Backgrounder on Pegasus
Home Again Home Again Jiggetty Jig
Sheep Worry: Chaos vs. Anarchy
Unloading The Zucchini
Harvesting the Wild Snake
The Existential Strawberry Crisis
Time & Space Warp
Pre-BLOG Entry: Stuck in Jail
Pre-BLOG Site: Chearcus Chronology
Lovarchist Farming Chronicles

EPISODE FIVE: My Existential Strawberry Crisis

Half of the strawberries under the lush green leaves were usable for us to eat, and half had begun to mold or otherwise not been picked quickly enough for proper human consumption. "What are we growing strawberries for?" I asked my fellow WWOOFer, "Is it a compost crop in the biointensive farming methodology?" I further queeried. What is the real fruit of my labor (watering, weeding, planting, gopher-hunting, etc.)?

Allow me to back-up for a minute. "Life feeds off of life" is an old maxim i remember from my childhood. As an herbivore, i know people like to eat parts of plants, and plants like to eat the soil. When eating plants or feeding my friends food i've grown, we use the fruits or seeds of the plants (strawberries, corn, almonds, wheat, tomatoes, etc.), we munch on the roots of the plants (carrots, beets, radishes, etc.) or we eat the bodies of the plants (lettuce, chard, kale, arugula, celery). As farmers using the biointensive method, we don't simply manipulate seeds and water and soil in order to get plants we can eat and use to feed others. Permacultural methods and biointensive methods are BOTH organic (non-toxic, simple, pure, nutrient-rich) ways to care about growing the soil itself and saving seeds for the next few years. For example, we grow cowpeas in order to make compost for better soil, and if necessary, we could eat the cowpeas, but they tend to not be as enjoyable to eat as other kinds of peas. Fava beans are another kind of compost crop, grown for its ability to help improve our soil (in it's nitrogen-fixing capacity where it's grown and in the compost whete the bodies of the plants rot), and some humans are deathly allergic to fava, but when it's chemically changed into dirt, it helps other plants grow.

Until this morning in June I had imagined that strawberries were a special treat, that it's worth growing them in order to eat them, rather than to simply let them rot. I appreciate the sustainability focus of biointensive farming, almost as much as i adore permaculture methods, but my sudden shock while watering the strawberries (we live in an arid location so watering daily is ESSENTIAL to keep the plants flourishing) was that none of us were taking the time to harvest the berries! I began the mental exercise in sudden confusion; I was frustrated by the fact that I hadn't been aware of the need to spend 20 minutes daily harvesting strawberries, so the fruits of our labor were simply "going to waste" from a common perspective wherein folks want to eat strawberries rather than simply grow them and get'm back into the soil to recycle their pretty little red bodies into new nutrients for other plants ad infinitum: "Quo'oleth, all is vanity!"

Should I care if we don't get to eat the fruits of our labor, or share the fruits with other humans to eat them? What difference does it make if ALL the strawberries only get eaten by our insect, mice and gopher friends, while NONE are eaten by humans, and only the microbes will eat the plants and berry remains as they compost? Does it matter if any humans get to eat the berries? What if this goes on for many years where we work hard, do no harvesting of fruits (except to save the seeds and to keep planting them)? I guess if we can still get our personal needs met through nutrients from other plants (the leafy greens as a great example) we can grow many crops that we and other humans NEVER get to eat. Am i unwittingly stepping into a life of unintentional and perhaps nonsensical solidarity with folks farming cash crops and living in poverty and barely getting enough personal nutrition by putting out much living energy for someone else to enjoy? Where should i draw the line between growing things for personal pleasure and growing things for some other creatures' pleasure? For now i simply need to get used to the idea that there are other tasks here i shall constantly discover which will jump into my agenda of daily disciplines, and if i don't adopt them as daily disciplines, then the soil will still be happy to receive the fruits of my labor.

Our new friend Katee came to volunteer--planting tomatoes for the first time--and
meeting Fr. Josef along the way (San Damiano's Gardener) at the AIDS retreat.