This time of year is the perfect time to ‘take stock’, literally and figuratively. The new year signifies new beginnings and we all tend to ‘take stock’ in one form or another; of our health, our finances, our relationships, or our jobs. We need this time to reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t worked in our lives, and make the intention for change.
For a gardener and small-scale homesteader, the same approach applies; what worked, what didn’t work, and what do we need to do to change it. Everything we do, think and feel takes precious energy. As a fifteen year student of The Tracker School, Tom’s refrain that, ‘everything in nature is about “conservation of energy”‘, was embedded in my thought process. So if I grew potatoes, but we didn’t eat them very often over winter, then I don’t grow them again the next year. Now is the time to take stock of our food and seed inventory in order to buy seeds and plan the garden season. I wait to buy seeds until I’ve done this; what we need, what we don’t need, what new things we want to try.
I’ve shared some pictures of our food stores above and you can see just how full we still are. The freezer is packed with meats from the neighbor’s farm, bags of sauteed shiitakes, crushed tomatoes, blanched green beans, kale, peppers and amaranth greens. I will be going through it this week and composting food that is more than two years old. I’ll admit I’ve got a few deer and beaver skins in there on the bottom, waiting to be worked into something beautiful to wear, deer bones and odd venison cuts waiting to be cooked down into bone broth, and some big jars of turkey bone broth from past feasts. Fortunately, much of what we don’t need can go in the compost to feed the garden once again, or be put in the woods to feed the birds and other critters. None of it goes to waste, and that feels really good.
On the dry shelves we have lots of apple sauce, pears, jelly, dried mushrooms, corn, potatoes, garlic and onions.
It is often hard to believe we can have so much abundance from such a relatively small garden! This is the true testament to the health of the soil and the effects of biointensive. All with no added nutrients except compost, and no chemicals or natural sprays for pests. Wow!
I will often rotate crops by skipping a year, to give us time to eat all we have in storage and to miss it just enough to be excited when we grow it again the following year. This year we will plant Butternut squash after a break last year, and we’ll skip the amaranth since we didn’t eat much. We’ll grow more gourds for crafts after skipping last year, and we’ll try a sweet corn instead of dent(flour) corn. The amount of kale we grow gets less and less as it does SO well and we just can’t give it away fast enough. We can grown 10 plants and harvest all summer and still have some to store for winter.
Variety is another thing to think about when taking stock from your garden. We have been eating just the fruits and vegetables that we grow for so long now that we do not have need for a lot of variety. Not only is it hard to rotate more crops in the beds, but more work to process and store as well. Not to mention, we have tried so many things over the years that we have found what we truly love and will eat nearly every day. We had no intention of growing just 5 or 6 of our favorites, but that is what happened as we distilled down our tastes, energy, time and garden space. I still try at least one new item each year and often new varieties of the staples. Last year we enjoyed lots of ground cherries and edamame. I had never grown either and both turned out delicious. They might just need to be part of the garden again this year.
I also take stock in what is pretty to grow and what brings me joy, even if not practical or eaten much. I would not consider this a waste of energy in the slightest! There is no better energy created than from joy or love. So each year I try to add more flowers and pretty vining beans (even if I don’t eat them). I grow the Amaranth for this as well. They are just so beautiful!
Taking stock in order to better manage time and energy reminds me of two powerful teachings. One is from Marie Kondo (http://konmari.com) and her method of organizing. It’s not about the getting rid of things that matters most, it’s about surrounding yourself with only what brings you that “spark of joy”. This is powerful medicine that invariably increases ones energy.
The other teaching is from the shamanic practices. Through studying don Miguel Ruiz (http://www.miguelruiz.com/), Carlos Castaneda ((https://castaneda.com/), Lynn Andrews (https://lynnandrews.com/) and Caroline Myss (https://www.myss.com/), among many others, I found time and again the emphasis on conserving energy and bringing more energy into our bodies. When reading what sounds like fantastical stories of healing and movement, it becomes clear that their abilities come from the deep, long term practice of storing and managing energy.
As a gardener, I am well aware of this powerful exchange of energy that I am having with the earth and the plants that grow from her, that nourish my body. As well as the energy I put out for this exchange to be possible.
In these deep months of winter, right before spring, take stock. Where are you wasting energy, where do you need more? In your food? in your relationships? In your words and laughter? In your self-education? Nourish yourself and keep seeking that “spark of joy”. I will be doing the same.