July 10 2021
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” Shakespeare ‘Hamlet’
I’d have to agree, there are so many wonders in the world that we simply cannot comprehend them all. In order to contemplate them properly, I strongly advise having a comfy chair in your garden. I usually have two in case someone joins me, but it’s good to sit there by yourself and simply feel the rightness of everything. Don’t look for explanations, just accept. Now Hamlet may have been speaking of ghosts and I probably wouldn’t go that far, but there are wonders afoot, this I know. They are alive and well in the garden and some of them are literally underfoot. One of the most amazing is that there is a natural antidepressant in soil. Really. Mycobacterium vaccae has been shown to stimulate the production of serotonin which makes you happier. Gardeners can inhale the bacteria, touch it or get it in their bloodstream through a cut or scratch. Just go play in the dirt, dirty dirt, no sterilization allowed. Those kids know what they’re up to!
Gardening has always been a source of joy for me-this is just icing on the cake. How will I ever stick my hands in the dirt without thinking about being happy? Probably I should not wear gloves! Tricky business to separate the placebo effect, no doubt.
Planting seeds gets your hands in the dirt and it is also an act of faith. What an extraordinary thing it was when our ancestors discovered that with handfuls of seeds they could transform a plot of land and feed themselves. One very ancient crop is corn, or maize as it is known to much of the world. Corn and beans, each which supply nutrients missing in the other were grown together in gardens called milpas in Mesoamerica. In the book ‘1491’ by Charles C. Mann, the author describes these gardens and the origins of maize. Maybe as much as 6,000 years ago the people of southern Mexico genetically engineered the first maize. Because of them, I get to eat sweet corn.
I choose only short season corn as our springs are cool and it takes a long time for the soil to warm up enough for good germination. Our 40 degree nights in June are not helpful-it’s never knee high by the Fourth of July! For maximum sweetness, eat your corn immediately after picking, when the sugars start turning to starch. Grocery store corn just can’t compare. We always steam a few extra ears, cut the kernels off the cobs and freeze them. It’s a red letter day when the first corn of the season is ready.
I actually like crawling down the tall rows of corn hand weeding-getting my hands in the dirt, getting happy. Maybe we don’t need to know all the things in the heavens and on earth-maybe just being able to contemplate the wonders is wonder enough.