Thursday, July 9, 2015

Behemoth v. Broccoli

The broccoli aftermath
"We are growing some wonderful broccoli", I said proudly to Russ on Tuesday.  And on Tuesday, it was true.

When I said "we", I should of course have said "Liane".  My main contribution, apart from making malodorous compost, was to put up a fence to deter the predations of local groundhogs - which, we discovered last year, have quite a taste for vegetables, and brassicas especially.  Then, under Liane's care, the seeds began to sprout and take form, following their own internal mystery - "you know not how" (Mark 4:27).

Unfortunately, we discovered yesterday that my fencing was not up to the job.  A groundhog had managed to rip out the staples that fixed the fence to railroad ties in the ground, and then to enjoy a fine meal of broccoli and Brussels sprout plants.

When I went this morning to staple the fence back, my hammering disturbed a colony of underground wasps.  I was too preoccupied to notice what was going on until their stings forced me into a hurried retreat.  Aaargh! Nature is fighting back!

In a very small way, I am experiencing what is symbolized in the tale of Behemoth, "the primal unconquerable monster of the land": Nature does push back against the farmer.  Even so simple a task as growing broccoli involves subduing the earth, adapting it to our designs.  Yet in the Book of Job, the untameable monster turns out to be God's pet.

Where between our broccoli patch and the factory farm does "following the creation mandate" pass into "making the natural order merely an instrument", the throwaway society that the Pope warns against in the first chapter of Laudato si?


Russ deForest said...

I'm sorry to hear that you won't get a chance to enjoy your broccoli and Brussels sprouts!

We managed to keep groundhogs out of our garden by putting the fence about 4 inches below ground and extending it 6 inches out horizontally. This seems to prevent them from figuring out how to tunnel underneath the fence.

It is a lot more work but it has the advantage of working. Unfortunately we have learned that fencing that can keep out a groundhog will also let young rabbits pass through rather easily.

John Roe said...

We are learning... until a couple of years ago we grew tomatoes, tomatillos, and hot peppers; the groundhogs don't seem interested in those. But then we started trying to branch out! I think my set-up would have worked if I had just put in a lot more staples, but the railroad ties are getting rotten in places anyway, so it may be time to rebuild the whole thing.