Equinox & Mud – Spring 2014 Editorial

editorial 29-2.French 19th C.rbg

 Equinox & Mud

For whatever reason, I have always looked upon spring and autumn as transitional seasons. Of course, they represent a demarcation in a cyclical solar event, our trip around the sun every year. We just passed the point at which the earth is half way towards its opposite solstice, the longest day of the year, June 21th . (The other is the shortest day of the year December 21st). The spring (or vernal) equinox, March 20th and the autumn equinox, September 22rd, are the two days a year when the sun is directly over the equator, meaning both the northern and southern hemispheres have the same day length. It feels spring and autumn are the most volatile of seasons, not a moment of balance and harmony. They seem to be harbingers of a very different environment just around the corner.

As we come out of one of the coldest winters in a long time, spring feels like a breath of fresh air. Warmer days are ahead, so is rain instead of snow. Green grass still seems unfathomable, although we have started many vegetable plants under the lights in the house, and I can almost remember what fresh basil and tomatoes smell like, so it must be possible. But, before we can get there, we have to survive mud season.

Vermont has about 8000 miles of unpaved roads. What makes for a quaint walk up a dirt road in mid summer, could be a complete quagmire in April and even May. The road turns to muddy grease as the top layers of dirt thaw but the ground underneath and alongside the road is still solid as a rock. The water has nowhere to go, hence the mud. But that is OK in my book. For three or four weeks I will do my best to avoid dirt roads when I can and take the pickup when I can’t. I will enjoy hearing the stories of how deep the mud is in the middle of East Orange, Washington or Chelsea. I might even set up a lawn chair along side a particularly deep wallow.

Having pancakes with fresh maple syrup will be one of the sweet consolations for the next month or so, as sugaring season runs alongside mud season. That and trying to imagine the lush, velvety tang of a slice of tomato, a whole leaf of basil and thin slice of mozzarella all while sitting on the back porch on a warm day.

Simplicity And Acceptance

garlic.IMG_1383.biggerIf only life was as straight forward as trying to get your tractor to start. With the tractor, there are just a few primary things you need: fuel, air and spark. If you have these in adequate supply, you move to a secondary line of thinking, “How’s the timing and fuel mixture?” With enough time and effort (and parts), you will get your tractor started. Living a life well, is much more complex. There are so many variables, most falling into the gray areas, and few seem black and white. Growing garlic (or any crop) is somewhere in the middle. If you plant your seeds properly, conditions are right and you weed it on a semi-regular basis, chances are, you will grow a nice product. Of course, as every farmer (and home gardener) knows, it doesn’t always work out so well – because so many of those variables (weather, bugs, disease) are difficult to control. Each growing season seems to work out better for some crops than for others. Your neighbor the next town over may have beautiful onions, while yours shriveled up in early August from some kind of spotty wilt. As much as we try to control all the variables, many (or most?) are out of our complete control. So one year you have onions, the next, you don’t. This got me thinking about all the variables we deal with in our every day lives. There are the big things: our physical health, our emotions, our surroundings, how we interact with others ­– all somewhat controllable. Then there is the economy, the weather, the way other people treat us and others –things over which we have very little control. But, whether you are starting a tractor, or growing nice garlic, or trying to “live a good life,” it all seems to come down to attitude, equanimity and accepting outcomes. If we could maintain an even keel, to see the good things as good but not expect good and to see the bad things as bad, but not expect bad, then we could live a balanced life, and hopefully, also get the tractor started.