Friday, November 26, 2010

Lie Fallow

It's finally cold in East Tennessee. There was small spitting snow flying around today while we uncovered the vegetables at Beardsley. Everything that remains in our garden beds is slowing, withering, fading, and lessening (with the exception of bok choy and cabbage). This time of year inspires me to wear out seed catalogs scheming of things to plant in spring. Despite longing for warm weather and the chance to be outside again, winter is a good reminder of the importance of rest. We know we need rest but seem to be programed in this culture to judge down time as "unproductive" and "lazy."
In traditional agriculture (and by traditional I mean that which was practiced in pre-industrial communities) farmers were urged to let their fields lie fallow every seventh year. This meant letting the field sit for an entire year without seeding it for production. The practice let a heavily worked field build back up an important level of soil health, but I like to imagine that the practice of letting a field lie fallow is also about humility and letting go of control. It reminded the farmer that there was a life of the land beyond its production.

We don't stop working in the winter, or ever really, but it seems an appropriate time to slow down and look at things differently. Perhaps even to set down and let rest the ideas, cliches, and beliefs we work so hard.

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