Lessons I learned while farming

I had a garden this summer. Well, it was really a farm. Well, not really, but, and I’ve said this before, but farming is so much more manly than gardening. And what is a garden if not a small farm anyway? Please, nobody correct me. I’m very set in my ways here.

Anyway, I planted stuff. For a first attempt it was, I’d say, a pretty successful experiment. During the first few days of warm weather last March, I hacked at the tiny piece of land in my backyard, getting rid of as much grass and random shards of glass that I could. After that I put down a few sacks of compost that I bought at the Home Depot. And I started planting stuff: lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, all sorts of random stuff. Some grew, some didn’t, whatever, I was happy that I got anything at all.

After that first round of spring veggies, I planted tomatoes, sunflowers, peppers. The tomatoes grew like weeds, to the point where they wound up consuming the majority of the garden. Once they really got going, all I could do was water and wait. It was too late to even attempt cultivation. This thing was on its own.

I got a lot from the garden, I got tons of tomatoes, some peppers. I thought that some of my plants were peppers, and they got huge, and started to bear fruit. But it turned out that they were just little berries, the poisonous kind, the weed kind, and here I was, thinking it was something valuable, and I was clearing space for it, making sure the tomatoes left just enough space for this weed to blossom and make a mockery of my whole project. But, not a big deal, a minor setback, lesson learned. I cooked the berries into some poison jam and sent it over to my neighbor’s. Then I called poison control and claimed that I had saved their lives.

I would go out at night sometimes and look at the plants. Whereas during the day, the plants would always face the sun’s trajectory, bending over in weird ways, twisting themselves to soak up as many rays as they could, at night, everything would be standing upright, straight up, always looking fuller somehow than they did during the day.

And you know, when you look at something everyday, especially something that’s growing, you don’t notice the growth. My sunflowers were a good example. They start out so small but wound up at like twelve feet tall. And I only noticed the growth when I went away for a week’s vacation. I came back and was like, “What the …”

And I’m thinking, what’s it like from these plants’ perspective? I mean, they’re alive, right? So they’re growing, but it must not be slow motion to them. Look online for any of those time-elapsed plant videos and you’ll know what I’m talking about. You watch a plant grow in fast-motion and it looks like it’s moving, like it’s really alive. And at this rate of time perception, you can’t even see the humans tending to it. We’re just an invisible blur, moving way too fast for anything to see. The plants are living and growing and moving, but do they have any idea that they’re being shaped and cultivated?

And then I’m thinking, what if human beings are like seeds, and there are some greater beings cultivating us? Like these higher intelligences are moving so fast that we can’t see them, we only just kind of have an idea that they might exist. And they’re watering us and moving us around, trying to make us blossom and bear fruit.

But then I’m also thinking, what if the higher intelligences aren’t really higher, but just faster? What if they’re like me with my garden, not really knowing what they’re doing, just kind of putting random seeds in the ground and throwing some water here and there and hoping for the best? What if I’m some higher being’s first garden, and I’m coming out all wrong? Like, if the expert higher beings went to the higher being that was cultivating me they’d say, dude, what have you never raised humans before? That’s not how you do it at all.

Or even worse. I remember in high school whenever it was that time of the year for the science fair, I would just throw a bunch of seeds in a bunch of cups. I would feed one water, one of them would get soda, one of them would get beer, and one would get Windex. Bam, B minus please. It was obvious. The one that got water would grow, the one that got Windex wouldn’t even germinate, and the soda and beer seeds would come out all puny and deformed. What if we’re all just some half-baked higher being’s last-minute idea of a science fair project? Are we all just going to get tossed in the trash as soon as this higher creature gets his or her B minus?

And then I look out at the natural uncultivated world. The wild corn and the weeds and all of those plants that just grow without any help at all from us humans. What if that’s us? No higher beings, we’re all just going whichever way the wind blows us, in desperate need of even a little cultivation. Like, maybe we just all need to be six to eight inches apart, like tomato seeds, and if we’re too close together, we’ll all germinate, but only one or two of us will really grow up into anything capable of producing fruit.

Aren’t I so deep? Isn’t this one of the most fascinating, deep, mysterious essays that you’ve ever read? Aren’t my ideas so novel and unique? I just keep going back to the sunflowers, what if they do have a consciousness, what if they experience the world but much faster than we do? They’re sitting around talking to each other, noting that the water comes at a certain time everyday. It must be a higher power! And they get in fights over how a higher power could exist and all of the different possibilities that might explain such a higher power. And maybe I’ll forget to water them one day. Because I’m not higher, I’m just regular, and I get lazy sometimes and forget to feed the plants. How thirsty do they get? They’re tall enough, so do they look inside the window and see me sitting at my computer for hours, all while they’re thinking I’ve abandoned them, I’ve forsaken them, they really want a drink and I’m just sitting here looking at photos on Facebook.