost every day. That means outdoor living is well under way and the under dressed (or undressed) can streak out of the house, cross the breezeway and dash into the garage for that pair of pants (or underpants) that never quite made it from the laundry into the house.        

Here, in PEI, in Mid May, spring meant settling into bed last night, and then realizing that I hadn't put on the space heater in the greenhouse and the forecast was calling for a low of 2 (about  34F).  I seriously considered nodding off to sleep anyway...then realized this was not an option. I have invested in planting the hundreds of seeds in flats that are just now sprouting with this year's harvest.  They are particularly sensitive to cold now - and I was afraid that letting nature take it's course would be crippling to our plans and our investment in time, money and labor. What to do?

I got up, went downstairs and put on a sweatshirt, a hat and a pair of rubber boots and sprinted out the door.
If you had been driving by Dunn Creek Farm at about midnight last night, you would have seen this farmer sprinting up the yard in his tighty whities to flip the switch on the heater and then dash back to the house.
Mission accomplished and this years crops saved!

Yesterday I hitched up my ugly old 3 sod trailing plow and tilled new ground between the peach trees in our little orchard.  I have a history with that plow that includes a spooky horse trying to flip it over onto me and some pretty ugly plowing when I didn't know what I was doing.  Call it a general lack of operator ability. I was pretty frustrated and afraid I'd never measure up. That awkward experience comes up each time I hitch up the plow.    

Yesterday I lined up my plow, set the points and laid out some lovely rows of nice turned earth which will
be planted with dried baking beans and potatoes for this fall and winter.  The plow was flawless and this plowman knew how to hitch the plow at the proper angles and set the points for turning the sods together
into the center of the row.  Thanks to my neighbor, Glen, who patiently gave me my first instructions a few years ago and by paying attention at the Dundas Plowing Match for the last few Summers, I knew what I was after. And I congratulated myself for this basic graduation.

I'll never forget my first try at plowing with Glen. After looking at my field and then at my plow he said, "That's a tough contract".  A few days later he said, "I talked to a few of the lads in the neighborhood and they said you did not too bad a job for your first time plowing".  Glen is now about 80 years old now and a lifelong bachelor farmer.  I'm so lucky to have had elders like Glen in this community offer their help and a lifetime of experience.

Warren Brush at Quail Springs said, "A community is a place where each person is needed." I like that.
But I'm still trying to figure out how I can be needed in our community.  I know I need my neighbors, like Glen. And Nancy, who took my seed orders and planted early starts for me in her greenhouse and my neighbors who continue to offer me their welcome home and suppers at their houses.  Like my friends who come to weed asparagus and visit while we work.   

A Change is going to come even as the world outside argues and frets.

Many people say,
"We can't change what's wrong". 
"We can't choose what is best for us".
"Government is cporrupted"
"Business can't be trusted"

Fear is a learned behaviour and it has become a crippling force. We are afraid to be wrong, afraid to make change, afraid of failure, afraid to be cold, afraid to be ridiculed, afraid to be alone and afraid of being hungry.

But I've learned that our friends will come forward and teach me.  They will cheer our success.  I will choose to be cold to save our seedlings and our neighbors will put a hot, home cooked meal in front of me. Being wrong teaches me more than being right. When you're right you don't need anybody.  When you're wrong you need your friends.

In the past 10 years I've learned to fear less and do more. And I realize now that I have less to fear  from the people around me than I do from the big anonymous world that wants everything I have - in exchange for my life.             
And I'm so much more impatient now with those who say, "No we can't".


Heather said...

Welcome to Canada. You picked a very nice place to be. We were in PEI last fall and looked for your farm but could not find it. Maybe that is because you had already gone back to California :) We were down by Murray Harbour in the country. Maybe next time. We are in Alberta but, like you, have been planning a move to PEI down the road, hopefully soon. Just wondering, are peaches hardy in PEI? I sure hope so. Did you buy your peaches from a nursery there or did you find a mail order place online? I have always wanted to live in a place that can grow a peach (cherries too) but I did not know that PEI could. This is better than I'd hoped. Best of luck with your new move. Sounds like you fit in very well.

John Quimby said...

Thanks for your comment Heather.
Sorry we missed you! And thanks for the welcome to Canada.

As far as peaches go...
remains to be seen. But I'm determined to try. We did lose some of our seedlings, but we have some cold hardy survivors hanging on. They are late to leaf out and yet to flower - but that is what these trees are bred for. I've found several new varieties bred for short seasons. The question is will they set and ripen fruit before frost!

A nectarine and two Japanese plums flowered this spring and I'm wondering what others types we might try.

Let us know when you come back to PEI and I'll let you know how we're doing.

Heather said...

Thanks kindly John, will do. Best of luck with the peaches. It is great to push the envelope and see what you can do. Take care.