I might have just unearthed a perfect lesson plan for patience. Definitely not by example. I grew up in a city where everything moved fast. It seems like the only waiting I had to do was wait for next week’s episode of Alf or Small Wonder. But then that too vanished with Betamax tapes. And so a mother who grumbles at the slow pace of things could not be the patience exemplar.
Because lately I have had to grumble some more: about food this time. I grew up buying food at the grocery. You ride your car, grab what you need, (you don’t even have to bag them!) and then run home for a pleasant meal, several courses too. Fast food and the drive-through were my generation’s ingenuous development. Now twenty years later, we are in the food business. Not grocery. Not fastfood. But the very slow-moving, plodding, “let nature take’s it course,” biodynamic farming business. And so let the worms nibble on the dirt, forever turning the soil, let the organic matter leisurely bake under the sun and decay under rain, and worst, follow the sowing calendar. It’s your biblical “there is a time to reap and a time to sow.” And the tomatoes we planted four months ago? I tried the first handful just last week.
And so here I am complaining about: why we could not have baby carrots for months and why next week there will be no French beans but an overabundance of broccolini; that the raw milk has been missing for days; or that on Christmas, I did not have enough red roses for all my friends’ trees. I wanted the tomatoes growing soon after they were planted. Or at least, consistently give me enough for pasta. And I thought really, how can we tell a customer, “it’s out of stock?” What about their weekly grocery list? And what will I tell the friends who ordered bright red roses for Christmas because we had tons of them last year!
But farming is patience. (Inhale.) And I have to grasp that bit of it. (Exhale.) Delayed gratification. Our farm, and the novel luxury of growing at least 70% of our food is teaching me more about patience than 16 years of Catholic school. Waiting. Patiently. Without drumming your fingers. It’s a long time between sowing the first seed and the seedlings creeping up. A seemingly endless time between the buds peeping and when you can pick them. You can’t just pull up carrots until they are ready. Before that, there’s the tedious business of preparing beds, composting and mulching. And then, you’re at the mercy of rain and sun. (Not to mention weather that has now gone wacko on us.) And finally, the seemingly endless dance of nature will give you a bounty of delectable gifts, because you hung around. Patiently. Without drumming your fingers. And I wonder if the waiting titillates the tongue, fires up the tummy, or gets yummier with anticipation. Because the bounty is often worth the wait. You relish the tartiness of that little vegetable more, or the crunch of that leafy green, as you had to wait for it to grow, in its own SWEET time.
So you see, I might have just uncovered a perfect way to teach my daughters patience. It might ward off boys and teach “waiting for the Right One.” It is tough trying to make them (and myself) value and be amazed by unhurried time, by minute changes as days pass and nights come, by the deliberate ripening of life. Because this world does not make us wait for things. How will we have the patience to wait for seeds to germinate? For buds to burst forth? Or only to pluck when they are ripe? We live in the world of Internet and text messaging. And we don’t even have to wait for episodes of a TV series, we can download entire Seasons!
So I’m going to bring my children to our farm more, dig dirt, sow and reap instead of exercising their nimble fingers in front of the screens. The farm will teach them how to linger, how not to have everything here and now, how to work for something and be responsible for it, that seeds die when you don’t nourish them, and especially that the soil won’t sprout them a new one in seconds. Who knows, they might even learn to appreciate the toil and trouble it took to bring that green leafy thing they don’t want to eat on the table.
“Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make an ox in two days.” Alain, Henri
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