I pulled off the chicken wire and pulled up the metal posts that made the fence around my Three Sisters Garden, now a large rectangle of weeds. Next year I’ll cover it with black plastic to keep the weeds down, I thought.
Two feet in from where the chickenwire fence was a moment ago, I stuck the pitch fork into the ground, stepped on the top of the fork to make it go deeper then pushed on the handle, turning the soil.
This year my garden would be smaller.
Two years ago, when a Vince was here moving donkey manure with his tractor and a friend, who was also here suggested that Vince could dig out the garden, with his tractor, to twice the size and fill it with donkey manure, it sounded like a good idea.
The beauty of machines is that they make everything so much easier. It took Vince ten minutes at the most to dig out my garden with his tractor. And another fifteen to fill it with manure from the barnyard.
The problem with machines is they make everything so much easier, it’s easy to forget about the consequences of what they’re really doing.
I didn’t need or really even want a bigger garden.
Jon and I never were able to eat everything I grew in my small garden (mostly a lot of zucchini and squash). And unlike the people who lived in this house before us, I’m not going to be canning vegetables.
Also the thought of breaking through the thick weeds to turn twice as much soil made me want to give up the whole idea of a garden, go inside, and read my book.
I shook each pitchfork full of dirt, roots and weeds, releasing the top soil back onto the earth. I pulled earth worms from the thick tangle of roots and put them back in the garden too. There were so many of them, and I though of how I would have missed or killed many of them, if I was using a rototiller instead of a pitchfork to turn the soil.
Once again, I was grateful for my smaller garden.
I was planning on planting a Three Sisters Garden as I have the past three years. Corn, squash and beans, the three vegetable that have all the nutrients a person needs to survive and when planted together, they help each other grow.
But I can never plant enough corn so that it can cross-pollinate and grow into something we can eat. And as Jon and I talked about it (he’ll say it was his idea, I’ll argue it was mine) we decided to plant a garden of all the vegetables we like to eat and to buy starter plants instead of seeds.
It still seems magical to me that I can put seeds in the ground and they’ll grow into food I can eat, (much the same way I see getting wool from my sheep) but there’s also something satisfying in planting starter plants and seeing them popping up from the soil as I plant them in the ground.
So this years vegetable garden will be a little different.
I feel indebted to the Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass, for inspiring me to plant my first Three Sisters Garden. I had no desire to plant a vegetable garden till I read that book.
And I love how that garden has evolved into this years small and practical one.