It’s almost mid-summer, and I find myself still working up the wood we had put aside for the winter past. I usually try to keep a month or so ahead, but this past heating season (for us it begins in late August and ends sometimes as late a last week) has been kinder than expected, and I still have a month or two of wood left. I have yet to finish splitting and moving it from the woodpile to the stacks beside the outdoor furnace. Fortunately I enjoy working with wood, but I have to admit that, as I grow older, I like it in shorter episodes. Still, the idea of cool dry summers and heating with our own wood in the winter is part of what drew us here to the mountains.
I’m not much of a gardener. I know the difference between trees and plants and grass, and can even identify some of the trees by their leaves or bark or needles. I’m getting better at knowing which short green things are weeds and which are edible fruit and vegetable producers, so I no longer cut the good stuff and leave the bad when I mow or trim around the house. We do have a vegetable garden, where we grow tomatoes and lettuce and that sort of thing, and because they are well-marked, I know what is what and where it is. All of this has been acquired over many years of cutting or digging things that I should have left to grow, while leaving weeds (they have pretty flowers, sometimes) that should have been cut and removed.
I’m not alone, it turns out, in not knowing what to leave and what to take away. I read just this morning about a new insect (new to our shores) that eats kudzu. Kudzu, you may recall, was imported with the expectation that it would provide food and fiber for Southern farmers to replace crops that were depleting the soil and a way of life. Kudzu has, if you haven’t noticed, taken over any abandoned (and sometimes occupied) land in its way. But now there is a new import that could keep it under control. The problem is, it also eats soy plants, and so depending on where you live, you might encourage or try to eradicate the little import. It is difficult to know, sometimes, what the consequences of an act might be, isn’t it? Kudzu was considered a sort of Shmoo. Don’t know about Shmoos? A figment of a cartoonist’s imagination, it was a bowling pin-shaped character capable of providing everything needed to live well, reproduced without help, and lived to serve, as it were. Al Capp, who drew Li’l Abner, Daisy Mae and the rest of the Dogpatch gang, created the Shmoo. It was, I think, a jab at the post-WW II mind set that technology would answer every human need, every empty promise of every politician, everything, in short, we would want in the new world we were entering. It didn’t happen. We haven’t gotten what we expected, and we haven’t gotten what we feared. On balance, I would say, we have learned that what we wanted might have been what we should have feared.
Perhaps we need to give more thought to promises about satisfying our every need, and realize we must still depend on ourselves.