carrotsYesterday, in an effort to wrap up the year before heading out to see family for the holidays, we harvested our carrots. I wasn’t sure what to expect: calling our gardening style “laissez-faire” would be putting it lightly… I hadn’t checked in on things in a month.

In our absence, some furry creature had munched down our carrot greens. Or the carrots greens just hadn’t grown? (We’re still new to this.) My expectations were low when I started digging through the straw-covered soil to find the carrot tops. They were sad-looking ends. I was sure they’d be attached to a gnarled, stubby root. Then, to my complete surprise… We harvested carrot-looking carrots.

Now, most of them are about the size of my index finger, but they’re beautiful. Each time I reached into the heavy black soil & wiggled the root loose, it felt like a small miracle. And add to that the joy of finding adorable radishes we’d overlooked… It was a good afternoon.

When our carrots had been uprooted and our tiny rosemary bush unearthed (a difficult job with just a plastic trowel, while trying to protect its roots for transplanting), we began weeding, turning, and preparing the garden for bed: a generous serving of cover crop & straw. Through the whole process, I couldn’t help but think how we, in amending this small plot of earth, were beginning someone else’s garden. I’d come to love & know the oddities of this earth–how water all gathered in the northwest corner, how heavy the clay became when wet, how flea beetles loved it & left neighboring plots untouched. And now, I was laying a literal foundation for the next person to cultivate this space.

I was feeling a bit sad–both as a tiny speck in a larger food cycle & because our first go at gardening had officially closed. I ran a small sink of water & plunked in the root vegetables for a nice bath. I scrubbed the odd twists & turns of the carrots with an old toothbrush, all while thinking of a conversation I’d heard about carrots: in the cold, they convert starches to sugars because they do not want to die. The conversion gives them the energy they need to push through the cold, sit tight in the soil & wait. (Until we harvest them. Woops.)

Each twist & offshoot of a carrot comes from this same drive: to push through, to survive. Carrots prefer a sandy, loose soil that they can rather easily shoot themselves down into. When the soil is too heavy, they claw their tiny tap root through the soil & work around any heavy bits they encounter. They just. keep. forcing themselves through the soil.

As I think about resolutions–and then realize I’ll abandon them, and then think about more meaningful goals for 2013–I think I could stand to be a bit more like a carrot, which requires no small amount of balance. The patience to sit back, pull myself together & stay calm through some of the scary bits of the coming six months. Prepare with everything in me, then let it come. The ability to find other ways around a problem that still allow growth & progress, rather than continually letting myself get twisted & jumbled up when things don’t move along as I’d anticipated.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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