harvest : life lessons

life lessons from the garden

It finally rained last night. The morning brought with it a bite of breeze off the ocean that can only mean one thing : summer is nearly gone.

That means rains on the horizon, cooler nights and frost to come. Time to get in the harvest. What little of it there is.

This year has been the saddest in the garden.

My beautiful, rich, hard-won soil has been mostly blanketed in sod in preparation for sale. Our usually bountiful tomato crop that would normally see every flat surface in the house rolling with heirlooms, is this year but a few lonely strays, huddling together on my windowsill.

It just doesn’t feel right. It has been a difficult summer.

Despite everything, out I went this morning into the dew in my flip-flops and jammies to harvest the herbs. Heap after heap piled onto the front stoop : rosemary . . . bay . . . thyme . . . sage. The bees are still busily working what is left of the oregano flowers. I left it to them. I’ll miss them when I go.

After coffee and banana bread the boy and I headed down the block to our blackberry spot, where, as usual, I was the only one foraging.

For the first half hour the boy ate them faster than I could pick them, poking my bottom and prodding Mooooore! whenever I went too slow. He finally collapsed in a snoring, sticky, purple heap and left me to pick in peace.

It gave me time to think about the lessons the harvest will teach him.

Make Hay

There really is a time for every purpose. No time underscores that more for me than harvest time.

Last night driving home from a family dinner I saw men in the blueberry fields at last light – a Sunday evening and there they were, bringing in the harvest.

The blackberries will only be on for so long, a few weeks more and the herbs will begin to wither and die. Whatever my son undertakes in his life, be it love or work, education or family, I hope he will remember to make hay while the sun shines.

You never know what tomorrow will bring.

blackberry picking in east vancouver wild blackberries

Don’t Rush

The Slow Movement doesn’t believe in everything at a snails pace, despite it’s name and logo. What it values is  Tempo Giusto . . . the right time.

Everything in life has it’s proper pace. We may have to work quickly to bring in the harvest, but we don’t always have to rush.

Today I picked blackberries while my son slept, worked slowly but methodically so as not to prick my fingers (too much) and listened to the bird song rise and fall over the traffic.

Opportunity often looks like work

Most people don’t recognize opportunity when it comes, because it’s usually dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work – Thomas Edison

My husband is a farm boy at heart.

He’s a businessman now, self-made, and he works his ass off for everything we have. Although I am of course grateful for the fact that he provides for our family, I am even more grateful for the values he models for our son.

Growing up on the farm taught him how to work hard and to understand that if he wants something, he’ll have to work for it.

He sees opportunity everywhere.

Work isn’t always hard

Our culture, and many others, seem to place value on a masochistic view of work. We have to be slaving away, chained to our desk to be working.

Work = toil.

That’s often the case, (God knows I hated my job) but not always.

Work can be pleasurable. It can even be a joy. In fact, the most rewarding, fulfilling work often doesn’t feel like work at all.

sleeping off the blackberries

Don’t begrudge the low-hanging fruit

The low-hanging fruit will fill your basket (and your belly) just as surely as the higher-hanging fruit will.

It’s important sometimes to gather what you can with the least amount of effort and risk. Just because it isn’t as hard to attain, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.

Take only what you need

Take what you need and leave the rest for the rest.

The birds and neighbours and wasps and other critters have just as much right to the berries as we do.

Greed is born out of fear and an ignorance of true need. Know your needs intimately, and you will be less afraid of not attaining your wants.

You won’t need them.

Be grateful

The fact that a tiny seed transforms into a plant that will nourish us is really nothing short of a miracle. That we can walk the sidewalks of urban East Van and glean beautiful, juicy blackberries for free is certainly something to be thankful for.

A spirit of gratitude keeps us humble.


Nature / the universe / god / whatever you want to call it, surrounds us in abundance everyday, we just have to look for it.

I hope my boy will approach the world with open eyes that can always see the plenty that surrounds him.

4 thoughts on “harvest : life lessons

  1. Alex @ northofseven

    What a great post! I’m sorry to hear about your gardening year. We’ve had a similar one over here. Our neighbours last year had an insane tomato crop. This year, their plants barely grew over 2 feet. Lots of local gardeners have said that this year was really bad overall. I couldn’t even grow radishes, supposedly the brainless easiest vegetable to grow. I for one am really eager for Fall. I love Fall, it is my favourite season. I love pumpkin patches and apple picking farms and the changing leaf colours. PS – apparently a new chipmunk has made a home under my deck. He loves our cherry tomatoes!

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      It’s the price we’re having to pay to try to get to our forever farm.

      Normally a good third of our front yard is tomatoes – we usually have about 50 plants which I dote over daily. This year we had six (neglected) plants that got put in the ground late. We had illusions of a quick sale on our house and thought we might take them with us. We grassed over about half of our usual veggie plots. Sadly most of the people looking at our house couldn’t give two hoots about our beautiful garden. I just hope whoever buys it doesn’t pave the whole thing over, as is the trend here these days. Hurts my heart!

      I love fall too, as much as I’m sad to see the summer go. Feel like I missed it! Pretty much every weekend since May has been spent out of the garden to make way for open houses.

      Gah – chipmunks!? We had a whole family of skunks under the shed a couple of summers ago – trying to eat the chickens. I feel your pain. The joys of gardening! You’re in ON, right? I was talking to my mother-in-law in Norwood yesterday and she said with all the heat and no rain her whole garden pretty much crapped out. What a shame. Better luck next year, I guess.


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