Rhythms - October 31, 2021

 Rhythm - a pleasant word to say, and, for many, a rather unpleasant word to try and spell. But rhythm is all around us and, well, within us. Before we were born, our mother's heartbeat must have offered a soothing rhythmic backdrop as well as preparation for our solo journey to come - and the rhythm of our own heartbeat provides a constant companion to our days.

Beyond anatomy, rhythm serves as significant guide and metaphor. Merriam-Webster offers one definition, out of many uses for this term:  movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements. It goes on to add helpfully: the rhythms of country life. And that's what brings us to this post.

The rhythms of country life. As growers, we ultimately base our lives and livelihoods on the cycles of nature. These cycles follow a general but often unpredictable pattern. To dance with them, we must accept the rhythm - who could ask for anything more?

We are reminded of a line from the well-known poem from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
Writing this on October 31, our season's end, we have "plucked up" just about everything that we have planted. But one more task remains - planting garlic. This is traditionally our last large garden task and one that has punctuated each growing seasons for decades. Each one a little different, but still the same.

We remember back to a post from five years ago, Oct. 31, 2016, as we mused on the tradition, the cycles, the "rhythm of our country life". And then back to October, 2008, and the reassurance and grounding that this recurring task offered Ken King. Here is the post:


Going down the rows, it's always a matter of life and death. Life, if we're planting. And if we're weeding - well, these weeds must die!

So planting garlic on a beautiful fall day is a matter of life, but also a matter of faith. Like penitents of old, we crawl down the rows in service to our task. Heads down, each clove that we gently push into the soft ground is a prayer of hope and survival. For those tiny cloves, planted in October, will barely sprout before the winter freeze arrives. They must hold that faint memory of life through the dark, still season. In spring, when air and soil temperatures conjoin to beckon the sprouts from their cold cradles, tiny green shoots will appear where frozen ground had recently been. By harvest time in July, a field of lush fronds will wave in the breeze, ready to continue the cycle.

So the garlic does have to "die" in order to be plucked from the growing ground, dried, and head toward our spaghetti sauce. But within each bulb of garlic that we harvest, lies the seed, or clove, that we will plant to continue the circle of life. Such is the responsibility and opportunity, curse and blessing, burden and gift for the grower - nose down in the dirt of life and death.

Garlic was the last crop that Ken King planted. Just back from his diagnosis, hopped up on steroids, Ken wanted to get back to work. It was October; the garlic was being planted. Did he know he wouldn't live to see it harvested? Maybe, maybe not. Did it matter to him? Nope, not at all. He was back in the dirt, and that was all that mattered. Planting on faith - life or death, life and death, all one.

Ken King planting garlic, 2008

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

The King brothers planting garlic, October 31, 2016

And we will be planting again for 2021 as soon as it dries out!


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