A little more than sixty days out, and the okra is ready to come in. Pale flowers, buttermilk and raisins, greet me each day as I go out to water. The pods follow, longer than my fingers. I follow the pods, basket and garden scissors in hand.
I garden to get out of my head. Strange though it may sound, but with my knees in the dirt, I’m finally firmly planted in the real world. It’s the world of food, greens, sun and bugs. You can talk about your responsibility, your money, your debt, but it doesn’t get much realer than the food chain. Healthy dirt is healthy people, and we are sorely lacking.
I amend the soil in my garden: compost mostly, clippings here and there, kitchen waste, and sometimes a little manure. I watch for bees: they’ve been absent, save a few bumble bees, who give me hope. Wild honey bees are almost gone in North America, not that they were native, but neither are many of our food crops which depend on them for pollination. Colony collapse is serious business. I belong to the disease camp of theorists. The bee business is mercenary, hives sold from around the world regardless of pests, parasites, and illnesses, and we wonder why there are so many infestations of virus-laden mites. We feed our bees on monocultures, and shrug when their immunities go down. We over-winter them on corn syrup and soy and marvel when they die.
Corn syrup and soy: American bees eat like American people. Tell me, what’s wrong with this picture? If we find the foods we eat to be empty of real nutrition, why are we feeding them to the most precious link in our agricultural chain? The prospect frightens me. Forget cell phone towers– malnutrition paired with the global exchange of bee parasites and illnesses, is it any wonder adult bees abandon ship and die alone leaving only disease-ridden larvae to rot in the hive?
Nervously, I consider apiaries myself, but fear the pesticides in my neighbor’s picture-perfect yard. I peruse my plantings now in flower, all that okra, my pumpkins, and the sunflowers. I see a bee. She gives me hope.