Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Farm, Therefore I Am (a Santangelo)

Bean plant and edible wild purslane
You may have noticed, my May blogs were scarce.  I can blame this partly on FEAR ITSELF.  The first month of a book's life is filled with signings, library talks and the like.  But my May blogs were scarce last year, too.  May is planting time.

The bell peppers, green beans, Genovese basil and beefsteak tomato plants have been in a week or more.  This morning I finished up by putting in the kumato tomatoes and sweet basil.  The first of the lettuce was harvested on Memorial Day, and my herbs are in decent shape, especially the oregano, chives, and sage (God bless 'em (see my last blog on superstitions)).

Purple sage flowers
Why do I do this?  I could say there's nothing like vegetables fresh from the garden.  It's true.  I could point out that growing your own is economical.  For the price of a pack of seeds per crop, I get a summer's worth of produce.  This year I dried my own sweet basil and tomato seeds, and the lettuce reseeded itself, so the yield from those plants is free.  Plus I give my extra plants to friends.  If everyone did this, we could feed the world.

Really, though, I think farming's in my blood.  On the 1920 U.S. census and on his WWI draft card, my Santangelo grandfather listed his profession as "farmer" even though he also made shoes and kept a small grocery store.  When my father was growing up in the 1920s and '30s, his older sisters sometimes took him to New Jersey in the summer.  They weren't after a vacation at the shore-- they were migrant farm workers, picking blueberries, peaches, whatever. 
Almost all of my dad's seven siblings raised vegetables.  My Aunt Marie also had an amazing concord grape arbor and made jam.  My Uncle Louis was a professional farmer.  Two of his sons still are.  My dad's biggest compliment when I made good in the garden was "Now you're a farmer."

Of all the things I do--writing, singing, accounting, historical research, ranting about politicians--nothing gives me the same solid, wholesome feeling as when I'm growing something to eat.  I feel connected to the earth and to a long line of my ancestors.

Beefsteak tomato
So, even though it means getting up before the heat of the day, to water everything, hoe up weeds, tie up vines, and maybe jury-rig ways to keep the neighborhood cats from digging up my plants, I'll keep up my little veggie/herb patch as long as I'm physically able.

When I farm, I know who I am.


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