Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood–they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air and later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, and Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connections (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.*
—C. S. Lewis in a June 22, 1930, letter to a friend
Years ago when we started paying attention to where our food came from, where the cows that became our milk and our meat were raised, and who tended the vegetables we ate, I had no idea we’d gain what C. S. Lewis describes above. But in small ways, it happened. When rain came through, we’d look at the radar to make sure it fell on the farm an hour and a half east of us where our CSA vegetables were growing. If the rain didn’t come for days or weeks, we wondered how the cows whose names were labeled on our jars of milk were faring.
We’re not farmers, but talking to farmers each week made us more mindful of the ground we stood on.
Here, organic vegetables, grass-fed meat, even raw milk are so institutionalized, we rarely get to talk to our farmers. Their farmers’ market booths are so thronged, there’s not time for more than a quick smile and exchange of cash.
But we’re putting our feet in the dirt and pulling strength from the hills of our little garden patch. I can’t explain my excitement over these sprouts. Every day, we walk the length of dirt hunting for new signs of green. Each one is a promise that later this year, we could feed ourselves.
My favorite are these baby kale sprouts. They’re so tiny–not even an inch across–yet they’re already fully formed. That delights me.
*Psalm 95:4: ‘In His hand are all the corners of the earth: and the strength of the hills is His also.’