Is contained in this post from May 2008
What I would have taught him
I would have had him weed with me. A horrible form of child abuse, accompanied by protestations of “Aww mum, other families just buy their food at the grocery store”.
And I would have taught him to watch with his eyes and his hands. Plants coming back to life after winter are fragile things. What we see and what we feel are different. Trust your feelings, your remembrances before you blindly believe what is in front of you. There is life all around us.
I would have taught him that weeding matters – pulling weeds in spring is easier than pulling weeds in late summer. You don’t have to do everything perfectly, but some things should be done well. Choose what you put your effort into.
I would have taught him about the secret lives of insects. Of worms that move through the soil, fertilizing and aerating. Of ladybugs that eat insects, of beetles, of ants. I would have taught him the wonder of an ant colony, and the need to sit and watch for hours, to truly understand. I would have taught him that all living things have worth, and we need to be kind to creation, at least until it eats the beans.
I would have taught him to be patient, gardens take time. Seeds are slow to germinate, plants are slow to grow. Gardens involve long term planning. You will need to see the next five years in your head before you see the results in front of your eyes. You will water and hoe and weed and thin long before you ever pick or eat. And what you planted, it will look nothing like what you pictured, and nothing like the photo. That’s ok. What it looks like is what it is.
I would have taught him the joy of honest work. Of the ache in your shoulders and the back of your thighs, that speaks of digging and turning over soil, of crouching down to pull weeds, of moving backwards as you plant a row of seeds. I would have taught him that after a day of hard work, you sit on your back deck, you will be proud. Of the work that you have done, and the life that you have coaxed forth. And one day, on that deck, I would have handed him his first beer, because gardeners get beer after a long day, and I don’t care that you are only 16.
I would have taught him that having a plan saves time. But plans aren’t just organization, they are dreams. And dreams matter in this world. I would have taught him of the companionship we can have with those who share our dreams. And that when you strike out in this world on your own, you should find someone who can share your dreams.
I would have taught him about sustainability. A good garden requires far more of you, than you get out of it. I would have taught him that pesticides and insecticides and fertilizer are no compensation for time and sweat and good compost dug in, they are the easy way out. I would have taught him that we must consider how we act, and how we treat the earth. There are many people on the earth, and we must make our footprints small, and it doesn’t matter what bags and bottles the neighbour opens, you just keep digging up that quack grass.
I would have taught him that nothing is certain, and that you sometimes have t0 pick yourself up and start over after you loose everything to frost, to bugs, to early winter, to rain, to just the vagaries of seeds. Nothing in this life is certain but death and quack grass. There’s always next year.
I would have taught him that in the year the broccoli is eaten by moth’s, and the potato’s by beetles, that is the year that the carrots will take off. And that there is no bug or pest or blight that will eat an entire crop of zucchini, and that’s why you are grating it for chocolate cake.
I would have taught him the joy of feeding your own family. I would have taught him the very special wonder that is a carrot dug fresh from the ground, cold and wet, rinsed off under the garden hose. I would have taught him the sweetness in a pod of garden peas. Pulled off the vine on a hot day, warm in your mouth. I would have taught him the smell of fresh herbs on your hands, as you move to pick them, dodging lazy bees who seek flowers for their honey.
The smell of fresh dirt has a fragrance all it’s own. Flowers have their own thoughts and heart, and vegetables are a new promise every spring.
These things my son, these things, I would have taught you.