Live Simply. There's Enough For All

Notes From the Gardener

Richard Digs in the Garden
Richard Digs in the Garden

I'd like to present you with some of our beliefs or philosophies, if you will, so you might understand what motivated Penny and I to quit jobs in industry to operate a small organic herb farm in Upstate New York.

On a wall in our home hangs a gift from a friend who spent hours cross-stitching a piece depicting eight different herbs. In the center of the herbs is a quote from the Book of Genesis stating, "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth. They will be yours for food'". This ancient quote reflects our central belief.

The earth nourishes us. The soil is the cradle of life. All life depends on the earth for its substance, for its continuing existence. The more fertile the soil, the more nutritious the food. Consuming food grown in good soil results in good health. Not only does the earth nurture our bodies, but our minds and souls with its beauty.

Put back what you take out. Since a crop depletes the soil of nutrients, it is our responsibility to replenish the soil so that those who come after us may be sustained. Composting, mulching, green manuring, are all essential to this task.

Reverence for all life. It becomes evident to the organic grower that all forms of life have a purpose and are an integral part of a greater whole. From the deer and rabbits to the birds, bees and insects to the micro-organisms in the soil, who by their very life process nourish the soil, there is a chain of life of which I, too, am a part. To interfere in this chain of life is destructive. (Well, maybe we could make an exception out of the ignoble blackfly.........)

No pesticides or chemicals. As a boy, I was helping my father dust the garden with pesticide. My mother warned me not to breath it or get it on my skin. I wondered why we put it on our food if it was so dangerous. I have never been able to answer that question. Here we rely on a natural balance to prevent insect infestations. This is known as the pest-predator relationship. Pesticides disrupt that relationship.

There's enough for all. Since we rely on pest control by natural predators, we are not alarmed when we lose some young plants to cutworms. We don't run for pesticides when beetles ruin a rosebush. We realize this is the natural order, so we plant more than we need right at the start. There's always loss, but we get what we need and the critters get what they need. There's enough for all of us, people and pests alike.

Live Simply. We have found that if you have food, shelter and love, little else is necessary to living happily. Fancy toys only distract us from the things that really matter. We find that a little bit of money goes a long way when you're not bogged down in the quest for possessions.

Gothic Farmer With His Old Shovel
Gothic Farmer With His Old Shovel

Share knowledge with others. We are always eager to share with others what we have learned over the years. We really enjoy teaching people how to interact successfully with nature. Knowledge is something that must be passed along or it will be lost. We are all teachers, in a way. We all have something to share. We are equally willing to put down our tools and take the time to learn from others.

We walk on this earth for a short time only. We need to make the best of the time that is allotted to us. Tomorrow is not something we can control, for it may not come for us. Sharing our love, our caring, our knowledge today is all that we can hope for.


Drowsy Bumblebees and Johnny-Jump-Ups

Notes From the Gardener



I pause, leaning on my shovel, hearing an unusual sound in the woods. It takes a few moments to realize that I'm hearing the sound of hundreds of wings beating. A flock of blackbirds soon swirls into the clearing, their raucous cries echoing as they light in the oaks out back. A short pause and they're off again, winging over my head. I can actually feel the motion of the air as they pass by on their trek south, like ghosts of summer past.

We have been blessed this year with a long, warm fall. Though frost has done it's job on the tender annuals, and the fiery maple leaves are now at my feet, the sun still holds warmth. It amazes me how quickly the forest changes from a blaze of color to the dreary November brown of dead leaves.

Only the oaks still rustle in the wind now and you can see abandoned birds' nests and the snug homes of squirrels in the treetops. Distances unseen for six months reappear.

But there's a lone dahlia blooming by the front porch and the Cranesbill Geraniums by the drive are still going strong. The Herb Robert's dainty pink flowers can still be found along the rocky edges of the garden beds. The Johnny-Jump-Ups still nod their graceful heads in the sunshine.

I wander over to gaze at the drowsy bumblebees, slowly going to sleep in the asters in the front garden. The bees are so logy that you can pet them, even pick them up and hold them for a moment. Farewell little friends. Your winter sleep is near.

A whiff of smoke tells me a neighbor is burning their pile of leaves. Smells wonderful, but we consider it a sin to waste good mulch and/or compost material in this way. We use as many leaves as we can gather to mulch the pathways and cover any bare soil to prevent erosion. We also add them to the compost piles. Besides, after spending many hours collecting and hauling our treasure, Penny and I have great fun diving face first off the trailer into our leaf mountain. Why should kids have all the fun?

Fall is a time to reflect on the summer past, to plan for next year's garden, to ready oneself for the coming winter months. It's time to mulch the perennials and dig the tender bulbs to store them carefully away. Time to plant the garlic for next year's harvest. Time to harvest the last of the hardy herbs into the drying shed. Time to gather the last of the seedheads for next year's planting. Ill take the time later to spread the wild coneflower seeds hither and yon. It's always a pleasant surprise when they volunteer in odd places.

The days are getting much shorter, the wind is blowing much colder. The heat of the drying shed is a welcome respite from the cold in the shadows. The carefully stacked firewood is a comforting sight. Spring is a long way off.

The long, cold and dreary days of winter will soon be here. Time soon to lounge by the fire and peruse seed catalogues. But for today the sun is warm on my face. I think I'll sit and enjoy it a bit longer.