Six days of work are spent
To make a Sunday quiet
That Sabbath may return.
–Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997
But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you.
–Leviticus 25:4-6, King James version
How precious this Sunday morning moment, looking out my study window at light rain tapping the pond, the red beacons of sumac berries along the bank, the black stalks of frosted ragweed standing like sentries at the field’s edge. Across the pond in the orchard, a few patches of green among the bare branches where the apple trees have not yet fully relinquished their leaves.
Today is not really a sabbath day for me, despite its being a Sunday. I have grading and lesson planning and un-counted emails to respond to before the press of Monday morning arrives. I have learned that a minute, an hour, or a morning can serve as a Sabbath as well as a day, a month, a year. But how we have to fight for our moments of rest and reflection in this culture of constant crisis and seemingly ever-increasing speed!
At the beginning of this seventh year of Harvest of Joy Farm, John and I declared a sabbatical season. We weren’t able to make ourselves follow the strict biblical directives of keeping our hands entirely out of the soil, however. Instead, we took a sabbatical from the marketplace, suspending produce sales so that we could indulge in projects that simply fed our curiousity and nurtured our souls. What luxury to garden just for fun! We eagerly brainstormed a list of projects that we could finally make time for, freed from the contraints of growing for market. As the list ranged down the length of one page and spilled onto a second, we had to remind our selves that part of the purpose of a sabbatical is rest!
And we did rest, yes we did, in between plugging logs with Shiitake mushroom spawn; raising a new flock of ducklings; bench grafting apple trees and creating an apple tree “nursery” in the old strawberry patch; planting a new strawberry patch; beginning the process of revitalizing an old asparagus patch; cultivating new crops such as upland rice, grain amaranth, and several varieties of dry beans; tearing out old fencing; and making compost.
Some of these projects may ultimately result in crops that make it into our CSA rotation; others are too labor-intensive on a small scale to grow profitably in the current market. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have value for us and our community. One of our personal goals is to increase our own food sovereignty by growing much of our own diet, including proteins and grains. Even if we aren’t able to profitably sell crops like rice and dry beans, we can support other local folks who want to grow them for their own use by offering seeds and support.
One of my most rewarding summer activities was participating in an online seed-saving course with Haudenosaunee seed keeper Rowen White, who provided teachings in the practice, ethics, and history of seed stewardship. This class connected me with a network of folks working to reclaim the means and methods of seed production in their backyards, farms, and communities. Inspired, I turned our back room (formerly known as the “orphanage for lost nails and screws”) into a “seed room,” where jars of seeds we saved this season sit alongside those we’ve purchased. I’m excited about continuing to learn and grow my seed stewardship skills in the coming year.
As I reflect back on this sabbatical season, there is a lot left undone on that beginning-of-the-year project list. But if I had to pick my favorite part of this summer, it wouldn’t be a long-anticipated task completed. It would be the mornings when I took my teacup to the garden and sat between the arugula and pepper plants as the sun rose behind the eastern treeline. The arugula, wet with dew and covered with tiny yellow flowers, buzzed with bees, syrphid flies, and other pollinators. Hummingbirds fought over the nearby runner bean blooms. Swallows flew in great cursive loops over the pond, snapping up mosquitoes. These moments were small sabbaticals in the course of each day and I found myself spontaneously offering the garden a song of gratitude before returning to the house and the day’s tasks.
We are looking forward to reviving the CSA next season and probably hosting a Saturday farm stand as well. It will be a busy year. I want to find ways to carry this sabbath spirit with me into the busyness, to find moments each day to pause in my work and rest deeply; to let the beauty around me feed my soul as much as the beans and greens feed my body. For each of you, our community members, I wish the same: that your bodies be fed from this good earth and that you have moments of rest and beauty which nurture your souls. We look forward to growing your food again next season!