It was another Saturday wasted... that was the sentiment, my brother and I had as we woke up just past sunrise.
This Saturday would be ground prep. We'd clear the deepest portion of the back yard of any debris and then start shoveling away the grass and weeds. Later in the day we'd create furrows and, if time permitted, start the planting.
While others were off playing football, baseball, basketball or any other pick-up game that could be had in the neighborhood, we would be toiling in the soil. Two child laborers- slaves to a dad who insisted we experience the things he had. That would be unlikely. He was born on an expansive farm. We just had the backyard. But... he had a tractor. We had hand tools. I tried to discern who had it harder... but it was a pointless exercise.
Turns out farming was hard work. He farmed because he had to. We farmed because he wanted us to. We were sure the authorities would be on our side if we dared report him.
Such was the life of the young farmer. My brother and I had been unwilling students to a head master who was wanting to instruct us on "big picture" items. When we asked why it was that we were out there planting crops in the backyard when such items could be had for a very low price from the grocery store, our father said he was teaching us the law of the harvest. This was a concept so huge I didn't even bother looking it up in the dictionary.
Clearly the lesson was lost on us. We just saw lost play time and blisters... or crops lost to rabbits- the sun and the occaisional rain that turned our furrows to slop.
We planted things that didn't exactly place high on the tasty list. Things like cucumbers, squash, radishes, tomatoes and green beans. We did, however, convince our dad to let us branch out. We included corn, lettuce and (while he wasn't looking) a pack of watermelon seeds into the mix for the year two garden.
Though we never really cozied up to the idea of gardening- we figured we may as well grow stuff that we wouldn't have to hold our noses to eat.
So- each Saturday we'd shovel and cultivate and weed and wait.
Then the amazing would happen. We would see the seeds sprout... and then burst into a sight to behold.
That little garden of ours produced more vegetables than we could consume. It gave mom an idea to take our tutelage to the next level. If dad could teach us the law of the harvest- mom could teach us how it applied to commerce. She said we could earn money by selling the veggies. We were skeptical- but we saw there was no convincing her otherwise.
We loaded up a baby buggy with items we detested most. And we priced them low enough to ensure we could return home with nothing but a box of coins and dollar bills. We'd wheel the baby buggy from house to house- people would answer the door with curiosity. They'd be expecting to look at a baby... instead, beneath the protective overhang they'd see squash and cucumbers... items that could be theirs for five cents each.
Surprisingly the plan worked. It took little time sell the inventory.
If dad had taught us how to work, mom had taught us how to benefit monetarily.
We grew to not only enjoy the harvest... we discovered that a salad made entirely from our hard work- combined with nature doing what it does, produced flavors that could not be matched by any restaurant. And... when a new movie hit the local theater- we learned that popcorn tasted better when you paid from your own pocket.
I've thought of this experience many times over the years... and more recently now than ever.
We live in a time when food comes in a package. We can pick it up at a drive through... or pop it frozen into a microwave. If the evolutionary scale of food consumption could be charted we could see the early stages- hunting and gathering; followed by the next path- planting and harvest... then lead to where we are now- processing and marketing. Many of us understand step three far better than we do steps one and two. In every business we are now learning that it takes harder work... more pre-planning and better cultivating to reap a good harvest.
Looking back on that time I see that my parents had done a good thing. We *had* learned the law of the harvest. We reaped what we had sown... more plainly- our labors were rewarded in abundance.
Photo Credit: "Shovel" by Viva Tung
When not reflecting on his childhood, Chuck Willman can be found helping match buyers and sellers in Arizona real estate. www.AZvest.com