Right now I’m sitting on a collapsible chair looking over one tenth of an acre of well tilled soil hiding the precious seeds that will provide my family with sustenance for the year. It’s a long way from the wilderness we inherited from the last residents and represents some pretty back-breaking work through what has been an incredibly tough year; but somehow the satisfaction is greater than words can describe.
I do believe that our first year working the land has taught us more about life, the universe and everything than an entire university degree could have afforded us, and for little more than the £15 annual fee we pay for the privilege. We have begun to learn the lore of the land, the wisdom of the honest earth and the rhythms of nature in a way we could never have known locked in an office cubicle peering at a virtual world displayed upon the screen of a computer. We have watched the swallows soaring in their magnificently choreographed flights and known the joy of foraging blackberries, plums and chestnuts in the wilderness that lies adjacent to our little plot. We have breathed lungfulls of soft summer air and shivered in biting wind and dug the earth as it miraculously transformed from stone to crumbly soil and back to stone again. We have observed the dance of pollinating bees and started to catch a glimpse of the magic of this incredible system that turns inorganic into organic and then into the stuff of life itself, only to recycle itself back into the ground from whence it came. When in 1845, Thoreau, “went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” he was simply looking for a kind of life that fitted more closely the geography of his heart. I think the search is universal and timeless.
If life is about happiness and peace, then God chose a wise habitat for our forefathers when he placed them in a garden and told them to till the soil. Modern man’s self imposed exile from the simple act of digging the earth and growing crops sends him searching for an automated, flat packed, zip-locked Eden that lies just around the next technological corner or consumer purchase. But the exile is self imposed. Perhaps it’s time for the children of the generation that, “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” to reclaim the inheritance given freely to all peoples of the earth by their creator, tear up the parking lot and plant a tree..