Friday, May 7, 2010

May 7

I just finished a book titled "A Drunkard's Walk, How Randomness Rules Our Lives", by Leonard Mlodinow. Well, actually I sort of weaved my way through it rather than reading from start to finish - but the gist of it, I think, is that as we look back on the events that brought us to where we are at a certain point in time, it's like watching a drunkard walk - unpredictable, without apparent direction, and with a random ricochet from one unexpected interaction to another.

Mr. Mlodinow's presentation is sort of convincing, and as I look back on the 39 years of "randomness" at Frog Holler Farm that have preceded this day, I do see many unexpected events. Of course! How boring if we could predict life! But I also see something that Mr. Mlodinow may not have accounted for in his theory. Woven through the myriad and seemingly disparate choices, incidents and experiments of these decades on the farm, there has been a vision - an unwavering underlying thread of intention that has consistently provided a direction or reset the course. And at Frog Holler, that vision was Ken King's.

Of course, when Ken came to the farm, he didn't know what was going to happen. He didn't even know that he was going to be a farmer. The land taught him. And as the land and the trees and the hills and the plants got under his skin, he knew he wanted to learn from them, care for them and grow things in a way that resonated with the quiet hum of a natural cycle in balance and at ease.

Of course changes were made. There was no well to water the garden. There was no electricity to run the well. There was no equipment - first purchase was a 1954 Ford Jubilee tractor (still got it). There were tree stumps in the garden site. There were groundhog condos ringing the garden. And there was no experience - whole patches succumbed to frost or weeds or drought. Mistakes were made and it wasn't always pretty.

Big lessons had to be learned, but behind and before and throughout the lessons, the vision remained. Food can be grown in a manner that is kind to the land and nourishing to the human spirit. Things can be simple and satisfying. Beauty and art matter. Just do the work and the answer will come. Be quiet and listen. It's not about the money.

And today, three sons of Frog Holler are doing the work. One son puts the finishing touches on the new hoophouse already filled with several hundred tomato seedlings. Another son prepares hundreds of flats of garden starts for Ann Arbor gardeners. And another son supervises a crew to cover two large strawberry patches, protecting the tender blossoms from a predicted frost. And this group of family, friends and farm interns had all gathered around the lunch table, sharing good food, lively conversation and the warmth of mutual appreciation for the land and the work.

Ken is not here, but his vision remains and continues to guide. It doesn't mean there are answers, certainty, or a blueprint. We may stagger at times. But when we stop and look around at this beautiful little patch of earth, we feel Ken's dedication and our step steadies.

So is he really gone? Or did he just blend in, as he once... envisioned.

You ask me why I work this land?
I don't know why. It's kind of a
Dumb response I guess
But I woke up here, opened my eyes
On this garden of earth and saw
Things reaching for the sunlight.
There were no questions. I thought,
I'd better be part of this!

You ask me why I sing and dance
And write these poems?
I'm not exactly sure.
I was watching the sun set, and frogs
Were singing and I think something moved,
Maybe a deer on the hillside behind me,
And I didn't want to disturb anything
So I blended in, made only gentle sounds,
Moved smoothly when I moved
And learned to camouflage my actions.

With all this, you ask, is prayer
And meditation and yoga still essential?
I forgot to tell you,
Then a great blue heron dropped into the pond
Folding its neck and wings with perfect grace.
I did not understand this. I watched
For a long time, then it slowly, effortlessly
Lifted up into the air again.
I walked home and went about my business
And the days pass, but I haven't forgotten,
I want to try this too! --Ken King, March 17, 1944-May 7, 2009

Ken planting garlic

Holler Fest 2016
August 26-28